If it’s been awhile since you’ve paid attention during a visit to your storage unit, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find that your home isn’t the only area that needs a thorough spring cleaning.
You’ve been in and out of your unit for years retrieving your belongings, moving things around, and haphazardly damaging boxes and containers. When you made the decision to use storage, the relief at getting the overflow out of your house doubtless overshadowed any thoughts of being neat and orderly. It’s easy to store your stuff, and forget about it…”out of sight, out of mind.” Well, those things may be out of sight, but they’re still there, right where you left them.
Now that you’ve finally made up your mind to get this job done, I have a few tips to help you keep it from becoming the formidable task that it really is.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Cleaning Your Storage Unit
Set a Deadline: Pick a date, and stick to it. This is kind of like making an appointment with yourself that you must keep. If you’re in the habit of not keeping appointments, I can’t help you.
Invite Friends: When other people have committed to help, you’ll be that much more likely to be committed yourself. Unless you don’t care if your friends stop speaking to you.
Remove Everything: Take everything out of your unit so that you can sweep and clean before re-organizing your space. Chances are that everything will be dusty and may need to be re-positioned. It’s a good idea to refold stored textiles and linens to prevent creases from forming. Maybe you can coerce your mother into doing the folding.
Start by Opening Boxes: People generally lose track of the items they’ve stored. If you haven’t opened some of the boxes in ten years, you may be pleasantly surprised to find some family heirlooms or possessions you thought you’d lost. Or you may find some things that you wish you’d lost. (and some living things!)
Keep, Discard, Donate: Go through the same process that you did when you decided what to store. As you open your boxes and sort your belongings make “keep, discard, donate” piles. If you haven’t retrieved something in more than a year, it’s probable that you’ll never need or use it again. Did you really go through this process before deciding what to store, or were you lazy?
Consolidate: Free up storage by consolidating. There will be items that you never use but just can’t part with. Try to combine them in the same boxes and keep them in the back of the unit.
That doesn’t mean you should store the old knee brace in the mixing bowl of a broken stand mixer.
“The Wait and See Box:” For those items that you are not sure about, use a “wait and see box.” You can review this box during your next spring cleaning; and, if you haven’t used these things in the past year, discard or donate them. This is not an “excuse” box because you don’t feel like dealing with these items. Some items have to go NOW!
Label and Redistribute Weight: When you’ve finished re-packing, be sure to distribute weight evenly, with heavier items on the bottom. Clearly label everything to make the next cleaning easier. Don’t store a box of medicine balls on top of grandma’s china tea cups.
Reorganize With a Plan: Create a written map or drawing of the unit to indicate where items can be found. Items can be grouped in any way that is appropriate for your life. For example, you can group by person, room, or importance. Leave this plan on a clipboard hanging on the wall of your space for easy reference. Store belongings that you don’t use regularly in the back of the unit. Save the front space for things you use more often and for seasonal items. Be sure that unused space in dresser drawers, cabinets, or freezers is filled with belongings (not food). If possible, leave aisles with room to move around and easily view all labels. If you’re super organized, take photos with your phone so that you can check to see what’s in your space prior to making a trip. Yes, this is a bit complicated, but do it.
And stop complaining. Decluttering is good for your mental health. The most important thing to take with you to your unit is a positive mindset. Focus on the feeling of relief that comes from a good cleaning and reorganization. Or not. You have to get the job done either way.
If you don’t have a storage unit, but you’re interested in cleaning up your house and storing the junk, read Put that Clutter in Storage and Get on With Your Life. Happy cleaning!!!