As we continue to stay home, work remotely and prepare for more online school in the fall, getting our space organized has become more important than ever. 

Even after culling and decluttering, you likely still have extra stuff you need to store — and finding permanent, convenient places for those things to live is the way to maintain organization without adding to your already-heavy workload. Here are some local organizing experts’ ideas, big and small, for finding more storage space within the space you already have.

Rethink single-function spaces

Many people are having to carve out work and school spaces from their already-full homes. One solution is to convert a spare bedroom or den into a multipurpose room by adding a wall bed and file storage. 

Sales of wall beds are up 25% this summer from last year, says Garrett Woodruff, owner of Northwest Closets & Wallbeds, a family-owned company in Auburn.

A typical Murphy bed and home-office setup costs about $3,000–$5,000, from design through installation, Woodruff says. 

Do-it-yourselfers can also find Murphy bed kits online.

Seattle-based organizer Kammie Lisenby is shown with a closet she reorganized (the “before” photo is at left). She advises people to find these “closed-door” spaces and put them to better use. (Courtesy of Kammie Lisenby)
Seattle-based organizer Kammie Lisenby is shown with a closet she reorganized (the “before” photo is at left). She advises people to find these “closed-door” spaces and put them to better use. (Courtesy of Kammie Lisenby)
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Find your ‘closed-door room’

Look for the hidden, underused spaces in your home. These spaces may be stuffed with forgotten clutter or underused furniture pieces, says Kammie Lisenby, the Seattle-based CEO of Organizing Experts and author of “Impact Organizing Method: The Experts’ Proven Method to Transform and Declutter Your Life for Same-Day Results.”

“The best hidden space in your home is really the ‘closed-door room,’ whether that’s your garage or pantry space,” she says. “For some people, they have an entire guest room that’s been developed into a storage room.” 

Lisenby argues that you don’t need a bed hogging space in your guest room; instead, downsize to a plush air mattress that you can stow in a closet. Then that closed-door room can be turned into a homework or workout space, or whatever it is that you need.

“If you think in terms of square footage in your house, it’s really expensive not to have a room function as you want it,” she says.

But say you don’t have the luxury of a spare room, and your dining table is buried under laptops and papers.

“I think dining room tables across America all probably look the same right about now,” Lisenby says. Here’s what she suggests: Put a bookcase or a storage ottoman near the dining table. Get clear plastic bins that fit on the shelves or inside the ottoman. Nightly (or on weekends), sweep the items into the bins and bring them back out as needed. For bonus points, use a label maker (Lisenby likes the Brother P-touch) to keep the bins organized and looking neat. And don’t forget to keep a recycling bin nearby; purging is half the battle.

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Keep schoolwork more under control with (clockwise from top left) a plastic folder bin with a handle for each child, a rolling cart (like the Ikea Raskog) to corral papers and a storage ottoman that can hide bins of work when not in use. (Photos via Office Depot, Ikea and Target)
Keep schoolwork more under control with (clockwise from top left) a plastic folder bin with a handle for each child, a rolling cart (like the Ikea Raskog) to corral papers and a storage ottoman that can hide bins of work when not in use. (Photos via Office Depot, Ikea and Target)

Provide portable storage for the kids

In a working parent’s dream world, the kids would do their Zoom meetings and schoolwork in their bedrooms, by themselves. But this is not a dream world.

“They’re going to want to be where you are,” says Linda Deppa, owner of Uncluttered Professional Organizing and Photo Organizing Services in Lynnwood. “That’s where they’re going to feel safe. They want to be close to Mom and Dad.”

Deppa, a mother of two, suggests getting a portable filing box with a handle for each child. It keeps all of their supplies together in one spot. Let the kids decorate the outside, and put hanging folders inside for each subject. This way, you’re not digging through piles of papers, and you’re also training kids to put their supplies away. Some boxes have a compartment on top to store pencils, or you can get a zippered pouch to hang in front. 

“It’s basically a portable desk or a portable storage system,” Deppa says. “It’s worked out beautifully for a lot of parents.”

Other options that can keep kids’ supplies corralled and transportable: a caddy, a cart on wheels (such as the ubiquitous Ikea Raskog cart) or a small file cabinet with casters.

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SafeRacks’ overhead storage systems can be used to maximize space in garages, says Lynnwood-based organizer Linda Deppa. (Courtesy of SafeRacks)
SafeRacks’ overhead storage systems can be used to maximize space in garages, says Lynnwood-based organizer Linda Deppa. (Courtesy of SafeRacks)

Go vertical in the garage

Christmas trees. Camping gear. Clothes you’re saving for the next kid. For the stuff you want to keep but don’t use often, get overhead racks that hang down from the rafters of your garage.

“All those kinds of things you don’t use very often, they need to go into the non-important real estate,” Deppa says.

Set up vertical shelving along the walls of your garage. Deppa’s favorite go-tos are the powder-coated SafeRacks shelving system ($150) and the Trinity wire-shelving rack on wheels ($119), both of which are available at Costco. “You’re investing not a lot, and you get a lot of bang for your buck,” she says.

Annie Traurig, a professional organizer in Seattle and founder of Live Simply, recommends the Flow Wall system for garages. After you install the wall panel, you can attach different components — cabinets, shelves, bins, hooks — that can be moved and rearranged.

“I think so, so often, vertical space goes underutilized,” Traurig says. “Especially in smaller spaces, it’s integral that you use every square inch that you have.”

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Keep decluttering

The golden rule of home organizing is purge, purge, purge. And even after finding more space, you shouldn’t stop editing down your possessions. After all, you don’t have to organize what you don’t own.

“I used to live there, in that [Goodwill] drive-through,” Lisenby says. She hasn’t been in four months, though, because of the pandemic. Goodwill drop-offs are opening up again, but donation lines are long.

Until you’re ready to queue up, designate a spot in your house to collect the things that no longer serve you. Lisenby recommends getting a clear plastic, stackable tote. “Having a defined, will-be-leaving-the-home-someday spot is good,” she says.