Weekend Projects

4 Ways to Find Storage for Clutter that “Doesn’t Have a Home”

published Jul 26, 2019
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Credit: Viv Yapp

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In a list of “rules to live by for keeping a tidy house,” the topper would certainly be: A place for everything and everything in its place.

While that’s sound advice, it’s easy to get tripped up on the “place for everything” part and sabotage your home from the get-go. In other words, if you don’t have an “in its place” spot to put things, you won’t ever feel empowered to put them away.

One reader called these kinds of homeless items that clutter up your home “misfits” and it stuck with me (for them, it was seasonal clothes and sporting gear). This weekend, we’re going to find a home for at least one of the misfits.

This Weekend: Choose one misfit item and make a home for it.

Easier said than done, I know. To get your wheels turning, here are some possible misfits and solutions. Even if they don’t exactly suit your situation, maybe you can find a way to adapt the advice or use it as creative inspiration.

Hand-me-downs and seasonal clothes

The problem: Clothes you’re keeping-but-not-wearing are some of the worst-offending misfits. Even if you’ve taken the step of getting them out of drawers and closets, it’s far too easy to stash these in a pile somewhere, where they accidentally get put back in circulation. It’s also too easy to put them in a bin, only to have to rifle though the garage looking for them when the time comes and then sort through a mish-mash of items or sizes.

The solution: First and foremost, get some vacuum space saver bags. If you can vacuum-pack those infrequently-needed sections of your or your childrens’ wardrobes, you can better find a place to store it all. Clearly label the bag with what type of clothes are inside (or what size, or even an itemized list if you’re feeling ambitious), and see if you can now squeeze it on the side of your closet, under the bed, behind the wardrobe or headboard. You could also use eye hooks and bungee cords to fasten it to the ceiling in your closet.

For hand-me-down kids’ clothes specifically, keep a basket right in their closet to help you collect their clothes as they outgrow them to ensure that the items won’t get put back in the laundry and put away again. Once you’ve gathered a good amount of clothes, put them in a compression bag.

Credit: Erin Galvin

Seasonal gear and sporting goods

The problem: Whether it’s sports equipment for fall soccer or the pressure washer that gets used every spring, seasonal gear is clutter that we too often let clog our living or prime storage space simply because we don’t have a designated place to put it.

The solution: Clear a space in the garage, basement, or attic (if you have one) for off-season items. It doesn’t matter if it’s tough to get to—you’re only using it like a twice-a-year warehouse, rotating things in and out. This way, as the seasons change, you can put things in and out of rotation without using up “active” space for items you won’t use for months.

Alternately, try looking for space behind other things you’re storing, or even looking up—if you have ceiling space, you may be able to install heavy-duty hooks or ceiling-mounted storage racks. If you don’t have room at home, you could consider a storage unit for this stuff—it’s not an inexpensive solution, but it is a smart one.

Items You Need to Return

The problem: Those too-big shoes you bought online that you need to ship back and the Target basket that didn’t fit on the shelf are not only potential money that you’re sitting on—they’re also clutter in your house and a constant reminder of things you haven’t done.

The solution: Put them in the car. That way, they’re out of your home and when you’re near the store or post office, you can check an item off of your to-do list. If you don’t drive, see if you have a spare tote bag you can dedicate as a “return station”: hang it on a hook by the door so you’ll grab it on the way out. Put the receipts in the bag, in your wallet, or make sure you have digital copies.

Anything you want to keep, but you’re not sure where or why

The problem: A random USB stick. A ticket stub from a great show. A little piece of hardware that looks like it could be useful. A beautiful little piece of fabric. Who knows why these objects stand out, but they do. And they need a place to live.

The solution: For these and so many other things, give yourself permission to have a misfits basket (or shelf, or drawer, or bin). Store it somewhere convenient (but out of the way), and load it up until it’s full. When it is full, you can go through it all with more clarity about what to keep and where.

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Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.