Answer: Downsizing your stuff

​Q. I have always been very organized in my own life, but am having a hard time down-sizing now that I am older and know that it is time to do so! When my husband was alive we lived in a 5,000 sq. ft. home with our five children. Now that I am alone and a grandmother I find it hard to get rid of all my organized boxes and tubs full of household stuff which carries many memories. Do you have any suggestions for downsizing in retirement? I know I need to do it while I’m still able and strong, but keep procrastinating.
Thanks ahead of time, for any boost you can give me!

A. ​ In my experience, the downsizing process rarely happens in a significant way unless you have an actual deadline to meet (such as a move) and a specific goal (such as reducing your belongings by 50% to accommodate a smaller home). But if you are determined to make progress in advance, it can be very effective to arrange to meet at least weekly with a friend or a paid helper who will work with you for several hours at a time & help you keep up your momentum, as well as assisting by taking away items to be donated or discarded. Scheduling a regular decluttering or downsizing session is a way of establishing a routine that will enable you to get in the habit of letting go of whatever you are ready to let go of. Good luck!

Kitchen sink organizers

Whether you have a dishwasher or you are the dishwasher in your household, keeping your kitchen sink area free of clutter makes the dish-washing process easier.  But where do you store necessities like sponges, scrubbies, bottle brushes, dishwands and dish soap so that they’re handy–yet out of the way?

To help you make the most of your precious sink space, here are some of my favorite space-saving kitchen sink organizers:

  • Although they require installation, Sink Front Storage Trays are one of the best ways to maintain a clutter free sink and counter top.  Also known as tip-out trays, they provide hidden yet easily accessible storage by utilizing the wasted sink front.  (Note: Not all sinks can accommodate this storage solution–there needs to be enough clearance between the sink basin and the drawer face for the hinges to fit, and an existing drawer hole behind the false front.)
  •  The Sink Storage Caddy is a “sink saddle”–it’s designed to hang over a sink divider, with two self-draining compartments that allow wet sponges and brushes to drain directly into the sink.  What makes this caddy especially useful is that one section is deep enough for storing bottle brushes, dish wands or flatware upright.  If you don’t have a divided sink, there’s a similar type of sink caddy made to hang over a kitchen faucet.
  • Umbra’s sleek Kitchen Sink Soap Dispenser (available in three colors) features a built-in sponge or scrubby holder, a chrome-finished pump and a large reservoir to hold up to 25 ounces of liquid soap or lotion. Kitchen Sink Soap Dispenser - Black Image
  • A dish brush or wand with a built-in dish soap dispenser seems like a space-saver, but this type of tool can be tricky to store neatly when not in use.  One exception is the Soap Dispensing Brush which stands upright without a holder.  OXO also makes both a dish brush and a palm brush that each has its own storage caddy.

 

 

 

Garden Tool Organizers

For some, yardwork is a chore; for others, it’s a joy.  But whether you’re a green-thumb gardener or just a reluctant raker, keeping your gardening tools in order can make yardwork tasks more of a pleasure.

If you’ve been looking for an efficient way to store your brooms, rakes, shovels and other landscaping tools along with gardening supplies, consider these well-designed garden tool organizers:

  • The Yard Tool Organizer Rack is a rolling storage solution that can accommodate 20 long-handled tools, 17 short-handled tools, a weed trimmer, leaf blower and more.Yard Tool Organizer Rack Image The slots provide side access to your tools so you don’t have to lift them vertically out of the rack; strong clips keep each garden tool in place yet release easily for quick access.
  • The modular Garden Tool Organizer Wall System provides adjustable options for storing all types of tools plus pots and hoses.
  • Suncast’s Rolling Garden Cart is designed for serious gardeners.  Featuring multiple areas for storing various gardening supplies as well as tools, it also includes a 4-inch-high storage bin that makes it easy to create custom soil, while a sifter on the top of the cart allows loose dirt to fall into the bin when working in the garden.

Garage storage systems

If you wish there was more space in your garage for storage, good news: things are looking up.  Specifically, up in the rafters.

There’s a variety of garage storage systems that free up floor space by making the most of the wasted area underneath most garage roofs.  My favorites are the ones that don’t require a ladder to access stored items–they have hoist mechanisms that allow you to easily lower and raise them.  Here are three that are both useful and fun to use:

  • The HeavyLift Garage Storage Loft offers an easy way to utilize your garage rafters, with a unique pulley system that lets you raise and lower a 4-foot by 4-foot platform holding up to 250 pounds of items. Garage Rafter Storage Lift Image It features heavy-duty steel support beams that brace it securely to ceilings up to 12 feet tall, and vinyl-coated steel cables (operated by a hand crank) that safely lower the storage loft down as far as 8 feet below the ceiling.
  • The remote-controlled Garage Gator Electric Motorized Storage Lift system includes 8 sliding bar hooks and 4 bike cables, and holds up to 220 pounds.
  • The CargoLoc Garage Hoist is designed to hold everything from kayaks to bicycles on two 8-foot straps, with a 100-pound capacity Kayak Storage Hoist Imageand a “safe rope” locking mechanism that works with ceilings up to 14 ft.

Terrific Tool Organizers

If your household tools are jumbled together in a drawer or stuffed in various buckets and other containers, it’s time to get them in order.

There are many types of tool storage solutions but not all are useful for helping you keep your tools organized and easily accessible.  Here are three very different types of effective, affordable and innovative tool organizers:

  • For drawers–the RhinoGripz tool organizing system Tool Drawer Organizing System and Liner - Lime Imageallows you to turn almost any drawer into a customized and well-organized toolbox.  It consists of non-slip silicone liners that can be cut to fit, plus pliable tool holders (called “Divitz”) that attach to the liners anywhere you place them.
  • For walls–the Everbilt Wall-Mounted Magnetic Tool Bar makes it easy to keep your most frequently used tools handy yet out of the way.
  • For portability–the Bucket Tool Organizer is a multi-pocket “bucket apron” that turns any 5-gallon bucket into a mobile tidy tool tote.  Bucket Tool Organizer Image

 

 

Answer: Toys storage

Q.My daughter has entirely too many toys. Toys with little parts, toys with big parts. A huge Barbie house, a kitchen, enough stuffed animals to fill her entire room (and no she’s not giving those up). Can you please give me some storage ideas that are functional for a 5 year old to keep it neat?

A. I think the answer lies in your statement “My daughter has entirely too many toys.” This isn’t about storage–it’s about helping her learn to let go of excess stuff, and also learning how to stop enabling her to accumulate more toys than she can manage. To help you do this, I recommend an excellent quiz and tips on this blog.

Kids Toy Organizer Image

To organize and store the toys that are “keepers”, the multi-bin Kids Toy Organizer is an effective, easy-to-use system.

For a more grown-up option that will work well now and also as she gets older, consider the Foyer Console Table –the multiple cubbies, bins and cabinet make it ideal for storing and displaying stuffed toys and many other items.

 

Answer: Organizing Tupperware

Q. ​How should I organize Tupperware? All my cabinets are filled with kids cups, bowls, etc.  I have a big kitchen with lots of cabinets & drawers but they all seem full.

A. Your first step is to weed out any pieces that you don’t use. If you need a goal, resolve to fill at least one large shopping bag with giveaways and another bag with discards. Then designate one area (a shelf, cabinet or drawer) near your food prep station for storing your Tupperware. Sort your containers by size. To save space you can nest them and keep the lids in a separate section–store them vertically in a lid rack.

Double Wire Shelf ImageIf you have enough cabinet space for stacking, it saves time to store the containers with their lids on; use shelf doublers to maximize space and to keep the stacks manageable.

Answer: Yarn storage

Q. ​I have boxes and boxes of yarn that I would like to organize so I know what I have and can access easily. I cannot spend a lot of money, but need to get
it organized. Can you help?

A. You can use stackable containers, containers that hang from closet rods, portable containers and/or wall-mounted containers–it just depends on the type of space you have.

Six Drawer Office Storage Chest - White Image

I also recommend the clear plastic rolling drawer units by Iris –they come in a variety of drawer sizes and configurations, they make it easy to see what you’re storing, you can roll them anywhere, and they’re fairly economical.

For other helpful yarn organization tips, check out this yarn blog.

Kitchen wrap organizers

The trick to storing frequently used supplies is to keep them as accessible as possible, yet out of the way when not in use. Easier said than done, of course.  Kitchen wrap storage can present a special challenge since there are so many different types and sizes of food wraps involved.

Plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, parchment and baggies all come in a variety of options, and more variations seem to be offered each time you check the supermarket shelves. Limit yourself to the kitchen wraps that work best for your household and store them in a way that works well for how you use them.  Here are a few examples:

  • If you have a shallow drawer directly under a counter area where you frequently prepare foods that require wraps, why not use it for storing those wraps?  Even if you don’t have a spare drawer, you can easily add an Under Shelf Storage Drawer underneath a counter or shelf. Under Shelf Storage Drawer Image
  •  For economical, effective and simple storage in almost any cabinet space, it’s hard to beat the  basic Kitchen Wrap Organizer–it sits on a shelf (or counter) and can fit up to nine different boxed wraps.
  • If you prefer to use wall space, the Silver Mesh Mounted Kitchen Wrap Organizer is attractive and compact yet roomy enough to hold your most frequently accessed food wraps; it also works well mounted inside a cabinet door.
  • If you want to store your wraps inside a cabinet door without having to drill holes or use adhesive, Over Door Organizer - Tall Imageconsider an over-door organizer. They’re available in a variety of sizes and styles.

Organized outdoor dining

‘Tis the season of barbecues, picnics and patio parties. Outdoor dining is delightful, but it does require specialized storage solutions for your picnicking paraphernalia and other al fresco accessories.

Here are some of the best products designed to keep you organized so you can relax and enjoy all your outdoor meals:

  • The Collapsible Cooler Basket is an insulated space-saving alternative to the classic picnic basket–it folds flat for storage and has Collapsible Cooler Basket by Picnic at Ascot Imagea leak-proof food-safe lining, a zippered lid and a front pocket for wet wipes, condiment packets, baggies and other picnic supplies. 
  • The Table Caddy is a vertical organizer with compartments sized for napkins, ketchup and mustard packets, salt & pepper, hot sauce and more; and it stays in place even on slippery table surfaces with a Slip Stop grip.
  • The clamp-on BBQ / Campsite Organizer keeps grill supplies and other necessities organized and easily accessible–it mounts to any grill or table and features four double-sided hooks for barbecue utensils; a paper towel holder; and a shelf for spices, etc.
  • The Trunk Organizer and Cooler does Trunk Organizer and Cooler Imagedouble duty as both a car trunk organizer and a picnic helper.  It has two roomy side compartments plus a central zip-top insulated section for keeping items cold or hot.  Two handles make it easy to transport, and it folds flat for compact storage.