Ask Unclutterer: How to store transient items?

Reader Heather submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My “Ask Unclutterer” question has to do with what I call “transient items.” It’s the birthday gift you purchased but you won’t see the recipient for a few days/weeks or the cupcake carrier that usually stays in the pantry, but a friend needs to borrow it, so you get it out so she can come over for it. What is the best way to deal with these items?

In our home, we have an old laundry basket on the floor of our main coat closet where we put these sorts of items. It’s nice because even if one of us isn’t home, if someone stops by to pick up items, other people in the house know where to find whatever is being retrieved. We also put items in it we don’t want to forget when we run errands — like a bag full of dry cleaning.

Other ideas might be to clear the top shelf of your coat closet and use it as your transient area or get a bench with hidden interior storage and put items in it. Benches are nice in hallways because they give guests a place to sit if they’re waiting on someone, as well as a place to park yourself if you want to take off your shoes.

The Red Chair Blog suggests using storage cubes with labeled boxes set out in a hallway, though I would suggest sticking the cubes in a closet if you have a closet near your front door. Or, if you have a garage, this could easily be stored in it next to the house entrance.

Thank you, Heather, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Be sure to check our comments for even more ideas from our readers.

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10 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: How to store transient items?”

  1. posted by loripax on

    Anything I have to take somewhere else goes immediately into my car. I put things other people will pick up on a bookshelf in our entryway, like magazines I’ve read and am passing on to my mom or sister. It’s great to have a dedicated place for these things so you don’t have to go digging at the last minute, although if someone won’t be picking something up for a few days, I leave it where it belongs and make a to-do item on my list to get it out the day of pickup so it isn’t cluttering up the landscape longer than it needs to.

  2. posted by Christy on

    I like to keep these items in my car as well. You never know when an unexpected errand will take you past the library, post office, dry cleaner, Goodwill,etc.

    The sooner they’re out of the house, the better!

  3. posted by Jodi on

    We have a bookshelf by our door that we use.

    We use different shelves for different things –

    Lost and found
    Store returns
    “Lost” (as in, you lost your ipod for a week)

  4. posted by [email protected] on

    I love the laundry basket in the front closet idea. I think I might do that, too.

  5. posted by Jane on

    I keep a basket with a lid in the entry area. Looks nice and generally hides the random stuff inside. Small kids have learned to find their stuffed animal they left behind and maybe a few other treasures in there. Sort of a ‘hidden in plain site’ kind of trick. Doesn’t work for big things or odd sizes but I don’t have a big place so those kind of things don’t tend to collect!

  6. posted by DawnF on

    We use the top shelf of our coat closet and 1 hook inside of the coat closet. The shelf holds 2 sturdy baskets ~ one is for library donations and the other is for Goodwill donations. I never let either basket fill up to the top ~ when I run errands in the area of the library and/or Goodwill, I take the baskets with me and return the empty basket to the same shelf.

    The hook holds my “To Go” bag. It is a lovely, medium-size straw bag that I keep all items that are to be given to my mom/friends ~ perhaps magazines or pictures or whatever… When I know I will be visiting mom/friends, I take the bag with me.

    I think the important thing is to be consistent ~ find a solution that is successful for you and then stick with it. Make it pretty and make it handy ~ and then stick to it.

  7. posted by Leslie on

    I have a small hanging coat rack by the side door I use regularly. I hang reusable totes and store the items to go in there. If it’s something to ship/return, it goes in the car until I’m in the area. Items for other people to pick up are also kept there. Isn’t particularly attractive but works for me.

  8. posted by Damian on

    We seem to use the top of our closet quite a bit. Not sure if that’s the best idea (maybe a bin or basket like you suggest). I figure that so long as it’s out of the way it’s not a problem.

  9. posted by Sadie on

    I have two small benches that fit by my entry door. They are actually vintage sewing benches like this:
    They are great because the top lifts off to store little things such as letters, books to take to people etc. And you don’t have the visual clutter.

    Underneath each bench I put two metal baskets. One is for recycling and one is for items to go to goodwill/freecycle. When the goodwill one fills up I put it in the car and drop it off on my way to work.

    This works really well for a 1 bedroom small apartment to make sure we are always keeping clutter reduced.

  10. posted by Lisa on

    We have a lot of parties, so we inevitably find things that don’t belong to us or need to be returned to a guest (like a platter). We have a Lost and Found basket that’s on a bench just inside the front door. If we find an item that we know is not ours or we clean an item that belongs to a friend, we put them in the basket. Friends are used to checking the basket regularly. It works really well!

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