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'Folded towels are a waste of space’: 9 storage mistakes most people make - and how to fix them

Emily Westbrooks shares some tips from a lifelong battle with clutter.

Image: Shutterstock/Kostikova Natalia

WE’VE LIVED IN our current home for two years, and I spent the first full year there engaged in an endless battle with clutter.

It’s a standard semi-detached house, but with two kids ,we come with a lot of stuff. We often had piles of papers and various collections of items blocking up counters and tables. The problem? Those miscellaneous items didn’t really have a home, because I had yet to fully conquer our lack of storage.

Our second year there has been much smoother (and less clutter-filled), because by now I’ve figured out solutions to most of our storage issues. It took some creative thinking, but we got there.

I’ve made almost all of the home storage mistakes on the below list at one point in time. But every time I realised the mistake, and found a solid storage solution, I saved myself frustration, time and energy.

The good news is that thanks to my mistakes, you could potentially save yourself years of storage heartache. Below are nine common home storage problems I’ve managed to conquer, from letting my Tupperware collection overflow to storing my bath towels in a cumbersome stack…

Kitchen mistakes

1. Letting Tupperware roam free: In kitchens across the country (and probably around the world as well), plastic storage containers are stuffed into under-the-sink spaces or topping out of overhead cupboards with no rhyme or reason. In our house, the Tupperware situation looks like this: we buy a set, we lose half of it over the next six months, and then we buy another set that inevitably doesn’t stack with the first set. Then there are the rogue takeaway containers and the bits leftover by family and friends. But one thing we have managed to do is to designate a single home for all of them, so we always know where to find that plastic lunchbox or soup container.

Creating a specific spot in your kitchen for Tupperware is critical to cutting down on kitchen storage frustration. If you simply don’t have the space, set a limit and do a regular cull of your collection when it gets too big, as will purchasing a set that’s stackable, and readily available in shops when you need to re-stock. 

shutterstock_1088869439 Source: Shutterstock/Maria Medvedeva

2. Forgetting about the cupboard under the sink: The press under the sink is one of the biggest storage spaces in a standard home, but it’s often relegated to cleaning supply storage and little else. When we finally realised how much unused space there was in there, we added baskets that would keep cleaning supplies separated from small appliances, like the blender and hand mixer that now live under the sink too.

3. Not finding a convenient spot to put recycling: I have a firm commitment to recycling all plastic, paper and metal bits that are recyclable, but that commitment is really only possible because my recycling storage situation is workable for my space and routines. If you have a large recycling bin outside, keep a smaller box somewhere along your path to that bin – near the back door, for example. That way you won’t have to lug big bags of recycling through the house. If you don’t have enough space for this option, try finding a sturdy box that you can line with plastic and tuck it in a cupboard or utility area.

Bathroom mistakes

4. Settling for a haphazard shampoo bottle situation: Finding just the right apparatus to store shampoo and conditioner bottles, bars of soap, razors and shaving cream can seem nearly impossible, but it’s critical to having an enjoyable and relaxing shower experience. Take it from me, having to balance the razor in the corner of the shower nook after every use can be downright dangerous! A metal stand (with rubber on the feet) or a contraption that hangs from the shower head is exactly what you need to make sure those loose bottles and containers are stored away easily.

5. Not being space-smart with your spare towels: Bathrooms don’t have tonnes of storage space, so having to keep towels near the shower or bath — without taking up precious shelf space — can be a tricky endeavour. My mom cracked this one years ago and I’ve stolen her trick: roll bath towels up and pop them in a basket that sits next to the bath. Make sure it’s a dry spot (or a basket with a rubber bottom), and you’ve just cleared up shelf space for your other bathroom bits.

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shutterstock_1395245225 Source: Shutterstock/New Africa

Living room mistakes

6. Leaving spare throws lying around the couch
One of my favourite things to do is cosy up on the sofa with a book or watching a show once my kids are finally asleep for the night, and part of that cosy equation is my favourite Irish wool throw blanket. But during the day, those fancy blankets get safely stored away in a basket under a side table, so my kids aren’t too tempted to use them as a picnic blanket or indeed a way to wipe up something they’ve spilled. Keeping cushions and throws that aren’t in constant use in a specific spot can cut down on living room clutter.

7. Only using bookshelves for books
Bookshelves might have been designed for book collections and named accordingly, but they can actually hide all sorts of other items you might need to store in the living room. Whether it’s a stack of paperwork or your kid’s My Little Pony collection, pop it in a pretty storage box or basket for a storage solution that’s easy on the eye too.

8. Ignoring potential storage space above and below furniture: The bedrooms in most standard Irish homes don’t usually have a lot of storage space. When we first moved into our current house, I took to Instagram to ask other Irish homeowners how they manage to store all their clothes in just a single wardrobe. One answer that kept coming up was this: use the space above wardrobes or below the bed for storage bins to hold clothes that aren’t worn regularly. 

9. Buying a bedside table with no drawers: When you’re purchasing a bedside table, make sure it offers drawers instead of shelves so you can store more than your stack of half-read books. If you already have a bedside table with only shelves, invest in baskets that slot in for storage that keeps whatever you’re storing out of sight. Likewise, you could store your pajamas there and save yourself a trip to the wardrobe after a long day.

More: 7 homeowners share their all-time best IKEA buys – from a cutlery set to a kitchen island>

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