The laundry’s the drop-off place. The basement collects seasonal and waiting-to-be-fixed items. The attic is where the homeowner keeps a lifetime of things. And the garage seems to store everything but the car. With “stuff” stored haphazardly, you can’t find what you need, you spend more time getting less done and get stressed as you plow through the mess.
What’s the “Stuff?”
The first step in attacking the “stuff” itself is to determine what stays and what goes. “We like to say that ‘storage’ starts with ‘S-T-O,'” says Lisa Engel, Vice President of Channel Marketing and Communications at ClosetMaid. “That means diving your stuff into two piles — stuff to store and stuff to toss — and then getting organized.” There’s no need to store what’s not there. Review and donate, sell or discard items that are not needed. Safely dispose of no-longer-used chemicals and other unsafe items at a hazardous waste center. What’s left is what needs to be stored.
Next, decide whether items are in their best location. An item that gets little use yet is now stored in the garage might be better placed in the basement.
Then, list items by storage area. Are they used daily or often, less often or even seasonally? Are they small or large or do they hold dangerous contents? Keep those points in mind when matching stuff with best storage options. Laundry detergents and other supplies, for example, might work best in a closed cabinet, a high shelf or even a deep drawer. Small gardening tools might be best in a basket, bin or on hooks.
With checklist in hand, review storage products and systems available but keep options flexible to meet changing household needs. Fortunately, today’s adjustable shelves, tracks and slats, wall and base cabinets, drawers, baskets, hooks, modules and carts on wheels, locking mechanisms and overhead bins offer many choices. Depending on the amount of stuff, a storage system may be the best bet. Be aware that components vary among companies. A storage option from one may not work with the slat or track of another.
The Laundry Room
A separate laundry room opens up possibilities for slide-out bins or baskets that keep dirty clothes off the floor and rods to handle clothes fresh from the dryer or needing to drip dry. Adjustable shelves, deep drawers or locking cabinets provide space for cleaning supplies.
A small laundry area requires a bit more creativity. Look for hinged or pull-out shelves that provide space to treat stains or fold clothes but then move out of the way. In a small area, plan to take full advantage of the wall space.
Both areas may need secure storage for cleaning fluids and sprays in case small children or pets are in the home. Storage options need to be easy to clean because laundry spills and drips are inevitable. Smooth surfaces and edges are also important so delicate clothing does not snag.
A dry basement offers many possibilities. Keep any storage away from critical equipment such as the furnace and water heater. Choose storage options that keep items off the floor in case of possible flooding and from underneath any pipes that could burst.
Households with finished basement living space may appreciate a storage system or products with a more formal appearance, perhaps with finishes that match the home’s décor. Drawers and closed cabinets work to keep stored items out of sight. For unfinished basements, an open shelf system and a series of hooks or baskets may help keep items easily seen yet organized.
Once those dark spaces where items from homeowners’ pasts were relegated, attics are being seen in a new light. Besides the usual storage products such as racks, hooks, baskets and shelving, there are attic-specific choices to consider.
Justin S. Krauss, operations manager for JNK Products LLC in Grand Junction, Colo., says his company carries such unique products as the Attic Dek flooring system, special attic ladders and stairs, or the Versa Lift, an electric lift that allows for attic storage of boxes.
Increasingly, the garage is an extension of the home, particularly in warmer climates where a door screen can turn the space into a screened room. Also, the downturn in the housing market has prompted other homeowners to take a second look at the space. And they are liking what they see, especially with what the marketplace now offers them as help in the transformation.
“Ten years ago, garage storage was taking the old cabinets out of your kitchen and placing them in your garage,” says Krauss. “Garage storage has come a long way since then. We now have Hercke stainless steel cabinets, MonsterRax overhead storage and PVC slatwall and accessories that are all designed for the do-it-yourselfer.”
Garage storage has become an entire sub-industry, and there are complete lines of garage storage cabinets, overhead storage racks, no-prep floor coverings, hooks, baskets, racks, slatwall and shelves. Garage materials are being chosen to handle the extreme heat, cold and humidity that can be part of a garage environment and not rust, crack, split or peel.
Storage components with adjustable legs accommodate sloped garage floors. Safety-lock mechanisms on garage cabinets keep children and pets away from chemicals or dangerous tools. And with stuff off the garage floor, there’s room for the family vehicles.
Make a Plan
With the household’s stuff in mind, map out options with pencil, paper and ruler, visit online design resources such as those at www.closetmaid.com or www.easyclosets.com or leave the beauty and functionality of storage areas to professionals.
After selecting storage types, choose finishes and materials. Empty-nesters or two-adult households, for examples, may prefer more upscale looks that match the home’s. “Most people are used to the traditional, white wire shelving,” says Engel. “But in the past year we’ve introduced a nickel finish as well as wire shelving with wood or canvas complements. It takes the white wire up a notch.” For households with children, pets or active lifestyles, durability and the ability to keep clean may lead the wish list with materials and finishes that stand up to scratches, stains and impact.
In deciding whether to tackle the projects or to hire professionals, consider free time available, project experience, tools available, budget and even desire. Many systems available today require some assembly but are often set up to be homeowner friendly.
Slide-Lok’s modular storage system, for example, comes with the hardware needed and detailed assembly and installation instructions, says Jason Jantzen, Slide-Lok’s marketing director. All components slide together without force or effort and are arranged in the boxes in the order in which they are put together.
Those who don’t want to tackle even that level of assembly may prefer to have the system professionally installed through the authorized dealer. That would add about 10 percent to the bill, says Jantzen.
Credit: Renovate Your World