Monday, April 30, 2007

Storage Box System

Because we know we'll be banging them up a lot during finish work, our contractor built us a set of temporary steps out of thick pine boards and plywood. And since I suddenly have access to the second floor of our addition, I've started moving things into the new space -- particularly the storage boxes that have been stacked in our bedrooms ever since our move nearly two years ago. That's what's kept me occupied -- moving boxes and the inevitable sorting and re-sorting. Hence the blogging hiatus. (Well, it doesn't make sense to neglect one's house in order to maintain a blog on house beauty, does it? At least, that's what I keep telling myself...)

Quite some time ago, a blog reader asked me how to store things in small spaces, and I felt I simply had to share about the Storage Box System our family uses. I didn't create it: a dear friend introduced me to it, and I believe she got it from Sandra Felton, founder of Messies Anonymous and a real inspiration to me for House Beauty.

Here's how the system works. It begins with making an investment in good sturdy storage boxes. Our first time doing this, we bought 22 stackable plastic file boxes: identical boxes that could hold either files (my husband and I are compulsive filers) or loose items. We arrived at the number 22 by going around the house and counting all the cardboard boxes we'd been hauling around since high school and college and marriage. It was a big investment, especially for newlyweds, but the boxes paid for themselves in headache relief (our first set lasted almost ten years! We upgraded shortly before we moved.) File boxes were a great size for us: they held everything we owned but the largest kind of Christmas decorations. When we upgraded, we got clear ones with double-sided lids from Office Max.

Next, we labeled the boxes. You can use numbers or letters. Since we started this system back in the days of 1.5 kids, I had time to print out lovely calligraphy capital letters on our computer printer and methodically tape them to all four sides of the boxes with clear packing tape. I really do recommend this if you can do it: somehow making the storage boxes beautiful was enormously empowering to me. Nowadays I use a permanent marker, but I do try to attempt calligraphy, still.

Third, fill the boxes. It was such a relief to sort through years of high school notebooks (writers keep everything) and organize. Simply making every storage box a uniform size freed up lots of space: ten file boxes stacked into a space where we had crammed five or six odd-sized cardboard moving boxes.

Fourth (and this is the key) make the list. The list gives a short summary of the content of each box: for example 1- High School Diaries 2 - Art sketchbooks 3 - Letters 4 - Christmas 5 - Easter decorations 6 - Stored Toys.

Fifth: You post the list in the closet where the boxes are stored. Every time you open the closet to search for something in a box, your list is there, ready to help you. It really works -- I've found my husband's high school diploma in less than five minutes with this system!

I've adapted this system for our off-season clothing storage too, using those huge bins for kids' clothing and a permanent marker for the number labels. And I use another set of boxes (green lids) for homeschooling materials. And another set (white lids) for Christmas decorations. You can see examples of several boxes I've used in the photo above, with the list posted above for reference.

The beauty of the system is this: since the numbers on the box are permanent, but the list is not, you can easily change things as you need to. I just redid my Big Box list a few weeks ago: you can see it above: now Box 9 holds the Nativity scene instead of Off Season Coats. No more crossing out and re-labeling boxes! The numbers stay the same, but my list changes seasonally (though our long-term file boxes have stayed constant for the most part -- Box 3, sporting the original calligraphy label, still holds Easter and Thanksgiving decorations).

I'm glad to share this system! I hope it helps make your life easier too!


bonnie: said...

I think this is just what I needed. Our shed is being over run with "tubs" (as we call them), and I can't find anything I want! It's all in there, but where? don't ask me! It would take me quite a while to re-organize, but in the end I suppose it's worth it! Thanks again.


Julie said...

Looks like a great way to organize... we have many plastic tubs in storage but haven't numbered them in any way or made a list of what they contain. That is definitely a missing piece for us! Thanks for sharing!

Dragonflyer's Ladybug said...

Great idea! Thank you! :)

janet said...

This is a wonderful system, Regina!... Very similar to what we use when we move. Each box gets numbered on all 4 sides (doesn't that make a huge difference?!), the contents are put on a list, and then we also list where in the new house that box should go. Given that so many boxes end up in the garage or other storage, that list comes in handy for, well... years.

I love seeing people be organized. This is lovely.