by Brenda Spagnola
Shoe Box Containers
One of the easiest ways to organize small items under a cabinet or in a closet is to purchase several shoebox size containers. They can be found at just about any dollar store. But other discount chains like Walmart and Target often put them on sale even cheaper.
I have many that I keep under my bathroom sink. I have some for medicine (marked adult meds and children’s meds), some for my hair doo-dads, some for the samples that I get, and some for just odds-and-ends. This keeps them organized and easy to find. They stack, which keeps the area neat. And you can mark/label them any way you want. I just wrote on mine with permanent marker, but you can put masking tape on them and write on that. Or if you have a label maker, you can mark them that way.
These containers are especially useful if you only have one full size bathroom. You can get one or two container for each member of your family and let them keep their personal items in them. They are long enough to put shampoo bottles in (but only one or two at a time). These containers come in a variety of colors, but I suggest the clear ones. Just mark each container for each member of the family or get different colored lids for each person. This makes it easy for everyone, including children who cannot yet read. My 2 year old knows that the boxes with the blue lids are hers and the ones with the green lids are her brothers. There are dozens of other uses for these versatile containers.
Decorative baskets are another great way to increase your storage space while keeping things attractive. They work in bathrooms, bedrooms, and living areas, even the kitchen.
Baskets come in all shapes, sizes and colors. You can even get baskets that are lined if you plan to keep items in them that might get picked or hooked on the basket fibers. Bathrooms: keep towels, personal items, hairbrushes and barrettes in baskets. Baskets that will be kept near the shower or tub can be sprayed Scotch Guard to help prolong their life, as water can be absorbed by the reeds causing them to rot.
Bedrooms: baskets are wonderful catch-alls for nightstands. You can keep jewelry, small books, tissues, coins, and a myriad of other things in them. If you use one that has a top on it, then it is really easy to hide any mess when guests come over. Just toss everything in the basket, put on the top and viola! Instant clean!
Kitchens: baskets can really come in handy in the kitchen. I use them for decorative storage. There is one on my counter that I keep packages in, like gravy mixes and such. This gives me easy access to them, keeps them all in one place and looks nice all at the same time. I have another one on the top of my refrigerator that I put open bags of snacks in. This keeps them out of the kids reach, but still looks nice. Both of these ideas keep things organized and still look pretty. You can even get plain baskets to put in your cabinets and pantry to keep things nice and tidy.
Living areas: here is where baskets can really spice of your decorating. Baskets come in all sizes, from small keepsake size to large hamper size to absolutely gigantic. The small sizes are great for simple decorating and keeping a desk neat. Use them for paper clips, binder clips, pens and pencils, business cards, etc. You get the idea. Larger ones can be used for storing books and magazines, mail, and odds-and-ends. The uses are only as endless as your imagination. The really large ones are wonderful ways to store extra blankets, pillows and sheets. Put on the top and no one knows what is inside but you! And when guests come over, all the essentials are right at your fingertips.
As you can see, there are no limits to what you can do with baskets. Just think about what you want to store and organize and let your imagination go wild!
Shelves and Bookcases
What could be easier to increase your storage space! This can be something as simple as a few cinder blocks with a piece of wood between them to a huge entertainment center with cabinets and shelves built in. Before buying anything, though, you need to decide exactly what it is you want to do and how you want it to look. It may take some time, but it will be worth it. Nothing is worse then buying something and then finding out that it won’t work.
Shelves and bookcases can be purchased or built. If you are handy with woodworking, I would suggest building your own. Then you can stain the wood to exactly match any other furniture that you already have. And believe it or not, its really not as difficult as you would imagine. Just time consuming. There are plenty of sites on the internet that you can find to get ideas from. Borrow a woodworking book from the local library, pick some up at garage sales or buy one from a bookstore. Or consider buying unfinished pieces that you can stain or paint yourself. This method will allow you to buy a better piece at a cheaper price. Again, staining and painting is relatively easy. Just grab a book to read up on it first.
Shelves and bookcases are great for displaying knick-knacks, pictures, books and other items. Rough wood can be used to make them for the garage and storage areas that others will not see. Even adding a few in the closet will increase your storage space. Just think about what you want and then go for it!
Double Duty Furniture
Don’t let a piece of furniture’s’ original use keep you from thinking you can’t use it for anything else. Many pieces can be used in unusual places for different things. For instance, an old long dresser is ideal for use as a buffet. Put it in the dining room and it has plenty of room for napkins, tablecloths, silverware, serving pieces. And depending on how deep the drawers are you can use it for serving dishes and platters. You can even add a piece of glass to the top to make it look really nice. An old changing table makes a great microwave stand and has lots of storage space.
A chest of drawers with missing drawers can easily be turned into a convenient place to store just about anything. Remove the drawer runners, stain the inside and line and you have a place for clothes, shoes, platters, blankets, cookware, etc. Put one in a closet for extra storage for toys that are too big for the toy box, games, models you are working on or have finished. Use in the baby’s room to keep all those extras you always need – diapers, burp cloths, sheets, blankets. If you are feeling ambitious you can spruce it up, install lights and glass shelves and use it as a curio cabinet.
Old end tables can make great nightstands and vice versa. I have the drawer side of an old desk as my night stand and have used it for years. While it’s not very attractive, it has more storage space than most nightstands and it was absolutely free. Always a plus in my book! Try using a discard door as a desk. Place on top of two filing cabinets and you have instant storage and it’s just the right height. Plus, the door and the cabinets can be painted to match. You can also attach a drawer underneath. Wire baskets make great drawers and are fairly easy to install. You just need two small pieces of wood to use as runners. Not only that, but using an old door will give you a much larger desk than one you would normally buy.All you need is a little creativity to give new life to gently used furniture and you can have a whole house full of furniture that meets your needs, looks great and didn’t cost you a fortune.
The one thing to remember when looking for storage solutions is to not limit yourself to the obvious. Be creative, ask your friends and neighbors, look around and get ideas. Write down things you like so you will remember them and then get to work! Storage doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, the simpler you make it the better. After all, the goal is make things easier for yourself not more complicated.
Brenda Spagnola-Wilson is a moderator and community leader at BabyUniversity.com and lives in Texas with her husband and two children. She enjoys writing about a variety of topics, with her main focuses being home improvement & decorating, saving money, being a SAHM and general home care. Currently she is the Co-Editor of the At Home with Baby University Newsletter.