Our Storage Spaces: Truth and a Plan

A few years ago, y'all asked me if I had a Monica closet.  For those that don't know, Monica Geller was my clone on the TV series Friends.  She loved to organize and clean and was apartment proud.  But she had a deep dark secret, and it lived behind a closet door.

You see her face.  How guilty she feels about that closet?

Now, imagine me making the same face.  And then hanging my head in shame like a puppy that just chewed up your favorite pair of slippers.  Because I don't have just one Monica closet, I have three.

That's right.  Two years ago, I was proud that I was able to say that I was "Monica Closet" free.  That didn't mean that every closet was perfect and that our home was purely organized bliss.  It never has been and I am OK with the fact that it never will be.  And you all have definitely seen my share of messes over the years.  I just didn't have a stash and dash zone back then.  I was good about purging and heading to Goodwill and even selling things on Craigslist and eBay.

I don't know what in the world changed this past two years.  But something did.

Theory numero uno is what I would like to call blog-security.  You know, the theory that we need to generate messes for me to fix so that I have blog content?  Maybe I was secretly creating the worst possible disaster of a storage space, just so I could fix it and blog about it and be all excited and "HURRAY!" about it?  Yeah, that is totally it.

Oh how I wish my life was that awesome for that to be true.

Theory number two is probably a bit more legit.

Two years ago I took a lot more time doing my share of small projects, and forced myself to do full house purges much more frequently.  I wasn't a full time blogger, I had another job and blogged for fun.  That meant that we took our time with projects.  What we might get done now in a week, would have taken us two months.  We didn't stay up past our bedtime installing trim or putting a final coat of paint on a piece of furniture to ensure we would have blog content for the next day.  Our house was always changing and evolving because it is what we have always loved, but it was happening at a very turtle pace.  Oh, and we didn't have three boys in sports full time either.

When I switched to blogging full time, I went at it full force.  Project after project, we started moving on things around our house much faster than we had in the past.  The blog held us more accountable to achieving our home goals, and now there is very little down time in-between projects, whether big or small.  In fact, most days, I have six going on at any given time, and they are all half finished.  And you know what?  I wouldn't trade it for a thing.  In fact, the hubs and I love our late night DIY sessions and the time we spend together working on our home after the kiddos head to bed.  It is our time together. 

But in the fast paced project life we have been heading down, things have also gotten messier.  We have gotten sloppy.  I often joke with him that I am becoming the most un-organized, organized blogger.  Which goes to show that even if you love love love to organize, that doesn't mean you are always perfectly organized.  So maybe I can personally thank these three Monica spaces for allowing the rest of my home to smile for me.  Yes!  A silver lining!  But in all reality, organizing a drawer, my greeting cards or a lunch cabinet in the kitchen, seems so much more exciting and fun than blogging about the fact that I just purged down my closet again {once I post about it once, should I really post about it every year when the time comes to do it again?} or making trips to Goodwill or the Expedit I am trying to sell on Craigslist.  All things I have to do, but aren't necessarily blog worthy or exciting enough to be posted about each and every time I need to spend time doing it.  I have chatted with other bloggers about this very thing.  We get in habits of focusing our attention and time on things that we can blog about.  Other areas of our life get set aside and wait, because they are not "blog worthy" or exciting, and we have to keep new ideas coming.  Now of course this doesn't mean that my kids don't eat dinner and my bills don't get paid, because I can't blog about that every day.  But it does mean that some of those more mundane household projects and chores that have to be done, but aren't as interesting as painting a dresser, get put on the back burner and don't get as much attention.  We have gotten really good about moving on to the next project, without fully dealing with the end of the previous one.

And last but not least, theory number three is also quite probable.  Storage rooms, closets and garages do not excite me.  They are not pretty, they are not inspiring, they are not creative, they are not living spaces that I spend my time in.  I love to organize areas that I can put a creative and crafty twist on.  In fact, 90% of the time, knowing that I get to paint or play with pretty papers, is what drives me to do a project.  I love creating areas that make my heart race and ultimately, make our home happy and our day to day lives easier.  These problem storage areas are not appealing to me, and I am not as diligent about maintaining them, plain and simple.  They don't get seen or touched each and every day, so they always move down on my list of priorities.

So now that we know the whys, here are the three uber messy spaces in our home:

Messy Space One:  Our Storage Room.  This room lives in our lower level, just off of my studio and family room.  Technically, it is our utility room.  It is the home to our furnace, sump pump, electrical panel and water heater.  It is completely unfinished, full of open studs, wiring and plumbing.  It is about the least inspiring space one could look at, and for that reason, the door typically stays closed.  As we renovated our lower level over the past two years, it was a natural dumping ground for all that comes with a renovation.  Old doors, extra trim pieces, paint and spray paint cans, extra hardware, random tools.... yeah, it is all in there.  Plus, we had hand me down plastic shelving holding years of bins containing holiday decor and cherished memorabilia, thus making it our storage room.  It also became the home of thrift store finds and the "I could totally blog about this project" waiting zone.  Every last item that I made an excuse to keep, because it could become blog worthy or storage for a future project, starting living in this space.  Awesome finds, food containers like jelly jars and frosting tubs, pillow forms, lamp shades, vases that just need a coat of paint.  It is all in there. 

Messy Space Two: Under Our Stairs.  The frustrating thing about this area, is that I have removed everything and cleaned it out twice.  And each time, I think I have gotten it right and figured it out, but then a few months later, I am avoiding the closet again for fear of breaking out into tears and hives upon opening the door.  Storage under a set of stairs is fairly typical, so I am guessing many of you are familiar with the awkward layout that comes with these spaces, and how storing anything in the back is a recipe for never-seeing-it-again.  I use this space for storing more memorabilia, some items that need to be donated, wrapping supplies, office and craft supplies, travel gear and suitcases, sleeping bags and more home decor items. 

Messy Space Three:  Our Garage.  Every fall we do a garage clean up, and every fall we swear it is the last time it will ever get as bad as it does.  Anyone else fall victim of the garage dump and run?  It is so easy to just "store" something in the garage, and deal with it later.  For the most part, for us, it is bikes that don't get put back up on their hooks, sporting equipment that the kids neglect to put in their bins, tools, tools and more tools from our projects that don't make it back to the workbench.  And then it starts to become extra gardening essentials, yard tools and lawn equipment that are being drug out each week.   And then it is spray paint boxes and table saws.  And saw dust.  Lots and lots of saw dust.  And more thrift store finds, only instead of the ugly vases that are in the utility room, the garage becomes the home to the big thrift store finds.  The furniture ones!  A chair for my studio that needs to be refinished.  A bookcase that will ultimately turn into a linen cabinet.  And if you think that is bad enough, it also has become the place where everything goes to die.  Scrap wood.  Furniture we need to sell on Craigslist.  Purged clothing and home decor we need to drop off at Goodwill.  Leftover renovation materials that needs to head to the ReStore.  Yeah.  Our garage has seen better days.

Whew.  I feel like I just lost 10 lbs.

So why now?  Why am I finally addressing these spaces?

Because they are holding us back.  

I seriously lose sleep over these spaces.  I can't stand clutter and knowing that I am holding on to things that are taking up valuable space, when they should be at a donation center.  I also can't stand not being able to find a tool I need for a project because I can't remember if we used it in the garage or basement last.

I have items in the area under the stairs, that I have been saving in order to expand my Etsy shop someday.  But I can't easily access them, and I begin to lose track of what I have.  It is ultimately hindering my business.  Not cool.

We have been wanting to do a kitchen renovation for over five years now.  Saving and waiting for five long years.   But we will need our garage in order to accommodate the renovation process.  And right now, there is no way our garage could serve any help in us tearing apart our kitchen.  Or parking our cars during the winter for that matter.

So I find myself where many of you find yourselves when you email me with the oh-so-common organizing question, "Where do I begin?".

Here are my plans for tackling my three problem areas head on:
  • I am going to blog about these spaces, exciting or not.  I apologize in advance to those of you that will get bored with the lack of pretty and inspiring.  But my hope is that some of you have also have storage areas, and that if I can inspire even one person throughout this process, then I will call it a win.
  • I have started emptying the spaces and taking inventory as I go.  That way I can manage what goes back where.  It also helps me assess my current storage needs and create a plan to make these storage areas work harder for us.  I will be sure to share more details on that process as well.
  • I am finding ways to get myself excited to deal with these not-so-exciting spaces.  That means that although these spaces typically wouldn't be given extra love and attention, I still might put my "Jen twist" on things in some way or another, because that is the part I love about organizing.  That means painting and label making are in my future.
  • I have been searching the web for inspiration and ideas, however, I am coming up a bit short.  It doesn't seem that anyone has organized storage spaces and they definitely are not being massively pinned and blogged about.  I do love this one, but I can assure you my storage room still won't look this awesomepants when I am done.  And that is OK, but I can draw inspiration from the photo.
     And my organizing loving heart is also crushing on this genius use of space:

    • All three rooms are all getting cleared out.  I have always been a blank slate organizer, so that is how each space will be addressed.  I will be touching everything in those spaces at least once, and will be ruthless about what stays.  No more "this would make a cool blog project someday" excuses.  If I haven't blogged about it yet, I probably never will.  It will need to have a purpose, or it is outta here. 
    • With a Wisconsin winter right around the corner, we are crunched for time.  These projects need to be addressed, and we need to stay on track.  No deciding organizing under the bathroom sink instantly is more appealing than sorting through Christmas bins.  These areas have my full attention.
    • I have always had a good one in and one out rule, however, lately it has been a one in, one out to the garage rule.  Pair that with the constant purging with each new project we tackle, I have created a nice pile of things to take to Goodwill.  So what is the hold-up?  Seriously Jen, get on that already!  And then I need to come up with a plan to ensure that doesn't happen anymore.
    • Sell, sell, sell.  I am certain if I finally sell some of the items I have been holding on to for the past two years, we could put some of that money towards part of our kitchen renovation {or help cover any new storage that we will need to invest in through the course of tackling these three areas}.  But I also need to be realistic about what is worth my time to list/sell.  Sometimes it is just better to cut losses and head to a donation center rather than spending the time to photograph it, write up a listing and ultimately ship it out or schedule a Craigslist hand-off. 
    • We are re-evaluating how we use each space.  This is HUGE for us.  You may have noticed that we are duplicating how we use some of the storage we have now.  For example, we have realized that a huge amount of our home projects are in fact, completed within our home.  So it really hasn't worked or made sense to have all of our tools stored out in the garage.  All of that back and forth to grab things and put them back has been a recipe for stashing them inside without appropriate order or storage.  Things of that nature.

    So check back with me next week.  We have just started on our utility room by clearing things out and creating a plan, and I am determined to make some progress this weekend.  I will be sharing the steps we are taking to conquer these zones along with the mixture of emotions that come with the process along the way.  Oh, and I will also share the my most dramatic "before" picture to date.

    Whew.  I feel like I have just finished my first self help meeting.  Feels good!  Want to hop on the getting things off of your chest confession train?  Do you have a space you have been avoiding for far too long?  How about tips that have worked in keeping those less exciting storage spaces, streamlined and functional?

    Have a happy weekend and...

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