Organization

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Clear plastic storage boxWhether you should be storing something or not is another subject, but assuming the stuff is worth keeping, sometimes you might be wondering where the best place to put something is.  How do you decide where and how to store your stuff around the home?

These are the desired outcomes:

- You want the place to look neat, tidy and un-cluttered.

- You want to be able to find things easily.  Really easily.  Instantly even.  No thinking or wondering, you know where everything is.

- You want to be able to get to things easily – no rummaging, scrounging, piling, sorting, lifting, climbing etc. 

- You want things where they won’t get damaged.

- You want everything up off the floor so you can clean easily.

The storage you choose needs to be appropriate to the item – its size and shape, how often you use it, whether it needs protecting from dust or sunlight or damp or heat, whether it needs to be moved, whether it’s made of a number of separate pieces, whether it’s part of a collection, which room it is used in and so on.

The first rule is grouping.  Like items go with like items.  When you have all the items of a group together in one place, you can see how much space you need and visualize different storage methods.  All your books, CDs, DVDs, cleaning supplies, shoes, pens, stationary, files, towels, bedding etc together in a group. 
The main available storage options are shelves, hanging, cupboards, drawers, cartons and bags.  Within these we can have inserts to help divide smaller items, like baskets, smaller boxes, trays and so on.

Here is a process for deciding how to store something.  Say for example you’re looking at all the bits and pieces in your bathroom.

1. What is the problem you want to solve?  It might be that you’re sick of having to pick up and move all the various bottles, brushes and bits every time you need to clean around the sink, you can’t find things easily in the cupboard under the sink and have to rummage around to locate things.  The room looks untidy and cluttered, but you need all the stuff that’s in there.
2. What are your resources? Are you able to install new fittings and furniture or are you limited to just sorting things into some containers and better arranging them?
3. Check that all the items are actually needed and used in this room or area, and gather items from other areas or rooms which would actually be used here.
4. Group the items, according to how often they are used, and also into categories like hair items, nail care items, makeup items, spare supplies and so on.
5. Locate suitably sized baskets, boxes or containers for smaller grouped items to make them accessible and moveable as a group, for example all nail care items in a small box.
6. Allocate available space for frequently used items and infrequently used items.  If the frequently used items don’t have a drawer or convenient cupboard to put them in, group them in an attractive box or basket so they can be easily moved.
7. Keep less attractive items out of sight as much as possible, and as few items out on display as possible.  If your items are grouped and in easily moveable containers, it won’t be difficult to get to them.

Try to be open to different ideas about where things will work best.  Perhaps you’re short of bookshelf space, but you have some unused space in your bedroom and do a lot of reading there.  Perhaps there are rarely used items in your kitchen that you need, and you have plenty of space in a hall cupboard.  Perhaps you could double your filing space by archiving tax records to the attic or roof space, in a box clearly marked with the date on which it’s safe to dispose of.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: clear plastic storage boxes are very useful.  They’re stackable, they look neat and tidy, you can see what’s in them, they protect items from becoming damaged, and they come in all sorts of handy sizes.  My favourite size is about as big as two shoe boxes together, and the next size up which is taller, but the same size for stacking. 

For places where I could really do with a drawer but don’t have one, attractive fabric covered or leather-look storage boxes with lids are great.  Again, they can be stacked if needed, but are attractive enough to live on a shelf in full view, and contain all those odd, unattractive bits and pieces.

Remember though, the smaller the items, the smaller the container.  You don’t want to be rummaging!  And don’t be afraid to label.  The more detailed the label the better.

A great cheap solution for temporary storage of items that need to be moved around is stripy canvas bags – you know, the great big ones you can get from the $2 shop.  If you’re in the middle of a clearing or sorting process that is going to take some time, you can do amazing things with these.  I like to keep a few spare ones on hand at all times.  You can group things into separate bags while you’re sorting them, then easily move them out of the way til you’re ready to work on it again.  You can use them to haul stuff to the charity shop, or to gather items you’re giving away to a friend.  They zip right up, have handles, and are quite sturdy.  The easiest way I’ve found to label them is with a strip of masking tape which I write on with a thick marker.  For books and papers, use the smaller size so it’s not too heavy.

If you have to hide stuff out of sight in closets, it’s much easier to stack it, move it, and stop it all getting tangled and messed up if you have things inside some kind of container.

Don’t look at arranging your storage and finding places for things as something to be done all in one go.  It’s an ongoing process.  Just one thing at a time.

And when you have decided where you’re going to keep something, remember and stick to that decision, putting things back in their allocated places. 

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