10 Steps to Declutter and Free Up Storage Space

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Countdown: Listed in Order

  • 10. Your Refrigerator: Least Important, but worth mentioning.
  • 9. Your Freezer: Not a biggy, but worth mentioning.
  • 8. Your Towels/Sheets/Blankets: They are storage hogs.
  • 7. Your Pantry: We tend to get large containers of items that will last longer.
  • 6. Your Books: Books take up a lot of room that you might not have.
  • 5. Your Pans/Small Appliances: Double duty is the key for this one.
  • 4. Your Plates, Glasses and Cups: There always seems to be a lot of them. (Plus Suggestions for Items to Discard.)
  • 3. Your Shoe Closet: How many do you actually need?
  • 2. Your Clothes Closet: No matter how you try, they won't all fit.
  • 1. Your Memorabilia: There are easier ways to cherish them.
  • Miscellaneous Items.
  • The General Rule for Down Sizing.
  • More Storage for the Small Spaces.

Why The Fridge?

10. Your Refrigerator

You would be surprised to learn just how much the clutter in your fridge affects your wallet and the storage in your house. I used to store left-over food because I ‘might’ want to eat it later. Then I would buy perishable items and stuff them in to the fridge hiding the left-over containers (not purposely). Then I would get the food I wanted to thaw for supper out of the freezer and stuff it in front of my perishable items. Then I needed the milk for the kids etc. By the time I have put everything into the fridge, before I know it I have a smelly fridge and end up throwing away a ton of food. The fix:

  • Don’t save the left-over food unless you are certain you will be eating it before the end of the next day. When you do save the food, store it in plastic bags that take up less storage space and can be tossed when you are done using them.
  • Try to get your vegetables and fruits fresh right before you are going to use them and do the same with a lot of your dairy. I know many of you don’t get out that often so buying daily might be a bit of a problem. Canned items might be your best answer there, even though they become a storage item, they will last longer. Growing your own can help tremendously.
  • Now the hard part—check the food in your fridge daily so you know what is in there and can get older food brought to the front where it will be seen. Many times I buy something that I completely forget is in the fridge because I don’t see it when I open the door and you guessed it, the item goes bad. Having a menu list for the foods you do buy can also help. Using your left over food in a different dish is also a good way to save money and space.

Are You Wondering About The Freezer?

9. Your Freezer

If you are anything like me, you have bought things on sale and stored them away for tough times. Yup, you have plenty to feed everyone during all those difficult times when money is tight; only when was the last time you checked those items? As a rule, they can only be safely stored for one year under most circumstances. And the smaller the refrigerator, the smaller the freezer will be; sometimes, almost nothing.

  • Date your items when they go into the freezer.
  • Rotate the old with the new.
  • Try to make as much fresh food as you can.
  • If you need to freeze something because there is no other way, you might be able to get a small freezer that you keep outside and power by solar energy, not the best idea, but it is an idea.

8. Your Towels/Sheets/Blankets

These storage hogs can take up an entire linen closet. Try these steps to reduce what you have:

  • Look at all of your towels. Keep the ones that are still thick and soft. The rest can be tossed away. Keep one large bath towel for each person, keep two or three face cloths for each person and regular towels for just about everything else from pot holders to washing dishes. I know you think you need more, but you really don’t. One towel can be used for so many different things! Dish towels can be obsolete in a small home because of that fact.
  • Sheets need to be changed weekly if possible however four sets or more are really not space conscious. Instead, get two sets and after you change the first set, wash it and put it away. The second set is now on the bed. Some change the sheets once a month or more to save on water and space for more sheets. You are the best judge of what you will need, just remeber that storage is limited.
  • Blankets are another item that will take up room. Try storing the blankets on your bed. Put down the sheets and then put each quilt or blanket on as you normally would with one on top of the other. Now when you change the sheets, change the bottom blanket as well. The next blanket is clean and already on the bed. To sleep, just roll the blankets to the foot of the bed and only use what you need. Once the bottom blanket gets washed, you put it on the bed right on top. If you only need one or two blankets to keep warm, then don’t keep anymore than that. You can keep an afghan for each of you when curling up on the couch, but anymore than that would be more than needed. Remember to choose sheets and blankets that can be used for more than one thing-for example: you can put a blanket down on the floor to sit on, you can put it over a picnic table as a table cloth and you can put it on the couch as a decoration.

I know that washing everything all the time is sometimes difficult and expensive; but if you can do it, then you could keep less on hand. Try going to a coin laundry facility for the larger loads.

7. Your Pantry

I used to love cooking and always had the supplies on hand for baking, sautéing and so on, but it is difficult to keep all of those things in a smaller pantry. The first thing is to get rid of anything that has expired (obvious, right?)That should clear out half or more of your pantry. Now look at what is left. Have you used it for something within the last three months? If the answer is no then it should disappear. Having things that you will only use once or twice a year is really a waste. The item will expire and then you won’t be able to use it again. Instead, try to keep things on hand that you can use for many different things. For example—cinnamon—it can be used to bake, cook and flavor drinks. I wouldn’t buy a giant container of it, but a small one would be good. Storage in the ceiling of a smaller home can be used for spices and small containers of flour or sugar. For things that are perishable, try getting smaller portions and/or fresh items each day rather than storing them. If you can, a garden is always a good way to save money, eat fresh and still have room for storing other items.

6. Your Books

I love books. If I could afford it, I would love to build a library large enough to hold all the books in the world (impossible I know, but I love books). Would I read them all? No, probably not, but that would not make a difference to me. Books are a window to your imagination and can take you away from it all even if it is only until the book ends.

However, realistically, having that many books would certainly make a large dent in my storage abilities. Books are to be enjoyed, not hidden. Keep the ones you really love and re-read regularly. Other books can be sold, recycled, donated, swapped or given as gifts. By giving away those books, you are helping others share the enjoyment of reading. To decide which ones to keep and which ones to discard, look at each book's spine. If the spine is worn and bent in many places, then you have been reading it a lot. If the spine is pristine, then you have barely read the book through. The pristine spined book is the one to discard. Of course we all know that, right?

Also, remember to check:

  • School books, unless you are using them right now, they should be discarded.
  • Cook books, you should keep the one or maybe two that you use the most and discard the rest.
  • Magazines, if there is something there that you need, tear out the page and discard the rest.
  • Dictionary, keep the most updated one and discard the rest (older ones are good for decoupage).
  • Damaged books are prime candidates for discard or crafting.
  • Don't forget to recycle the books whenever possible.

5. Your Pans/Small Appliances

The general rule for keeping pans is whether or not you can do more than one thing with it. For example: a pan that can go on the stove top or in the oven. The versatility of such a pan means you can make more things with just the one pan. I ended up getting rid of nearly every pan in my cupboard once I realized that I could do all of the same things with just one or two pans. I needed much less room in my tiny cabinet for them as well.

Cookie sheets are easy to store and can be used for so many different things that you might want to keep at least one on hand. Aluminum foil can be used as pans because you can season an item, wrap it in foil and bake or grill it without the use of a pan. No storage, no cleanup and no mess.

Small appliances such as toaster, blender, small slow cooker, popcorn popper, well I think you get the idea; these items are probably not the best things to have. To be honest, you can do most of those things in a frying pan. To blend things you can use good old-fashioned elbow-grease and a good whisk. Do you drink a lot of smoothies? Then a blender might be an item you should have on your counter, but using it just once or twice means it takes up valuable storage space for things that you really need. For me, it is the microwave. I use it for nearly everything and save energy in the process. You know you will have limited space, so look at the whole set up of pans and appliances and ask yourself if you can use that particular item for more than one thing; and if the answer is no, then it should not come with you.

4. Your Plates, Glasses and Cups

If you are only one or two people living in the house (large or small), it is really more beneficial to your storage space to only keep enough dishes for you both for three days (or less). That way you are not storing a lot of dishes and glasses that you will probably never use. A larger family will, of course, need more; but keeping three sets of china and enough dishes to feed an army is totally unnecessary. If you need more for a family get together or holiday celebration, try getting disposable items that can be burned or thrown out when you are done. You can even try to borrow some from a friend or relative. Serving plates, bowls, trays and such are not really necessary in a smaller environment.

To choose which items to get rid of ask yourself when you last used the item. If it was a year or more, then it should not be kept. I know that we sometimes want to have a fancy dish set for Thanksgiving or something, but are you really going to try to host a big dinner in your smaller home? Also, if the item has only been used once in an entire year, I think you can probably get rid of it and won’t even miss it.

Suggestions for Items to Discard

  • Cream and sugar containers-you only need one set, in fact you probably don't even need that.
  • Salt and Pepper shakers-they come in all shapes, sizes and themes. You don't need all of them.
  • Little cups and tea saucers that often come with dish sets-I never used these, they are for more formal affairs.
  • Over-large drink mugs and cups-these are great because they keep you from having to get up and get more, however one for each of you should be enough.
  • Serving platters-rarely used mine.
  • Glasses-these come in small, medium and large and in just about any shape you can think of-ask yourself this: "Do I use it more than once a year?" If the answer is no then it stays behind. Reduce the number of glasses you have by using a 'one size fits all' agenda.

3. Your Shoe Closet

I know this is a touchy subject for many of you out there; but, the truth is you only need a few pairs of shoes and one pair of boots. For dress up (if you like to dress up), black is usually the best color shoe to get because you can wear it with anything. The rule is one pair for the summer (flips or sandals) and one for the winter (sneakers or closed dress shoes). If you are someone who likes to do many things, try getting shoes or boots that can serve more than one purpose: for example—hiking boots can be worn for hiking, snowy conditions and cold weather. This means that you will have to get rid of the huge collection of heels (for the girls) and sneakers (for the guys); yes, it is great when you can have a pair of shoes that matches what you are wearing perfectly, but where do you store them? I suggest you will have to store them on the roof, or maybe the wheel wells (just kidding).

2. Your Clothes Closet

Think about the size of storage you will have in your smaller home (cabin, RV, camper, etc.). If you keep too many outfits, you may not have room for them. Keeping them in a storage shed just means you won’t be able to enjoy them unless you go dig them out. So here is the trick—consider when you last wore the outfit (coat-sweater-jacket-etc). If the answer is a year or more, then you need to get rid of it. Only keep the things you wear (and that fits-guess those skinny jeans have to go). And forget the question of ‘what if something comes up’ because if it means that much to you then go get something new. A good way to replenish your closet is to get items that can go together (mix and match). Then you don’t have just one blouse or shirt that goes well with those pants. Your good mixing colors are white and black because they go with everything.

Special coats and jackets are great, but if you don’t have room for them where will you store them? If you have extreme weather conditions in your area, remember that layered is the best way to keep warm; so a coat, jacket, sweater, and/or sweat shirt are probably all you will need to stay cozy. Also try investing in one of the clubs designed to allow you to chose an outfit or something, wear it and then send it back (such as Gwynie Bee). This allows you to change up your wardrobe without sacrificing your storage space. For me, I just get a few pairs of jeans (they fit better the second day anyway) and several different blouses. The type of blouse (shirt) is important as well. If you like short sleeve shirts for example, you might need to keep a sweater on hand for when it gets colder, but a sweater takes up less space than a bunch of long sleeved shirts would.

1. Your Memorabilia

Memories are important to all of us and going small doesn’t mean you care less, it just means you can’t save everything. Try taking pictures of things and putting them on flash drives or discs for future perusal. If it is a knick-knack, try putting it up and taking down what you have. You can donate the items you take down or sell them through a consignment shop. Either way, you can keep your shelves and window sills uncluttered by replacing the old with the new. For items like tickets to concerts or a napkin from the restaurant where you first met, a scrapbook is nice, but why not put the items into a type of collage and then frame it. Hang it anywhere in your new house. If you use a cheap frame, you can take the collage out now and then to put on newer items or to replace it completely without worrying too much about breaking it.

For items like decorations for the holidays, try keeping just a few things hidden under the bed or in the bottom of a closet. You can use a small thin tree that stays up all year in a corner somewhere and hang holiday or memory items on it as the seasons come and go. Then you don’t have to find storage for a special tree because it becomes part of your storage, and your memories. To decide what to keep, try looking at the item to see if it might be dirty, worn or broken. If so, toss it because you really are not going to want to put that up, are you? Live for today and remember the past in pictures. Also, ask yourself if you really need enough ornaments to decorate a seven foot Christmas tree. You know you won’t be able to put a tree that big in a smaller house so why would you keep the ornaments?

Miscellaneous Items

I only listed the main items you should go through before, now let me give you a quick list of some that might be small but can still impact your storage:

  1. Shampoo and conditioner.
  2. Soaps.
  3. Perfumes.
  4. Lotion containers.
  5. Items already in storage.
  6. Throw pillows.
  7. Crafting.
  8. Sewing.
  9. Activity and game items.
  10. Fans.
  11. Furniture.
  12. Gaming Systems.

The Rule Is:

If you don't need it, then don't take it! Get rid of what you don’t use, replace what needs to be replaced and use things for more than one purpose. And if you buy something new, get rid of an old one so you still have room. Storage gets tighter as you go smaller. With that in mind, I have given you some storage tips below to help get you started. But just because you have more storage available doesn't mean you should try to take more 'stuff'.

More Storage for the Small Spaces

Large vacuum bags.

Compartments in the ceiling.

Hooks on the tops of open doorways and window sills

Hidden boxes in the floors.

Create another loft for storage.

Shelving on the walls.


Dual purpose furniture.

Drawers under the stairs.

© 2017 Cheryl Simonds

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on May 27, 2017:

Peggy W, you are so right! And the best part about charities is they help others who don't have anything. Kudos for culling, I have had to do that myself, and I hope that you are successful with your memorabilia. Thanks for passing this on to our readers!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2017:

There are so many charities that are happy to accept items that can then help others in need. Another perk about having less is that it is easier to keep things clean. Too much clutter no matter how nice it may be always requires work. Letting things go can be a freeing experience. Having said that I still need to cull and get rid of more items. I have been working on the memorabilia such as pictures of late.

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on May 26, 2017:

mactavers, you are so right! Libraries can always use more books. Thank you for adding that information to my hub.

mactavers on May 25, 2017:

Dont' forget to use Little Free Libraries if there is one in your area. You can't donate large amounts of books at a time but even if you donate or exchange one or two at a time, this is recycling at its best.

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