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The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Cleaning & Organizing
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Part Eight: Storage Options
Somehow we manage to collect so many things during our lives that it becomes nearly impossible to keep them all on display. For reasons of seasonal, nostalgic, sentimental value, or indecision purposes, we tend to wind up with hoards of items that we refuse to part ways with.
Many of these things are perfectly acceptable to keep around, but there are also many which are merely taking up space. Ask yourself these questions about each item to determine if it is something you really need, or if it is something that you can get rid of to reduce clutter and headaches:
1) Why have you kept it around? If someone gave it to you and you feel guilty about getting rid of it, or if it used to be important to you but it no longer has real value in and of itself, it is time to remove it from your home. Chances are the person who gave it to you has forgotten all about it. If it was at one time really special to you but it no longer is, you can always take a photograph of it to remember it.
2) How long has it been lying around without being used? About five years ago, my family and I downsized from living in a house to moving into a condo. When we moved, we got rid of a lot of things, but we still found that we had tons of “stuff” that wouldn’t fit in the condo. We put the extra stuff in a storage unit, and my boxes have sat there untouched for years. Now that I have a condo of my own, the mother and father dears are going to be showing up at my door with piles of boxes so that they no longer have to deal with my boxes in their storage unit. Frankly, I don’t even remember what I kept in those boxes, so I don’t expect I will need to save much of it (if any of it). If things have been hiding in your garage or basement and are never touched, and if you have forgotten about them, how special are they really? Ditch ‘em.*
3) Do you see yourself wanting or needing this in the future? Items without practical use are only going to collect dust. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. The mother dear has her mother’s wedding dress in an old cedar chest, and I cannot see her ever using it again, but it also will never be tossed away. Some items do have sentimental value, and it is important to keep those things. But what we should be doing is determining what has real sentimental value, and what things we can actually toss out. I used to collect little plaques from every country I lived in, and I had them on display and loved them. They had real sentimental value at the time. They no longer do, so they have been taken to a second-hand store for someone else to enjoy.
Now that you have pared down your belongings substantially, you may still find that you need to keep things in storage. Seasonal items or items such as the mother dear’s wedding dress need their own space. Here are some of the ways that you can use storage devices to your advantage:
1) Rubbermaid containers and cardboard boxes. Keep everything in organized boxes to make it that much easier to find what you need. Use packing paper, towels, scarves, or blankets for padding (the black print from newspapers will rub off on your belongings, so it is better to not use those pages). Fill your boxes up to the top so that you use all of the space in the box, but do not over-fill it. Use packing tape to close the cardboard boxes. Label your containers and boxes on two sides and on the top to describe what is kept in the box. This will prevent you from needing to open every box in the room when you are searching for something.
2) Wire or metal racks. These wracks are fantastic for storing all of your Rubbermaid containers and cardboard boxes. They are a little pricey; you can expect to spend anywhere from $70 to $150 for a decent quality rack. Metal racks are more likely to bend under the weight of heavier items, so I prefer wire racks, myself. The taller, the better; you can use a ladder or stand on a chair to reach up to the boxes on the top. Make sure that you measure the racks before buying them to ensure that they will fit into the space you want to put it, and so that the boxes will be able to fit in there. Organize your boxes with the labels facing the front and with the heavier boxes on the bottom.
3) Attics, basements, garages, and storage closets. Make use of all the space you have! Houses are full of closets and extra storage space. Invest in those wire racks for your basement and garage, especially. Store smaller items in hall closets and use clear boxes so that you can see right through them to the items inside. Many apartment and condo buildings will come with a storage closet in the basement or down the hall from your suite; I have one storage closet on the ground floor and one storage closet in-suite. My in-suite storage closet has the wire rack to organize my boxes, and I keep my bike and some other boxes in the ground-floor storage closet. If you are really organized, write down on a piece of paper where you keep which boxes. This will be particularly useful if you live in a big house with plenty of storage room.
4) Storage units. Most helpful for those living in apartments or condos, storage units are large rooms inside one building used solely for storage. They come in varying sizes and are usually accessible during weekdays and weekends. There is a monthly fee for storage units (because they are a business), and the individual units can come as large as the size of a bedroom.
There you have it! Take advantage of the storage options available to you. Share your storage tips in the comments section below!
*Only ditch them after looking inside the boxes, of course.