How to organize storage

Storages boxes and chair inside home.

Everyone needs more storage. We fill up every inch of our home and stick the rest in storage.

The problem with storage is that we forget what we have. Or else, we remember what we have - but forget where we stored it. Either way, the result is the same - we can't put our hands on it.

Here's how to organize storage so that you can find things when you need them.

How to Organize Storage

You need a written plan to keep from forgetting what you stored where. And you need to tell the rest of the family where you put that written plan.

You'll need to realize, as I have, that garages and basements are not designed to be the repositories of a lifetime's accumulations. 

You need to keep stuff there that you intend to use at some time. Sell, give away, or toss the rest.

Trust me, even though you think that you'll use that fold-up table or those unmatched glasses in your second home someday, you won't. By then, you'll be able to afford new, stylish stuff. 

Here's how to develop a long-term storage plan at home. I borrowed this idea from a friend who borrowed it from another friend. 

We've all added our own touches to it over the years, and you'll need to adapt it to your needs as well.

This method can work whether you have an attic, a loft in the garage, boxes stacked against the walls of the basement, or a rental storage unit. You can even track boxes stored in various closets this way. 

You'll need sturdy boxes or plastic bins, a permanent marker, and paper to make a storage map and list.  Here's how it works:

Divide Stuff  Into Categories

To organize storage, start by dividing your stuff into large categories, such as dishes, holiday, kids' clothes, paperwork, etc. Put the items into boxes, with each category in its own box or boxes.

For example, you might have three dish boxes, four holiday boxes, five kids' clothes boxes, and two paperwork boxes.

Label each box by category, such as Dishes, Holidays, Kids' Clothes, etc., on five sides in large letters with a permanent marker, (That's every side except the bottom!)

Then assign each box in each category a number. For example, Dishes 1, Dishes 2, Holiday 1, and Holiday 2.

Divide Storage Space Into Categories

To organize storage, divide your storage space into as many parts as you have categories. (You don't have to actually divide them, just mentally imagine your attic divided into four parts, for example.)

Assign one area of your storage space for each category. For example, holiday decorations go in the southeast corner of the basement. On your paper, sketch your storage area, divide it up into the category areas, and label them.

On the same page or another page, list each box (Dishes 1, Holiday 1) and its contents (Christmas tree lights, Christmas wreath, etc.). If you add more boxes to a category, you can just add a number (Holiday 5, Holiday 6).

Take note on your list of how many boxes you have in each category as you organize storage items. That way, when you retrieve things, you'll know if you have them all. 

After Christmas last year, we found one box of decorations we never even unpacked, (We wondered where the Santa hats were.)

Now, when you want to find a special holiday decoration, all you have to do is consult your list (it's in Holiday 4) and your map. (Holiday is near the southeast corner of the basement.) And so can your family!

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