I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Everything in its place, and a place for everything.” This is great advice, and the organized among us do this. But if you’re like me, you’ve probably thought, “I’d love to put everything in its place, if only it had a place!” How can you go about finding a place for everything, especially if you live in a storage-challenged house like I do?
First, let’s think about an immediate, no-decisions-needed solution for those hot-spots where stuff piles up on counters, tables and other horizontal surfaces. You need a landing box to collect that stuff. A landing box is sort of like an inbox, but big enough to hold the kinds of things that typically pile up in an area. You don’t need to go out and buy a special container. We’ve all got plenty of storage containers around the house, so grab a basket or box. Put it in that spot so there is a place to put things that people feel they must put there. Then you have tidily contained stuff until you can put it away.
The key to making this work is you have to go through the landing box regularly. Let me say that again: regularly. Personally, I need to do this every day to keep things under control. It has to become part of your routine. A few ideas for when you can sort out the landing box:
- during dinner prep time when you’re waiting for something
- as part of the tidy-the-kitchen after dinner routine
- right before you go to bed
- how about assigning it as a chore for the kids? (win!)
Now, the landing box is a great temporary solution for things that are homeless. But if those items end up there because they really don’t have a home, and not just because someone was being lazy, then you need to find more storage space.
There is a surprising amount of space under the bed. Go ahead and look…ignore the dust bunnies….see what I mean? Square feet of space! And you probably have more than one bed in your house. Use that space! Under-bed storage solutions range in price from high (furniture with built-in drawers), to medium (under-bed storage bins) to low (suitcases, or even boxes that you cut down to fit). You don’t have to spend a fortune for storage containers. But if you have a few dollars, maybe you can buy some bed risers to gain even more space. If you have a lot of dollars (or building skills), the ultimate in a kid’s room is a loft bed that allows you to put a dresser, desk or extra play space under the bed.
Vertical spaces include walls and doors. If you look around the average house, you will notice that the majority of things in the house (particularly furniture) is located within the lower half of the walls. In fact, you may discover that nothing except a small shelf or picture is above the half-way mark on the walls. Think how much space there is! You can take advantage of this unused space by going up. Think floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Think putting shelves above doorways (really!). How about installing a row of hooks or a pegboard in a strategic spot?
Then there is the space behind doors. The back of a door is a perfect place to put hooks to hang up extra jackets, backpacks, purses and so forth. You can also put over-the-door storage shelves in bathrooms, pantries, or closets. This could become storage for canned goods, video games, or wrapping paper. The inside of a closet door is also a great space to hang a jewelry organizer or a tie rack. You could hang an over-the-door shoe organizer for (obviously) shoes or toys or bathroom toiletries. You could hang a corkboard on the inside of a kitchen cabinet as a place to put all those little pieces of papers, lists, and fliers.
Up High Spaces
Every kitchen that has cabinets usually has some space between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. Most closets have shelves above the clothes bar. These kind of spaces are often difficult to get to, but they are a great place to store things that you don’t need very often. This is key: it must be stuff you only need once or twice a year! Think about putting Christmas or seasonal decorations up there. How about that box of memorabilia that your husband wants to keep? Extra pillows or blankets?
Sometimes we get stuck thinking that kitchen stuff must be stored in the kitchen. But really, who says it has to be there? Seldom used kitchen stuff can go in the basement or garage. Do you have canning equipment that you only use in the summer? It doesn’t have to be stored in your precious kitchen real estate. What about the company-sized soup pot and fancy dishes? Again, if you only use them a few times a year, it’s better to store them in out-of-the-way spaces, even if that means you put them in the guest bedroom.
In my house (which is over 100 years old), we have closet issues. My closet is a whooping 30 inches wide and 15 inches deep! You have to be clever to get maximum use from every square inch of such a tiny closet. In a typical closet, people have one clothes bar that they hang short stuff on, then they have some shoes and other junk piled on the floor of the closet. This wastes a lot of valuable storage space! Most of us don’t have a lot of full-length dresses or coats that need full height to hang. Instead, you could move the clothes bar higher in the closet and hang a second clothes bar. This doubles the amount of shirts, skirts and pants you can hang. Or you could put drawers or shelves at the bottom of the closet, eliminating the heap on the floor.
In the garage or basement you really need big utility shelves that you can store bins on. I know you can stack bins on top of each another. But as a person who has done this and spent a lot of time shuffling bins around to get to the one on the bottom, let me tell you: you need shelves. If you have utility shelves, you can get to any storage container without having to move stuff off of it. This also frees up valuable floor space for large items that really don’t fit on a shelf (hello, lawn mower!). Utility shelving doesn’t need to be fancy, and oftentimes you can build it yourself right onto exposed studs. This is also a great place to put a pegboard for tools.
Finding storage space in a small house is challenging. But with some imagination and a good eye, you can spy out some unlikely places to put things. Usually with just a little work and a few dollars, you can create storage solutions that will help your home be more organized. And when it’s time to put things away, everything will have a place.
Need more storage ideas? Check out my Storage Solutions board on Pinterest