A professional organizer shares tips on how to categorize items and which containers are best for storing things.
Storage containers also can enable people to put off decision-making by hiding things. Out of sight leads to out of mind, and boxes can easily build up into overwhelming clutter. Even hidden clutter that doesn’t impose on your everyday life can rob you of peace because it stays on your subconscious to-do list.
So if you are going to use storage containers — which, again, are wonderful tools when used appropriately — declutter your items first. After that, here’s what I recommend.
1. Identify Belongings for Deep Storage
These are items that you will likely not use but can’t part with, such as sentimental T-shirts, old yearbooks and photos, wedding mementos or childhood memorabilia. Since these items won’t be accessed regularly and may be of great sentimental value to you, store them in containers that will keep them safe. Sometimes a plastic lidded tub will do, and at other times an acid-free box is called for. Do some research to find out the proper way to store the things that mean a lot to you.
Things you use seasonally or infrequently should not take up prime real estate and clutter the flow of your home’s main spaces. But they should still be accessible. For example, platters and extra place settings used for occasional entertaining may not need to be in the main kitchen cabinets, but could instead go in a garage cabinet or the back corner of your pantry. Just don’t store these items too deeply, or you may be prone to purchasing duplicates just to avoid the hassle of digging out the ones you already own.
Additional examples of occasional items are holiday decor, camping equipment, swimming pool items, costumes, travel items and seasonal clothing. Organizing your occasional storage by category makes retrieval of your items easier. But be sure the categories make sense for you. For example, your pumpkin tablecloth may work better in your Halloween and Thanksgiving storage than in your general entertaining storage.
Frequently used items should be placed in prime, easy-to-access spaces. Using storage containers to corral these items can provide that extra level of organization. For instance, if you always use 12 ramekins at a time, then placing them all in a bin will let you retrieve them faster.
1. Open Baskets for Everyday Items
Rattan, canvas, sea grass and wire baskets come in many sizes, colors and patterns and can add to the aesthetic appeal of your room. These are most effective for everyday items such as toys, laundry, blankets, pillows, snacks, pet supplies and mail. A basket’s lack of a lid may even make family members more likely to put items away and help keep your home in order.
Small, open, stackable bins are perfect for keeping small parts — like nails, screws, nuts and bolts — neatly separated. They also work for crayons, hair ties and erasers. I use them in my laundry room for sponges, dusters, bin liners and rubber gloves. These come in many sizes, and stacking them allows them to easily fit on narrow or deep shelves.
I love these organizers because they come in so many sizes that you can create combinations to fit a drawer, cabinet or refrigerator. They’re modular, so you can choose the exact size you want to minimize wasted space: a tiny tray for paperclips, a long and narrow one for eyeliners and a deeper one for vinegars.
Items that can degrade must be handled with special care. Photographs, scrapbooks, sentimental letters, papers and vintage clothing should be stored in breathable acid-free boxes. These boxes should be kept away from sunlight, heat, humidity, dust, bugs and other pests.
Typically, such items are categorized as deep storage, and you must take care that your deep storage location is not a breeding ground for pests. Many insects love warm, dark spots with moisture, so choose a dry, climate-controlled location. They also like to feast on natural fibers and are attracted to stains and dirt on clothing, so be sure to clean your garments before storing them.
Fabric clothing bags are great for seasonal clothing or children’s clothing that needs to be saved for another child. Label bags and organize by age, gender, season or purpose (for example, maternity clothes or ski clothes), so one bag can be pulled out at a time as needed.
While fabric bags are fine for seasonal or occasional storage, sentimental clothing you plan to place in deep storage should be properly packed into boxes or bags made of breathable, acid-free materials, as described in the previous section.