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…
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!).
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.
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 convenient. Examples 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.)
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.
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.
* * * * *
Effective storage is the cornerstone of an ordered space. What storage tricks work well for you?