Space Saving Suggestions
I was despairing aout my 2 year old's books and how cluttered they always were. They're so thin that you can't read the spines, so putting them on bookshelves is not a great idea, but neither is leaving them in piles on a shelf, or the floor.
Then I remembered that we had some old magazine boxes: cardboard boxes sliced on the diagonal into which you put mags. I put several of these on my son's bookshelf with his thin little books inside. These can easily be made with empty large cereal boxes. (You can cover them with wrapping paper if you'd like.)
Now he can flip through them if looking for a specific title and he doesn't have to pull every single book down to search. He uses his books more now, too, because they're easier to get at.
Jean L. in Chicago
Kid's Games and Puzzles
I have a tip for storing kid's games and puzzles. I've found that sooner or later the game box disintegrates, and pretty soon the lid won't stay on, and pieces get lost. Buy a plastic bin, medium size should do. Then, put all the game pieces and instructions in a ziploc bag, and put that in the bin along with the game board. Sometimes the instructions are on the lid, so I just cut the appropriate part out, fold it, and put it in the ziploc bag. The same goes for puzzles, especially the smaller ones. Cut out the picture and put it in the ziploc with the pieces.
Check garage sales and thrift stores, etc. for used lunch boxes (the plastic ones are best). You can peel off labels if you want, decorate them or leave plain and use as little stackable storage boxes. Learned this from my boss at work. He keeps a lunch box under his desk with tools in it.
Get "Clutter's Last Stand"
The guru in this area has to be Don Aslett, who wrote several books on the topic, including "Clutters's Last Stand". Informative, inspirational and humourous book. I think Don goes overboard, (while reading the book, I got the idea that he feels we could solve most major world crises if we could just eliminate clutter) but the book helped me manage my own limited space.
In Our House
I use the following storage ideas in my own home, and they work quite well!
Kids' Games: Save small yogurt, butter, sour cream, and peanut butter containers (clear ones are the best) and store the game pieces in them. Game boards can be stacked on top of each other (label the outside corners) and store the game pieces in the containers. Easy to find and easy to store!
Kitchen Odds and Ends: Use the tops of checkbook boxes to catch keys, change, receipts, and plastic utensils in drawers! Use diaper wipe boxes to catch canning bands and lids as well as old silverware you can't part with; just make certain to tear the lids off the boxes first so they won't cause your drawers to stick! Use a pitcher to hold ladles, spoons, spatulas, and other cooking utensils. Use the tins that Boy Scout popcorn comes in to store flour, sugar, powdered sugar, cocoa, etc. in. These will just fit in the kitchen cupboards, and you never have to dig to see if you have them! Use empty canning jars to hold extra flavored sugars, candies, pastas, and baking products. These look beautiful with a little bow tied around the band and set atop the cabinets or stove-top/breadbox, etc. Do you have access to a wonderfully aged board long enough to reach over your sink(s)? Simply place extra glasses or jars under it, upside down, and then set the board on top of them. TADA! Instant pie cooling shelf and a terrific place to place your cannisters and plants! Save/buy quilted bottles and store your cooking oils in these on the same shelf (not near the stove). They look beautiful with sprigs of herbs floating in them or garlic/orange/lemon slices at the bottoms!
Laundry Room: Use the tins here also to store laundry detergent and powdered bleach (such as Biz). For @ $3 I put up two shelves four feet long each and eight inches wide; I then cut up old fabric I had with pinking shears and hot glued it around the edges and on the tops to hide the braces and look pretty. These shelves hold my extra laundry supplies like softener, stain remover, sewing supplies, etc. Speaking of sewing supplies, place like items in zip lock baggies and place all the baggies in a pretty covered box! Everything you need is right at your fingertips, and no one is the wiser except you! I hung another shelf on the wall above the washer and dryer, and I placed extra crafts I made there for the time being (teddies, signs, etc.). Do you have an outfit of your child's stuck away in the closet that you can't get rid of (a christening gown or the one he/she came home in?). Pad and cover a hanger with a co-ordinating fabric, and then hang the outfit in the laundry room! I scrounged at an old flea market and picked up a tin sign with a laundry theme, and now the whole room looks great!
Computer Stuff: I built a table that my husband uses for our computer. I tossed an old quilt top over it and that hid the surge protector, printer, and box. Only the keyboard and monitor set atop the quilt along with a cd spinner. Place a piece of scrap fabric in an unused basket, and it turns into a disk catcher for when you have no time to actually put them away from time to time (as we are all apt to forget to do). The table is kitty-cornered, and my husband stores extra cords and parts in tins behind it. If someone were to peer back there, at least it would look organized and match the rest of the decor of the house! Get a small produce crate from the grocery store for free and paint it to match your room. Store cd's and tapes in this with a basket of candy in front (ours is right on top of the tv, and it blends in so much better than a tall black cd holder!).
Kids' Rooms: Store Barbie paraphanalia (shoes, food, all those tiny things that tear up the vacuum cleaner!) in recycled powdered drink containers. The Country Time Lemonade ones with the screw on caps are great for this, and they're just the right size for little hands! A specific spot for every toy in a toddler's room is exactly what he needs to teach organization, and even better is if you tape a little picture of the toy in its correct put-away spot! This helps the toddler with memory and matching skills as well, so it's actually educational. Use small shoeboxes to catch Matchbox cars, action figures, small trucks, and McDonald figures (my kids have a bazillion of those things---having a specific box marked with the M helps at cleanup time). Super KMart has a huge (and I mean HUGE) utility bucket that fits perfectly in a closet and can catch all the "extras" the kids never put away.
Clothes Storage: Use the large Rubbermaid garbage cans with the tightfitting lids to store seasonal clothes. These can easily be carried in and out of the house by either the wife or the husband, and they stack well 2X2 in the shed or attic. Just label "SEASONAL CLOTHING", and you'll never have the garbage man grab the wrong one! These also work well for Christmas decorations (just wrap each piece in newspaper or extra tissue paper to protect) as well as other holidays decorations you may have an excess of.
Animal Feed: We store dog food in a large dynamite box on the front porch, chicken feed in a small rubbermaid trash can in the shed, and rabbit feed in a large tin we bought popcorn in at WalMart last year. Place old hay and droppings directly into the compost pile.
Baskets! I have baskets everywhere and use them for everything, and I sure don't mean those expensive Longaberger ones (although they are very well made). Just pick some up after Easter or from yard sales or from the flea markets and use them everywhere! Baskets have come a long way from the days of just catching laundry and eggs. I use them to store writing utensils, paper, mail, bills, library books, magazines in the bathroom, bread, cookies, candies, at the foot of the stairs as a catch-all for the kids things, keys, beauty/hair supplies in the bathroom, washcloths and towels (these look fantastic when rolled instead of folded and then just place the basket on the floor near the tub).
I have a great space saving idea for those living in small spaces. My sister suggested to me to use hat boxes to store my china. It works great! Not only is it decorative, but they can hold quite a bit. I use them for craft storage and magazines in addition to my china.
Among the Dust Bunnies
One place that I store many things is under my bed. I like having a double bed, but it takes up most of the bedroom. If your bed has low side rails, put blocks under the legs. (If you have a headboard, you may only be able to put blocks at the bottom, but it still works.) Even an extra inch or two is enough to give you a lot of storage space.
If you have a lot of paperback books, you can buy inexpensive wire shelves that fit over the door, or hang on the wall. Usually they are marketed for videotapes (and are great for those, too). I can fit over a hundred books in the formerly wasted space behind my bedroom door. If you don't want to keep all those books, check around for a used bookstore, where you can usually trade them in 2-for-1.
I'm an avid photographer and one day I noticed that my wall space had diminished drastically. I went to Walgreens and purchased their largest glassed poster board and spent 2 days rearranging 20 framed pictures into one lovely collage. I now have 1 large framed "picture" instead of 20!!
To create more storage space in our small bedroom, we use filing cabinets as bedside tables. Covered with a pretty piece of cloth, you'd never know what's being used as a table! Also, my daughter collects those little beanbag toys. To keep them together, we hung a shoebag on the back of her bedroom door and 1 or 2 toys fit in each shoe slot. We also have a wall-hung TV table in the bedroom, just like in some hotels. Not so pretty, but it sure saves space! And finally, my daughter is homeschooled, so she needed a desk. We bought a computer desk, and those shelves where the computer was supposed to go hold her entire year's worth of curriculum. In addition, the top shelf holds her collection of music boxes, keeping them neatly out of the reach of little ones.
Be a Square!
Deniece Schofield's book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker has some great ideas for saving space.
Square containers is what saved me in my kitchen. I had very little cabinet space and by switching to square instead of round contaienrs I saved lots of space and was able finally to cram almost everything into my cabinets. I can't sing her praise highly enough for that one idea.
I have found cheap square containers everywhere. I buy them at yard sales, thrift stores, $1 stores (where everything is $1), Dollar General Store and I reuse what I have such as my laundry soap container which is a large square container perfect for garage stuff.