Clever Storage Solutions
So you've purged within an inch of your life, but it turns out you still have plenty of stuff you either need or want to hang on to. Understandable -- life with kids equals plenty of seasonal clothes, hand-me-down toys, treasures, and school records that you might not be ready to let go of, and you'll need to find a safe place for it all while not in use. But short of renting a storage unit, how can you keep your stuff stored out of sight -- and still be able to find it when you need it?
Make a Plan
"People tend to buy storage containers first and then try to figure out ways to use them, but that's backward," says Iyna Caruso, author of "The Everything Home Storage Solutions Book." Caruso suggests logging the items you need to store, figuring out the storage solutions that will work, and then heading to the store to purchase boxes, baskets, and bins. "The whole process begins with having a game plan -- coming up with an overall strategy that makes sense to you."
Feel Free to Repackage
Don't feel like you have to keep toys, games, media, and the like in their original packaging -- in fact, that tends to take up unnecessary space, says Caruso. Gallon-size (or larger) zip-close plastic baggies and clear plastic containers make easy-to-store homes for board games and puzzles, while DVDs and video games can be taken out of their bulky plastic packaging and stored away neatly in compact media books. "It's amazing how much space you'll free up," says Caruso.
Toss the Tops
Just because that storage container you bought came with a snap-on lid doesn't mean you have to use it -- and you probably don't want to if it means your child won't be able to put her own things away easily, says Caruso. "If the lid is hard for a child to lift, it becomes just one more barrier to keeping things neat," she points out. "If a solution is accessible it's much more likely to be used." Just make sure to get rid of the lids (or leave them at the store) if you don't think you'll be using them, since leaving them laying around just causes more clutter.
When you hang up your clothes by color, it makes it much easier to tell when you've got 10 pairs of black pants or your child has eight white dress shirts, says Caruso. And since you'll know at a glance how many you have of each item, you'll be much less likely to buy new clothes you don't need. It'll also make it easier to figure out which items can get donated to charity. To make that process easier, Caruso suggests keeping a paper bag or box in the corner of your closet. Toss clothes in it as you find that they no longer fit or you don't anticipate wearing them, and once a month or so, take the box or bag out and bring it to a thrift store.
Caruso suggests labeling storage containers on all four sides, so even if boxes get stacked on each other or shoved around, you'll always know what's inside at a glance.
Give Yourself a Clutter Checkup
Every month or so, survey your closets, drawers, basement, and attic to make sure you know what you've got, what you need to pull out of storage, and what you should probably get rid of.