Reader Annette submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My family lives in a modern 4 bedroom house with a 2 car garage, finished basement and shed. We have deep closets, shelving, and storage rooms galore. My husband and I and 3 kids are on a mission to reduce our possessions yet we have so much storage there are little bits here and there. Some cabinets are just plain empty. I’m still left with the feeling of clutter and disorganization since everything is spread out. I’m not sure what I own or where it all is! What would you suggest to consolidate things and keep my belongings under control? Thank you.
Too much storage? Annette, I have to tell you, it’s not often I come across people in your situation. However, too much storage can be a problem, especially since our human tendency is to fill up the space we have. Fighting this natural desire and keeping your family from wanting to fill it up, too, will likely be a struggle as long as you’re in this home.
In the world of Make Believe, you would sell this house and downsize to one that more appropriately meets your family’s needs. However, this is the U.S. in 2010 when the housing market is in the toilet, and not Make Believe. So, just tilt your head back, have a good chuckle, and then continue reading for some more serious advice.
First, when organizing the things you decide to keep, group like items with like items. This may require pulling everything you currently have in storage and sorting it out on your living room floor. Extra batteries should be grouped together, towels together, and so on and so forth.
Once you have items grouped together, return them to the storage place physically closest to the place where they are used. Coffee mugs should be stored next to the coffee maker, toilet paper in bathroom closets, lawn mower in the garage or a shed, and sheets in their appropriate bedroom closet.
Within the specific storage space, put those things you access most often on shelves between your knees and shoulders. Items you access less often can go on shelves below your knees and above your shoulders. Obviously, put heavier items on those lower shelves and lighter items on the highest shelves.
Only use your attic and basement storage space for things you access just once a year or less — holiday decorations, for instance. Make an inventory of what you have stored in these areas and post it on the back of the door or next to the light switch in these areas. Since you shouldn’t be storing much of anything in these spaces, these inventories won’t take you long to create.
By storing things in your home closest to where you use them the most often, you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding things when you need them. You can always create inventories for closets that store regular items if you want. And, since you have kids, you might want to label the lips of shelves so little helpers can learn where things are stored.
Thank you, Annette, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Good luck organizing your storage spaces!
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.