How to Maximize Storage Space

An empty garage space.
Get the most out of every space in your home. Aaron Foster / Getty Images

It's certain that there's space in your home that could be used for storage but isn't. All it will take­ is a little time and ingenuity to turn this prime real estate into useful storage space. What follows are myriad tips for creating that space. Read on.

  • Most new homes, and many old homes, have enclosed staircases, which hide valuable space. These can often be opened to create closets, niches, or even shelf space. Create a storage area by enclosing the underside of the staircase that leads to your basement. This can be a good space for a pantry, holiday decorations, or even children's toys.
  • Put the space under a stairway to work. Construct a wheeled, wedge-shape container that fits into the farthest area under the steps.
  • Ready-made shelves can be installed just about anywhere to create storage for books and decorative items, toys, glassware, china, and just about anything that will fit on a 6- or 12-inch ledge. If you intend to store heavy items, make sure the brackets are securely anchored. ­
  • A hallway that's wide enough can double as a storage area if you line the walls with shelves or shallow cabinets.
  • Create a "closet" by storing bulky items such as golf clubs, skis, and camping equipment behind a decorative folding screen in a little-used corner.


Bathroom Storage Space

Everyone wishes they had more storage space at home -- maybe a lot more.
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  • ­Hang a wicker basket on the bathroom wall for storing towels, tissues, soap, bath toys, ­and other incidentals.
  • Make your shower rod do double duty. Attach extra hooks to hold a back brush and a net bag for bath toys and washcloths.
  • Erect shelves in the space beside the vanity, behind the door, or over the toilet. Such shelves offer convenient storage without intruding on floor space.
  • Consider installing over-the-door towel racks, or place hooks on the inside of the bathroom door for towels and bathrobes.


Bedroom Storage Space

  • Add more storage space in your bedroom by building a headboard storage unit. You can place books, lamps, or a radio on top of the unit and store extra linens and blankets on the inside.
  • Use flat roll-out bins for under-the-bed storage. They can hold bed linens, sewing supplies, and infrequently used items.
  • For a double-duty ottoman, build a plywood box with a hinged cover. Paint the outside, or cover it with fabric. Add a thick cushion for comfortable sitting, and store your magazines in style.


Kitchen Storage Space

If you can't get a larger kitchen, you can fix the one you have.
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  • ­­An efficient kitchen saves both time and steps. Make sure your kitchen offers an efficient and effective work triangle. The work areas should be between 4 and 9 feet from one another. Shorter distances mean you are too cramped; longer ones mean you mu­st take tiring extra steps. If you're not remodeling, consider moving the refrigerator or the range if your kitchen is extremely inefficient.
  • Store dinnerware and cutlery near the dishwasher so that it can be emptied quickly and easily.
  • Keep placemats flat and out of the way by hanging them on a clipboard hung from a hook inside a cabinet or pantry door.
  • Free up counter space by putting your microwave on a shelf above the counter.
  • To make the most of available space when storing tapered glassware, position every other glass upside down.
  • Hang your sharp knives inside or on the side of a high cabinet to save drawer space and keep them out of the reach of children.
  • To economize on drawer space, arrange wooden spoons and other utensils bouquet-style in a handsome pitcher or canister.
  • If you lack drawer space for kitchen linens and towels, store them in baskets on the counter.
  • If you don't have cabinet space for your pots and pans, put a small wooden ladder -- painted to match your kitchen -- in a corner and place the pots and pans on the steps.


Laundry Room Storage Space

  • Add shelves in the laundry room to hold colored plastic baskets -- one color for each family member. When you take clean clothes out of the dryer, sort each person's clothes into their basket. Family members can then pick up their baskets and fold and put away their own clothes.
  • Keep two large paper bags near your washing machine or dryer. As you notice items that need mending or should be discarded, store them in the appropriate bag until you're ready to deal with them.

Now let's consider a special -- and rewarding -- challenge: creating storage space between the studs in your walls. It's covered in the next section.


Building Between-Studs Shelving

If your home is built with studs and drywall, you can add cabinets or shallow shelves between the studs anywhere you need them. Because they are recessed and don't project into the wall, they won't take up any space.

Although these cabinets or shelves will be narrow in depth, they can be used for any of the following: a pantry in the kitchen, paperback shelves in bedrooms and family rooms, a second medicine cabinet or towel storage in the bathroom, shelves for stuffed animals in a child's room, or storage for hanging long tools, such as shovels and rakes, in the basement or garage. To build either a shelf space or cabinet, use the following tips:


  • Locate the studs with a stud finder. Make sure that no plumbing pipes or electrical wires are behind the space.
  • Lay out the dimensions of your planned storage on the wall. To avoid cutting through studs, plan your storage between the studs.
  • Turn off the power to the room you're working in.
  • Using a keyhole saw or saber saw, cut the wall opening along the layout lines. Go slowly and watch for electrical and plumbing lines. Then remove the drywall or plaster.
  • If you're creating storage wider than the space between two studs, you'll have to cut out the stud in the middle.
  • Cut two 2x4s to fit the top and bottom of the opening and nail them into the studs.
  • To finish an open storage unit, line the enclosure with wallboard or wood, and paint or wallpaper the opening. Ready-made laminated shelves are easy to install and easy to clean, but you can also make your own shelving. Trim the front edge with molding to hide the joints.
  • To make an enclosed recessed cabinet, you will need to buy a door the size of your opening and install a magnetic hinge inside a side panel.

Now let's conquer the last frontier: your garage. Storage tips for this space are in the next section.


Garage Storage Tips

The garage is a prime place for storage, so let's make sure you're using that space most effectively. Here are tips.

  • Hang as many items as possible on the walls to maximize floor space.
  • Install shelves or cabinets on the top half of the garage's front wall. Make sure you install them high enough so that the hood of your car can tuck under the shelves.
  • Install a platform across the garage ceiling joints to create a large storage place for infrequently used items.
  • Store nails and screws in glass or plastic baby food jars.
  • Use a metal garbage can to store yard tools with long handles. Hooks can also be attached to the outside of the can for hanging smaller tools. You can lift the whole can and move it to which-ever part of the yard you're working in.

We've covered strategies for maximizing storage efficiency in your home and garage -- and even between the studs of a wall. Now go forth and multiply -- your storage space, that is.


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