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Simplicity is not only something to be valued, but is often the secret to success.  Today I’m sharing with you the simplest storage solution and it will transform your basement, attic, and crawl space.

I think we can all relate to this from our childhood.  Mom needs the tablecloths and gravy bowls that she uses every Thanksgiving, so she asks Dad to go to the basement to get them.  He returns with the box marked Thanksgiving, but finds it filled with camping gear.  Mom doesn’t know why this is the case until she remembers buying some other cute Thanksgiving serving pieces.  So now the Thanksgiving box wasn’t big enough, and she ended up putting them in a new box.  Only she doesn’t remember which one or where it is.  So all the boxes are pulled out and opened, old treasures are rediscovered, but no Thanksgiving items are found.  Surrounded by a mess of open boxes, she suddenly remembers storing them in the back of her closet so they would be easily ound.  And dad shoves everything back into boxes and onto shelves until the next time something is needed.

It is chaotic and overwhelming.

One common solution frequently offered is labeling the outside of the box with the contents so that you can see at a glance what is inside the box.  But what happens when, like in the example above, the contents change?  Or there is more than one label is on the box?

When our 3rd child was just 2-months old we were in the process of moving.  I was still nursing so much of my time was committed to the baby, so several friends helped us pack our house.  Additionally, our moving boxes were used and had writing from (other peoples) previous moves.  Writing listing the contents or denoting which room the box needed to be placed in at the new location.  So as we were moving into our new house, no one knew where anything really needed to go.  And since other people had done the labeling, we didn’t always recognize handwriting.  In many cases we just had to guess which label was new and which was old.

Unpacking was already going slowly because of the baby, but it was even slower because of the chaos of finding master bedroom stuff in the kitchen, garage items in the master bedroom, and kitchen items in the garage.

So labels are not quite enough.  We need something simpler.

So what then?

This is the simplest storage solution.  Ever.

Numbers.

Yep.  A simple number on the outside of each box, tote, or other container that you want to know the contents of without opening the lid.

So how does it work?

The idea is simple.  Start by putting a number on the outside of the bin and finish by keeping a master list to track the bins and contents.  Personally, we keep our in Google Keep, but you could have a spreadsheet, or just a piece of paper.  The list should have three columns.

  • Box Number
  • Contents
  • Location

So it might look like this:

So now, not only do you know which container, but you also know where to look.

When we need to change out the kids clothes, I pull up the list on my phone, know which bin needs to come upstairs, and then update the list to reflect that the bin is now empty or with it’s new contents.

It’s that simple.

Here are some ways to customize this a bit:

  • Use descriptors with the numbers. When I started this system, I was only using white cardboard bankers boxes with lids.  So when I see a plain number, I know it’ a white box.  But then we added blue totes and clear totes, so those boxes will say “Blue 4” or “Clear 4” which helps narrow things down even further, especially when the majority of your storage is in the same place.  (And to further clarify, yes, I do have multiple boxes labeled 4, but only one of each bin type.)
  • Use specific numbers for correlated contents. I use the number 25 for all things Christmas, so I have a 25A, 25B, etc.  This makes it easy to know that any box numbered 25 needs to come up for decorating for Christmas.  15 is for Tax Day so that is where I keep older financial records we have to store.
  • Use plastic sleeves like these for the label if you don’t like the idea of writing on your tubs and totes.

So there you have it.  The simplest storage solution. And it’s one you can start implementing today.

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