Cleaning & Organizing
18 Tricks to Squeeze More into All of Your Storage Spaces
Maximize your storage space by working with what you’ve got.
Find a new food container
When you get home from the grocery store, transfer dried goods like cereal, penne, and flour into an airtight container, such as an old-fashioned candy jar with an angled lid. “Because a package has a lot of air to keep food from breaking, you might actually be disappointed when you unpack boxes because you think you’d have more food,” says Andrew Mellen, professional organizer and author of Unstuff Your Life!. “You don’t need space for air in your pantry.” You’ll find it easier to make room for a wide and short container than a tall package like a cereal box. (Read more about these other food containers you’ve been using all wrong.)
Use the top of the fridge
“Over the refrigerator is the most underutilized area in the home, or it’s totally misused,” says Nancy Heller, certified professional organizer and founder of Goodbye Clutter. “People either have a hodgepodge or it’s completely empty.” Make the most of the space by using it as intentional storage. Instead of leaving it empty or throwing on whatever doesn’t have another home (that tiki dish from Hawaii or random doilies), designate it as the permanent home for something you use only occasionally. Because you’re only reaching up a few times a year, it won’t matter that it’s hard to reach, but you’ll know exactly where to find your waffle maker when the time comes. (Don’t make these other sloppy-looking kitchen organizing mistakes.)
Adjust your shelves
“That’s the number-one thing I do in almost every home,” says Heller. “They’re too high and have maybe four inches of open vertical space on each shelf. You’ve lost a foot and a half of storage space.” Most shelves are adjustable, so change their heights to suit your needs, rather than becoming a slave to the way they were installed. Mellen suggests measuring the tallest object you’d keep in each space, then adding 1.5 to 2 inches so you have room to slide items out.
Create your own shelves
If you still have wasted space after adjusting shelf heights, buy a shelf that suspends under your built-in shelf to create a sliding storage space below. They’re usually only about four or five inches deep, making them a great place to stash flat objects like cookie sheets and placemats. “They won’t interfere unless shelves are not very tall, and won’t bump into stuff in the shelf below,” says Mellen. If you’d rather add space upward, place a tower on top to create a mini shelf above the preexisting one.
Buy a lazy Susan
A spinning shelf—whether one tier or more—will save cupboard space because knowing what you already have will stop you from buying doubles of spices, oils, and condiments. “Whatever is stuck in the back is neglected and not seen,” says Heller. Keep your counter clutter-free with these tips.
Try industrial bins
Commercial storage spaces often use bins with three walls, which are easy to fit your hand in. They’re stable and stackable, making them a good solution for items that are long and short, like a spaghetti box, or anything else you want to corral together. “The bins can be carried out on the floor of a factory and put back in storage, so everything stays in but can also move around,” says Mellen. “They’re great for gathering up spices and small kinds of things.”
Zone out your fridge
Creating zones in your fridge will help you recognize when there’s spoiled food taking up space. Mellen recommends having specific areas for things like vegetables, fruits, meat, condiments, and leftovers to make it easy to remember how long everything has been there. “It seems self-evident, and yet a lot don’t do that in the fridge, and things get buried in the back,” says Mellen. “We’ve all been in a fridge where there’s something in the back that’s no longer identifiable and is covered in mold.” Use the concept for room-temperature foods too with these zones that make your pantry more organized.
Some foods, like cans, were practically made for stacking. “I see so many spatial faux pas,” says Heller. Instead of throwing all your yogurts on one shelf of the refrigerator, for instance, pile them up three tall to get more horizontal space from your fridge. (Check out these other probiotic-filled foods to help your gut.)
Turn storage on its head
Large pots and casserole dishes can take up a lot of real estate in a cupboard. “Most people put the lid on the casserole pot and tuck it away,” says Heller. “Invert the lids of pots and store them that way.” By turning the top upside-down, you’ll create a flat surface where you can stack other items, and you’ll always know where to find the lid to each piece of cookware. Here are more tips for storing pots and pans.
Make shelves into cubbies
Adding bins or shelves made of metal, Plexiglas, or wood creates a vertical divider to keep your shelved belongings organized. You can buy dividers that create a cubby, or hire someone to build some into the furniture you already own. “For not much money, you can get a skilled carpenter to get retrofitting for you,” says Mellen. “There’s no good excuse for living with a clumsy, unsupportive closet or pantry.”
Turn the back of a door into a creative place to hang items by adding hooks. “You want to optimize space and use the inside of a closet door as much as possible,” says Heller, who dangles costume jewelry from hooks. “It looks beautiful, and I can see everything when getting dressed.” Use your own to hang sporting equipment, jeans that are worn but not dirty, or scarves. In the kitchen, save precious cupboard space by using hooks to dangle pots and pans from a grid on a wall or a rod from the ceiling. Find out more creative ways to use tension rods here.
Build your closet around your clothes
Depending on what you already own, a different setup could add loads of space to your closet. “Know what you’re going to put in the closet first,” says Mellen. “Rather than trying to work with the closet that exists, build the closet you need.” For instance, a shoe addict could benefit from adding cubbies, while someone with blouses and shorter skirts might prefer two tiers of hanging space, and lots of hoodies and gym clothes require shelves rather than hangers, he says. Check out these things in your closet you should get rid of immediately.
Fold your clothes properly
Taking a few extra seconds to put your clothes back correctly instead of stuffing them into a drawer will open more space in your dresser. “Folding properly is a good way to make space,” says Heller. Just what that correct fold looks like depends on the depth of the drawer, she says, but you can usually make more room for T-shirts by rolling them instead of folding. Start with these life-changing folding hacks.
Section out drawers
Store cardboard shoeboxes in your drawer, and put each in charge of a different item—one for undies, one for socks, and one for bras, for example. “You don’t end up with a jumble and can fill up more,” says Heller. Here are more secrets of people with impeccable homes.
Get double duty from furniture
“They make lots of ottomans and things with storage space in them,” says Mellen. He suggests storing things like guest bedding and off-season clothing in a trunk that can double as a coffee table. Try one of these storage furniture pieces that magically de-clutter your home.
Find unused floor space
Even though it’s considered bad feng shui, underbed storage can open up a lot of room if your home is tight on space, says Heller. She recommends using shallow bins with wheels so you can pull it out easily to look through its contents, and get creative about where you store things. “Under a bureau, under the crib, under anything—they’re all legitimate,” she says.
Stash small tools like nail clippers, tweezers, and cuticle cutters in an open container, or stand your razors in a bin so you can tell how many you have left. “A lid is just an obstruction to getting to the contents,” says Mellen. “They’re corralled together and take up the least amount of storage space required of them, and you can find them all.” Don’t miss these other tricks for an organized medicine cabinet.
Use tubs under the sink
A cheap plastic tub makes it easy to keep odds and ends like soaps, heating pads, and hand mirrors from getting lost in a crazy pile under the sink. By keeping things contained, you’ll be able to fit more inside. “Random things that would be lying around on the bottom of the bathroom cabinet are corralled together in one tub so when you need them, you know where to go find them,” says Mellen. Check out these effortless things clutter-free people do every day.