Category Archives: Storage

Small Apartment Living

My apartment is a mess. I wasn’t really aware I still owned enough stuff to have a mess, but I do. I guess in 500 square feet, it’s pretty easy. There’s the sorted laundry that needs to go downstairs to the laundry room. It wouldn’t kill me to take the trash out, either.

The downside of a tiny apartment is that your chores are always staring you in the face. From my current seat, I can see the laundry, the trash, the mail that’s waiting for me to buy a new shredder.

Sometimes this apartment feels much smaller than 500 square feet. Part of the problem is that it (and all of  our neighbors) were carved out of a single home. This means we ended up with a kitchen that’s quite large, but not large enough to really do anything but cook in, a long, narrow closet that didn’t have any hanging bars at all when we moved in, and my girlfriend’s closet-sized “craft room”. All of these things take up some of the square footage but make it really hard to use that square footage effectively.

Also, just to make things interesting, the stairwell is oddly angled and low ceilinged, so it’d be nearly impossible to get any larger furniture up here. The table was hard enough and it has hinges so it’s barely two feet wide.

I have acquired more books – these things happen! – and more art, which is my real weak spot. Worse than books, I think. I’m okay with getting rid of books. I’m much less okay with parting with art. I’m trying to stick to small pieces, so they’re easier to group on the walls, and paper prints instead of giclee canvas – canvas is nice and all but they’re much harder to move or store if I want to cycle through them. I’m speaking from experience here.

Speaking of canvas, I haven’t painted since the move. I think that’s a combination of factors weighing in – I gave away my art supplies to save space, and I can’t really justify the cost of new ones right now. I also don’t have the space for an easel, or to store finished art.

I also ended up donating a bunch of my paintings with all the other thrift store stuff when we moved. It wasn’t that I thought people would like them, particularly. Just that I didn’t have space for moving them. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I was in a huge, last-minute hurry, and I wasn’t really satisfied with my work anyway, but I think that’s probably at least part of the reason why I haven’t felt like getting back to it.

I should attack my watercolors anyway, though. It might help me feel better. Of course, so would starting on the mess in here. Maybe I’ll go do the laundry.

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Between Stages and the Mess That Brings

As my college graduation nears, the looming prospect of Really Being On My Own is both exciting and daunting. One of the biggest troubles stems from the stuff I have stored at my parents’ house. Since I’m staying there for the summer as a way to save money (and since my job is in town) I’ve been tackling that mess little by little.

Two things in particular have stood out since I vowed to do this: my eighteen year old self was a huge packrat, and my parents should have given away the books and toys from childhood YEARS ago.

Some of it has to do with parents and their dealing with kids being grown up (I’ve been in school for a few years, but my only sibling just started, so the “empty nest” finally hit). Some of it is shear volume; if you didn’t continuously give away kid clutter as your kids grew up, then likely you’ll end up with a lot. Either way, you suddenly have to deal with it.

Parents? If you want your kids to take care of all the junk they’ve left over the years? I suggest you put it all in their rooms. So that when they stay over for any amount of time, be it back for the summer or for a break. If that still doesn’t work, then simply drop it all off, bit by bit, AS IS until they either toss it themselves or go through it. Don’t go through it for them; some of it may be personal, or might have been at one point.

Now, for those of you sorting through what amounts to maybe a lifetime of junk? You have to make some Hard Decisions. Or maybe not so hard, in my case. But here’s some quick things to get you started:

  • Memorabilia Should Only Be In One Box

It doesn’t matter if the box is huge or a shoebox. But one box. Because memorabilia is just physical reminders of memories. And there are ways to get rid of say, your prom corsage, but not lose the sentiment with it. You could take a picture of it and store that on your computer. You could scan your baseball cards. Momentos should only be kept if they are REALLY meaningful. Don’t try and justify them. At the very least, would you want to cart all that to wherever you end up living?

  • Only Save The Best Things For Theoretical Kids

Unless you’re well on your way to having some, really. You’ll get a ton of stuff from relatives if you have any, and it’s not like there aren’t lots of other people with far too much babystuff if you need it secondhand. Give it to kids that need it, like the homeless. Yes, even books too. Keep only your ABSOLUTE FAVORITES from childhood.

  • Keep It Simple

Utilitarian. Unless you’ve got a house right after graduation, do you really need a house worth of stuff yet? Think like packing for a dorm room. And stick to it. Find places for everything else that are not storage. Don’t take all your knick-knacks at first… leave them in a box and then come at them later if you can’t decide quite yet. Chances are you’ll feel differently after time.

Transitioning between of your life can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be messy.

Seasonal Purgery

I’ve always been a Spring Cleaner.

Partly due to the fact that winter is so much more pronounced where I live, but mostly due to the fact that I’ve never been good at cleaning regularly. This year I managed not to have the cluttered nesting problem so much, but then, I didn’t bring as much stuff to my dorm room as I had some years.

Doesn’t mean I don’t still have a lot of work to do.

My problem areas are my storage places. I come from a long line of severe hoarders, so it takes a lot of focus for me to throw things away. I’ve narrowed down specifically “nostalgia” items to a shoebox. Whoo!

I usually start with my clothes, because they have the biggest tendency to pile up. Relatives have a tendency of getting me things that are too huge (my mom especially) which I just shove in the back of my closet so as not to offend them. Then I get to the items I had hid away from Christmas that were, well, awful.

Honestly, who hasn’t gotten some horrible knick-knack given to them “out of love”?

I always leave papers and drawers for last, because a lot of that contains “useful” items. And I have the hardest time deciding whether or not to let something go. I’m big on recycling and reusing, so I rarely actually throw anything in the trash. In the recycle or donation bins? All the time. But I know I won’t reuse everything and have to at least get it out of my room.

But there’s another purpose to the Spring Cleaning other than controlling the amount of crap that builds up despite best intentions. And it’s for introspection. I read somewhere that you can tell more about a person by looking at their rooms than by asking their friends about them–and who better to know the significance of something than yourself? Likely you’re going to be the only one that will see why you kept that certain ticket stub or that cigar case.

Habits and hoarding and possessions are all a part of a person’s psychological makeup. But every now and then we could use a little dusting in our minds.

For instance, the first thing I did after a particularly traumatic year was purge. Got things associated with those memories out of my sight. Cleaned the smells out of the clothes, threw out the more potent reminders. Then I opened up a bunch of boxes I had put in storage from way before, got a glimpse at myself before I got all mixed up.

I guess what I’m advocating is keeping a box, at least. Something out of sight until you go and clean everything. You may find yourself throwing some things away, but at least they’re there for a little while. And others can get tucked back in until the next big purge.

It’s just a matter of keeping it from getting out of hand, is all. And actually throwing something away.

Containing my Excitement

I don’t ask for much. Some brightly-colored post-its. Some index cards. Maybe a few highlighters. My closet shelf is neatly stacked with magazine holders and storage boxes.

But sometimes I dream of more. I imagine that there’s a complete organization system out there that will finally allow me to find anything I need in my room without any effort on my part. Most of the time, I know it doesn’t exist, but sometimes I dream.

And sometimes reality encourages me: The Container Store is opening a branch in my metro area this year.

Part of me is tempted to look at that and say “oh, there’s no point in worrying about it until the Container Store opens and I can buy the perfect art or paper storage box, but that’s a cop-out. My collage paper fits perfectly fine in an oversized shoebox, I just need to remember to put it away when I’m done working.

The art of getting and staying organized has very little to do with my choice of boxes – though I like the ones I’ve chosen. It’s about actually sorting things. Going to the effort of putting things away. Throwing out things I don’t need. Making the effort is more important than buying the boxes.

Though come the grand opening, you’ll probably find me out there buying the boxes anyway.

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5 Ways to Manage Digital Packrattery

I am a digital packrat. I admitted this last night on the new forums for one of my favorite productivity sites, Zen Habits, and it made me think about how I think about keeping and storing information.

Inspired by that, I’d like to present my five ways to manage information for digital packrats.

  1. Put it all in one place – and I don’t just mean stacking a whole bunch of burned CDs on a spindle or in a CD album. If the files you have stored aren’t easily accessible, you might as well not have them because you’ll never bother to use them. If the list of files you think you need stored is less than a few gigabytes, I’d suggest backing them up to either a USB drive or a spare gmail account.
  2. A USB drive is a wonderful way to carry your research and projects with you, particularly if you use software like PortableApps to carry the software you need as well. However, USB drives are also easy to misplace – make sure that any sensitive data you have on one is encrypted with TrueCrypt or LockNote and include information for someone who finds the drive to get it back to you.
  3. Gmail storage is particularly useful if you have a lot of files that are difficult to browse on your computer or that you don’t need often, but need to keep. I set up an email address specifically for archiving. Every time I finish a project for a client, all the relevant files are zipped and sent along as an attachment with a useful label like “Client.com Website Archive” and any keywords I think I’ll use to find it later are typed in the body of the email. Old stories and poems, journal archives, and even archived versions of websites are stored here and accessible to me via google search. I can also backup my WordPress website and have it automatically sent to my archive email.
  4. If you’re the sort of person who keeps their entire media library on their computer, I’d suggest having an external hard drive dedicated solely to media. It’s certainly more convenient to have only one small box to take the place of all your CDs and DVDs – just make sure nothing happens to that hard drive, since one accidental disconnect could trash it.
  5. Finally, the easiest way to manage digital packrattery is not to be a packrat. I know it seems silly to worry about it when so much storage is so easy to have on hand, but like any clutter, the sheer volume of information can make it hard to remember what you have and where you have it. If you have a good organization system, this can be mitigated, but every system will break down eventually.

Besides, do you really need to keep those old hacker text files or the emails from your first internet crush, the one you haven’t talked to since since he stalked you in 2001? Somehow I think you wouldn’t really miss them if they were gone. I don’t.

You may also want to check out Geek to Live: Carry Your Life on a Thumb Drive

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