Organized Storage — Even Without Shelves
Lately, I have been perusing home furniture catalogs, and have considered that they are not really marketing furniture: each photograph appears crafted to sell a carefree lifestyle, where all is neatly put away in places ideally suited for a beautifully relaxed family time. While examining these cabinetry offerings, I have wondered just how much I have bought into the consumer idea that my life cannot be organized if I lack designer shelving.
On a summer day, thirty-plus years ago, I accompanied my mother to the home of one of her friends. The friend was eager to show the organization system she had devised for her storage in a corner of her unfinished basement. The room had no shelves, only a wall of matching fruit boxes labeled with neatly stenciled letters from A to Z. I remember admiring the boxes as she explained to my mother how she kept track of the contents of each box with index cards.
This experience had a remarkable influence on me. More than fifteen years later, when I first set up housekeeping, I patterned my system after the A-Z one I had seen as a child.
Start with similar boxes/containers that will easily stack together. This serves twin purposes of physical and psychological organization, for all stored items will automatically become a single “set,” regardless of their individual size or shape. It also makes moving easier! The most cost-effective matching boxes I could find were cardboard ones, designed for office storage, and sold in packages of six (add internet link). As my storage has moved to an outdoor shed, I have replaced the original boxes with stackable plastic ones. Note that plastic bins with straighter sides hold more and tip less.
Keep similar things together. I began my organization by opening a few boxes and re-assembling collections of items I would use together.
Label boxes/containers clearly with letter A-Z (depending on how many boxes you have). There is a temptation to fill a box and then label it with its contents. As I began to sort like items into boxes, I quickly recognized the wisdom of labeling with “generic” alphabet letters instead of writing the contents directly on the boxes: some collections of supplies take more space than we think and some take less. Some things are shuffled through and eventually eliminated. And some things (future Christmas gifts, for example,) benefit from anonymity! Thus the wisdom of labeling with letters and using a card file box to record details.
Implement a system to track your storage that is simple and flexible. Clear bins have the advantage of allowing their contents to be visible while stacked, but there are other ways to “see inside.” Initially, I thought I would be very clever and store things in the box labeled with the letter with which they began (blankets in box B, fabric in F, and so on), but I soon ran out of room in a few of the boxes and recognized the wisdom of a card file.
The supplies you will need are:
- index card box
- A-Z card dividers
- 100 index cards
There is a human tendency to think we must wait to implement organization systems until our conditions are more conducive to it. We tell ourselves we will organize our finances after we graduate from college and enter the “real” world, or that we will organize our things once we have a place big enough to put them away fashionably. The truth is, we need better organization skills the smaller our budgets or spaces, and that we prepare ourselves to utilize better spaces that we may have someday when we consider that today is “real life” and implement creative solutions for our current circumstances — even if we have no shelves!
Photo from homedepot.com.