Storage Space: Before & After
If you’re anything like the average American (with 300,000 items in your home), you have a storage area. And it’s full. It’s likely a combination of the absolute essentials, keepsakes, projects, clothes, holiday decorations, and a few things you could part with. Sound about right?
That space is getting a lot of use (and abuse). It’s out of sight so it’s out of mind. Meaning it can get a little (okay a lot) disheveled after a while. Throw in seasonal transitions, the oncoming holidays, and you might start to feel a little overwhelmed when setting foot in there. When it’s a hot mess, it’s time for a full reset.
Organizing is intuitive for a lot of people, but it can also be learned by anyone. I tend to follow the SPACE method, coined by Julie Morgenstern in her classic Organizing From the Inside Out. SPACE stands for Sort, Purge, Assign a Home, Containerize, and Equalize. These steps will show up again and again in just about any home organizing project.
The proud owner of this storage room happens to be a good friend of mine since 5th grade. She’s now married with children, three young boys under age six. Also, the family is planning to foster a young child in the very near future, which means they need to be stocked and ready-to-go at a moment’s notice.
About a month before our first session, I stopped by for a quick consultation. We talked about the space and I encouraged her to narrow down her purpose for the room and to start removing items that she knew could “live” somewhere else in their home.
Having a defined purpose for a space really helps in the decision-making process when trying to decide what stays and what goes. She was able to narrow it down to: a storage room for kid’s clothes from 0-6, holiday decorations, off-season gear, plus a functional space for sorting clothes, storing and wrapping gifts, and also as a space for small painting projects.
At first, we pulled all of the holiday decorations together and then moved onto the clothes. She was able to sort and purge a ton between the consultation and the first session, which was so helpful to our progress that day.
One goal that we had for the space was to make it as visually appealing as possible since she was planning to spend time sorting, wrapping, and painting in there. In order to do this, we tried to use the same colored bins for like items whenever possible. We were able to store the majority of the Christmas items in the red bins in one section (assign). At one point it was clear that not all of the bins would fit, so she purged a few more items to make it work.
To the left of the Christmas section, we focused on creating a section of labeled bins for kid’s clothes (containerize). Starting from the top left red bin it goes from 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months, 24 months/2T, 3T, 4T, 5T, 6T, and finally size 7/8. In the future she’ll need to build up her girl’s clothing section (equalize), so some space is available to the left for that as well.
We came across several boxes and bins of her own childhood memorabilia, which is often the most difficult category to sort and purge. Knowing that her storage space is limited, she committed to refining it down to one bin of the most cherished items, but she set that project aside for another day. Her husband also has one bin of childhood favorites that will remain indefinitely. The empty space to the left of the clothing section was reserved to hold those two bins when she finished combing through years of memories.
The section nearest to the door was to hold photos, gifts in need of wrapping, CDs, miscellaneous cords (we all have that bin), painting supplies, with Halloween decorations on the top shelf.
The containerize part of the process was woven into everything we did. She had on hand a variety of empty, sturdy bins to choose from before we got started, and a few were emptied as we went along. We didn’t actually buy any new bins as part of this project, just used what she had on hand. Plus, some items just defy all containerization but you can still assign a home for them. A lot of the toys found homes in other parts of the house, namely the boy’s closets and in a cute little play nook under the stairs.
After about five hours, we were done! Both physically and mentally, to be sure. She purged 10 boxes of donations, several bags of trash and bonfire fuel, and rehomed some items to more logical locations around the house.
When any room in your house has gotten to the point of overwhelm, it helps to define what you need it to do for you and your family. Everything works better when it has a purpose and your storage space is no exception.