When most people think storage, they usually think of nondescript boxes collecting dust at the top of a spare closet, or bins with messy permanent marker labels stuffed under the basement stairs. Contrary to popular belief, storage doesn't have to be a drag and can actually be fun! There's something satisfying in finding new, creative ways to store items and save space, and decorating new or repurposed storage containers is a great reason to get the family together and do something crafty.

When thinking about how to store your belongings, the first step is deciding what you want to store and why. It makes perfect sense to move seasonal items like clothes and holiday decorations into storage until next year or to keep the clothes one child has outgrown until the next is big enough to wear them. But if you're just moving around junk because you don't want to sort through it, you may want to consider a full decluttering spree so that you don't end up just storing a bunch of excess stuff that you don't want now and won't want later. Once you know what you want to keep (and eventually revisit someday!), it's time to get inspired by the idea of using the space in your home to its fullest potential.

Storage Shelves

The use of shelves is an obvious staple for in-home storage, but there are all kinds of ways to make shelving interesting, depending on how much space you're working with.

There are plenty of shelf dividers on the market, from cubes to cubbies, made from wood to wire mesh to plastic. Before making any decisions related to shelving concepts, decide whether items are going to be kept in containers or stacked openly on each unit. When buying organizational dividers, know what size bins or containers you'll be using so you can buy dividers that accommodate that size.

Instead of filling shelves with identical plastic bins, consider repurposing old luggage, crates, toy boxes, baskets, etc. to give your shelves more personality and make them more inviting. This will also make each container and its contents more distinct in your mind, so you're more likely to remember which items are stored in which container when you go looking for a particular item. There's nothing more annoying than trying to remember where you've stored a specific item and searching through ten identical bins looking for it. Decorating repurposed containers with the images and themes of the sorted contents of their containers can also make for a fun family project. For example, a container that will be filled with summer clothes may be painted with summery images. A box that's going to contain old toys can be painted with illustrations of those toys so it's easy to identify where they've been stored.

When determining which items to place on certain shelves, turn your mind to how often you'll be accessing the items you're storing. If you're looking to store items you use more regularly, placing those items on shelves that are mid-level or lower down is a good idea. Items you want to store away that you don't foresee needing to access for a while - such as baby clothes or sentimentally valuable memorabilia - can be placed higher up. If you're storing breakables or very valuable items and you have young children in the home, you'll probably also want to keep those items up on higher shelves.

Under The Bed Storage

Most beds have a space between the elevated bedframe and the floor which is perfect for storage. (Plus, filling that area up with stuff means less opportunity for dust bunnies and missing socks to accumulate under there!)

If you don't use them already, roll-out drawers under the bed are a great idea, particularly for storing items that you can see yourself wanting to access regularly or semi-regularly. While you can absolutely find beds with built-in storage or buy sets of drawers specifically designed to run along the bottom of your bed frame, there's something to be said for the DIY option! Consider attaching handles and wheels to the bottom of spare crates or containers to make it easier to slide them out. Keep in mind that depending on how high up your bed is positioned from the ground and whether or not your bed has a bed skirt or linens that reach the floor, whatever you're storing under the bed may be visible.

a bed that lifts for extra bottom storage

Bed with lifting mechanism for bottom storage. Svetlana Klaise/Shutterstock

Sliding drawers under the bed are a classic, but if your bed is particularly large, you're potentially wasting the space under the middle of the bed where the ends of the drawers don't reach. If you already have drawers under your bed, consider pulling your drawers out temporarily and adding a storage bin in that middle area where you'd normally have an empty space.

You can also find beds that provide a more long-term storage option, with a built-in space under the mattress and a lifting mechanism to launch the mattress platform up so you can keep things under your bed without having them lying directly on your floor.

Closet Storage

little girl's closet with hanging shoe storage

Optimize space by using the closet door to hang items like shoes. LineWeight/Shutterstock

When it comes to closet storage, the key is to not let valuable space be wasted. It's common for the top shelf in any closet to morph into a general dumping ground for items with no other place to go. Don't waste the vertical space above the top shelf by leaving it empty! Use containers and bins that stack, and keep them labeled so you don't lose track of the containers' contents. Closet organizers are popular for a reason - they use the space in a way that you can precisely customize to your needs. For example, if you have more shoes or handbags and less clothes to hang from hangers, dangling racks or soft shelves can take advantage of that opening.

Another trick when it comes to making space in closets is to group together your short-hanging clothes to make space underneath for more areas to stack bins or shelves. Don't neglect the back of your closet door either! This is a great place to hang scarves, jewelry, hats, bags, and more if you hang down hooks or rods or strings.

Ottomans

Everyone knows ottomans are great in a living room for keeping blankets and extra throw pillows, but there are plenty of other rooms that could benefit from the storage of an ottoman. For example, an entertainment-focused room is a great place for an ottoman that opens up to store DVDs, video games, board games, etc. A bedroom ottoman is perfect for items like rarely-used or special-occasion clothing or accessories that would otherwise take up prime real estate in a closet or dresser. Adding a tasteful ottoman to a home office space and filling the inside with files or document dividers can be a cheeky alternative to a filing cabinet for those who find their desks crowded or feel like they plainly could use another place for storing files.

Storing Shoes

shoes suspended on wall by molding

Heels hanging from wall molding. Flickr / mmadden

Nowadays, creative shoe storage is approaching an art form. There are all kinds of shoe racks, caddies, and wall mounts available on the market for tucking into larger drawers, attaching to walls, or hanging on the backs of closets or bedroom doors. They can hang down, fold out, and even rotate in the case of trendy revolving shoe racks.

Before you settle on an idea, think about what types of footwear you're trying to store, how often you plan to wear them, and where they could reasonably be situated so that they don't otherwise interfere with the aesthetics of the room.

If you're looking for a creative way to store your shoes while freeing up space, hang molding or rods along the wall of your room for an in-plain-sight approach to storing shoes that have a heel they can hang from. Similarly, installing sets of traditional coat hooks upside down along a wall is another way to hang any type of shoe from an otherwise standard wall.

Another option for bedroom storage of shoes is dedicated shoe trollies, which roll out from under beds or other pieces of furniture. They can be either purchased or made by securing a set of wheels to the base of a platform or repurposed flat drawer, with an optional handle attachment. Consider repurposing household items like old ladders, coat hangers, or PVC pipes to make DIY shoe cubbies and hanging systems.

Storage Bins

Depending on the layout of your home (house vs. apartment) and how much room you're working with, you'll want to invest in appropriately-sized storage bins and containers.

Instead of buying the first storage bins you see while you're shopping, there are a few considerations to bear in mind. Think about what items you have to store, and seek out translucent or opaque bins accordingly. If you intend to buy a lot of bins, see-through ones may be a good idea so you can better identify from a distance which bins contain which items when you're looking for something specific.

It's especially important if you're keeping storage boxes somewhere prone to flooding, like a basement, that your storage bins be airtight and securely sealed. This is also crucial for storage bins being kept in a garage or attic where you can expect bugs, dust, or animals might try to work their way into your containers. These days there are lots of options for great, weatherproof latches that secure down storage bin lids for maximum security.

You'll want to buy bins that are made of a durable material (typically a plastic) that won't break or crack, no matter how much the bin is bent one way or dropped.

Once you've got all your ideas for how and where you'll be storing things, remember to measure or size-test the areas you plan to put containers or bins so you're not scrambling to find new locations later and getting thrown off.

Finally, keep a written list or legend of where you've stored specific items or categories of items, particularly if you have stuff hidden otherwise out of sight or you're storing items you don't know when you'll need next. You'll have extra peace of mind knowing not only that everything is securely in its place, but that anything you might need to locate is readily accessible.

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