When organizing and decluttering your home, you will end up placing many items in a designated storage area. One of the keys to really using this space to its full potential is making sure that the storage space itself is just as organized as the rest of your space. It’s tempting simply to throw all your possessions into an overcrowded closet or hide them away in the garage. With these tips, you can upgrade your storage space to be one of the most organized aspects of your home.

Define the Space

There are many places in or near your home that you would normally consider a storage area. For some, an attic or extra closet under the stairs is a small but valuable place for storage, while others may have a shed in the yard for storing tools and other items outdoors. The garage is a popular area for this kind of thing as well—we’ve even written about it before. If all this space isn’t quite enough for some of your larger or more numerous possessions, it may not be time to downsize yet; a separate, rentable storage unit is the answer for some.

Whatever your storage space is, a good first step to organizing it is to define the space. This means a few things: first, you’ll want to take everything out to really see how much space you have. You can easily take exact measurements this way, and think about if you are really using the floor, wall, and ceiling space to its maximum potential here.

Decide What Gets Stored

The next step is obviously to decide what will go in your storage space what won’t. This is one of the hardest part of decluttering or downsizing for many people, but a simple system is the key. Ask yourself honestly if you will keep and use every item you want to store, then sort everything into what you will keep, donate, sell, and throw away.

With everything laid out like this, you can take stock of how much space you’ll need versus how much space you have. Measuring the amount of room all your items take up will help you make the tough choices of what to keep, and let you know if an upgrade to your storage space is really needed.

Sort, Label, and Pack

Group your items in a way that makes the most sense to you. Categories like holiday decorations, sports equipment, or art supplies are logical ways to sort. If everything truly is a miscellaneous mish-mash, then you can sort by how frequently you use these items. Put the items you reach for most often in one category, and others (like those once-a-year holiday decorations) in another. This sort of thinking will come in handy later, and you can even try some of these creative ideas for finding storage space inside your house’s other rooms.

Once you’ve grouped your items, store them in containers to prevent everything getting mixed up or falling. I like to use clear plastic bins, because you can see the contents without having to open them. It’s also a good idea to label each bin for even easier sorting, and just like with your file folders, a color-coded system works well here. Using bins also allows you to use the measurements you’ve taken, so you can see how many will fit.

The final step in this process is to put everything away! If your space is large enough, you may be able to fit everything as-is. Just remember the most important rule of storage: vertical is visible, horizontal is hidden. This means you shouldn’t place bins behind other bins—stack them instead!

Take it to the Next Level

If your space still isn’t working for the amount of items you want to store, it’s time to upgrade it! Installing shelves makes stacking easier, and allows you to take things off without moving the whole stack. You can also use the ceiling to suspend items—especially those you use less often—above the floor, leaving plenty of room to move underneath.

If your items are too cumbersome to put in bins or on shelves, consider alternatives like the “monkey bars” offered by our friends at Monkey Bars of Phoenix. They can be used for wall or ceiling-mounted bars to hold bicycles and other items!

The key to storing your items here is to prioritize them once again. Make sure your everyday items are lower down so you don’t have to reach for them or use a step-stool every time you need them. Holiday decorations, seldom-used camping equipment, and other possessions can go high up where they are out of the way.