DIY project for transient items

Reader Dawn tipped us off to a blog post on the website The Red Chair Blog for how to organize “transient” items. This DIY solution can be made with four sturdy cardboard boxes with lids and a narrow set of storage cubes.

A description of the transient storage system from Amy at The Red Chair Blog:

Clients often ask me how to organize items that are “just passing through” their homes. You may have seen “transients” like these in your home: the library books that need to be returned, the sweater that you need to mail to Great Aunt Myrtle for her birthday, the DVD that you borrowed from a friend and need to return, or that pair of Goodwill-bound go-go boots.

Here’s a simple, cost-effective storage solution. It won’t win any awards for good looks–just keep it tucked in a closet or storage area–but it gets the job done.

I agree that this would be a perfect solution for a closet near the main entrance to your home, and an easy weekend DIY project.

Image from The Red Chair Blog

24 Comments for “DIY project for transient items”

  1. posted by Melanie on

    If my “transient” items were given a proper home in a closed box tucked away in my closet, they would stay there forever and I would never deal with them.

  2. posted by Soochi on

    I like the boxes idea but like Melanie says, I wouldn’t put it in the closet. In the garage might work though if you have one. In a small apartment, it could even be baskets somewhere near the door. Just the categories, however stored, make sense to me. Think I’ll try this and see how it works.

  3. posted by Rebecca on

    I like this concept, though with prettier boxes from somewhere like the Container Store, this would be an even better idea…

  4. posted by Another Deb on

    This system might work for me if I could see the items on a shelf, or if the boxes were clear bins. I have used something like this in the past with tote bags that could hang on doorknobs going to the garage the day they are to be taken out to the car or kept in the car during the week I will do the errand.

    I’m off to the Goodwill now!

  5. posted by Sonya on

    I keep a cardboard box in the bottom of my front closet for my donate items. When the box is full, I take the whole thing to the thrift store and find a new cardboard box. The other stuff – library books, gifts, etc. – don’t hang around long enough to need their own boxes.

  6. posted by peachy on

    i love this idea ๐Ÿ™‚ i keep these items always somewhere around the living room, and they are clutter. if i put them in a drawer, i forget about them altogether . thanks so much for this idea!!!

  7. posted by Michele on

    I love this idea and agree with @Another Deb’s suggestion that, for me, it would work more effectively if the bins were clear. Maybe even open, with no lids.

    Right now I keep our “to be donated” items in a literal pile next to my bed. It’s unattractive and (ugh) usually gets dusty before the items get donated. If they went into a clear, unlidded bin by the front door, I think I’d move them out of the house more frequently!

  8. posted by Erin on

    Right now we live in 1000 sqft condo. I have two canvas bins – one in our bedroom closet that is clearly labeled Goodwill, and one in the trunk of my car for all other transients. Most of the items that we give away tend to be clothing, so having the bin in the closet encourages us to get rid of the things we haven’t worn in ages. When it is full, off to Goodwill it goes. My plan is that when we live in a larger place (and have kids), I’ll have a Goodwill bin in the kids’ closets too. As for the transient items, they are put in a pile on the kitchen table and immediately go into the bin in my trunk when I go to work the next day. I keep a list of the future homes of the items in my planner (mainly stores for returns and post office) and then if I’m driving by one of them I can easily take care of that errand because they are all corralled neatly in my trunk.

  9. posted by Kim on

    this is a great idea! However, being on a tight budget we would probably forgo the shelving and just have bins or boxes in a neat stack vs. spending money on the wire shelving. Funny thing is last year at a garage sale I had this shelving and gave it away! doh!

  10. posted by Annie on

    This is fantastic – and since we don’t have space by our back door, it could go right in the garage.

  11. posted by trillie on

    Yes, I agree with Melanie — if there was a place for the things I decluttered, they’d never leave my home! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    My current solution that has been working pretty well for about a year: I have been using ApartmentTherapy’s suggestion called an outbox. It’s just an area in my entryway, and a piece of paper hanging on the wall with “outbox” on it. The individual items have post-its with their destination or if I still have to make my mind up about them, with a question mark. I try to get rid of one item every week (or several items for one destination) so I don’t become used to this corner and just leave it all there.

  12. posted by WilliamB on

    Clearly there’s the bones of a good solution for many users in this idea, if not necessarily that exact configuration. But that’s what this blog is for, right?

    My thought is that this is suited for a large volume of transients. My solution isn’t as elegant: transients (plus sunscreen and the ongoing shopping list) go on the top of the standing freezer. I always see what’s there, I see it on the way out the door, and the limited space encourages me to move the goods more quickly.

  13. posted by Leonie on

    I like this solution. It’s relatively inexpensive if someone wanted to adopt it, and it’s clearly adaptable. Once the remodeling of my home is completed, I may incorporate this idea. This has been a great week at Great articles, good links, good job!

  14. posted by Lose That Girl on

    I tend to tuck this type of stuff into a paper shopping bag and leave it near my door so I can cart it out to Goodwill as soon as possible. If I had this box configuration in my home, it just might become a permanent structure. Best to get the stuff designated for its next life and move it on. If you had a lot of room (like a garage mentioned by other posters), it could make good sense. It’s very simple and easy to use — but living in a downtown condo, it’s just more clutter.

  15. posted by Sandy on

    I agree with Melanie. If I had a box for library books ready to be returned, they’d never leave. Finished books, letters to mail, things to return to people, etc., sit on our mantel for a day or two before they get taken where they belong. Donatable items, OTOH, often have way more volume than a banker box; we have a large cardboard box in the bottom of our entryway closet (under the coats; the closet’s deep so there’s still room for boots, etc, in front of it). When it’s full, it goes.

    I am looking for a neater way to store things I’ve bought as gifts to give at a later date, though; this has gotten me thinking about that…

  16. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    This system is great but wouldn’t be sturdy enough for my family or many of my clients. I would use the Trofast system from IKEA.

    You can slide the bins right out and put them in your car then put them back when empty. Sturdy & waterproof too. This system could fit nicely inside a closet or in a corner.

  17. posted by Tam on

    Love this! The perfect solution for what I need!! Can’t wait to put it up right next to the garage door. PERFECT!

  18. posted by Peter on

    This is a great idea, it’s a great solution to a clutter problem that can be overlooked. I especially like the donate and sell box, keeping these things within one place is genius.

    I think I’m going to go in and buy myself some archive boxes this week.

    I always have believe simple ideas are the best.

  19. posted by Anita on

    Aren’t transient items, by definition, something you *don’t* want to store? If you give them a permanent storage space, doesn’t that defy their transient nature?

    This would make sense for things like donation items, which generally need to accumulate to some significant volume before leaving your home (I have a laundry basket in my closet for this), but library books?! Seriously, does anyone hoard library books (or things they borrowed from friends, for that matter) to the point of filling a whole box before returning them? My current read stays on my night stand (or in my purse) while it’s being read, then gets returned right away when I’ve finished it. Why the need for a half-way home?

  20. posted by Mathew on


    I often have 5 or 6 books waiting to be returned when the last book has been read.

  21. posted by Matt J. Baier on

    While I like the idea of providing homes to items that typically don’t have homes, I don’t see this system working with my organizing clients. These items, particularly delivery and library items, require action, which they’re not going to get if they are concealed in the box. Also, once we get an item into a labeled box there is a natural tendency to think “There, I’m done with that!” and forget it. I would recommend reserving a small table by the door for transient items, so they are most visible when they most need to be. Obviously this would be inadequate for a massive purge, but for day to day items, I find this sore thumb approach stands the best chance of getting one to take action.

  22. posted by Wendy on

    I love this idea and it won’t cost me anything because we have cubes just like the ones in the picture that aren’t being used, plenty of boxes and we already keep a box in our closet for donations.

    The library box could be used for books and movies that you plan to donate to the library instead of checked out library items.

    Use wrapping paper, spray paint, stamps and craft paint, or have your kids decorate the boxes to make them pretty.

  23. posted by auntiemichal on

    This is a great post and discussion; thank you! While the cubes + boxes pictured are a quick, inexpensive, and functional solution, they are only one way of implementing the recurring concept of keeping things where you use them. Items that leave, whether temporarily or permanently, need designated spots, like a landing strip in reverse. The advantage is making a habit of grabbing them on the way out. For me, that involves being able to see the items. Lately, I’ve been hanging sunglasses, keys, and outgoing mail on the front door with magnetic hooks and canvas shopping bags on the doorknob; it’s unattractive yet functional as it’s hard for me to miss them.

  24. posted by Ellis Godard on

    Important for our household organization have been applications of the “inbox” idea throughout the house. In the kitchen, there’s a small (8x11x4″) white bin on the counter for pieces, bits, and small items that need to go somewhere else. In the garage, there’s a large (36+ gallon) bin that’s the inbox for things that need to be put away in the garage – and there’s a separate container (a cardboard banker box) for camping items that have gone through the dishwasher or washing machine after a trip but not yet been store. These and other “household inboxes” don’t eliminate clutter, but they contain it. A routine schedule of emptying them in rotation keeps everything in its place. Well… ideally. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments are closed.