Readers’ Best Storage and Organization Tricks

Make organizing easy with these smart tips.

Experience is the greatest teacher, and House & Home readers have it in spades. So, we asked our Facebook fans and Forum users to share their best advice.

1. Use baskets.

Jennifer Perdicaris-Kennedy, a House & Home Facebook fan, recommends storage baskets to stow away clutter: “Keep storage baskets around the house: one in the laundry room for all those pocket treasures, a basket for school art, and everyday baskets for loose items. This keeps the runways clear, and you can always deal with the basket treasures later, when you actually have the time to deal with them!”

2. Label, label, label!

“I love labels! Add them to plastic bins for basement or attic storage,” says Jennifer Knickle-Mills from Lunenburg, N.S. “Photo boxes aren’t just great for photos, but also work for storing small items like craft supplies and receipts — label these, too! (Most come with little metal label holders, making them pretty enough to store on a bookcase.) As a cheaper alternative, shoeboxes work just as well — I cover mine with brown craft paper. Or, pick up some wicker baskets. Not only do they look great, but they’re useful for toiletries, hats and mittens. Attach a circular cardboard tag with brown jute rope so you can identify contents stored up high.”

3. Safeguard basement storage.

It sounds obvious, but H&H senior design editor Cameron MacNeil recommends using plastic bins when storing items in the basement. “I had a flood in my basement, but didn’t lose too many valuables since everything was stored in plastic containers,” he says. Opt for clear ones to help identify what’s in them, and buy all one size so you can stack them.”

4. Stay tidy.

“Always, always, always, put things back where they belong when you are finished with them,” says Facebook fan Kim Alexander. Keeping on top of clutter on a day-to-day basis can be less time consuming than a once-a-month (or year!) reorganization. Lindsay Reese agrees: “Do a little bit each day! File your bills as soon as they’re paid, and put things back where you find them.”

5. Optimize bench storage.

Susan C. Jones saw unused storage space in a window seat, so she added custom doors to the bench for easy access. “When we moved into our home, I had doors retro-fit into the top of a large existing window seat in the breakfast room,” she explains. “Since I often work from the centrally located table anyway — so that I can be Mom and work at the same time — my window seat has turned into a hub for my Etsy lamp shop, where I can store work things easily. I chose flush top doors rather than front cabinet doors, so that the light shines in when the doors are open and I can see everything quite easily. The top doors also make it easier to retrieve and replace all of the smaller containers stored within. My seat holds all manner of tools, fabric, paint, materials, supplies and files, which I can load back in when it’s dinner time. Everything is hidden and the cushioned window is a favourite place for friends and family to sit.”

6. Purge daily and seasonally.

It’s harsh, but we all might be better off if we took on the mantra of Melissa McColl, another Facebook fan: “If you don’t use it, get rid of it.”

“Purge, and continue to do so on a regular basis — even once per year is good,” adds Carley Cooper. “I recently moved into a new apartment that is half the square footage of my old apartment. Not only that, but the new place has NO extra storage. I was forced to get rid of half my stuff. I had to do some serious soul searching on how important every little thing was. Well, guess what?! All that stuff I thought I needed, I didn’t! It’s gone, and I don’t miss it at all.”

Jennifer Knickle-Mills agrees: “Clear the clutter first, spring and fall. Get rid of anything that you haven’t used for years, clothing you just don’t like anymore or doesn’t make you feel great when you’re wearing it. Getting rid of unwanted items makes you feel good, and donating items will make you feel even better.”

Room Remix, also a Facebook fan, advises not to collect “stuff”. “I really try not to buy things if I’m not absolutely sure that I’ll use them,” she says. “If I haven’t used something after a few months, or one year for some things, I don’t keep it. I recycle it, give it to someone else that can use it, or donate it.”

7. Customize your organization.

“Repurpose an affordable Ikea wardrobe for kitchen storage,” suggests H&H design editor Joel Bray. Whatever you choose to store things in, however, be sure to place items in a way that will help you use and put them away easily.

“Organize in a way that works well with your life,” says Kendall Eddy from Vancouver. “In a linen closet, put items that are used most often on the shelves you can reach. Put seasonal items like blankets and extra pillows on higher shelves that are not as accessible. When organizing kitchen drawers, use dividers that actually fit your items. Be realistic when organizing your home … is this something you can maintain on a day-to-day basis?”

Think about systems that can work for you. “A few years ago, my mother took it upon herself to colour coordinate my closet when I wasn’t looking,” says H&H assistant design editor Kathryn Bala. “It only took about 10 minutes to do, especially since half of my wardrobe is black. It’s one of those quick and easy organization ideas that has really made a difference in my day-to-day life. Now I can sleep in for an extra five minutes instead of digging through my closet for that pink cardigan.”

H&H features editor Catherine MacIntosh also created a system that works for her. “I’m not exactly an organized person, but the one thing I like to do is hang my purses all over one wall of a spare bedroom. It’s instant art and colour for the space, and helps me to see and appreciate all of my handbags at once, especially the fancier ones that I don’t use often,” she explains. “I do this with necklaces, too. I have a 10-foot-long coat rack that I use to hang all of my necklaces.”

8. Target junk-dumping areas.

“My family has a tendency to let the junk mail and catalogues pile up on the kitchen counter near the phone,” says Facebook fan Susan C. Jones. “When we moved into a new home, I was lucky enough to have a cabinet door under that very counter. Though I sacrificed storage, I had a handyman cut out 2/3 of the built-in shelf, then add an electrical outlet and a pull-out shelf. Then I placed our shredder in the cupboard on the pull-out shelf. Now, it’s much easier to simply go through the mail as we stand over the shredder — immediate clutter control!”

Source: House & Home Web site, Design, Readers best storage organization tricks, March 2008-2009/ September 2010.

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