It's Easy If You Follow The Rules

by Ramona Creel

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Try singing the Sesame Street song “which of these things is not like the other?” as you organize your storage spaces. Do you see anything that is clearly out of place — a drill in your pantry or shoes in your file drawer? You might laugh, but I've seen some crazy things in my clients' homes — and it it usually due to the fact that they just shoved something into a storage space to get it out of  sight, without any thought to whether that item actually belonged there or not!

Sort your belongings into piles according to their purpose (grooming, sports, office supplies, etc.) or the location where they should be stored. Don't be too nit-picky at first. You can start with a broad sort (everything that goes into the garage) and then break it all into more specific categories (gardening, car repair, sports, holiday, etc.) later on. Then as you store each category, keep similar items (including accessories) together — the travel alarm with your luggage, pots and pans in the same cabinet, and ink cartridges near the printer.

However, you also need to be sure that your choice of a storage space makes sense — that you haven't chosen just any old arbitrary drawer or cabinet that has a little extra room available. Have you ever visited a Montessori preschool? Every crayon and building block has a set home, items are stored nearest the point where that activity occurs, containers are labeled and color coded, and kids know exactly where to go to find the toy they want. But as adults, we randomly stick things in the first available space, and then complain later when we can't find them. Each time you assign an item to a storage area, ask yourself WHY you are stashing it there. Because it's close to where you will use it? It will be easy to see or reach? That's the first place you would think to look for it? Make sure you always have a good reason for storing an item in a certain spot.

Storage That Will Grow With You

If you put a child in a room full of toys, he will eventually choose a few favorites to focus on and ignore the rest. Grownups are the same way — we only use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time. You have that one outfit you wear to death, the same dishes you pull out for every meal, and a few books that you read again and again — the rest go untouched. When setting up your storage, give preference to these “favorites” and see if you can't weed out some of the 80% that's just taking up space.

You also have to recognize that your “favorites” today won't be the same “favorites” that you have in 5 or 10 or 20 years. Do you know why children's furniture is modular? Because a grade-schooler doesn't have the same kind of “stuff” as he did when he was toddler! But adults often set up a storage system once and think that it is “finished.” As your lifestyle and interests change, your storage must evolve to match. It's good to review and re-evaluate your spaces every year (during your annual clean-out and purge) to see if they still meet your needs. If your space just aren't working for you as well as before, it may be time to tweak your system.You can apply these rules to any storage space — at home or at work. And once you do, you'll find yourself at the top of a very organized graduating class!

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.