Optimizing Storage Furniture

If you’ve got storage furniture like sideboards, credenzas, hutches, and end tables, I’m going to help YOU optimize! These pieces are used throughout the home to “store stuff” but they catch randomized junk and their contents are forgotten. Follow this easy process to eliminate the clutter and make each storage piece useful in your home.

This sideboard is situated in the family room near the dining table and woodstove. You can see that storage containers had multiplied underneath it because it was not providing sufficient storage for the dining table.

Cluttered storage furniture

Things like games and extra paper napkins and reading material were stowed in these wooden trays because there wasn’t enough room inside the cabinets and drawers.

If you’ve got additional bins and trays and baskets full of stuff you use NEAR a piece of furniture or inside a room, ASK WHY!

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Why were additional containers needed? Was the storage furniture full or just non-purposed?

Sighting these additional containers is a good CLUE that your storage furniture isn’t working. And good organizing is like detective work; it involves noticing clues that lead you to solutions.

Now, let’s take a look inside this sideboard to learn more….

Cluttered storage sideboard

Evaluate & Empty

As we peek inside, we can see that these cabinets and drawers weren’t too messy; they were just storing a few old and unnecessary items; stealing the space from more frequently-used items that had to be contained as overflow.

As is common with sideboards and other storage furniture, the cabinet compartments on this piece are awkward and deep. Maybe furniture makers allow tall open cabinets for storing vases and the like?

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That’s why most storage furniture becomes disorganized: the compartments aren’t a practical size for the kinds of items you’re storing. In this case, drawers would have been more useful.

TIP: If you can afford to go back to the drawing board and select new furniture; that may be useful.

(You could always sell your ill-fitting furniture and recoup some cost.) It’s always best to consider WHAT you need to store BEFORE you buy storage furniture and then match the storage compartments to your belongings.

All this happens pretty fast early in the organizing process; and it’s my first step in virtually any organizing project: I EVALUATE and EMPTY the space.

After all these observations, I got busy emptying the cabinets and drawers. Luckily, it was a small project and didn’t take long at all.

Empty storage furniture

Categorize Contents

Here you can see that as I emptied, I categorized the contents of the sideboard.

The categories found in this dining sideboard were some things used at the mealtime table and some things that needed to be relocated.

The most important items found here, due to their point-of-use at the table, were:

  • Games, like cards and dice games
  • Reading material consumed at the table
  • Tableware, like coasters, napkins, and place setting placards
  • Napkin rings of all seasons and varieties

The lesser important items found herein, due to frequency-of-use, were:

  • Lace doilies & napkins – used for special parties and decor
  • Memorabilia – which didn’t really need to be stored here at all!

As I was categorizing, I used these two classic organizing principles: point-of-use and frequency-of-use. Be sure to evaluate both WHERE you use the items you discover as you unload and categorize and HOW OFTEN you use them.

The categorization process cannot be overlooked to achieve a quality solution. If you simply try to “tidy” the junk you’ve got crammed in each piece, you will miss the opportunity to thoughtfully assign a purpose to each piece of storage furniture.

Sorting by type before you re-arrange stuff within your furniture allows you to truly organize.

So, what happens to the stuff that doesn’t really belong?

Hanging linens in storage funirture

Re-Home Non-Necessaries

When you find items that don’t require the location or proximity they’ve been given in the furniture they dwell inside, it’s time to REHOME the non-necessary items.

Since I knew that the fancy napkins and doilies didn’t need to have prime real estate near the dining table based on how infrequently they were used; I relocated them to this armoire that houses table linens – a much more practical home with similar linens.

Removing these non-frequently used items from the dining sideboard freed up a whole drawer.

In addition, the memorabilia (like postcards and a folded American flag) went to the memorabilia closet.

TIP: Don’t let re-homing nomadic items derail your project.

It’s easy to go on “rabbit trails” trying to find just the right home for non-necessary items. Don’t let that happen! When our professional organizers are working with clients on projects, we will often establish a “Go Elsewhere” box (or series of boxes!) boldly labeled. This way, we can finish the project-at-hand and stay on task. Later, we can address the Go Elsewhere items and find good homes for each category of item.

Organized storage sideboard

Repurpose and Reload

After simplifying the kinds of items that get to live in this sideboard, the rest was “downhill!”

Next, I repurposed and reloaded this sideboard for two primary purposes:

  1. Tableware. Inside the drawers, I stowed coasters, napkins, and place setting placards in the top drawer and napkin rings in the bottom drawer.
  2. Dinner activities. Inside the cabinets, I containerized and stowed playing cards and matches in the left side cabinet and dinnertime reading material in the right side cabinet.

This step is where you introduce or repurpose bins – I added a drawer organizer – to contain contents

Optimizing Storage Furniture

Reclaim Surface

The last step to optimize your storage furniture is to claim the surface with something beautiful so that your furniture won’t become a dumping ground.

I reclaimed this space by placing one of the extra wooden trays on top of the sideboard (filled with games) and adding a pitcher with greens.

Well-organized storage furniture can provide purposeful, point-of-use stowage if you invest just a little time planning, sorting, and relocating items.

I hope you’re inspired to tackle your storage furniture! These handy case goods can take the burden off our kitchen cabinets and dedicated storage areas and provide site-suitable storage.

Best of all, this project only took me about 2 hours, including rehoming items I removed. Go ahead, get after those forgotten junk receptacles; each piece you tackle will bring greater function to your everyday life!

Your friend in life and space reclamation,

Vicki Norris


How to optimize storage furniture

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