Reader question: Should I sell my stuff in storage?

Reader Tonie wrote in with this question:

I’m living overseas and I have items in storage such as china plates, crystal glasses, and Charles Babb paintings (about 12 of them). Everything else I sold — all my furniture, my car — but I’m having a hard time getting rid of these items. It has been a year and a half and I’ll be here another year and a half. Should I just sell everything?

This is a great question Tonie. Our family had to make similar decisions when we moved from Canada to England for three years. It’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to let go. Here are some things that helped us make our decisions.

The first step is to determine what is not worth keeping. (You obviously did that and decided to sell your furniture and car.) In our situation, our appliances were about six years old. After three years of storage, that meant nine-year-old appliances — almost at the age we would want to replace them anyway. At six years old, they could still fetch a pretty good price in the used appliance market so we let them go.

We decided to part with many children’s items as well. After three years abroad, we knew our children would be too old for many of their toys and games and definitely too big for their heavy winter clothes (essential for Canadian winters but not at all needed in England). Many items went to charity, others were sold.

Once you have eliminated the non-essentials, take a look at the items you’ve decided to keep and determine their value. Check auction website such as eBay to determine how much the item is worth used, — how much you could sell your items for right now. For antiques or artwork, you may wish to contact a dealer and get a quote. You should also determine replacement value — the amount it would cost to buy the item (or one very similar to it) brand-new if you needed it.

Next, calculate the cost of storage for the period of time you’re abroad. Remember to include insurance costs and any other incidental fees relating to storage.

If the cost of storage is more than the replacement value of your items, you may decide it is a better option to sell all of the goods. This means it would be less expensive to sell your goods now and buy new later, than to put them into storage.

It is very difficult to put a dollar amount on the sentimental value of an item but that too must be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we at Unclutterer cannot do that for you. You’ll have to make that determination yourself.

So, back to your issue Tonie — you have about 18 months left before you return to your items in storage. Here are my suggestions:

  • If you honestly do not want the items, and you are coming back to visit family and friends anyway, then go ahead and sell the items during your visit home.
  • If you do not want the items and have not planned on coming back, but a trip back will cost less than the storage fees, then consider returning to sell the items.
  • If you are unsure but can afford the storage fees until your return, wait until you get back to liquidate the items you do not want.
  • If you are not coming back for a visit and cannot afford the storage fees, find a reputable liquidator, or friend/family member you can trust, to sell the items on your behalf.

The above suggestions are based on a financial perspective. Please take a few moments to listen to your heart and take the sentimental value into consideration when you are making your final decision.

Thanks for your great question Tonie. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: Keeping track of vendors

Reader Jean wrote to us with this question:

How do you keep track of your vendor information? If you are a home owner, it is necessary to keep track of who you bought products and services from. It is important to keep information about the performance of the vendor and service contractors. What is the best way to keep this information?

That’s a great question. It’s always a good idea to keep track of who you do business with and not only if you’re a home owner. Renters may need to have their own appliances serviced and they may wish to report to the owners detailed information about the quality of the work provided by repair persons. You certainly want to continue hiring good contractors and purchasing from the best vendors. There are several ways to keep track of this information. I’ll provide a few examples below.

Paper based methods

Some people may think paper-based methods are old fashioned but they are effective. If you already have your user manuals and bills of sales filed in your filing cabinet, you can store your service contracts in the same files. For example, if the documentation for your large appliances is stored in one file folder, store any bills for repairs or servicing there as well. You can note the quality of service on the back of the bill or on another paper stapled to the bill or service contract. This method is great because when you phone for repairs, you’ll also have the make, model, and serial number of your appliance in the same file.

You could also create a binder with all of the information. Copy useful information (make, model, serial number, etc.) of each item onto a sheet of paper to keep in the binder. Note where you store the instruction/guarantee booklet so it is easy to find if you need it (then you don’t have to store the bulky booklets in the binder itself). If you wish, attach bills of sale to 3-hole paper and add them to the binder too. It gives you space to write details about the quality of the store/salesperson where you bought the item. Add repair bills or service contracts to the binder as they occur. You can also staple business cards of sales/service personnel to the pages so their contact information is at your fingertips.

Electronic Methods

Electronic methods work better for some people — especially if much of the information to be stored is already in digital format. A basic spreadsheet can list contact information, dates items were purchased or work was done, as well as the quality of the vendor or service provider. Spreadsheets are nice because you can sort the information by date, appliance name, or by vendor service quality. If your user manuals are in digital format, you can link to them directly. If not, you can note the place where they are stored (e.g. filing cabinet).

You can also track this information in home inventory software. This is a type of database that will allow you to store information such as make, model, serial number, purchase price, etc. You can also store a picture of the item as well as receipts and other documents. You can even keep this information in the cloud so that should you ever need to make an insurance claim, you can access it from anywhere. The Balance has a great summary of home inventory software that is available for both Mac and Windows.

Thanks again for your great question Jean. We hope this post gives you the answers you were looking for. Our fellow unclutterers are also a great source of ideas so keep checking the comments for more tips.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: What about old pantyhose?

Reader Joan wrote in with this question:

What does one do with old pantyhose that is no longer wearable because of holes, etc.? Is there a way to recycle this material?

That’s a great question. The short answer is no. Most pantyhose is made from nylon and it is a difficult material to recycle — and it can take up to 30 to 40 years for it to decompose in a landfill. A few years ago, an American pantyhose manufacturer had a recycling program but it is now discontinued.

Since a recycling program is not available, let’s take a look at the other two Rs, reduce and reuse.


Deciding not to wear pantyhose ever again is an option but it might not be possible to change the dress code at your office or that of a specific event. So, let’s look at some ways to reduce the amount of pantyhose used.

It might seem obvious, but buy higher quality pantyhose. The cheap ones might seem like a deal but if you tear them when putting them on for the first time, you’ve wasted money.

Take some time to find a brand that fits you properly. Some brands are more generous in the seat and thigh area, other brands are great for people with longer legs. Once you find a brand that you like, stick with it.

Look at your wardrobe and see if you can reduce the types and colours of hosiery you need. You may find that you only need black to coordinate with your winter wardrobe and sheer to coordinate with your summer wardrobe. Also, the colour of “sheer” varies drastically so find a brand that makes a colour that matches your skin tone.

Careful treatment of pantyhose helps them last longer. Before putting them on, ensure your finger and toenails have no snags and do not wear jewellery. Hand wash your hosiery in cold water or put it in a mesh bag and wash it in the machine on the delicate cycle. Lay them flat to dry, preferably on a towel (hanging causes them to stretch out of shape). Do not use detergent with bleach as that breaks down the fibres.

Store your pantyhose so it won’t get snagged on any other clothing. You can store it in your drawer in a mesh bag. Some people prefer to store their panty hose in their closet in a hanging pocket organizer.


My grandmother was raised in the Great Depression and was frugal her whole life. If one leg of her pantyhose was damaged, she cut it off. If she had two of the same pair with one leg each, she wore both pairs at the same time — both of her legs were covered and she had extra tummy control.

Besides wearing two half-pairs at a time, there are many other ways to reuse pantyhose. Bright Life Direct has one of the best list of ideas. It includes:

  • Deodorize up to three or four months. Chop a handful of any pleasant-smelling herb from your garden then add a box of baking soda. Mix and tie up in fresh smelling sachet balls of nylon. Place under sinks, in cabinets, drawers or storage areas.
  • Hold gauze or bandaging in place. Cut a circular strip from the part of the leg with similar size, like the ankle circumference used for the mid arm to keep bandages from sliding. Plus, it allows “breathing”.
  • Store onions or flower bulbs in a stocking leg.
  • Store rolls of gift wrap, wallpaper, posters in a stocking leg to help protect them from damage.
  • Place pantyhose over growing vegetables such as squash to reduce damage from bugs. You can also hang some vine vegetables in this way to keep them off the ground.

Pantyhose can also be used to tie bundles of clothes, blankets, or fabric together. It also great for straining paint.

There are so many craft projects that use pantyhose. You can stretch them over a coat hanger to make angel or fairy wings or braid them together to create a rug. An internet search will generate over a million websites with great ideas.

Thanks again for your great question Joan. We hope this post gives you the answers you were looking for. Our fellow unclutterers are also a great source of ideas so keep checking the comments for more tips.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: the organized shift worker

In a comment to my post about working hard, not a lot, Kenneth in Virginia asked what the information in the post meant for someone who like his father drove a truck for a living. It’s an excellent question, because to be honest, few of us have the luxury of choosing how much we work. Most jobs have a fixed schedule, and require a physical presence during that period.

There’s no working better or faster to reduce the workload and no putting in extra hours to advance. A truck driver has to go from Point A to Point B, a cashier has to ring up purchases, and a factory worker has to run the machine for the entire eight hour shift.

This is completely different from someone who works in an office and has projects to fulfill or objectives to achieve. The previous post was addressed to these latter people, and in looking around at the literature, most business organizing books focus almost exclusively on them as well.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the former group can’t be organized or reduce their workload through efficiencies.

My husband is a factory worker, and one of the most organized people I know. Over the years, I’ve seen him develop a sort of set of rules that help him in whatever position he has.

  • Pay attention. Repetitive jobs can become mind-numbing, and if you’re not careful mistakes can start slipping in if you do not focus on each detail. You might choose the wrong lot of a product to add to a mixture. Or you might let quality slip, which may cause a serious problem for the company, with perhaps long-term negative consequences for you.
  • Don’t make more work for others. In many time-based jobs, workers operate in a sort of vacuum. They may be part of a team, but only are aware of their own part of the process. Take for example someone who works in a supermarket in the meat section. Part of her job may be to add the labels to packages of meat for sale. If the label isn’t applied flat, the scanner at the checkout won’t read it and the cashier has to either enter the barcode in manually or call someone to come give him the correct code.
  • Take your time, but not too much. The proverb haste not waste applies here. The best way to be organized and to make the time pass quickly in any job is to work consistently and carefully. No matter the pressure from above to work faster and produce more, sure and steady wins the race (to use another famous proverb). Speed produces errors which often means having to go back and doing it again. Or in the case of a truck driver, speed literally can kill you. On the other end of the spectrum, however, working more slowly than necessary relates back to the previous point: the less you work, the more someone else will have to.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any other “rules” to add to these three for shift-based work? If you work by hours, what tricks and tips can you offer others to make sure you are working efficiently and effectively?

Ask Unclutterer: Dealing with a prolific gift-giver

A reader who goes by the name of Overwhelmed wrote in with this dilemma.

I am newly married and my mother-in-law and I have a strained relationship. She tends to show her affection by buying things and she goes way overboard. If I tell her specifically not to buy me something, she will buy it anyway.

She buys new clothes for my husband every time she is at the store. (He has several plastic bins full of clothes he has never worn). We do not have space for a dining table because the entire dining room is full of boxes of stuff she bought for my husband that he doesn’t need/want.

My mother-in-law kept telling me that for Christmas she was going to buy me something from our wedding registry that hadn’t already been purchased. I told her it was unnecessary because we were inundated with stuff and had already purchased the extra items we needed. She asked me if I wanted a convection oven that I had listed on our registry. I specifically told her that I no longer wanted it because it would not work in our current apartment.

So, she surprised me by buying the convection oven as a Christmas gift. This item is huge and very expensive which makes me uncomfortable. We have no space for it at all in our apartment.

I want to be grateful for the gifts but I feel disrespected that she didn’t listen to me. What is the polite thing to do with this oven (and all the other gifts) and how can I get through to her to listen to me when I tell her no?

I’m sure Overwhelmed is not the only reader with this dilemma. There are probably many people out there looking at piles of Christmas or birthday gifts asking, “How can I get this to stop?”

Because this is your husband’s mother, the first person you need to have a conversation with is your husband. I mentioned your situation to Unclutterer writer Alex and he strongly recommended the book he reviewed, Crucial Conversations. You may want to read it before you speak with your husband or read it with your husband before you speak with your mother-in-law. Regardless of if or when you read the book, it is important that you and your husband agree on how and when to approach your mother-in-law with your decisions on what to do with the all of the gifts you have received to date, as well as what to do with any future gifts you do not want.

Many people give gifts because they love the recipients. For whatever reason, gift-giving may be the only way the giver knows how to express that love. In the eyes of the giver, asking him/her not to give gifts would be like asking them not to love you anymore — an almost impossible task for many mothers.

Your mother-in-law is facing an empty nest now that you have moved out and is probably trying her best to keep a connection to you and her son even if she is going about it in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps you could try and build a connection with her that doesn’t involve material possessions. You could have regular “Sunday Roast,” (a British tradition where extended family gathers together for a mid-day meal) or schedule an outing to a museum or theatre. There may be a leisure activity you might be interested in starting such as yoga or ceramics. You could ask your mother-in-law to join you. You might find that working together at community service/charity events works best for you. This would allow you to show that you appreciate her presence (as opposed to her presents).

After you have made your wishes about gifting known to your mother-in-law, you can start disposing of the things you no longer want. Your mother-in-law will likely ask about certain items and I know it may feel awkward at first, but, with loving kindness, reiterate the decisions you and your husband have made regarding gifts and reassure her that you appreciate and value her thought, effort, love, and generosity.

Note: If you have received an heirloom item and you’re not sure of its significance, ask your mother-in-law to provide a detailed history (written or verbal). It will help you decide if the item is worth keeping or passing along (possibly to another family member).

It’s your home and you can decide what stays and what goes even if it was a gift. Remember that the gift is not only about the recipient but also about the giver, so always show your gratitude then move on.

Thanks for your great question Overwhelmed. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for and all the best of luck with your situation.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: Emptying storage unit from across the country

Reader Lenore recently sent us the following question:

We had to leave our home in Nebraska to go to New York to deal with a family medical situation. After a few months in New York, I went back to Nebraska to pack and store our furniture, belongings, clothes, etc. It has now been nearly three years and I’m still paying for storage in Nebraska, and renting furniture in New York. I wasn’t sure we were going to stay in New York once the medical situation was sorted out, but I have a job here and the kids are in school and doing well. I don’t want to uproot the family again. I need to know the most economical way to sell the majority of our furniture and transport our sentimental things, some clothes, etc. to New York. I do not have the finances to let this insanity go on for much longer.

Since I am only able to take four days away from work so I would have to do it all in one trip, I can’t imagine how I would unload the locker, show and sell the furniture, and drive it back here myself. I hope you can provide me with some information and/or companies that you believe could guide me.

First of all, let me say that I’m glad your family was able to pull through the medical situation and is happily settled in New York. I can imagine it was a stressful situation for you.

Unfortunately, Unclutterer is unable to recommend specific companies but we can provide you with some advice that we hope will help.

We recommend that you contact a NAPO member in Nebraska. Select a professional organizer with experience in relocations. Some who are experienced in Seniors’ move management may be willing to take you on as a client even if you are not a senior so please consider contacting those organizers as well.

Most professional organizers would be able to communicate with you via email during the process so, if you were not able to return to Nebraska, you wouldn’t necessarily have to. They are also trained in separating sentimental and high value items from those that you wish to sell. Many professional organizers have networks that include local auctioneers that can help you liquidate the items you do not want to transport to New York. They are quite capable of organizing an estate/garage sale if they feel that would work better in your situation and they have connections with charities who could accept items that are not sold.

If you decide to return to Nebraska to clear the storage area yourself, you could contact moving companies to see if they would be willing to take a partial load from Nebraska to New York. (Our family did this twice, shipping only an heirloom piano across the country and back.) Moving companies would much rather put two or three clients on one truck and transport a full load. The only downside is that you may have to move your items when the moving company is available rather than when you want to. Once you have shipped out the items that you want to keep, you could simply walk hire an auctioneer to liquidate the rest of the contents of your storage locker.

You may wish to combine these two options, hiring a professional organizer to start clearing the storage area before you arrive and work with you when you are there so it goes faster. Then you could drive the load yourself from Nebraska to New York. Alternatively, the professional organizer may be able to meet a moving company at your storage unit so you do not have to wait around in Nebraska.

We suggest that you call several businesses and discuss your situation and get quotes. Prices (and personalities) can vary widely and it is important that you work with someone who you get along with and who understands your situation — both emotionally and financially.

All the best of luck to you and we thank you so much Lenore for sharing your situation with us. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: Helping mom unclutter

Reader Misty sent us this question:

I want to help my mom do some uncluttering. The entire house is in need of some help. My sister passed away three years ago — she was a collector and many collections there are! Do you have any ideas on how to deal with packed closets and chests of drawers, etc.? In order to clean, one must have a place to put things away. The answer might be simple, except that mom isn’t ready to do a major cleansing of clothing, shoes, etc. Do you have any ideas on beginning with baby steps? Mom has lost great deal of her vision and has had three strokes. I’m the one to help her clear out and make safe where she is walking.

First of all Misty, thank you for being willing to help your mom with such a project. It’s obvious that you are concerned about her safety and well-being and it is important to emphasize this when you start your project. It will be a challenge for both of you but working together to make your mother comfortable can bring you closer.

We’ve written before about strategies to use when helping someone else unclutter and this advice may be useful to you as you proceed. Remember that forced clean-outs are rarely successful and can create a lot of resentment between family members.

Her health issues indicate that she may not be as mobile and active as she used to be. She may feel that removing items from her home amplifies her belief that her world, and her ability to influence it, is shrinking. She may struggle against this loss of power by refusing to let things go. Remind her that you are not uncluttering to “get rid of her stuff,” you are uncluttering to keep her safe and independent for as long as possible.

Consider doing many mini-projects. Even just one drawer, cupboard, or surface per day may be enough. Choose a time of day that works best for your mom, when she has the most mental and physical energy — maybe first thing in the morning or perhaps just after lunch. Keep your sessions short and always end the project on a positive note sharing your successes over a cup of tea or some fancy chocolates.

Keepsakes will be important to your mother. While many of us may select certain aesthetic features when keeping and displaying memorabilia, these may not be practical for those who are visually impaired. Objects with bright and/or contrasting colours and those that have a unique, distinctive structure that can be felt rather than seen, may be a better choice. Consider keeping one or two items from your collections that meet these criteria and let the rest go.

When it comes to clothing, help your mother decide on easy-wear/easy-care pieces. Build a colour coordinating wardrobe that will make it easy for her to be independent.

All the best of luck to you Misty as you work together on this project. For more helpful tips on whole house organizing, check out our Organizing Jumpstart.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader Question: Where should I store stuff?

Reader Peter wrote in with the following question:

My biggest source of clutter is random, one-off, or novel items that don’t correspond to a clear category and that I don’t use often for example, a box of push-pins I use for routing cable, a spare 12V battery, the replacement cleats for my soccer shoes, the replacement blades for my rotary cutter, an extra travel toothbrush (because they come two-to-a-pack but I only need one when I travel), the spare house-key I sometimes give out to guests, or my vacation light timers. We’ve all heard the phrase “A place for everything and everything in its place” so I want to be able to specify what the correct place is for such items so that 9 months from now I’ll be able to find them again. I’m afraid if I put them “away” I’ll forget where I put them. Are there underlying principles that one should use to decide where to store something?

This is a really good question. Let’s start by discussing categories.

The purpose of putting objects into categories is so they can be identified and distinguished from each other. The classical view of categorization, suggests that categories should be clearly defined and mutually exclusive — there should be no similarities between items in each category. Items belong distinctly in one category or another.

The problem arises when distinctive features belonging to only some items of a given category are the same as those belonging items in a different category. For example, if we say birds fly and lay eggs, we have to make exceptions because reptiles also lay eggs and neither ostriches nor penguins can fly. The classical view of categorization then becomes very complicated!

The prototype theory of categorization can help. In this theory, “the task of the category systems is to provide maximum information with the least cognitive effort” (Cognition and Categorization). This suggests that some aspects of a category are more important than others. For example, if I was shown a picture of an American robin, I’m not going to examine the minute details of its anatomy and physiology to put it into the genus Turdus. I’d say it has feathers, wings, and a beak, so it would go into the “bird” category.

In other words, you need to establish what specific cues or features must an item have in order to fit into a specific category. The cues that you use may be different from someone else’s cues so you’re welcome to create your own categories that are logical to you. This may seem like a daunting task but there is no need to reinvent the wheel. You could use a set of cues that have already been established and that make sense to you.

Consider your favourite department store. All of the personal care items are located on shelves in the same area of the shop. Creating an area in your bathroom, even just a small bin under the sink, for extra toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss would prompt you to “shop” in your bathroom for those items when you need them.

If it makes sense to you, you could store the push-pins for your routing cable in your home office area with your pens, paper and other office supplies. But if they are special push-pins specific for cables, you could include them in an “electronics” area in a closet or on a shelf to store all of your equipment for that specific purpose. A set of plastic drawers is ideal for keeping all of these items organized.

In a designated “home improvement” area, perhaps in your basement, garage, or hallway closet, you could store items such as tools, electrical items (extension cords, light timers), light bulbs, batteries, etc. A “sports and leisure” section of your home could be created wherever you store your sports gear, in a bedroom closet, hallway closet, or laundry room.

Remember there are no hard and fast rules for how to categorize your stuff. You’re welcome to store things where they make sense to you. You can change the location of items at any time if you’re not happy with the original location where they were stored. However, frequent re-arranging may lead to more chaos so give yourself a bit of time to get used to the new layout before you make extensive changes.

For more advice, check out Jeri’s great post about the many ways to categorize your stuff to see how scientists categorized candy.

Thanks for your great question Peter. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: Hat storage

Unclutterer reader Kim wrote in with this question:

I have 120 women’s dress hats, some with wide brims. Right now, I store them in boxes. Too many boxes. I would like another way to store them so them remain intact. They are expensive. I already have some stored on the shelf in my closet.

This is a great question Kim. As with all organizing projects, we start with sorting and purging. Are there any hats you can get rid of? If yes, this would be the time. However, we’re going to assume that you curated your collection before you wrote to us and you have 120 women’s dress hats that you love and want to keep.

First of all, it is important to store hats correctly as they are shaped in a certain way to fit properly on your head. Bending, folding, or improperly hanging or storing a hat can ruin it.

On the Houzz website, Ben Goorin, of Goorin Bros., suggested storing hats upside down because the crown is stiffer and stronger than the brim. Alternatively, you could raise the hat up so it is not resting on the brim by making a big ball of tissue paper and setting the hat on that instead.

Most websites we researched indicate the best way to store a hat is inside a hat box in your closet out of direct light. If you have vintage hats, you may wish to consider using an archival quality storage box and acid-free tissue paper for storage. You can take a photograph of the hat and attach it to the outside of the box. This will allow you to quickly determine which hat is stored in which box.

Multiple hats could be stored inside the same box as long as you stack hats of lightweight fabrics (straw, linen, cotton) on the top and hats of heavier fabrics (wool, leather, angora) on the bottom. (See Goorin Hat Care Tips for great info on cleaning and removing stains from hats.)

Square boxes are easier to pack into a closet than round boxes because you can maximize space by stacking. Storing the hats in round decorative boxes can be a design element in a room.

For frequently worn hats, a hat rack with round supports may be useful. You should avoid hat racks and hooks with pointy ends as they can deform the hat quickly.

Finally, consider storing off-season hats off-site. If you have the space in your basement or attic, you could keep some hats there providing they are in sealed containers to protect them from damage due to moisture and pests.

Thanks for your great question Kim. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader Question: Secret collecting behaviour

Reader Luna wrote to ask us this unique question:

My husband keeps collecting things, especially newspaper and magazine cuttings and he keeps them in separate files. Most of the cuttings are of no use. He does not want to throw away old plumbing or electrical parts but if I throw something away, he does not even notice. Please help me to deal with this problem. He does not do this in front of us but keeps collecting when he is alone. What could be the reason for his behaviour? Please help.

Thanks for sharing your dilemma Luna. I am sure you’re not the only person who has been, or will be in this situation.

There could be many reasons why your husband is collecting items. Perhaps he finds it an interesting hobby but knows you do not approve so he collects things without you watching. There could also be a medical or psychological reasons for his behaviour. While Unclutterer has a plethora of resources on how to organize, arrange, and manage collections, we are not qualified to assess human behaviour – that is best left to medical and mental health professionals such as doctors and psychologists.

Our suggestion is to have an open honest discussion with your spouse indicating your concern about his behaviour. The American Psychiatric Association provides some great advice.

It is important that you remain positive and supportive. Do not judge or criticise. While you may see your husband’s collection as a waste of time and effort, he most likely does not. You may wish to focus your conversation on safety (e.g., avoiding trip hazards, keeping fire escape routes clear, etc.), keeping the collection organized or perhaps confined to a specific area of the home. Show empathy – listen and try to see things from your husband’s perspective.

Also, stop disposing of his items without his consent. This may be difficult for you but if he finds out, it will undermine the trust he has in you and he may have trouble believing you’re acting in his best interests.

You may wish to encourage your husband to see a medical doctor to rule out any medical reasons for his behaviour. Visiting a mental health professional – perhaps the two of you together, would be beneficial in helping to understand each other’s perspective.

Thanks for your great question Luna. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: How should I store my fabric stash?

Reader Zora sent us the following question:

I sew my own clothing; I also quilt, make lace, crochet, etc. I have a 20 year accumulation of cloth, scraps, and supplies that is exquisitely organized (labeled boxes, labeled plastic drawers). If I had a dedicated sewing room, it would all fit nicely there. But I don’t. It’s all neatly stacked in the spare room, which I must clear out so I can rent it. Advice for fabriholics?

Zora, I understand the stash and hopefully can provide you with some help on this matter. I, too, sew and have a fabric stash. Fabric, yarn, fiber, thread, and canvas hoarding, along with pattern and supply accumulation is a common problem among fiber artists. (The most unbelievable stash I’ve ever seen photographed is showcased here. It’s a yarn stash, but the hoarding concept is the same.) The advice that I’m giving can be applied to anyone wanting to get his or her stash in order.

Mindset: There is not a limited supply of fabric in the world. Plants continue to produce cotton, worms spin silk, sheep have wool, and there are fabric manufacturers and retailers willing to produce and sell you gorgeous fabrics. If any of these processes cease to exist, you will have larger concerns than obtaining fabric.

That being said, it is ridiculous to assume that a serious artist will have no stash. A friend may appear at your door with a batik fabric from a trip to India. If you can’t think of a project to start immediately, you now have a stash on your hands.

Therefore, I suggest that your stash be a limited size. Determine the size of your stash based on two factors: 1. How much you can sew in a set time period (I suggest having no more than six months or a year of projects), and 2. How much you can carry in one load. If you cannot carry the whole of your stash, then it is too big. You would never be able to save it in an emergency if you couldn’t carry it, so why have more than you could reasonably save?

Future buying: Buy fabric for specific projects. Don’t buy fabric unless you know the exact length, style, and type that you need for a project that you will make in the next six months or year. I carry a list of my fabric and supply needs in a small moleskine notebook in my purse with me at all times. Resist all other types of personal fabric purchases. This is the hardest step in the process.

Organizing your stash: When I bring new fabric into my home, I immediately put it into a large Ziploc Storage bag. The pattern, thread, and all other necessary supplies for the project go into the bag, as well. I write the name of the project and the date the fabric was purchased on the exterior of the bag with a permanent black marker.

I measure fabric that is given to me as a gift and then put it into a Ziploc bag. On the bag’s exterior, I label the size of the fabric, its fiber content, who gave me the fabric, where it was purchased, and the date of the gift. I then actively seek out projects for that fabric.

Organizing your non-fabric supplies: I have two additional storage containers in addition to my fabric stash. The first is a thread organizer and the second is a tackle box for all of my other sewing supplies. I keep manuals and pattern books on my bookshelf and my cutting mat leans against the back wall of my office closet.

Getting rid of fabric: If you haven’t sewn a project in a year, evaluate if you’re actually going to make the project. If the answer is yes, it goes back in the bin with a re-evaluation date written on the bag. If the answer is no, get rid of the project in full.

After a project is complete, immediately get rid of scraps. You don’t have to throw the scraps in the trash (you may have more than a yard of scraps), but you need to get them out of your house. Scraps are clutter.

Here are suggestions for ways to de-stash projects, scraps, or large amounts of fabric–

  • Set up a Pay Pal account and sell it on your blog
  • List it on Craigslist or Ebay
  • Have a yard sale where you specifically mention that you’re getting rid of fabric
  • Freecycle it
  • Contact your local high school and see if the Home Economics department could use it
  • Donate it to charity
  • Let your sewing friends go through it and take what they want


This post has been updated since its original publication in August 2007.

Reader Question: What’s with republishing posts?

Unclutterer fan Kristen wrote to ask,

Just curious, what’s with all the reposts? I don’t mind them, they’re helpful, but I’m curious if the site is in some kind of transition.

Thanks for asking a great question Kristen!

Unclutterer has published a substantial amount about uncluttering, organizing, and productivity over the past ten years. We felt that republishing certain previous posts, usually two or three times per week, may be helpful to our newer readers.

Additionally, many readers contact us and ask us to provide updated information on previous posts, especially those that are related to changing technologies. Sometimes products that we have discussed on previous posts are no longer available on Amazon. By republishing, we are able to modernize our facts and figures and ensure our hyperlinks are directing readers to the correct resources.

Our Unclutterer team, Jeri, David, Alex, and I (Jacki), as well as our guest authors, still continue to publish new information Mondays through Fridays with the exception of certain holidays.

Thank you for your question Kristen. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”