This week in the Organized Life Series, we will be trudging into our attics, our garages, and any other long-term storage space to get organized.
Whether you keep your extra storage in the attic, the basement, the garage, a storage shed, or a rented storage area, we all have “stuff”. Stuff can include memorabilia from our younger high school and college days. It may be your kids’ baby clothes and favorite toys. You probably store your holiday decorations.
Whatever the case, there are items that are only accessed a few times a year at best that you still want to keep. Having those items stored and organized properly will ensure that you can find your items and that they remain in good condition.
Papers and books -First, consider digitizing any old papers. Never keep books in a humid spot; the mold that grows in damp places will damage them, along with any other paper-based objects. And don’t wrap books in plastic bags, plastic wrap, or foil, which encourage mold. Before storing, check the surrounding areas for signs of insects or mice. Pack books in small- or medium-size boxes or plastic containers, making sure they are weatherproof and moistureproof. New boxes work best. However, you can reuse old boxes if they are clean, dry, strong, and sealable. Skip boxes that have been used for food storage; the odors and residue can attract insects and rodents. Wrap each book in a paper towel or bubble wrap to protect the surface from dirt and residue buildup. Store similar-size books together, either lying flat or standing upright, with their paper edges facing upward, which will prevent the books from warping and the pages from bending. Put the heaviest books at the bottom of the container, and pack paperbacks tightly, so they don’t fall over or collapse. Seal the boxes tightly with sturdy acid-free packing tape. Label clearly as needed. Keep the storage boxes out of direct sunlight and away from radiators or heating vents, as the increased temperature can crack bindings. Finally, place the boxes of books on a shelf, so they’re protected in case of leaks or floods. (Information from Real Simple.)
Clothing and Linens – Unbuffered acid-free tissue paper is great for clothing storage because it doesn’t discolor fabrics over time. Lay some over shelves or wrap antique linens to prevent yellowing. Yellowing isn’t the only problem with long-term clothing storage. So are moths. Wool items should be stored in vacuum-sealed bags to prevent damage from critters. Moth larvae — not moths — are the culprits for fabric disasters, and cedar is known to keep them at bay. Store them in the garage, attic, the top of a closet, or under the bed.
The first thing to do is to pull everything out of your space. If you’re working in the garage, put everything in the driveway. If you’re in the basement, move everything to one side. Then start digging in. Create 3 piles.
- Throw Away
- Give Away or Sell
From there, you need to take action on your piles.
Trash – bag up your trash. Large items may need to be taken to the dump or set aside for an “all trash” day by your garbage service.
Give Away or Sell – I strongly recommend donating your items instead of selling them. In order to do this properly, organize your items by type and take pictures of everything while making a complete list. Enter your list in itsDeductible.com. (See my article for more details.) Use disposable boxes and bags and load the stuff in the car. Plan to take it to your favorite charity right away. It shouldn’t even come back into the house.
Keep – Make sure your items are being stored properly to protect and preserve them. Organize and label your items
Organize and Label
This is individualized and you’ll want to develop a system that works for you, but there are several guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind.
- Store like items together – Keep all holiday decorations together, and sort by holiday within that, for example.
- Accessibility – Keep items that you need more often in a more accessible location. Mementos and rarely/never accessed items can go in the back or on a top shelf.
- Label items – use LARGE labels and descriptive phrasing so that there is no doubt what is in the box.
- Storage Containers – if you need to buy new containers, get clear plastic bins with locking lids. This makes it easier to find items and they are stored in an airtight bin.
- Stacking – metal utility shelves are a great addition to your storage area. Shelves can be arranged to fit your bins and you don’t have to unstack items. Whatever you do, make sure your labels are always facing forward.
Keep it Organized
As you pull items out, replace them with labels facing forward. Remember the the key to organization is maintenance. Put things away properly. For more organization, check out the Organized Life Series.