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10 Steps to Declutter and Free Up Storage Space

I have three children and seven grandchildren, so I'm no stranger to clutter. Luckily, I've found some great ways to free up space.

This article will break down 10 steps to decluttering your home.

This article will break down 10 steps to decluttering your home.

Top 10 Areas for Decluttering Around Your Home

  1. The Refrigerator and Freezer
  2. Towels, Sheets, and Blankets
  3. The Pantry
  4. Books
  5. Pans and Small Appliances
  6. Plates, Glasses, and Cups
  7. The Closet
  8. Memorabilia
  9. Miscellaneous Items for Reduction
  10. The Golden Rule
  11. A Quick List of Multiple Uses and Ideas
You might be surprised to learn just how much the clutter in your refrigerator can affect your life and your wallet.

You might be surprised to learn just how much the clutter in your refrigerator can affect your life and your wallet.

Refrigerator

You would be surprised to learn just how much the clutter in your refrigerator can affect so much of your life and your wallet. To save the clutter:

  • Don’t save the leftover food unless you are certain you will be eating it before the end of the next day. Leftovers can be turned into a lunch or frozen for another day. Saving small amounts can usually result in them being shoved back and forgotten.
  • Try to get your vegetables and fruits fresh right before using them so they don't have to be refrigerated.

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. Try to:

  • Date your items when they go into the freezer.
  • Rotate the old with the new.
  • Plan your meals in advance which will help you use what you freeze.
Keep your towels that are still thick and soft. The rest can be tossed away.

Keep your towels that are still thick and soft. The rest can be tossed away.

Towels, Sheets, and Blankets

These storage hogs can take up an entire linen closet, or more. 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!
  • Sheets need to be changed regularly, however, four sets or more for each bed is 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. You are the best judge of what you will need, just remember that storage is limited.
Having things that you will only use once or twice a year is really a waste. Instead, try to keep things on hand that you can use for many different things.

Having things that you will only use once or twice a year is really a waste. Instead, try to keep things on hand that you can use for many different things.

The Pantry

I used to love cooking and always had the supplies on hand for baking 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. 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.

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Read More From Dengarden

Storage and Gardens

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. Glass jars or tags are real handy here.

"Have you used it for something within the last three months? If the answer is no, then it should disappear."

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 them 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.

Also, remember to check:

  • School books, cookbooks, magazines, and dictionaries
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.

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.

Pans and Small Appliances

The general rule for keeping pans is whether or not you can do more than one thing with them. For example, a pan that can go on the stovetop or in the oven. The versatility of such a pan means you can make more things with just 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 Like Toasters, Blenders, Slow Cookers, and Popcorn Poppers

These items are great if you have a huge pantry, but can be storage hogs. To be honest, you can do most things in a frying pan.

To blend things, you can use good old-fashioned elbow grease and a good masher. 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. Besides, it is hard to cook for one person.

Ask yourself if you can use an item for more than one thing; and if the answer is no, then it should not come with you.

"The general rule for keeping pans is whether or not you can do more than one thing with them."

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.

The trick is to 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.

The trick is to 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.

The 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. 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. 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?

The trick is to 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).

Forget the question of: "what if something comes up?" If it means that much to you, then go get something new. If it will go with other items in your closet, it would be a great addition.

Replenish your closet by getting 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 should be whittled down to the one or two you wear most.

"Things can add up quick, especially in small places."

Memorabilia

Memories are important to all of us, and going small doesn’t mean you care less about them—it just means you can’t save everything.

Try taking pictures of things and putting them on flash drives or discs for future perusal. 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.

Mementos

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.

Holiday Decorations

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 7-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 for Reduction

I only listed the main items above, but you should go through some of these as well. You might be surprised how much you no longer use.

  • Gift sets of shampoo, conditioner, bath bombs, and soaps
  • Perfumes
  • Lotion containers
  • Throw pillows
  • Crafting items, including sewing
  • Activity and game items
  • Extra furniture
  • Gaming systems

A Quick List of Uses and Ideas

  1. Miscellaneous Items can be stored together in one tote.
  2. Totes can be packed and stacked for more storage or used as a table.
  3. 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. To sleep, just roll the blankets to the foot of the bed and only use what you need. If you only need one or two blankets to keep warm during cold weather, then don’t keep any more than that.
  4. Don't forget to recycle the books whenever possible.
  5. Canned items can be a healthy alternative that store easily and last much longer than fresh. Or, you can grow your own.
  6. Remember to choose sheets and blankets that can be used for more than one thing.
  7. Kids love to play with the worn towels as well as plastic bowls, pans, and utensils, they don't have to be stored inside either.
  8. Using a vacuum-tight bag for larger things can save you a lot of room.
  9. Damaged books are prime candidates for discard, but great for crafting.
  10. Over-the-Door Storage.

Suggestions for Items to Discard

  1. Give unneeded items to young couples just starting out.
  2. Cream and sugar containers, salt and pepper shakers, or large serving players for every celebration.
  3. Over-large drinking mugs and cups.
  4. Glasses.

"Storage gets tighter as you go smaller. And remember, just because you have more storage available doesn't mean you should try to take more 'stuff'."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Cheryl Simonds

I would love to hear from you.

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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