Storage spaces are notorious clutter zones. Since we don't use them daily, they're easy to ignore, until you can barely get in there, let alone find anything. Use these five steps to organize your space in one major overhaul. After that, do a biannual checkup to keep this zone clutter-free.
• Break the task into manageable bits. If the area hasn't been organized in over a year, you'll need more than one weekend. Four hours every Saturday and Sunday for a couple of weeks should suffice (a block of less than two hours will yield little apparent progress and you may get discouraged).
2 Empty & clean
• Remove everything and do a thorough cleanup -- unfinished or cluttered areas are magnets for pests. If you can't empty the whole room at once, clear and clean half of it, then do the rest.
• Consider painting the space white to brighten it, since you're less likely to neglect a room that feels like a finished part of your home.
3 Sort & edit
• As you remove items from storage, put them in categories (including "give away" and "toss" piles) and think about how those categories will translate into zones. Save only things in good condition or with significant sentimental value.
• Aim to keep the space no more than three-quarters full, so you can move around safely and easily.
4 Assess & equip
• Take measurements of the room, including height, and rough out where zones will be.
• Locate frequently used items near the door; other things can go in less accessible areas.
• Examine sorted belongings (counting and measuring, if necessary) and choose systems and containers.
• Browse organizing stores and home centres for shelving systems and bins.
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn
As you move sorted materials into new containers within assigned zones, keep these tips in mind.
• Store only clean items; clothes must be clean to prevent insect infestations.
• Label everything; if you have time, prepare a printed inventory to tape to containers you can't see into.
• Don't cover floor drains with bins or boxes.
• Don't leave anything, especially flammable items, within 1-1?2 feet of a furnace.
• Install a fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector.
• Store hazardous materials in a locked cabinet.
• If the room has pipes, a hot water heater or is in a basement, keep everything that isn't in a waterproof container at least one foot off the ground.
• Don't put clothes in airtight plastic containers; use fabric bags instead. Protect clothes from direct contact with cedar, mothballs and any other pest deterrents.
• Enforce a "one in, one out" rule to avoid clutter and overcrowding in future.
8 organizing tools
Maximize space by equipping your storage room with these must-haves.
1 adjustable utility shelving
2 lockable cabinet
3 pegboard for tools
4 plastic bins for long-term storage of paper or other items that don't require air circulation
5 covered garment racks
6 canvas garment bags and boxes
7 large hooks to mount on joists if in an unfinished basement (never from pipes, as weight could damage them)
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn