Does walking in the door of your home make you want to scream? Or are you afraid of feeling that way if you try to live in a smaller space than you currently have? It doesn’t have to be that way, but a lack of proper storage can make any home, large or small, feel overwhelming and stressful. No doubt you want a home that is a peaceful oasis in a crazy world, a place to relax and unwind. Clutter will cause your house to be the exact opposite of a peaceful oasis, so having many places to put things away is key to living the good life.
Now before we talk about storage solutions, a word about the clutter itself. While it is absolutely necessary to keep many things in storage, this is easily overdone. If you have more stuff than your house can possibly accommodate, you are going to have to weed it out and get rid of some of it. A common rule of thumb: If you haven’t used it in two years, get rid of it. I personally find this one to be too constricting, but if you haven’t used it in five years, get someone to hold your hand and then throw it out. It’s hard, but there’s only so much space in your house, and you just can’t afford to keep holding on to everything. I find it helpful to continually evaluate the stuff in my house, and then think about how to cut down. Watching organizational TV shows can be quite inspirational!
Whether you’re designing a new home or simply looking to make your current space function better, having a plan is a key element. Space planning is not the easiest task, so you have to figure out where to start, and the place to start is YOU. What are your needs? Are you a book lover who needs to have lots of bookshelves? Are you a plant lover who needs a big plant shelf? Do you have a sports oriented family who has lots of toys to store? If you’re having trouble with this, look around your home. What doesn’t have a place now? Is it something that is used often, occasionally, or not at all? Make a list of things that need a new place in your house. Then organize that list into the rooms that those things would be most convenient to find in. Then sort each room into furniture or spaces that would work best (i.e. books in family room on bookshelves, or bats and balls in garage in bins, or incoming and outgoing mail in baskets on a shelf).
Now that you have a plan (and it was a job well done, by the way), pick just one room and get started. The first thing to do is eliminate the things that you aren’t using, or have figured out how to do without (oh, and take out the trash, if your space is cluttered, you’ll probably find quite a bit of trash hiding too). Clearing out the entire room is by far the most efficient way to do this, making two piles as you go, one to keep and one to give away. Now that you can see what you plan to put back into the room, evaluate your plan to make sure you have enough furniture or materials for your storage needs. Arrange the furniture in the room so that it is easy to get around; if it feels too crowded before you bring the stuff in, you’re already dead in the water. You’ll need to scale back the furniture or eliminate pieces. It’s important to remember to use all the vertical space you possibly can when living in a small space. Armoires, tall bookshelves, loft spaces and the like are life savers. To eliminate visual clutter, putting music, movies and books behind doors or curtains can be very helpful. Sneaky hiding spots such as a storage ottoman, or drawers under beds are practically necessary in small spaces. Chests make great coffee and end tables, and hold extra blankets and such very nicely. Search out any dead space created by poor construction planning or poor furniture placement, and figure out how to utilize it. Craftsman style houses are particularly good with this kind of thing, they often have wonderful built-ins in odd nooks, so get some magazines or books on craftsman style houses if you need inspiration for this. Don’t forget your closets either, there are a great many organizer systems, both for the do-it-yourselfer and for those who would rather hire a professional, and if you have a small house, you will need highly functional closet spaces.