Storage units are the best. Whatever is in your house and in your way, can be conveniently sent offsite, while you take some time to decide what to do with it in the longterm.

But with every storage space comes with the inevitable day of reckoning: That’s right. What goes in, must eventually come out. Whether your space has gotten so full that there’s no longer any room to store your camping equipment, or you find yourself hunting high and low for holiday decorations, but only finding old baby clothes, at some point you have to sit down and figure out what’s what in the storage space.

But the task doesn’t have to be too onerous – and might even be kind of fun– when you follow these tips for organizing your storage space.

1. Get Some Help

“A storage space is often just a deferred decision,” says personal organizer Rebekah Saltzman with Balagan Be Gone.

She says that if you’ve been storing things because you can’t deal with making the choices, a partner can help you. “It doesn’t matter if it is a professional or just a friend, but having someone standing there, encouraging you to make a choice, is the best way to move forward.”

That person can also help you remove the emotion from objects, says Dawn Fournier, president of Delvage, an online yard sale and consignment store.

“Every item is likely to bring back a memory, which is why you haven’t been able to let it go,” she points out.

Your clean-out partner won’t have the same emotional connections so they can bring a more neutral perspective.

2. Declutter Like Its Your House

The method most people use is a variation of the “three boxes;” usually marked as “save,” “donate or sell” and “trash.” Of course that’s a little more challenging at this stage of the game because this is all the stuff that you’ve already decided you DO want to keep. But it can’t all stay, so be extra judgy, suggests Erin Fausel, lifestyle blogger at American Freight Furniture & Mattress.

“If you find yourself saying something along the lines of, ‘Oh wow, I forgot I had this’ while sifting through your stuff, there’s a good chance you won’t use that item often enough to keep it. Consider donating it or throwing it away.”

And for the stuff that you love but just can’t keep, take a photo. Capturing the third-grade diorama in 2D will bring you just as much joy when you look at it in 10 years as the crumbly original, we promise you.

3. Spread Out the Work

The storage space didn’t become overwhelming overnight, and it won’t get fixed that fast either, so avoid tackling the project in one sitting, suggests Fournier.

“Schedule a moderate amount of time to begin and stop then, regardless of how ambitious you may feel,” she says.

That’s because although you may be excited about beginning this enormous undertaking, it can soon become overwhelming, and you might be tempted to throw in the towel. Instead set a date when plan to be finished and work towards it.

“It takes time to process everything that is in the unit so allow yourself that space.”

4. Put a Price On It.

If you’re tempted to keep so much stuff that you need to rent a bigger unit, do some quick calculations to help you figure out if you really need everything that’s in there, says Robyn Reynolds of Organize2Harmonize.

“I’ve had clients who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on storage units over the years, but is the stuff really worth it?”

Figuring out what you’re spending to store old newspapers may make you realize you probably should reserve the storage space for items that are not replaceable, such as family heirlooms, or things that are so sentimental it would leave a gaping hole in your heart if you lost it, she says.

If anything, you should try to move into a smaller unit once you have pared down your things to those items you truly can’t part with.

5. Track What’s in the Unit.

“If you fail to keep track of what’s going in your storage space with a comprehensive list, then the only way to know what is in there is to take everything out when you’re looking for something,” notes Reynolds.

Consider numbering the boxes and putting the corresponding number on a list so you know exactly what’s in each box. Clear, stackable translucent containers make it easy to see inside, or at least use a sticky note or label.

You can also assign every family member a certain-colored bin which is their responsibility to go through and decide what to keep and toss.


Cathie Ericson