Storage That Works

These ideas will help you choose and design more effective ways of storing your belongings.

Go for the simplest, least effort system

Some organization approaches require extensive lists and indexes, and take a lot of “managing.” If you fail to adequately manage the system (i.e., you don’t get around to listing the contents of Boxes B and C on the index), the system fails completely.

A more elegant system—one that is simpler and more streamlined—will work well and help you be more organized even if you aren’t following the system perfectly.

Use product warranties as an example. If you at least throw them all in one box, you’ll know where to look when you need one. That takes a lot less effort than categorizing them, or sorting based on expiration date of the warranty. Better to be relatively organized than to attempt a highly detailed system and fail!

Store items close to where they will be used

Tasks are much easier when everything you need is close at hand. Think about the activities you do in each room, or each area of each room, and gather the tools for each activity together in that area. Here are some examples of storing an item close to where it’s used:

Store frequently used items in the most convenient storage area

Convenient storage is the most valuable and should be used for the most frequently used items. Some examples:

laundry basket

A related concept that can help you decide where to store items is current/active storage vs. dead/inactive storage. Current storage contains material that you are still using or referring to and should be stored in a convenient location. Dead storage contains items that you must keep but may not need to access for long periods of time. For example, you may need to refer to your tax records from the past couple of years as you prepare this year’s taxes, so those records should be in current storage. On the other hand, tax records from several years ago are items that you will seldom refer to; they should be moved to a more remote location such as the basement.

Subdivide space to make it more usable

Large, undivided spaces are inefficient storage, and they make it difficult to keep items organized. By dividing the space, you can group and organize items so you can more quickly and easily locate the item you want. For example:

Look at your storage areas (closets, attics, garage, basement, jewelry boxes) and think about whether adding shelves or other space-dividers will make the area more usable.

Communicate what’s inside the container

Don’t depend on your memory to know what’s inside each container. Give yourself some clues!

Choose effective storage containers/systems that you’ll really use