Stash Before You Trash with Semi-Permanent Storage Solutions

Although you may want to devote a single weekend to performing a complete cleanse of your closets or storage spaces, a more practical approach might be to take it one step at a time.

For one thing, if you are not using the assistance of a professional organizer, you could find yourself paralyzed by the overwhelming enormity of clearing out years of accumulated stuff in two days’ time and end up not getting rid of anything as a result. Alternatively, you might eradicate everything for which you see no immediate need and a month down the road, find yourself having to buy things you just tossed.

No, when it comes to clearing out tons of clutter, if you are not using the help of a professional organizer, taking baby steps may be a better tactic. Instead of trying to go from closet to curb by Sunday night, aim for organizing everything into labeled boxes that you can place into a semi-permanent storage space. In essence, you can give yourself some time to test out the absence of your designated ‘don’t keep’ items before you part with them permanently.

And if you do decide they belong with you for good, the items are already neatly packed away in boxes that you can relocate to a separate storage unit or leave in their new spot at the back of an unobtrusive closet, out of sight and out of your way (but never really out of reach).

Here are some tips to help you jumpstart your semi-permanent storage trial run and some best practices for cleaning up the clutter now and maintaining a clutter-free environment moving forward.

Create a manageable plan that includes realistically attainable goals.
Much of the battle against a bulging closet is won or lost before you even attack. Embrace the ‘baby steps’ philosophy by breaking the entire project up into easily digestible portions:

  • Separate entire portions of the home into rooms: ‘Organize the upstairs’ becomes ‘Organize master bedroom’ and ‘Organize office’ and so forth
  • Separate entire rooms into single spaces: ‘Organize master bedroom’ becomes ‘Clean out dresser’ and ‘organize master closet,’ etc.
  • Separate single spaces into individual tasks: ‘Organize master closet’ becomes ‘Straighten shoes’ and ‘Swap out seasonal clothes’ and so on

From here, you can use the individual tasks as opportunities to streamline your items, remove the excess, and straighten up the space in general.

For example, the task ‘Swap out seasonal clothes’ allows you to pull aside all of your winter clothes and replace them with your spring and summer wardrobe. During the transition, eliminate from both categories as you go and divide the items into boxes that you’ve pre-labeled Keep, Donate, Recycle, and Trash.

  • Keep everything that you are likely to wear next year like currently-fitting jeans, sweaters, pants, shirts, etc. If they don’t fit or you don’t want them when next year rolls around, conduct another elimination round at that time, but you are allowing yourself room to change your mind in the meantime.
  • Donate everything that is still in good condition but that you are unlikely to wear again – because it doesn’t fit, it’s no longer your style, or it’s no longer age-appropriate. This is the box of transitional items that you can place in the back of the newly-de-cluttered closet and hold onto for another six months to see if circumstances are still the same. If you need to take any items out of the box or add to it, you can do it then and deliver the box at the appropriate (in season) time to the designated charity.
  • Recycle and Trash are more applicable with papers, documents, and broken or damaged items (toys, ripped clothes, etc.) that can be discarded immediately – no waiting period required.

But maybe ‘current clothes’ aren’t the source of your clutter. Perhaps you’ve accumulated a plethora of miscellaneous items over the years that you need to tame. For those, here are some questions to help you decide what stays for re-discovery down the road and what needs to go immediately:

Does it have important sentimental value?
You might find sentimental value in every pint-sized pair of socks and shoes from when your kids were little, but unless you’re only keeping the truly memorable pieces, the collection of clothes can get out of hand in a hurry.

Select some of the most important items like their Christening gown, their first pair of shoes, and even a few of the more subjective items (like the monogrammed dress that she wore in your favorite Christmas card from 15 years ago) that you want to preserve and do that – have them professionally preserved or properly packed away in a place wherein they’re out of the way but are protected until you pull them out again in a few years.

Other items that fall into this category might include:

  • Yearbooks
  • Photo albums
  • Cards announcing births, engagements, weddings, and other important milestones for those most dear to you (sorry, second cousins you haven’t seen in a decade don’t count)
  • Wedding items (a gown, shoes, jewelry, etc.)

Does it have important functional value?
You love the stack of magazines you’ve accumulated over the years, but when they grow to the point that they need their own storage unit, it’s time to pare them down. Go through them and pull out important articles or recipes or inspirational photos – whatever you’ve kept the magazines for – and create a single scrapbook or photo album with those and recycle the rest.

To take your organization a step further, scan the clippings and create an electronic copy of them and recycle the originals with the rest of the stack.

Moving forward, only buy items that you need and try to buy them only when you need them. And by keeping an eye on your clutter before it grows, you can avoid these semi-permanent storage solutions entirely.

Until then, what other items have you placed in semi-permanent storage and what did you end up keeping at the end of the trial period? You will find that there was hardly anything that was kept out of sight was missed or needed when your trial run was over.
You will discover it much easier to let go in the moment after you go through one of these trial storage solutions!

About the Author: Garret Stembridge is part of the team at www.extraspace.com, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about storage and organization topics for homes and for businesses.

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