Posts Tagged ‘storage’

Know Where You Want Everything To Go

One of the worst mistakes that people make during a move is waiting until they unpack to decide where  everything should go. Chances are, you will have some sense of the layout of your new home before you ever load the first piece of furniture on the truck. Ask for a scale model floor plan (on new construction) or walk around and take measurements of each room (if you're buying a pre-owned home). Then, decide what purpose each room will serve (master bedroom, kid's room, den, play area) and where each piece of furniture will fit best. Cut out paper rectangles, squares, and circles to represent each chair, sofa, and table — all you have to do is lay your cutouts on your floor plan to get some sense of how each room will work. This doesn't mean that you won't suddenly get a hankering to move that desk to the other side of the room when you reach your destination, it just gives you a place to start.

Once you have a basic plan in mind, assign each room a color — blue for the bedroom, green for the bath, red for the kitchen, purple for the living room, whatever. This color scheme will follow you throughout your move. As you fill a box with dishes, mark it with a red Sharpie (not a sticker that might fall off) that says “Kitchen — Dishes.” When you pack up your towels, use a green marker to label the box “Bathroom — Towels.” As you wrap up your sofa, place a purple piece of paper that says “Living Room — Sofa” under the clear plastic so you can see it. Then, draw out the floor plan for each room on a matching-colored piece of construction paper. Once you arrive at your new home, take a minute to tape the correct floor plan on the door of each room. And put a color-coded master floor plan of the entire house on the front door — showing which color you have assigned each room. Now all you have to do is instruct your movers (or friends or helpers) to match the color on the box or the piece of furniture to the floor plan. They will even know where to put each item once they get to the appropriate room. No more having to field the question, “Where does this go?”

Setting Up The Most Crucial Areas First

When you think about what you really need to start functioning properly in your new home, what comes to mind? For me, it's the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. I can deal with the fact that I haven't unpacked all my books or holiday decorations. But I need my bed set up, I want to be able to take a shower, and I absolutely HAVE to be able to make a meal. Keep the supplies for these rooms near the back of the truck, so you can unload your bed, linens, personal hygiene items, and cookware first. When you can sleep in your own bed and have a hot cup of coffee in the morning, you will be in a much better frame of mind for unpacking!

I know cleaning is about the last thing you feel like doing when you arrive at your new home — you just want to get the boxes unpacked, have a soda, and collapse on the couch! But you will save a lot of time and hassle if you take a few minutes to tidy up as you unload. Keep your cleaning supplies handy — don't pack them away where you can't find them. Then, give each room a quick once over before you start placing your furniture and other belongings. Scrub down the tub, sweep the floors, wipe out the refrigerator. Run your plates and glasses through the dishwasher as you unpack them, dust your nick-nacks as you sit them out, and run a couple of loads of laundry. You will feel better about your new home if you know that everything is clean and ready to be used by the time you settle in.

Settling In

If you are using a professional moving company, you need to take a few extra steps as you get unloaded. Be sure to pay attention as your belongings are taken off of the truck. Examine each piece of furniture for damage and open each box to make sure everything is in good order. Go over the bill of lading with the moving company very carefully before signing it — this is a binding contract once it is signed. Make a note of any missing or damaged items — don't be afraid to make the movers wait around a while until you are completely done (that's part of their job, and they won't leave until they get their tip!) And if you experienced any problems with the delivery, be sure to contact the moving company ASAP.

Once you have unpacked the essentials, take a break! Call your family and friends to let them know that you have arrived safely. Make sure that your utilities are working properly. You can even check in with your employer and real estate agent if you feel you need to. Then relax, order dinner out, and take a long hot bath — you deserve it!

You Have To Move A Pile Off A Chair So Someone Can Sit Down

Having a closet where you hide it all away is one thing (not good, but certainly a bit more tolerable). However, when your “junk” starts spilling out into your active living and working spaces, it's time to re-evaluate the situation. I have seen clients who couldn't turn on the stove because it was piled three feet high with unopened mail, used their shower as “storage” for  boxes of who-knows-what that they hadn't opened in 10 years, and never slept in their bed because it was covered with “stuff” they hadn't gotten around to putting away yet. If you are unable to use portions of your home or office because of clutter, it's time for the hard hat and shovel!

You Know You Own A Pair Of Scissors, But You Can Never Find It

Not being able to find things when you need them is a sign — your belongings are homeless and crying out to you for a place to live! Don't let them suffer any longer! If you want to stay organized, you need to have an assigned storage area for each and every thing you own. And not just any old place, but a logical, rational, and defensible spot nearest the point where you use that item. It's really pretty simple. Ask yourself where you would look for scissors when you needed them — that's where they should be stored. And if you use scissors in several different places around your home or office, buy 3 or 4 pairs and give each its own unique home.

It Takes You Three Tries To Get Out Of The House In The Morning

Let me guess — you walk out the door without your briefcase. You go back for your briefcase, then head out again sans keys. You return for the keys and get all the way to your car before you realize that your lunch is still sitting on the counter. No, you're probably not suffering from Alzheimer's at the tender age of 37. This is nothing more than poor planning. Take a minute the night before to gather up everything that you need to take with you in the morning. Put it in a designated holding area near the door so you won't forget it — a “launching pad,” if you will. You can even put a sticky note on the door to remind yourself to get your lunch from the fridge!

You Pay At Least One Late Fee Or Interest Charge Each Month

If you had a standard way of dealing with financial paperwork as it came in, you wouldn't get behind. Set up a small filing rack where you put all of your bills — lined up in the order in which they should be paid — and write the due date on the envelope. Then, schedule time on your calendar twice a month to pay the bills that are due in the next two weeks. Treat your bill-paying time like an appointment — block it off in your planner and don't let anything get in the way of completing that chore. Of course, if you find that your bills are late because you simply don't have enough money to pay them, then it's time to re-evaluate your spending patterns and plug those money leaks!

You Regularly Request An Extension On Your Tax Returns

For some people, tax day isn't April 15th — it's August 15th! Most folks who file extensions do so because they can't get all of their paperwork together on time (but if you're an organized small business person like me who has been advised that an extension is the best way to skirt the first-come-first-served rule regarding audits, you can ignore this section!) Otherwise, set up a filing box just for tax documents. Break your receipts down into basic categories — office supplies, charitable donations, medical expenses, travel, etc. — and file any new ones as soon as you get them. Then, you can hand the entire box over to your CPA at the end of the year. Better yet, set yourself up on a computerized accounting program (your accountant will love you!)

You've Never Seen The Bottom Of Your In-Box

If you have a hard time staying on top of “to-do's,” I would first ask if you are setting aside time each week to deal with incoming paper. You should sort through all the new stuff — mail, faxes, memos, etc. — once a day. That means doing more than just putting it in a pile on your desk How on earth will you know what you need to do if you don't at least open the envelopes? When you pick up a piece of paper, make a decision about what action you need to take (put a sticky note on it to remind you, if you need). Then, schedule that action into your calendar. You should set aside regular time each week for making phone calls, writing letters, filing, data entry — whatever “to-do's” you normally do.

Your Typical Workday Ends Three Hours After Everyone Else's

Workaholism has become a serious problem in our society — but not everyone who works late does it out of a compulsion. Some people have to put in longer hours to make up for the fact that they are less productive during the regular work day. Do you get a lot done while other people are around — or are you constantly being interrupted and distracted? Make a list of all the things that draw your attention away from work during the day — drop-in visitors, clutter in your office, time spent surfing the web — and start tackling these “time wasters” one-by-one. Once you get organized, you'll find that you can go home on time every night of the week.

You Can't See Your Desk Under All The Stacks And Piles Of Paper

People who pile instead of file tend to do so because they have never set up a really useful filing system. Some are afraid that sticking an item away where they can't see it is a recipe for disaster — not if your files are working for you. Look at your folders — do the categories make sense? Are they grouped into logical clusters of information (all of your insurance paperwork together, utility bills in the same place, computer manuals in one home)? Do you have multiple files with the same information in it (a “car” file, a “Toyota” file, and a “vehicle” file)? Are your drawers cluttered with ancient paperwork that you really don't need? It might be time to re-vamp, re-organize, and clean out!

You Are Always Running Someone Else's Errands

Have you learned how to say “no” yet? I have never understood why people think that “no” is such a bad word — as though they are being disrespectful to the other person by turning them down. What you are actually doing when you say “no” is being respectful of yourself — understanding and accepting the limits of what you can reasonably accomplish in a day. You aren't doing anyone a favor by overloading your day with responsibilities. In fact, you are doing others a disservice by rushing from one activity to the next without giving any of them your full attention. And you are certainly causing yourself a lot of unnecessary stress. Stop it!

Your Life Feels Out Of Control

Many signs of clutter are tangible — you can see and feel them. But that vague sense of overwhelm can be ten times more damaging than a stack of unopened mail or a pile of junk in your closet. Do you feel that you are terminally behind and will never get caught up, no matter how hard you try? Or that you are losing your mind because you can't deal with the mess anymore? The first step to curbing these anxieties is to take that first step — tackle a cluttered drawer or a today's mail or a shelf in the garage. Just putting a dent in your mess will take a great weight off your shoulders — and often give you the motivation you need to dig in deeper.

Packing Basics

I once helped a friend pack, and was shocked to watch her put food and dishes and medicine and gardening supplies all in the same box. I asked why on earth she did this, and her response was, “That's just how I picked things up.” Sure, she packed quickly — but once she got to her new home, unpacking was a chaotic mess. My friend spent the next week hiking all over the house to put things where they belonged.

If you take the time to pack your treasures systematically by room — storing all of the bedroom items in one set of boxes, those that will go in the bathroom in another, stuff for the kitchen in a third — both packing and unpacking will go by twice as fast. Label each box with both the room it belongs to and its contents (“books,” “cookware,” “towels,” etc.) Then create a master inventory list of all your boxes and their contents, according to room — this will help you make sure nothing gets left behind in the move.

When packing your boxes, also think about how that container is going to function in transit. People often get in such a rush to move (or are so sick of packing) that they just throw things in boxes, without giving any thought to how that container will travel. Of course, the same people are the first to complain when they find their treasures broken and mutilated on the other end of the journey! Try not to exceed 50 pounds in each packed container — otherwise they will be impossible to carry, and your boxes may collapse or burst open from the weight. As you pack, place heavier items on the bottom and lighter items on top. Your containers will be more stable and less likely to tip over as the truck bounces and jiggles around. Pack your boxes tightly to avoid shifting, the number one cause of damage during moves. And be sure to use strong twine or threaded packing tape to thoroughly seal your containers — don't just fold the flaps in over themselves, unless you want everything spilling out as the truck is unloaded.

Packing Fragile Items

Many people are afraid to pack their own valuables, choosing instead the expense and risk of hiring a mover. But it's easy to keep breakables from being damaged in transit. If you still have the item's original packaging, use that during your move — especially electronic equipment and knicknacks that came with specially-molded styrofoam. Clean crumpled paper, bubble wrap, and peanuts are great for cushioning breakables — don't be afraid to use too much padding, especially for items that might get chipped or bent. Compartmentalized boxes (like those used for transporting stemware) will also keep fragile objects from bumping together. Try to sit items flat on one side or another — storing breakable items at strange angles is inviting damage.

Moving furniture can often pose a problem — more because of an item's size and bulkiness than its fragility. With many pieces, you must also take steps to protect finished surfaces from mars and scratches — which are easily avoided by covering each piece of furniture with a sheet, blanket, or paper. Be sure to pad corners with extra foam or blankets (these always seem attracted to door frames and sharp corners!) It's a tempting and efficient use of space to store clothing and linens inside of chests and dressers as you move them. Just make sure you aren't overloading the drawers, which can cause furniture joints to separate and collapse. To protect mirrors, pictures, and glass shelves, wrap each piece in a blanket, tape securely, and mark with a note not to sit anything on top of that package. And use only blank newsprint to avoid ink smudges on your belongings, especially lampshades and fabric-covered items.

Some items are difficult or dangerous to transport, unless you prepare them carefully ahead of time. Start by draining all fluids (oil, gas, etc.) from your power and yard tools so they won't leak, then dispose of corrosive and volatile chemicals such as oil, antifreeze, paint, and gasoline — these should not travel with you. You can do serious damage to your appliances if they aren't properly stabilized for travel — so block your washer agitator to keep it from shifting and secure all mechanical parts and power cords. Once you have cleaned out your refrigerator and freezer, leave the doors open to decrease the humidity. And before putting any “damp” appliances on the truck, place a piece of charcoal or layer of baking soda in the bottom to prevent mildew and musty smells. If you plan to transport a piano, have a trained piano mover prepare your instrument for travel. Talk to your local nursery about transporting any plants, and your vet about traveling with your pet.

Packing Doesn't Stop With The Boxes

So, you've successfully packed all of your stuff into containers — don't take a break yet! Whether you are hiring movers or getting a U-Haul, you still need to make sure that your belongings are put on the truck the right way. Many people load their furniture on first, but this is actually counter-intuitive. Think about it — when you are ready to unpack and get settled in, what should go into each room first? Boxes, or the furniture that will hold the contents of those boxes?

Start by packing items you won't need right away — holiday dishes, off-season clothes, memorabilia, boxes of books — on the front of the truck (nearest the cab). Make sure to leave room for those things you will want to set up immediately — the beds, the coffee pot, towels, sheets — near the back or on top of other items. Don't be afraid to load your truck to the ceiling or tie items down — a tightly-packed load is less likely to shift during transit, meaning less chance of damage.

Think In Terms Of Activities

Few people use their garage for just parking a car. This has become one of the most multi-functional living spaces in the entire house. It's the spot where you work on home improvement and yard projects, it's a storage area for sports equipment, it's the off-season home for beach supplies and holiday decorations. Your garage might have as many personalities as you do, but you can keep your space from becoming schizophrenic by setting up a series of centers.

Whether each “center” involves just a few shelves and wall-pegs or an elaborate work area — the goal is to store everything you need for that activity in one place, along the perimeter of the garage, leaving room for your vehicle in the middle. Some examples of useful centers might include:

  • a car care center
  • a gardening center
  • a cleaning supply center
  • a tool and workbench center
  • an exercise center
  • a sports center
  • a “warehouse store overflow” center
  • seasonal centers (beach, winter, holiday, etc.)

Another trick is to set up portable “kits” for each of your major garage activities (gardening, car care, etc.) Simply fill a bucket or basket with those items that you use most, label the container, and store it on the shelf. The next time you get ready to weed your flower bed or clean your vehicle, you won't waste half the day searching for all your tools and supplies. Everything is right at your fingertips — just grab and go!

Containerizing Is The Key

The reason that your garage is such an organizing challenge has nothing to do with the space (after all, it's just a big room, like every other part of your home). The problem is the stuff stored within — so much of it is small and strangely-shaped, a bunch of miscellaneous “what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this?” items that won't sit nicely on a shelf or in a drawer.

It's up to you to regain control by putting everything that is currently rolling around loose into containers. This serves two purposes — not only do plastic tubs with lids keep out dampness, dirt, and insects, but it will be a heck of a lot easier to find that one part or tool you need when it's stored together with all the other similar odds and ends.

Organize your containers into logical categories (tools, gardening gloves, paint brushes, etc.) and label them clearly. Then set each shelf aside for a different category of “stuff” — for example, one shelf might hold cleaning supplies, another could be designated for holiday decorations, and a third may be just for non-perishable grocery items you buy in bulk. Also label each shelf clearly so there is never any question about what gets stored where.

Maximize Your Space

It's unfortunately that so much of your garage space is less than 100% accessible — especially if you have high ceilings that you can't reach without a ladder. I understand why most folks ignore storage above shoulder height, but these hard-to-reach areas are great for seasonal things you only need once or twice a year — like holiday decorations. Put in some high shelves and a few hanging racks — suddenly you have twice as much room, and you can save your more accessible storage for items you use all the time.

Also investigate the many specialty garage hanging racks available on the market — there are some really creative solutions for storing tubs, coolers, artificial Christmas trees, and even bikes from the ceiling. These organizers generally involve either a pulley system or some other mechanical method for raising and lowering the rack or platform, making it easy to both store and retrieve your “stuff.”

Of course, you can also go out and invest in those trendy garage organizersthat are designed to store specific types of items — tools, sportsequipment, gardening paraphernalia. But some of the best solutions canbe created from items you already own. Large barrels and trash canswith lids are a great way to store things that normally sit around inopened bags — like potting soil, mulch, dog food, charcoal, etc. Thesecontainers prevent spills, keep out moisture and bugs, and line upnicely against the wall in your garage — just be sure to label them soyou know what you have! Big open containers like these can also be usedfor those items that won't fit in a small tub on a shelf. I'vemade use of low wide-mouthed baskets for balls (soccer, basketball,kickball, football) or bulky sports equipment (gloves, pads, sparringequipment, you name it) — and tall trash bins for long-handled tools(rakes, mops, brooms, shovels) or long gangly sports items (bats,hockey sticks, ski poles, etc.) You can even turn discarded furniture into garage storage — a dresser with drawers for power tools, or an old armoire to store jackets, boots, and overshoes. Be creative!

When You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing

As much as we love our keepsakes and mementos, any collection can become overwhelming if it isn't kept in check. One of my clients actually considered building on an extra room to house dozens of antique cups — until she realized it was a choice between the renovation and her son's college tuition! Another client spent hundreds of dollars a month on storage units, because she couldn't bear to part with any of her children's clothes or toys. When your collection takes over your life, it's time to seriously re-evaluate your priorities! The trick is to establish a set of rules for sorting, storing, purging and protecting your mementos. It's important that you take care of your keepsakes — after all, your treasured memories deserve some respect!

The key to a memorable collection is that you must be discerning about your “favorites” — resist the urge to own EVERY colored glass bottle or miniature carousel horse on the planet! Perhaps you can select a few representative samples from your collection, display them beautifully, and discard (or at least pack away) the rest. Take some time to examine your treasures, asking yourself which ones really mean something to you. You may find that a once beloved collection has lost its appeal. If you no longer feel the need to own they physical items but don't want to forget the joy behind your collection, take pictures or shoot a video tape for posterity — then you can feel free to let go of the past without completely discarding years of memories.

The Discriminating Collector

Collecting, like everything in life, should be about quality, not just quantity. Determining in advance how many of something you are “allowed” to keepwill help you maintain a sense of balance with your collection. You maydecide to establish a physical limit for your belongings — you willkeep no more than 10 ceramic frogs (numerical limit), you won't buyany more shoes than will fit on this one shelf (spatial limit), etc. Or youmight function better with an in/out ratio — gettingrid of one magazine every time you bring a new one home. Either way,you are creating a very specific method for keeping your collection atan acceptable size, and you'll feel less pressure to keep constantly expanding. You never need worry about losing control again!

Once you've trimmed your collection down to the best of the best, you need a storage solution that won't get in the way of daily life. Start by selecting a space that is accessible, but not part of your active everyday storage. If you clearly separate mementos from those items you use regularly, they are less likely to get damaged or lost — and you won't be tripping over them every time you turn around. You may use any kind of container, but one with a lid will keep out dirt and dust. I happen to prefer a cedar chest, because it insures that no creepy-crawlies will decide to munch on my keepsakes. Insect infestation is a particularly important concern if you've got old clothing or dried flowers in the mix. You may want to have that baby blanket or wedding gown professionally cleaned and sealed before you pack it away. And be very careful about storing priceless treasures in your garage, attic, or basement — unprotected areas where delicate items could be damaged by moisture or extremes in temperature. If it might melt, freeze, warp, fade, or crack, think “climate control.”  Finally, be careful about the kind of packaging you use — acid-free tissue paper is a better choice than newsprint (which can leave an ink residue behind), bubble wrap (which contains harmful chemicals that might damage photos or fabric), or packing peanuts (which can melt over time).

The Most Common Collecting Challenge

Even people who don't consider themselves “collectors” usually have a huge pile of family photos that they have inherited or accumulated over the years (and possibly across several generations). Going through years of backlogged pictures and putting them in order can either be a nightmare or a fun trip down memory lane — depending on how you approach it. Whether you plan to scan your pics into the computer and store them digitally, or just get everything stored neatly in boxes or albums, you want to make sure that you follow a few basic rules for organizing photographs.

Before you do anything, go wash your hands. The oils on your fingers can permanently damage your snapshots. Now it's time to sort — the goal is to separate the good from the bad (remember that even Ansel Adams threw away his crappy pictures!) If it's underdeveloped, fuzzy, too bright, or you're making a goofy face, you can toss it. You won't go to hell. While we're at it, let's talk duplicates — why do you need 6 sets of prints from the company picnic? Keep one and give the rest to the other people in the picture.

The easiest way to begin is to sort your snapshots by date. You can get a general idea of the time period by the film grain (black and white, sepia, full-color) and the paper on which the photo is printed (white edging is older than no edging, textured paper is older than smooth). Other clues can be found within the pictures themselves. Are those hotpants from the 1960's?  Didn't your brother have that awful mullet haircut his senior year in high school? Cousin Julie's pregnant, so that must have been 2006. This picture must have been from the family reunion because everyone's together at the lake. Separate your snapshots into piles according to the time period and the occasion. Then, label each photo on the back with a crayon or special grease pencil — a sharp pencil or pen will damage the picture. And don't forget to label the negatives, as well.

Once your pictures are in chronological order, you're ready to store them away. Always use acid-free pages, mylar/polypropylene pockets, or an acid free box — never magnetic pages, which will eventually destroy your snapshots. You will probably want to put some identifying labels on the pages or box dividers as you go along, so have a pen and some stickers handy. Keep your negatives in the original packaging, labeled in chronological order, in a photo box — or you may buy special negative sleeves that fit into a ring-binder. And keep in mind that both photographs and negatives are easily damaged by moisture and heat. The attic or basement probably is not the best place for them. You may opt to keep your negatives in a fire safe or safety deposit box, in case your photos are destroyed. After this point, be sure to keep some extra photo albums and blank pages on hand, and reward yourself for organizing your pictures and negatives as soon as you bring them home.