The 10 Essential Storage Principles Of An ExtraOrdinary Home

Planning a remodel, major repair or new home construction? Looking for some terrific features to include that won’t be budget busters? We can help! We started collecting over 1,000 uncommon, affordable convenience built-ins in 1998, when we first began writing books and consulting to help people have truly extraordinary ‘ but affordable ‘ homes. Here are some of our favorite storage ideas as well as our 10 essential storage principles. Add any of these to your next project, and you’ll be on your way toward creating a home that’s truly beyond the ordinary!

1. First of all, the purpose of good storage is to help you keep organized. (Contrary to what your spouse or teenagers might say, it’s not merely to hide monster messes where they’ll get forgotten or require tons of time to sort through whenever someone’s looking for something!)

Rollaway storage ‘ with lockable wheels ‘ can tuck into a stall built into a lower cabinet, island, closet or under a sink. Or roll into place for being used under a table, desk or countertop. Ideal for laundry hampers and garbage cans; a cart for tableware (from walk-in pantry to the table and from the dishwasher back to the pantry); file cabinets; a stack of drawers; containers for toys, equipment, gift wrapping or craft supplies; an entire island; a wagon or cart to wheel around the house while putting various items it contains wherever they belong; and so much more.

2. There must be adequate storage space for all your current belongings, plus space for your future acquisitions. And if you’re likely to start a family while living in this house, that may mean you need as much space to grow into as you’ll fill when you move in.

Pullout shelves, bins, baskets and racks in lower cabinets allow easy access to their contents. Don’t forget to add these under sinks, with cutouts that fit around the plumbing. No more getting down on your hands and knees to see and find things! And with these, you can get to ‘ and therefore use ‘ the space that’s even at the very back of your cabinets.

3. Next, I’d be sure each storage area is appropriate for whatever you plan to store, and that each has compartments appropriate for its contents. That means your sports equipment needs space that’s different from the space for your music and video collections.

For hanging table linens, dowels bolted onto the back walls or mounted on a frame bolted to the sides or bottom of pantries, closets or cabinets make linens easily accessible while minimizing creases and fold lines. No more digging to the bottom of a drawer of folded linens to find a favorite tablecloth, or having to empty the entire drawer to get it out! And no more linens that are too wrinkled to use ‘as is!’ This is also a great way to use a narrow area of otherwise wasted space.

4. Plan storage scattered throughout the whole house. Ideally, everything will be stored near where you’ll be using it. No point in hauling stuff through half the house!

You’ll love having closets and cabinets ‘ the pantry, too ‘ whose lights go on automatically as their doors open, the way a refrigerator’s does. (One of the many benefits of built-in cabinets is the inside lighting that’s possible.) No more groping to find manual light switches, especially when your hands are often too full to reach for a switch ‘ or they’re wet! This is also wonderful for kids ‘ and adults in wheelchairs ‘ who can’t easily reach a closet’s traditional light switch. A plunger switch is inside most refrigerators, but magnetic contact switches ‘ similar to those used in home security alarm systems ‘ can also do the job throughout your house.

5. I’d also plan for your most frequently used items to be easiest and quickest to reach, and to store your less frequently used things in the remaining space only after all the popular things are stored.

Electrical outlets inside drawers, cabinets or in appliance barns on countertops allow small appliances to be stored out of sight and used without frequent plugging and unplugging. (Ideally, everything you store in these spaces will be used nearby so you won’t need any extension cords.) You avoid countertop clutter, the items never get dusty and are always ready to use, and no one needs to fiddle with the plugs ‘ especially when their hands are wet or arthritic. Just be sure to measure the sizes of the appliances you plan to store before you finalize these spaces’ dimensions, so you avoid any surprises about something not fitting inside.

6. Your largest and heaviest possessions also need to be the easiest and quickest to get to, and not be put up high or in a corner that’s tricky to navigate. Fill the remaining storage spaces with your lightweight items.

Separate activity areas in the kitchen will make everything efficiently at hand exactly where you need it: baking and mixing, food preparation, cooking, cleanup, entertaining, beverage service, etc.

7. Be sure storage minimizes wasted space.

Hang a detachable hamper inside a pullout or tiltout lower cabinet door or storage bench, or inside a closet door. A cloth hamper hanging on a frame makes transporting clothes or linens to the washing machine especially easy, but wire or plastic hampers also work. No more dropping items on the way to the laundry room that you might trip over! Choose materials that allow ventilation in the hamper, to prevent mold from forming on any damp or wet items that remain inside for more than a few days.

8. Make your storage spaces accessible, so none of them are wasted because they can’t easily be reached.

Full-extension drawers, pullout shelves and file cabinets ‘ all on easy-gliding metal tracks ‘ allow you to reach and see all their contents, so you can use all their space.

9. I’d also look at traffic flows in the house. If your most frequently used items are stored in the major traffic paths, no one will have to go out of their way to get what they need, and you’ll have a very efficient house. On the other hand, you can also affect where the traffic detours through the house via where you store popular items. So if you want to stop frequent bottlenecks where people tend to collide with each other, you can move the popular items into different locations in order to force some of the traffic to flow along new paths.

Adequate clearance around every open drawer, hinged cabinet or door, and appliance door will keep traffic flowing and save you some steps. Be sure you have room to open and move around all the drawers and cabinets you need to open at once when you’re emptying the dishwasher, putting groceries away, working on a project, etc.

10. My final point is to make as much of the storage adjustable as possible, so as your needs change, the storage that worked for you initially can be modified to remain as effective as ever.

Open shelving ‘ or you can remove some cabinet doors ‘ gives you instant identification of and access to your stored goods. Stored items get more light around them and are easier to see, the motion of opening cabinets is not required, and this saves some trial and error if you don’t recall precisely what’s stored where.