Storage Space

By Isabelle Lipkin

January 2, 2009 5 min read


How the right place to put everything can help your decor

Isabelle Lipkin

Creators News Service

"A place for everything and everything in its place" is an old adage. But what place -- and where exactly -- are two contemporary rejoinders that are only fair to ask, given the influx of papers, mail, magazines and just plain stuff that flows through the door for most people.

Creating effective storage space in a home can be a challenge, but it's also entirely possible if the savvy declutterer follows a few basic tips.

Mona Williams, vice president of buying for the Dallas-based Container Store, suggested picking a small space to start with and not being overly ambitious. "The biggest reason why people don't get organized is that they don't take that first step," Williams said. "Start with something little. You don't have to start with a room or a closet, but rather pick a drawer or a shelf."

Then weed through it, keeping one basket or bin nearby marked for giveaway and one marked for garbage. "You can't organize until you see the inventory of what's there," said Williams, stressing that organizing clutter isn't the point, but rather figuring out and then keeping only what things are important for your life where it is now. "If something has sentimental value" she said, "figure out how to keep it carefully."

But otherwise, after purging and pruning, you're ready to store. Once you get one area organized, work from that momentum and excitement and use it as inspiration to propel you onward to the next area.

Utilizing every square inch is essential, especially when creating storage in smaller spaces. Williams suggested using spaces above doorways or under beds, even customizing shelves to fit between a doorway and the corner. Scan walls "from the bottom up and then the top down," she said, looking for areas to use by installing shelving through which to maximize the space.

If a cabinet's shelves are wide, consider a stacking divider to then subdivide the shelf to store yet more. Derek Fagerstrom, projects editor of ReadyMade magazine, also reiterated the necessity of finding built-in spaces wherever possible.

"Consider a TV stand with extra shelving, or a nightstand that also has drawers," he suggested. Also, think creatively about multipurposing objects. A decorative trunk in the living room can be a chic place to store out of season clothing's or old papers.

Another key point, stressed Williams, is to consider what type of person you are before purchasing storage systems. Are you more likely to want to kick off your shoes and toss them into a bin by the front door? Or would you really place them on a shelf next to other shoes of the same color or type?

Consider what your habits are and what system you're likely to maintain before purchasing storage products. "You will not maintain the organization if it's totally opposite to your lifestyle," said Williams, and that it's OK to say you know you won't maintain a certain system and to choose a different type that works for you.

Three watchwords to keep in mind, said Williams, are "visibility, accessibility, and flexibility."

"Everything has to be visible," she said. "If it's out of sight, it's lost and gone." Likewise, "no matter how organized something is, if you can't get to it, you'll be frustrated," she added, so store things in a way that they can be reached -- not piled so high a stepladder is necessary or so deep back on a shelf that they'll never be seen.

And, finally, to keep costs at bay, find products that will be flexible -- that can be used one way in the present and again in a different use in the future. Akro storage bins are one answer Williams offered. It is a commercial crate that folds flat when not in use and can be used for kids' toy storage, then later might be a grocery cart that can be kept in a car's trunk, and then also used by a catch-all bin for a college student later on.

"We can't control things outside our home," said Williams, "but we can control what's inside." Putting things out of sight -- carefully and usefully -- to ease the mind and to create an ease and enjoyment of living space is the whole point of good storage.

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