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What happens if you have more possessions than room? If you have to fit your stuff into a space that really isn't big enough for it? What do you do?
I know the first thing that you think of is decluttering; getting rid of some of your stuff. And yes, that's exactly what you should do - most of the time. Probably all of the time. But there are some exceptions. Sort of; maybe.
Right now I'm thinking about a young couple. They've been married for a couple of years and they live with his mother because her health is bad. So basically, their bedroom is their home. And they just had a baby.
Where in the world are they going to keep all of their stuff? And now the baby's too?
Now I know that's an extreme case, but there are others - not so extreme.
Think about the first place you lived in, or maybe where you lived when you had your first child. We had a 2 bedroom home that might have been 1,000 sq ft. No basement, but an unfinished upstairs. Not too bad, until you add 2 more children and a large dog.
Kids Come with Baggage
I remember when I was expecting my first, and my cousin Jim, who was like a brother to me, already had three children. It was Christmas at my aunt's house, and he and my husband made quite a few trips out to his van to unload it and bring everything in.
"Do you see this?," he said. "You'll be doing this soon."
Anyone who has had a baby knows how much stuff they have and need. For such a tiny little thing, they sure do have a lot of stuff. And you have to find a way to fit your stuff - the baby's I mean - somewhere.
My youngest daughter and I have always carried large purses. The oldest was fond of small Coach bags. Until she had her son.
She came to visit, took one look at my purse and hers, and emptied them both on the spot.
"I need this more than you" she said. She took my purse and I got a Coach bag, just like that.
And It's Not Just Kids
Stuff can come from anywhere. If someone moves in with you - an aging parent, for instance - you have a new set of belongings that you have to find room for. There's not much that decluttering can do for that. You just have to find some new ways to fit your stuff into your home.
And by the way, if you have piles around your home, you might want to consider doing this for yourself too.
So what's the answer?
Well, I'm guessing that there is more than one answer, but they do all start with decluttering. You knew that was going to come up, didn't you? And I know that you hate it, but it has to be done. If you could manage to get yourself into a monthly purge routine, you wouldn't have to worry about it so much.
So what's with "fitting your stuff into your home" if I'm just going to tell you to declutter? Didn't I just say you can't declutter when someone moves in? Well, you can't really declutter their stuff. And if someone passes away, yes, you will eventually have to go through that, but you won't be ready right away.
All I'm saying is that if you've got anything at all that seems an easy throw away or donate decision, do it.
Let's Start Stuffing
OK. You have things to store away. How are you going to do it?
First suggestion: get them organized. You don't want 16 boxes marked "miscellaneous". Let's say you're storing baby clothes in anticipation for the next one. You might want to store them by size, or even size and season. The more information you can put on the outside, the better off you are.
Next, consider what you are going to fit your stuff into. Cardboard boxes are free, but they're not waterproof, they can be bulky, and they attract bugs.
For soft items, like clothing or blankets, consider those vacuum seal bags. (That's an affiliate link.) You fill them up, zip them closed, then attach your vacuum cleaner hose to them. It sucks all the air out and you end up with a plastic bag that's maybe an inch thick.
By the way, if you want to really clean a sofa cushion, or anything similar, put it in a large black trash bag, hold the bag shut tightly around your vacuum cleaner hose, and turn it on. It will flatten your cushion like a pancake and get out all of the dust and dirt.
Plastic totes can be a good storage container, but resist the urge to buy the biggest ones. You're trying to find places to fit your stuff, which means most of the options you have will be small. After all, if you had an empty basement, this wouldn't be an issue.
Store and Record
OK. You've found suitable containers for everything that you need to pack away. You've got good labels on it so you know what it is.
Now, you remember that household planner I keep talking about? Do you have one yet? If not, head over to my friend Sarah's site. Right now she is giving away her 340 page household binder for free! (And that testimonial that says "Brenda"? That's me. 🙂 I feel famous!)
OK. So you have a household planner or binder of some kind. You must have this! Otherwise, you will regret it. Since I love you, I made you one, just in case. You can get it here. No email signup needed.
Gather together all of your boxes, bins, and plastic vacuum bags. Find an appropriate page and briefly list each container's contents. You might want to make two columns on your page, because the other thing you're going to record is where you store them. See? This way, when you need something you can just pull your list out and find out exactly where it is! Maybe we should use that idea more often.
The Hunt Begins
Now that you have all of your storage boxes and bins lined up, you have an idea of how big of a space you'll need to fit your stuff. If you can, it's helpful to store them where they most likely will be used.
For instance, if you're storing clothes that are maybe out of season, or for growing into, you might want to store them in that person's bedroom, if you can. (My mom had a friend who tended to buy and store a lot of canned goods. She stored them under her bed. I don't even know where to begin with that.)
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
A Few More Thoughts
I can't talk about unique storage solutions without telling you this funny story. I have a dear friend who was a single mother for a while. In order to make ends meet, she took a job at a funeral home because they offered her a place to live upstairs.
Well, they kept the extra caskets in a room next to her apartment. Knowing how nosy her daughter was, she hid her Christmas presents one year in one of the caskets. Just before Christmas she went in there to get the gifts out and wrap them, but the casket was gone!
It turned out that the owner had sold it to another funeral home in the other end of the state! She had to confess. Luckily, both owners agreed to meet halfway in order to get the gifts back to her. Now there's a Christmas story for you!
On the serious side, hopefully you find enough spots to fit your stuff. If not, the best you might be able to do is to store it in plain sight. I have a kind of large bankers box that stores the financial records of a charity I volunteer for. I have an old Army trunk I use in the corner for an end table, and since the trunk is at an angle, I have room for the box back there. Depending on where you're sitting, you might be able to see it, but it's the best I can do.
Baskets are also another idea for storing smaller things. I read an article that said that if you have furniture with drawers in each area of your home, you can store small things there.
Do the Best You Can
As far as I know, none of us are trying to get our homes published in the latest magazine. We just want a comfortable, nice looking home that's easy to clean. Sometimes, in different seasons of our lives, we just have to do the best we can.
When it took my husband two years to install hardwood flooring, I worked around the piles of lumber in our house.
When my dad came to live with us and got sick, we turned the family room into a hospital room of sorts, and hung a sheet across it so he could have some privacy.
But those are seasons. Short periods of time when you do the best you can with what you have. Learn to fit your stuff wherever you can, but when things change, see if you can't find a way to purge a bit.