This brings us to the third S, Store, which very simply means, to position these categories for future use.
The goal in storing is to find a home for your categories, in such a way that you can find, access, and utilise your possessions when you need them.
The good news is that storing is generally the easy part and after sorting and simplifying, most people find storing to be quite simple.
There are four factors to consider when deciding how to store your stuff, the first and most important is how often you use it. It’s most efficient to have possessions you use most often, right at your fingertips. While the things you don’t use so much, can be in deeper less accessible storage.
I found it helpful to have some kind of classification related to how often something is used. One way to do this, is to classify items as active, reference, or archive.
You use it everyday, or at least several times a week. Things I would consider active are car keys, pens, a stapler and mostly likely a toothbrush.
You use it occasionally, but it is very important to be able to access it when you need it; a phonebook, dictionary or users manuals are good examples of reference material.
Something you use rarely, or never, but still need to keep, can be considered archive. Archive material could include old tax returns, tyre chains, or holiday decorations.
Of course, there are many different ways you can classify possessions in terms of how often they are used. I have found this classification works so well, because it is so simple.
In storing, you want to position the categories in such a way, the ones you use most often are most accessible. Items that are active can be on your desktop or your most convenient drawers. Items that are reference can be in less convenient drawers, a closet or cabinet, or some other location where it can be accessed when necessary. Reference materials should be accessible but it doesn’t have to be right at your fingertips. Items that are archived can be stored on the very top shelf of the wardrobe, in a basement or garage.
The second factor to consider when storing, is that you want the size of the category to match the size of the storage area. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to store pillows in a desk drawer, or paper clips in a 3 gallon storage container.
Thirdly, you want to store the category, near the place it will be utilised. For example, it would probably make sense to store office supplies in the office, and automotive supplies in the garage.
The fourth and finally factor, is what is familiar. If you are already using your top left desk drawer for office supplies and that’s working well for you, and it satisfies the other 3 criteria, you may wish to go with what is already comfortable.
However, since you are reading this post, it’s possible what you have been doing up until now, isn’t working for you. In that case, it would be better to change it, than to maintain a broken system.
Those are the four factors to consider when deciding where to store your stuff. They are general enough that they will apply to anybody, I’m not able to tailor this advice because anyone could be reading this article.
Your storing project is unique, because the number and size of your categories, as well as the size and location of your storage spaces, will be different than anybody else’s. Its a matter of matching categories to storage spaces.
Generally, doing this is pretty straight forward, however if you’re having difficulty, it may help to make a list of your storage spaces, and sort them by how accessible they are. Then assign active categories to easily accessible storage. Archive categories to deep storage and reference categories to storage spaces that are somewhere in the middle.
If you are having difficulty you may wish to enlist the help of a Professional Organiser.
I now have two bonus suggestions you can use when storing. The first bonus suggestion is to make extensive use of containers, rather than having a bunch of loose items on a shelf, place them in a container instead and place the container on the shelf.
This makes the category to move from one location to another. By retrieving one container you can bring everything you need to work on a project into your work space, and you can replace it when finished. Its also easier to clean, because instead of having to move a bunch of loose items, you merely have to move one container.
Finally, containers are easy to label, which brings me to the second bonus suggestion, which is to make extensive use of labelling. Labels can be works, pictures, icons or a combination of these. Labelling will help you know what’s inside a container, without having to open it. Label everything, even temporary sorting containers.
Some people don’t label clear plastic tubs, because they can see the contents. I recommend using a label anyway for three reasons. First the process of creating a label will help you understand and remember how clearly how your possessions are categorised. Second if you ask a friend or family member to retrieve something for you, they may not be able to recognise the contents and the label will help them succeed in their mission. Third, after years of putting things into and taking things out of the container, the specific items visible from the outside. may no longer accurately represent the contents. Labels are clearer and less confusing.
Now if you buy in bulk, like at Costco, you must have a strategy for storing wholesale purchases. When you buy toilet paper for example, you end bringing home a quantity of 50 rolls or more. Of course toilet paper is a very important item, one that you will use often, however 50 rolls is more than you would want to store in the bathroom cupboard.
The solution is to separate the quantity into an active supple and overflow supply. The active supply would be in the bathroom cupboard, and the overflow can be in deeper storage such as a garage. When the active supply starts to run low, merely re stock the active supply by retrieving from the overflow.
I’d like to make one more point about storing by using an example, Andy* created 8 copies of a really important document and put each one in a different location in his office. He thought that he would then have a greater probability of finding the document when he needed it. Do you think it worked?
Well as you might be thinking, it didn’t work. I’ve never seen an example where it does, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. The reason it didn’t work for Andy is because he never created a home for the document. It needs to have a definitive location where it is stored all the time. If it has a home and always returned to that home he will always be able to access it, without having to look through a bunch of stuff.
If the item doesn’t have a home, looking for it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Andy created 8 copies of the document and put them in 8 different places without really creating a home. Now, instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, he’s looking for 8 needles in a haystack and at the same time, he’s made the haystack bigger!
It’s been my experience that it’s better to have 1 document in a place you definitively know where it is, than have 8 copies where you’re not really sure where they are.
To summarise, storing is to create a home for each category, in such a way that the things you use most often are most accessible. That the storage space matches the size of the contents and that the stuff is stored near it is utilised.