One in 10 U.S. households rents a self-storage unit according to the Self Storage Association. You, too, may have outgrown your storage space as fast as a toddler outgrows her shoes. With so much stuff crammed into our at-home closets and cupboards that we are spending extra money to store unused objects, it’s no wonder we struggle to manage unruly storage spaces. Tackle the issue head on and learn the fine art of letting go. It will be good practice for when the kids leave the nest.
Clear the room near the storage space and make way for the impending tornado of stuff. Write one word on each of the five pieces of paper: keep, sell, donate, discard or unsure. Tape each piece of paper to a garbage bag or a box.
Remove everything from the space, sorting as you go. Use a critical eye to assess each item before placing it one of the labeled piles. If you’re not sure about an item, place it in the donate pile and move on. The first sort should be fast and furious, based on your first instinct.
Clean the storage space from ceiling to floor before replacing any items in the space. Dust the shelves, wipe down the walls with a dry cloth and clean the floor. Perform basic maintenance in the space including replacing light bulbs and securing shelving.
Re-evaluate the keep pile and try to reduce it even further. Aim for a keep pile which is half the size of what you see now. Sort the keep items into different categories including seasonal, sports, arts and crafts, and any any other themes you think of. Sort seasonal items into two or four categories, either hot and cold seasons or by winter, spring, summer and fall. Use small boxes to house holiday-specific decorations or winter-only objects such as hats, gloves and scarves. Continue breaking down the keep pile into smaller categories
Place sorted keep items into boxes, bins and baskets. Covering plain cardboard boxes with wrapping paper is one inexpensive way to create an attractive storage space, says Beryn Hammil, an interior designer.
Label everything. Use permanent marker and large labels. You can also try a label maker like the P-Touch to make life even easier. Be as specific as possible to identify what’s in the box. If you cannot find a word or short phrase to describe the box’s contents you may to purge more items and sort what’s left again. In addition to written labels, use pictures to identify the items in each box or container, advises Hammil.
Put Them Back
Place the labeled and organized containers back into the storage space. Seasonal items you won’t need for six months can sit in the back of the storage space. Keep the items you use most often in containers that are easy to access, says Hammil.
Discard and Donate
Throw out any items in the discard pile. Bring the items for donation to the car and take a ride to drop off your donations to a charity organization or to a friend who can use the items. The organizing task will feel complete and you’ll be satisfied with a job well done when you follow through with the discarding and donating.