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Overrun with stuff? Learn how to organize storage spaces efficiently.
You probably chose your current house for its two-car garage, large basement, or expansive attic; such storage spaces are rare and incredibly valuable, so it makes sense to snatch them up when you can. Unfortunately, in-home storage spaces can be so convenient that you forget the two tenets of responsible materialism: moderation and organization. Before you know it, your storage spaces are overflowing with forgotten, unwanted, and possibly broken possessions, and you might not know how to stop.
Fall is an excellent time of year to shape up your storage spaces. With the kids off to school and the weather turned mild, you will have plenty of time to get your garage, basement, or attic under control before you become too busy and too cold in winter. Here are a few steps to get you started.
Whenever you attempt to tackle a storage space, your primary goal should be getting rid of extraneous items. Likely, a good portion of the stuff you have stored has no use in your current lifestyle, which means you are wasting time and money by keeping it around. Unfortunately, you probably struggle to determine what items you need and what you can reasonably get rid of ― which is why your storage space is so crammed to begin with. You aren’t alone, and here are a few questions to help you while you sort:
- If your house caught fire, would you worry about losing this item?
- Have you used the item within the last year?
- If you moved, would you want to take it with you?
- Do you have more than one of this item?
- Are you keeping the item due to guilt or responsibility rather than actual desire?
- Is the item outdated, broken, or otherwise unusable?>
Whenever you are unsure about keeping an item, your answers to the questions above should guide you in the right direction. Ideally, after a few days of sorting, you will have a much more manageable stash of stored items and a large pile ready to be removed.
Though some of your old stuff definitely should go straight into the trash can, the vast majority of your unwanted belongings can probably find better homes than the dump. Excepting especially worn-out or broken items, your old stuff is valuable, and members of your community and charitable organizations can make good use of it even if you can’t.
Before you toss anything out, you might consider offering items to friends and neighbors or hosting a garage sale to get rid of as much junk as you can. Afterwards, you can contact appropriate charities; for example, baby clothes will find much use at local family shelters or crisis centers, and rundown boats can go to organizations equipped to handle large-item donations. By being responsible with your autumn clean-up, you can improve your community and feel good about your actions (and perhaps maybe lessen your tax burden come the spring).
After condensing your belongings, it is smart to scour your storage spaces while you can. Before you know it, stuff could accumulate once again, making it impossible to get to those hard-to-reach corners with your broom and sponge.
The extent of the cleaning you need to perform is highly dependent on how much wear-and-tear the space receives. Generally, garages require more attention than other storage areas because they are closer to the outdoors and have people traveling in and out nearly every day. In every space, you should devote time to pest control, as storage tends to be a haven for creepy-crawlies. You should also be on the lookout for mold, dry rot, or any other developments that could seriously damage your home. Then, you can put elbow grease into sweeping, dusting, scrubbing, and sealing any patches of dirt or grime you can find.
Finally, before you move your belongings back into the space, you should use a keen eye to assess the safety of your storage area. While cleaning, if you find damage due to pests, water, or temperature, you should reconsider what you are willing to store in that high-risk area. Items like clothing, linens, photos, important papers, and memorabilia tend to be delicate, and they will degrade quickly under sub-optimal conditions.
Instead, if your garage, basement, or attic is a dangerous storage space, you might choose to stash more durable items there, like luggage, yard tools, recreational gear, or a spare fridge or freezer. Once you understand what you can store in a space, you will be less likely to fill it up again with unnecessary stuff.
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