Good Storage Is…

Establishing Effective StorageAre you ready to get organized, but aren’t sure exactly what to do? Once you’ve sorted your belongings, its time to establish storage. But what exactly does good storage look like? Here is what you need to know.



The odds of you putting an item away (instead of simply setting it down) increase dramatically if you make it easy. When setting up storage, remove any barriers that discourage you from using it:

Don’t like hangars? Install hooks.

Hate removing lids from boxes? Add shelves so boxes don’t need to be stacked on top of each other.

Hate going upstairs? Establish a storage location on the first floor, or designate a container on the stairs to grab whenever you go up.

√  Intuitive

When deciding where to store something, always ask yourself, “If I had to find this, where is the first place I would look?” After all, it’s important to store items in a place where you can easily find them… it’s all about what makes sense to your brain.

√  Triaged

Not every item needs to be equally accessible. Some things you use every day, some you use periodically, and some you are holding onto “just in case.” To maximize efficiency, store items according to how frequently you need them. For example:

    • If you work at a desk, the drawers you can reach without having to get out of your chair are your “prime real estate.” Reserve these drawers for the supplies you regularly need, such as pens, staples, paper clips, and current files. The same concept applies to all products you regularly use. If you touch it (almost) daily, it belongs on the eye level shelf, the nearby drawer, etc.
  • For those items you pull out periodically, such as reference files or the fine china, designate storage locations that are accessible, even if perhaps a bit less convenient. Examples here include the file cabinet across the room, the top shelf of a pantry, or the back of a corner cabinet.
  • Lastly, for those items you are keeping “just in case,” utilize the most remote locations in your space, such as the attic with the pull down stairs, the box at the bottom of the stack, or even an offsite storage location (for more thoughts on self-storage click here.)

√  Labeled

Putting a label on a container/space is the single most effective tool you have for ensuring that users put items away properly. Labels help us remember what goes where, and make us feel guilty if we put something where it shouldn’t be. Labels are also helpful when multiple users share one storage location (e.g. the junk drawer or the supply cabinet.) A label can be anything from a handwritten piece of masking tape to a decorative decal.

[NOTE: if you really struggle with putting items back in the right container, utilize clear containers. Seeing what is inside is like a giant label!]

To read more about labels, click here.


Storage containers need to “fit” the items they hold. Toss a handful of paper clips loose into a drawer and you will shortly have a mess. Always subdivide large spaces when storing smaller items. Drawer organizers, shelf dividers, bins, baskets and boxes can all be used to define areas of a shelf or drawer. And while there are many products on the market, you probably have at least some items on hand (e.g. a cereal box you cut to size) that will work.

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Effective storage is the cornerstone of an ordered space. What storage tricks work well for you?

School Didn’t Prepare Me For…

School BusWatching the school bus roll down the road got me thinking. I always thought if I worked hard in school, I would be prepared for adult life. In academic areas, such as science and calculus, school did a sufficient job of educating me (well, more than sufficient, since I’ve never used calculus since leaving school!) But to be honest, when it comes to a variety of “life management” skills, I left school a bit unprepared. Here are some situations I had to learn to deal with on my own. Maybe some will look familiar to you.


1. The pressure to multitask
By its very nature, school happens one class at a time. In fact, trying to sneak in homework for another class is strictly prohibited. In contrast, real life frequently requires me to manage multiple tasks at once. Even if I wish to pursue a single focus, it isn’t always possible.

2. The 24-Hour Communication Cycle
This may be largely a reflection of my age, but I remember having built-in boundaries for how and when I communicated. School and activities were my prime “social” time, phone access was limited by the length of the cord, and TV options were few. This gave me set windows when it made sense to get things done. Today, the prolific and steady availability of communication makes it difficult to know how and when to “turn off.”

3. Unpredictability
Remember the first day of school? The teacher handed out a syllabus listing exactly what would be covered and when. Not so much with adult life. Often I think I know what the day holds, but unexpected tasks (and their inevitable demands) frequently pop up. The washing machine breaks, the child is sick, the meeting gets moved back 3 hours, there is an unexpected need to run to school and drop something off. All of these things now need to be fit into the schedule.

4. Perpetual Interruptions
In the classroom environment, interruptions are rare. Maybe announcements come over the loudspeaker, but once class begins, lessons proceed uninterrupted. As an adult, interruptions are the norm. It is hard to get any work done in the office because people are streaming in with questions. Parents can’t have a complete thought at home because a child needs immediate assistance. This is a challenge because interruptions stop our flow, throw us off our game, and have an associated recovery time.

5. The need to say “No”
Back when I was in school, the word “no” was rarely allowed. I couldn’t say “no” to a teacher, a hall monitor, a parent… Instead, students are expected to always say “yes,” and to say it politely. As adults, many of us struggle with learning that sometimes we actually need to say “no” when people ask us to do things. This can be a tough skill to acquire, especially for those with a strong urge to please.

6. Having more stuff than space
School teaches us about many things, but not how to manage our belongings. In school I had a locker, and while it may have been cramped, all I had to store there were books, notebooks, lunch and clothing. At the end of the year, I threw most of it away. When I became an adult – and especially when I had children – the amount of stuff I had to manage grew exponentially. Yet no one had ever taught me how to sort through belongings, prioritize space, and establish systems. Achieving proficiency in these areas is challenging, especially when we are simply trying to make it through the day.

The bottom line: school was good for some things, but for many facets of life, school provided little-to-no training. If you have a vague feeling that you ought to be more efficient, more productive, more organized or less scattered, you are not alone. Most of us are trying to figure it out as we go. Knowing this can give us the freedom to stop the self-recrimination and ask for help when we need it.

What do you wish school had better prepared you for?



photo credit: Zhou Liwei via photopin cc