Utility Closets and Misc. Storage Ideas

Maxine’s Housekeeping Tips – Part #7
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Monday’s Tip: Utility closets & misc. storage ideas

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I caught the vision of how an organized home could look when I saw a drawing of a utility closet in Sandra Felton’s book, The Messies Manual. The picture shows a small closet with shelves, with boxes and containers of various uniform sizes stacked on them. A hairdryer hangs from a hook on the wall. On the other side, the iron is in a hanger on the wall, just above the mop and broom, also hanging. A flashlight hangs nearby. Organizers on the back of the door contain cleaning products. Ooooooooooooooh!

Fifteen years later, I’m still not organized, but I’m doing a lot better. And although I have really good storage in this house (and in the last one–I basically designed them both), I’ve never had a utility closet per se. My storage is spread out between shelves in the utility room (in the basement in this house), a shelf in the linen closet, and an actual broom closet that magically appeared in my kitchen when the house was built. I know that most houses have far less storage, but that it’s spread around like mine. So here’s what I do, and maybe some of it will work for you:

My broom closet was probably intended as a coat closet. I took out the rod and use the shelf above to store cleaning products and Little Green Clean Machine. I have put hooks on the 1x4s that support the shelf in order to hang the following items: mops & brooms, dustpan, extra bags and belt for vacuum, tools for vac in plastic bag, flyswatter, yardstick, dog leash. The upright vacuum and a shop vac are on the floor in 5 houses, this is the first time I have ever had a place for the vacuum cleaner, let alone two!). Because there isn’t room on the shelf, I have a small basket on the floor for rags.

All of the home management gurus advocate hanging up everything that you can, and it has helped me a lot. In other houses, I have had the broom and mops on the wall in the garage, just outside the door to the kitchen. In one apartment we lived in, the management installed hooks on the siding outside the kitchen door–it didn’t look bad because it backed up to a tall fence, and stayed dry because it was under the eaves. A friend’s utility room is a pass-through between the family room and garage. When we dejunked her house, we bought a Rubbermaid thing with several hooks and space for the dustpan, and hung it on the wall in a narrow space next to the dryer.

Because of the location of my utility room, I only use it for laundry-related and sewing items (my sewing machine is there). In my last house, the utility room was on the main floor, and I used the shelves for most of the things I have now in my broom closet (no place for the vacuum cleaner, though–that went in the hall closet).

My linen closet isn’t huge, but I’ve cleared off a shelf for shoe polish, extra lightbulbs, etc. We kept this stuff in the utility room of our other house. I also have my giftwrap in here. No room for extra TP, though, which we store in one of the bathrooms (no room in the other).

Here are some miscellaneous storage ideas:

CONTAINERS–It does help to use containers that are uniform in size. You can get more on the shelf and it looks neater. When I started organizing 15 years ago, I bought baskets, but have gradually discarded them because they don’t stack. I like plastic shoeboxes, because you can stack them 2 or 3 deep and they’re only $1 on sale. (I prefer Tucker or Sterilite–Rubbermaid lids are hard to remove). I’m too cheap to buy big plastic storage boxes. I like apple/pear OR orange/lemon/grapefruit boxes (one or the other–they are different sizes) with the lids cut down to about 2 inches deep. (Tomato boxes come this way, but they are smaller; copy paper boxes have the same sort of lids, but they are harder to come by and less sturdy). I use a felt marker to label the general contents of each box. I use boxes for miscellaneous storage in the garage, for extra blankets and bedding in the linen closet, and many other things.

GIFTWRAP–I used to use a liquor box with compartments to store gift wrap upright in the slots. I no longer have floor space to do this. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Rubbermaid gift wrap & craft box, which I would slide under the bed except that I have room in the linen closet for it. I keep ribbons, tape, etc., in a hospital wash basin on top.

BATTERIES–Before you ever start dejunking your house, stop by Radio Shack and buy a battery tester (mine cost $3, although it was a few years ago). You are going to find batteries everywhere! (more than you ever dreamed!!!). You will be surprised how many of them are still good, since sometimes only one battery will burn out but we usually replace them all. Test your batteries as you find them, throw away the duds, and store the batteries and the tester in a plastic shoebox. After I first de-junked my house, I didn’t have to buy batteries for YEARS.

IRONING BOARD–Gotta find a place for this, we’ve just been keeping it up in my son’s bedroom, but he has moved back home. I suppose we will try to hang it on the back of a door. In my other house, I had a built-in ironing center, which I really recommend–especially if you DON’T iron much. What a pleasure to just close the door on it. Don’t ask me why I didn’t design one in here–must have been $$$$! It’s nice if you can keep the iron and supplies in the same place.

TOWEL RODS–This isn’t a closet issue, but make sure you have enough. (One for each person who uses the bathroom–you may have to be creative in where you put them). It keeps your bathroom much neater and sure cuts down on laundry. I also have rods screwed to the inside of the cabinet doors under the sink in the kitchen (for dishtowels) and in my bathroom (for cleaning rags, etc.).

RUBBERMAID TURNTABLES–I have generally found these to be space wasters because they are round. The exception was in the corner kitchen cabinet of my house in Oregon. The door only opened on one side and it was practically unusable until I bought one of the really big turntables. Then I put roasting pans and other things I didn’t often use on it.

SPICES–The pros recommend that you alphabetize them, and this really does help you find what you want. Unfortunately, I have all different brands in all different containers, and have never found a spice rack to accommodate them. (I’m too cheap to start over). I keep mine in a drawer. They are out of the way, but hard to find. If you are just starting out, buy all of your spices in the same size container and alphabetize them on a spice rack away from the heat of the stove.

ADDITIONAL STORAGE AREA–Mine is in the garage. A couple of months ago I mentioned how I got it: after several years of waiting for my husband to
build shelves, I bought 1×16 shelving and cinderblocks and put up my own boards-and-brick shelves. They work great!! They were in my basement in our other house, and I moved them to our garage here. I also hang up everything I can in the garage. Unfortunately, our garage is usually a mess anyway–but IT COULD BE WORSE! I’m going to try to get my son to help me tackle it today.

CLOSET and CUPBOARD DOORS–Close ‘em! I’ve noticed that those of us who have a problem with housekeeping seem to have a really hard time doing this–and yet we have the most to hide! When did you visit the home of a really good housekeeper and see cupboard doors left ajar? This is an area I’m really working on.

A lot of this stuff may seem really basic to you, but most of it was a revelation to me! I hope it helps you de-junk and maintain. Happy homemaking!

SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho

(These tips were originally submitted to an old discussion board I used to run … does anyone know how to contact Maxine these days?)

Here’s Maxine’s next Housekeeping Tip:  Put It On the Calendar

NOTE: Be sure to stop by and “Like” A Frugal Simple Life on Facebook:-)

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