A Tell-Tale Sign Your Storage Solution Isn’t Working

posted by Andrea | 05/17/2019

Stop for a moment and mentally walk through your home… 

Do you “see” things that are constantly sitting out day after day, causing extra visual clutter?

I’m not talking about dirty dishes in the sink or piles of laundry in the living room or toys strewn over the floor (although this tip could pertain to those items as well). 

For now, I want you to focus on more specific things like…

  • the stack of papers on your desk that rarely ever finds the filing cabinet
  • the lunch bags/boxes perpetually sitting out on the kitchen counter  
  • the jewelry cluttering up your dresser 
  • the bottles of medication on your kitchen or bathroom counter instead of back in the medicine cabinet
  • the assortment of groceries that never quite makes it to the basement pantry area 
  • the sports gear in a heap in your mudroom or laundry room floor instead of in the garage where it belongs
  • the craft supplies that simply rotate between your dining room table and any other flat surface

Have you ever wondered WHY these items are ALWAYS sitting out, creating visual clutter, cleaning obstacles, and becoming “dust catchers”?

You might joke and say it’s because you’re lazy, or because you have _____ number of children, or because this is a busy time of year for you… and while those factors might play a part, I can almost guarantee there’s something you haven’t considered yet!

The fact that your current storage solution might NOT work for your needs. 

Maybe you have a space to file paperwork… but if it’s in the back corner of a basement storage room, the likelihood that you will actually bring your paperwork down there (after working on it in your office or kitchen) is slim to none. 

Maybe you have a fantastic place to store lunch supplies, but if it’s too high for your children to reach, the lunch supplies won’t get put away unless you do it.

Maybe you have a cabinet to store your medicine in, but it’s too deep and things always get lost in the back, so it’s easier to just let the bottles sit out.

Maybe you have storage space for sports gear in the garage, but if your kids need access to it in the house, I’d dare to bet most of the gear will never make it back out to the garage. 

Maybe you have the perfect craft storage space, but it’s super close to your child’s bedroom, and since you work on your crafts when they are sleeping, it’s easier to simply leave everything out on the kitchen table versus risk waking them up when you put your supplies away. 

You get the idea… right?

Even if you HAVE a home for all your things (something I feel is crucial to keeping a home clutter-free), if that “home” is not easily accessible, practical, reachable, or user-friendly, your items most likely won’t ever make it back to their homes. 

In my own home, it’s the very first sign that my current storage solutions are no longer working for me or for my family. 

When I notice the same things sitting out day after day… or when I put something away, only to notice it is perpetually left out again and again, I know it’s time to reevaluate how and where that item is stored. 

Here are a few personal examples: 

MUDROOM MESSES: 

A few years ago already, I realized our mudroom wasn’t set up well for small children — at least not if we wanted them to do anything independently! 

They couldn’t reach the coat hooks to hang their own coats, they couldn’t reach their hats, gloves, or sunglasses, they couldn’t access their shoes. So I made a bunch of changes and our mudroom now functions fabulously for 4 little children

I put 4 hooks at a low level (right above a bench) for their coats. They can climb on the bench to access it if they aren’t tall enough to reach it from the ground. 

I also put their shoes in a basket under one of the benches (which they can easily access). And I rearranged the closet to hold their hats, gloves, scarves, sunglasses, swim suits, towels, etc. in the lowest shelves, cubbies, pockets, etc. 

This means all of them (at least the older 3) can get ready to go outside WITHOUT my help… and they can put all their gear away again when they come back inside WITHOUT  my help!

PANTRY and BULK FOOD STORAGE: 

I previously stored all our pantry items in the boxes and packaging it came in from the store… however, since I’ve been buying much more bulk foods lately, I can no longer store food in the store packaging as it won’t fit on our pantry shelves. 

I was continually running downstairs to bring the bulk goods up to the kitchen, but then I wouldn’t want to run back down so they would sit on the counter closest to the basement waiting for me to bring them back down. 

Now, I put almost everything in Mason jars I had in the basement, so everything fits perfectly in our pantry cabinets and I only have to run downstairs every couple of weeks to refill multiple jars at one time. 

JEWELRY: 

I was constantly finding Nora’s earrings left out on the bathroom counter, even after MANY reminders to “put them away” when she changed to a new pair. I later realized that our storage solution (putting them all back on the cardboard sheet they came on) wasn’t easy for her to do, and she never wanted to take the time to do it when she was getting ready in the morning. 

Instead, I gave my old jewelry box to her (one I got from my grandma when I was 10) so now she can simply dump the earrings into little compartments, which is much easier for her to do. 

MEDICATION and FIRST AID SUPPLIES: 

Our medicine cabinet is right next to Dave and my bathroom (which is ideal) but also right next to the nursery (not great when babies are sleeping and we need to dig through the cabinet to find the specific medication, cream, bandage we’re looking for). 

I noticed there were often bottles of medication, cough drops, saline solution, etc. sitting out on our bathroom counter or on the kitchen counter because we didn’t want to put them away (or have to get them out again) while Clara was sleeping, risking waking her up! 

Since I know our time with a baby in the nursery is limited, I don’t plan to totally overhaul this storage solution; however, for the time being, we’ve moved some of the more commonly-used medications and first-aid items to our half bathroom cabinet.  

CRAFT SUPPLIES: 

Our previous craft storage solution was in the red hutch in our dining room. It worked WONDERFULLY since we did almost all our crafts at the kitchen table, and since I was always doing the crafts with the kids. 

However, the drawer on the hutch is very difficult to open and close, so the kids couldn’t do it themselves… and they constantly needed my help to get even one craft item out. Of course, since they couldn’t open the drawer, they couldn’t put their items away either — which meant there were always craft items on our table. 

I finally got smart and moved the vast majority of their craft items to the play room upstairs. It didn’t cost me any money, and I didn’t spend much time setting it up, but it made a HUGE (and immediate) difference. 

Suddenly, the kids could do crafts whenever (without listening to me say “just a minute” before I could help them). They could put their craft things away again (so I didn’t have to), and they happily worked upstairs, which gave me a little extra quiet time downstairs! 

Of course, I do still keep some of the supplies I DON’T want them to have easy access to in the red cabinet, but storing the majority of their things where THEY can access them has been a very positive change for our house! 

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I cannot tell you how much of a difference these storage tweaks have made for our family, for our home, and for the amount of time I spend putting other people’s things away!

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As I’ve mentioned many times, there isn’t really a “right” or “wrong” way to store anything; nor is there an across-the-board, works-for-everyone-every-time, type of solution to any one specific item. It just doesn’t work that way. 

The way YOU store something is very likely completely different than the way I would store the same exactly item — but if one way works for you and the other way works for me — then there’s nothing to worry about! 

The problems arise when a certain storage method STOPS working, for whatever reason.

So while I unfortunately cannot tell you the best way to store every misplaced item in your home, I CAN encourage you to look around your home for things that continually sit out and cause extra clutter. Then, instead of simply being frustrated or grudgingly putting them away AGAIN, stop and consider if you might just need a different storage solution. 

It might take a few tries to find a new storage solution that works for you, your family, your home, and your life, but once you do, it will be much easier and more intuitive to keep your home neat and organized (with less work on your part)!

What area in your home might need a new storage solution? 

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7 comments

  1. Jenni

    05/22/2019

    One area is a corner of our kitchen that currently has a round table. We have very little counter space, so this table often turns into a dumping zone for all of the things we don’t have time to put away. We also have several things sitting on the floor underneath it that don’t have a home (bread machine and basket of baking sheets). I am hoping to build a tall shelf to store things like my bread machine and bowls on, and a 4-ft island right next to it for some additional counter space and storage space for appliances I use constantly (Instant Pot, Crock Pot, and rice cooker).

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  2. Marva

    05/18/2019

    So true that re-thinking storage is a constant activity! I appreciate the ideas you shared from your own experience.
    My husband and I are in a season of life where daily medications have increased exponentially and I have had to change my storage arrangements several times in the last year. Finally at a solution I can accept … until things change again and I have to re-think it all again!

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Marva — and yes, it is sort of “constant”. I’m always re-thinking ways I could make our storage more efficient for our family’s needs.

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  3. Stephanie

    05/17/2019

    Great post, Andrea! We recently donated a lot of dishes and serving bowls that were handed down to me as well as some bigger kitchen items that we used only occasionally. That freed up cabinet space and we moved food that we stored in a downstairs pantry to the kitchen cabinets. This has been really nice and a time and step saver. Now I need to rethink our laundry room/back door entrance. We have a tall wire shelf unit on which we have laundry baskets. We also put our mail and paperwork on an organizer on one of the shelves since we don’t have an office upstairs. Other things get placed there also so, before you know it, the laundry room looks cluttered. I need to rethink where we could store our paperwork.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I’ll actually be talking about our pantry and bulk storage next week — we finally have a really great system down and I’m excited to share it!!

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  4. Lisa

    05/17/2019

    Our highschool area could definitely use an overhaul and I am currently thinking through how to sure all of our lunch snack bags. Space is definitely at a premium but I an so tired of having to clear the counter to bake and make meals.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I keep the lunch bags in their back packs and just put their lunches in it (with an ice pack) in the morning.

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