Good Storage Is

Items storaged in a closet.

Not too long ago, I stepped into the shower only to discover that the bar of soap had been used up by the previous user (my husband) and had not been replaced with a new one. My stash of soap was down the hall in the laundry room, so I dashed down the hall in my birthday suit to get a new bar. Later, I mentioned this experience to my husband. His response was pretty wise. He said, “The problem is, the extra bars of soap are too far away from the shower. We should keep them under the sink so we can easily grab a new one when we need it.” This idea made a lot of sense, so I immediately got up, went to the laundry room, retrieved three bars of soap and put them under the sink. Now, when we step out of the shower, it is simple to grab a new bar and put it in the shower right away.

The question of where to keep our belongings is multi-faceted. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

GOOD STORAGE IS…

  Convenient

Items that we use frequently should be within easy reach. This means we should be able to easily both retrieve and return them to their “homes.” We don’t want to set up a system that requires too much effort, but instead design solutions that are “Toss Easy.” For example:

  • Don’t like hangers? Install hooks.
  • Hate removing lids from boxes? Add shelves so boxes don’t need to be stacked on top of each other. Then get rid of the lids.
  • Hate going upstairs? Establish a storage location on the first floor or designate a container on the stairs to grab whenever you go up.
  • Don’t want to run down the hall in your birthday suit? Keep a few extra bars under the sink next to the shower (same applies for a few rolls of toilet paper!).

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√  Intuitive

When deciding where to store something, always ask yourself, “If I had to find this, where is the first place I would look?” After all, it’s important to store items in a place where you can easily find them. Finding things is easier when you establish solutions that make sense to your brain.

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√  Triaged

Not every item needs to be equally accessible. Some things you use every day, some you use periodically, and some you are holding onto “just in case.” To maximize efficiency, store items according to how frequently you need them. For example:

  • If you work at a desk, the drawers that you can reach without having to get out of your chair are your “prime real estate.” Reserve these drawers for the supplies you regularly need, such as pens, staples, paper clips, and current files. The same concept applies to all products you regularly use. If you touch it (almost) daily, it belongs on the eye level shelf, the nearby drawer, etc.
  • For those items you pull out periodically, such as reference files or the fine china, designate storage locations that are accessible, even if perhaps a bit less convenientExamples here include the file cabinet across the room, the top shelf of a pantry, or the back of a corner cabinet.

Lastly, for those items you are keeping “just in case,” utilize the most remote locations in your space, such as the attic with the pull-down stairs, the box at the bottom of the stack, or even an offsite storage location (for more thoughts on self-storage click here.)

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√  Labeled

Putting a label on a container/space is the single most effective tool you have for ensuring that users put items away properly. Labels help us remember what goes where and make us feel guilty if we put something where it shouldn’t be.

Labels are particularly helpful when multiple users share one storage location (e.g. the junk drawer or the supply cabinet). A label can be anything from a handwritten piece of masking tape to a decorative decal.

[NOTE: if you really struggle with putting items back in the right container, utilize clear containers. Seeing what is inside is like a giant label!]

To read more about labels, click here.

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  Scaled

Storage containers need to “fit” the items they hold. Toss a handful of paper clips loose into a drawer and you will shortly have a mess. Always subdivide large spaces when storing smaller items. Drawer organizers, shelf dividers, bins, baskets and boxes can all be used to define areas of a shelf or drawer. And while there are many products on the market, you probably have at least some items on hand that will work. Remember, you can always shop for something pretty after you have set up a well-functioning system.

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Effective storage is the cornerstone of an ordered space. What storage tricks work well for you?

34 thoughts on “Good Storage Is”

  1. Well, I have had a similar issue with toilet paper in our bathroom. I now try to keep extra rolls under the sink vanity whenever possible. So, I agree for times like these storage needs to be as convenient as possible. So, keeping extra as close as possible just makes sense as far as being convenient for all.

    1. Few things are worse than realizing you need a roll of toilet paper and there isn’t a roll in sight. I try to keep the rolls within reach as well.. preferably within “seated reach,” if you know what I mean:)

    1. Admittedly, I don’t keep all of my backup bars of soap under the sink because I buy in bulk from Costco. But I try and make sure there are always a couple of bars there, just in case. Don’t really love having to run down the hall with no clothes on, so loved this solution!

  2. Clients always ask me about where to store things and I’m always posing the question right back to them. Where they think to look for it first is where it should go. It may not always be the most conventional location, but if it makes sense to them we go with it. Your point about intuitiveness is spot on.;)

    1. It really is smart to follow their instinct. After all, when it comes time to look for something, I’m not going to be there reminding them where it is. I throw that question back all the time as well. Great minds think alike:)

  3. I love your soap bar story, Seana! It really drove home the point about storing things in a place based on convenience and usage. These principles can be applied to every organizing space and situation. One of the places I’ve seen the biggest transformation with these concepts is in the kitchen. There are so many things going on in a kitchen and figuring out the best location for all the items based on usage can make an enormous difference for how efficiently that room functions. I’m still smiling about the soap.

    1. I hoped the image of my running down the hall with no clothes on would put a few smiles on people’s faces this morning. I think most of us have been there at one time or another, right?

    1. That’s funny Janet. After 30 years, I think I’ve learned to try and affirm any ideas my husband has on organizing that I can get behind. Fair to say we have different styles when it comes to belongings, but I think he’s coming around 🙂

  4. I love the way you describe your bar of soap situation and, yes, it brought a smile to my face! Like the rest I store things near where I use them. Having an extra of the frequently used things (toilet paper, soap, paper towels) near by truly helps with the inventory. If you take the time to replace the extra from your stash, you quickly learn to recognize when it’s time to add that item to your shopping list. Great advice here Seana.

    1. Yes, watching the stash dwindle leads me to adding it to my list. I had this happen over the weekend with tissues. I hope I can get them next time I’m at the store. Tissues are still available, right?

  5. I LOVE the image of you running down the hall in your birthday suit to retrieve a bar of soap. I’ve done that when I’ve found an empty shampoo bottle or soaking wet bath mat. ( I won’t mention who is the culprit.) I will say that my husband’s answer is always- he doesn’t know where something is kept. Really? Now I keep extra back up in the linen closet AND where I need it.
    When trying to figure out where something should be stored I always ask the question, how do I plan to use this? That helps direct me or for a client.
    You added terrific links grouping common themes. Well done!

    1. I’m working on the links, Ronni! I figure if my husband wants to chime in with organizing thoughts, I want to encourage that, right? I have to admit it has been better with the soap nearby:)

    1. I do try and keep a few supplies in each of the bathrooms. I agree that a guest is sort of ‘in a pickle’ if they run out of toilet paper and can’t find anymore nearby!

  6. Great post! I believe that it is essential to think of the best possible storage area for a particular item. In our home, the bathroom soap is in the cabinet above the toilet near the tub. We have the bathroom supplies split in a basket under the sink of both bathrooms. The cleaning supplies are in a closet on each floor, which makes it easier to grab and clean when needed. Thanks for these great tips! Sharing this one!
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…8 Helpful Organizing Essentials For Dorm LifeMy Profile

  7. I’ve found keeping kits for certain things around the house to be so helpful. My kids are still really little and have attention spans/patience similar to a gold fish. Having snacks, toys, art supplies, books, etc. within reach at all times has saved my sanity lately. I like your suggestion to use clear bins and labels to be as clear as possible on what you have on hand. Sharing this!!

    1. Love you have little “kid kits” all over your space. I used to do something similar, always have “bags of fun” around… especially for when we tried (not often) to go out to dinner. I also had a bunch of books in the bathroom for those potty training days.

  8. Love that story, Seana and have lived it too! The way our house was built, the central bathroom storage area is in the master bedroom bathroom, which is absolutely no use to our kids…I’ve learned to check theirs for supplies regularly so I don’t get a knock on our door at 1 am with a dripping wet teenager demanding to know where the conditioner is. In an ideal world, they’d be monitoring it themselves but in real life, I value my sleep too much to push that point.

    1. I can totally relate. In my experience, that “going off to college and having to make sure you have conditioner when Mom isn’t around” snaps those teenagers into shape. That said, when they come home, they sort of fall back into old patterns, so keeping their bathrooms stocked is a good idea:)

  9. Fun and informative post! I love the use of the story to make a meaningful and memorable point. I also really like the way you broke down and defined the qualities of good storage so that they make perfect sense and are easy for people to remember.

  10. I am the “back up woman of the year”. I always have one back up of everything near where I use them and bigger supply stored in lesser used spaces. When the next to the last item is gone it goes on the grocery list. That turned out to be a real blessing when Covid hit. We had plenty of everything. We are also lucky to have storage space.

    1. Good for you, Dianne! I had a lot of backups when COVID hit, but there were a few things I didn’t have. I’m still trying to find a few items that seem to be taking a long time to return to the shelves!

  11. Great advice. I think the best statement is “store items according to how frequently you need them.” I try not to buy large packages of things since there are only two of us in the house. I don’t like the idea of storing the same item in different places. It probably cost me a little more, but it’s less complicated for me.

    1. I think a good system is one that works well for the people who live with it. If it is only the two of you, you probably don’t need the twelve pack of paper towels or 20 pack of soap!

  12. Oh that’s funny! We have our soap in the downstairs bathroom so yes, if I need it in the upstairs bathroom, what do I do?? Same with toilet paper. I need a way to store a little up there too. I mean..we’ve all had to call down to our kids.. “I need a towel!” Or “I need toilet paper! Come bring it!”

  13. I learned that lesson the hard way—about the soap. Ran naked through the house to get it and someone was at the door, ha-ha. The soap has since been moved as well as an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.

    1. Well having someone at the door is sort of the frosting on the cake of this story LOL! Once you’ve streaked the house you are willing to consider other options, right?

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