Stylish Storage: Simple Ways to Contain Your Clutter

Stylish Storage: Simple Ways to Contain Your Clutter

by Paige Gilchrist

Find functional and tasteful ways to organize clutter and make everything from papers to out-of-season clothes quickly accessible. Banish the confusion with fresh, attractive projects for every room. Salvage and transform old furniture into "junk holders." Stash CDs in a library card catalog. Turn shiny metal trash cans into laundry bins, or a crate fashioned with


Find functional and tasteful ways to organize clutter and make everything from papers to out-of-season clothes quickly accessible. Banish the confusion with fresh, attractive projects for every room. Salvage and transform old furniture into "junk holders." Stash CDs in a library card catalog. Turn shiny metal trash cans into laundry bins, or a crate fashioned with casters into a mobile bookshelf. "Clever, creative ideas for solving storage problems will make this book valuable."--Library Journal.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
This book aims to provide "an accessible, inspirational guide for real people who want practical, easy ideas for containing some of the clutter those busy lives generate." Presented here are projects for building wood shelves, potting ledges, sewing pouches, and bags, to name just a few. Although the instructions are sketchy and will be useful only for more experienced do-it-yourselfers, the clever, creative ideas for solving storage problems will make this book valuable in large interior design collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Sterling Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
8.76(w) x 11.26(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

storage basics

LET'S ACKNOWLEDGE RIGHT OFF THE BAT THAT THE TERM SYSTEM, AS IN STORAGE SYSTEM, IS A SOMEWHAT OFF-PUTTING ONE. It has the ring of something that takes planning sessions and charts to come up with. Worse yet, it sounds like something you're going to have to force yourself (not to mention others) to adhere to.

You'll be relieved to know that, in our book, a storage system can be (and often is) as uncomplicated as a vintage washtub that holds quilts in the bedroom or a trunk that hides blankets and board games under its lid in the living room. None of the ideas on the following pages require extensive planning or reorganizing to implement. All, however, are meant to be adapted to suit your specific needs. That adapting is what makes them effective storage solutions as opposed to decorative ideas that don't really work. So, before you rush out and implement any of them, first think through how to tailor them to your situation and style. The following process tells you how.

identify your
storage needs

Here's where you define the scope of the storage dilemma you're willing to tackle right now. You can be as focused as: We need a place to store magazines other than all over the coffee table, or as ambitious as: I want this kitchen clutter-free once and for all.

This is an important diving-in point, because it lets you set your boundaries. Maybe you're not ready to take on the whole living room right now, toys and video games and all. Perhaps the only storage problem you're prepared to face at this point is the one that has to do with all those scattered magazines. Fine. You're clear about where you want to make your dent.

For larger projects, after identifying your storage problem in general, you'll probably find it helpful to get more specific. Maybe it's not that your entire kitchen is cluttered, for example. When you take a good look at what trips you up every time you attempt to cook a meal, you may see that the real culprits are jumbled drawers that make it impossible to find a ladle or a whisk when you need it and cabinets bursting with plastic ware.

The more specific you can be about your storage needs, the less overwhelming meeting them will seem—and the better prepared you'll be to move on to the next four steps.


This is the stage of strategic sorting, of getting even more specific about what you need to store so you can come up with workable solutions.

Let's stick with the kitchen example. If you dump out that drawer of tangled cooking utensils, you'll probably find that you've actually got several categories of items rather than a mass of utensils that are all alike. You might look at them and see that there are several you use almost every day, such as spoons, spatulas, and salad tongs, and others—maybe the meat thermometer and the citrus zester—that you pull out only a few times a year. Your utensils probably also naturally sort themselves into groups according to size or shape (bottle openers and measuring spoons versus the cheese grater and knife sharpener). Or, depending on the size of your collection and on how you cook, it may make sense to you to categorize your utensils by function.

It's not critical that you make final decisions at this point about how you'll ultimately group your cooking utensils or whatever else you're sorting. The objective is simply to break your storage problem down into smaller sets of similar objects so you can begin to get a handle on what you need to store and how.


This is where people hit a roadblock. They're afraid condensing means a major (not to mention painstaking) housecleaning initiative aimed at tossing out at least half of the clutter they've carefully accumulated and become attached to over the years.

If you've got the time and patience for a clean sweep, there's no denying it would help reduce your storage needs immensely. But if, like most people, you'd rather ease your way into this, there's a much less intimidating approach. Simply allow condensing to be a natural outgrowth of the categorizing step. It's as painless as looking at those sorted cooking utensils, admitting that you don't really need four slotted spoons, and moving two or three of them into the rummage sale pile. Then do the same with the extra sets of measuring cups, the spare soup ladle you've never used, and so on. As you see your stacks shrinking, you just might decide that this condensing business is not only habit-forming, but a whole lot more fun than you thought it would be.


* Outdated phone books

* Carryout menus from restaurants that have closed

* Expired medicines

* Games your family never plays
(and/or games with missing pieces)

* Crushed or torn wrapping paper and ribbons

* Cans of dried-out paint

* Clothing that no longer fits

* Half-used and abandoned bottles of shampoo,
lotion, and other toiletries

* Expired coupons

* Old catalogs

* Duplicates of anything, from blow-dryers to blenders


Here you get to the heart of tailoring storage solutions to your own specific situation, style, and needs. It's simply a matter of taking the time before you store to clarify the nature of the items to be stored and of your own habits and preferences when it comes to using them.

clarifying storage items

Once you've got your storage problem sorted into logical groups of items, you get a clearer picture of which ones you want to store within easy reach, which you don't mind using a step stool to get to, which you'd like to store out in the open on display, which you want wrapped in tissue paper and boxed, and so on.

It's at this point, as you assign a kind of hierarchy to your items, that you'll likely want to refine the categories you established earlier. Maybe you divided the cooking utensils, for example, into two categories: one of large utensils and another of small ones. Looking at them now, however, you decide it makes sense to store your five most-often-used utensils all together in one accessible place, regardless of their size. No problem; go ahead and create a third category of frequently used utensils.

clarifying your habits & preferences

Here's where you inject a critical dose of reality into all the sorting and thinking you've done so far. This step isn't about changing your natural tendencies, but about owning up to them and incorporating them into storage solutions that suit how you live. Here's an example of how.

Say every single evening, without fail, you walk through the door and pile the day's mail on the kitchen counter (makes sense, since the kitchen is where you head first when you get home, to check phone messages and grab something out of the refrigerator). Although you have good intentions of moving it somewhere else later, there the mail stays, taking up a precious chunk of your limited kitchen counter space, until you get around to sorting and responding to it (which you typically do at the nearby kitchen table).

If this is your pattern, one of the worst possible ways to attempt to solve your mail-storage problem would be to put a slotted mail organizer on the tiny table in your bedroom, where you keep telling yourself you should sort your mail and pay your bills. Within days, you'll be back to dumping all your envelopes and catalogs where it makes more sense for you to dump them: the kitchen counter. Forget shoulds and devise a solution that truly meets your needs—in this case, maybe a mail basket hung from a hook in the corner of the kitchen.


* Where do I typically use this item?

* When and how often do I use this item?

* Do I want this item stored with or near similar items
I often use with it?

* How essential is it that I have easy access to this item?

* What is problematic about where I currently
keep this item?

* Even if my current storage system for this item isn't
ideal, are there aspects about it that are appealing?


When you think about all the alluring options for containing, from crates, baskets, trunks, and cupboards to bags, racks, and bins, it's so tempting to skip over everything else and jump right to this final step. But the truth is, your job will be much easier if you don't. If you first categorize, condense, and clarify what it is you want to contain, figuring out exactly how to do so will feel like a logical next move rather than an overwhelming undertaking. In addition, working through the steps that lead to this final one will help save you from a common trap: creating more clutter with a bunch of containers that look good but do little to meet your actual needs.

As you'll see in examples throughout the book, containing something can mean far more than boxing it up. When the goal is to rein in the spread of your household's belongings, containing can take the form of everything from hanging keys on labeled hooks to dividing laundry into color-coded bags. Following are the standard storage approaches to consider when it's finally time to put everything in its place.

hidden storage

Hidden storage is for when you really want to stow something away—preferably behind a closed door or drawer—to mask it from view and/or to protect it from damage. Examples range from plastic, sealable bins full of photo albums in the attic and a caddy of toiletries on the inside of the bathroom cabinet door to specially designed pull-out cabinet inserts and roll-out shelves. Nothing works better than hidden storage if you want to completely eliminate clutter. Just keep in mind that it can require a bit more effort to retrieve items stashed entirely out of sight.

display storage

A well-organized storage system can actually double as a decorative feature, whether you hang your hat collection from a series of pegs in the entryway or keep towels in a row of brightly colored straw baskets on a low shelf in the bathroom. Keep your approach simple, and you'll be able to eliminate the chaos while still leaving items out in the open.

built-in storage

Built-in storage is typically something you're either blessed with or not. Sure, you can add walk-in closets, window seats with lids, and other built-in reconfigurations of your living space, but such solutions are typically beyond the scope of quick and easy do-it-yourself fixes (they're also beyond the scope of this book). What you can do easily is make sure you're taking maximum advantage of the built-ins you've got. Consider options such as adding under-shelf attachable baskets to shelves, equipping closets with pegs and ledges, adding small freestanding storage units such as wine racks and drinking glass containers to the tops of built-in cupboards, and so on.

freestanding storage

The main advantage of freestanding storage is that it's portable and therefore adaptable. Bookcases, carts, metal shelving units, and furniture pieces such as tables and sideboards equipped with drawers or doors all fall into this category. For even more flexibility, opt for freestanding storage pieces that feature adjustable components (such as shelves you can move to meet your needs) and that are outfitted with wheels, so that rolling the piece here and there (and out of the way) is a no-fuss job.

item-specific storage

Often purchased pieces, these storage solutions are specially designed to perform specific functions, such as organize your CD collection or keep all the shampoo and soap in one place in the shower. Sometimes an item-specific storage piece is all you need to quickly solve a straightforward storage problem.

compartmentalized storage

Many times, simply keeping items separated is the key to storing them neatly and efficiently A drawer divided into distinct sections of rubber bands, paper clips, thumbtacks, and staples, for example, is easier to navigate than one full of a nondescript mass of office supplies. Anything that helps segregate pieces into those helpful, partitioned sections can be thought of as compartmentalized storage, from baskets, jars, and bags to hooks and pegs.

storage that serves another purpose

Luggage that stores off-season clothing when you're not traveling, a trunk that serves as both a coffee table and a container for photo albums, and vintage hatboxes that house sewing supplies and, at the same time, add a decorative touch to the guest room are all examples of storage that serves another purpose. If you're focused on doing away with clutter, these dual-purpose options can cut your mess in half.

CONTAINER TIP: If every bit of space is precious, don't waste any of it housing oversized storage containers. Match the size of your container to the thing to be contained.

take stock of what you've got

BEFORE YOU SET OUT ON A SHOPPING SPREE FOR NEW CONTAINERS, TAKE AN INVENTORY OF EXISTING options you may have overlooked. If you're like most people, you've got underutilized spaces and containers that are storage solutions in the making. A piece of pegboard and some hooks, for example, could turn the inside of the door that hides the hot water heater into the perfect holding place for cleaning rags, a broom, a dustpan, and a folding step stool. And maybe you don't need brand new containers for the collection of socks that seems to have outgrown your dresser drawer. Some drawer partitions might be all you need to make your existing space work.

Excerpted from stylish storage by paige gilchrist. Copyright © 2001 by Lark Books. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Asheville, NC

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