The biggest trend I’m noticing in home organization is the need for flexibility and fluidity. Napans have been buffeted by the waves of fires, a pandemic and a crazy election year and, like the Weebles who wobble, we haven’t fallen down but have learned to adapt. The ways we store things is one example.

There’s a shortage of storage units in some parts of the state, and with good reason. Things move so quickly these days: houses are being listed and sold within hours, work in an office becomes work from home, home becomes school, etc. A storage unit that can be used as a staging ground to allow decisions about keeping or letting something go can be a sanity saver. It’s hard to believe that I’m promoting the storage unit, although I still believe that in the majority of cases it should be a temporary landing pad.

That said, to complement the tiny house trend a storage unit can be a nice off-site closet, holiday seasonal cupboard or tool shed. When storing clothing, art, kitchen items and things that need to be kept clean garages, basements and attics don’t work nearly as well as a temperature-controlled storage unit. These lockers are on the inside of storage unit buildings where dust and pests are less of an issue.

So, for my clients who are not quite ready to part with clothing that still fits and they might still wear or seasonal items that there’s not room for in a new space, I am embracing the storage unit. To my mind, it is much better to store rarely used items off-site than to cram closets, cupboards and garages with them.

Having a thorough inventory, preferably with photos, of what is in storage is essential. A schedule of trading out seasonal items from home to storage will help you to remember and thus use the stuff, or at least review it season to season so that you can continue to let things go if they are not useful. I don’t recommend storing family photos and photo albums in storage because like garages, attics, and basements, storage units are photograph gravesites. Once photo albums end up boxed in a garage or storage unit they are very rarely unearthed.

Speaking of photo albums, rather than have your home and storage inventory photos on the computer or your phone, why not make a Shutterfly or use another digital photo album service to create a book you can leave with the executor of your estate or in a safe deposit box (or keep in your evacuation go bag)? It’s not cheap but it could be a fun project and the photo quality is much better than doing something similar on your computer.

If you’re on a tight budget though, a computer inventory with photos that you can print and staple together or keep in a binder is an option, and it is certainly easier and cheaper to edit as you add and delete items from your space.

In a similar way that a storage unit can be used to table decisions or shuffle your stuff as you try out new ways to use your home space, you should also have areas in the home to temporarily hold things that are shifting around. Items rarely used or that may be on the chopping block should have a path to shuffle along until you make a final decision. For example, lotions, hotel soaps, or shampoo you didn’t love can mosey to a guest bathroom. If they loiter there unproductively for a while, they might get bused to a box in the laundry room “just in case” before eventually being thrown away if they still remain untouched.

Rarely used kitchen appliances and dishes could filter to upper laundry shelves and, if not used in six months to a year, possibly to a garage area for pantry overflow and then, if more time passes without use of them, to donation sites. Of course, the flow can reverse course if you decide something is back in favor. A juicer might get relegated to a high shelf in the laundry room only to be brought back to the kitchen counter if you decide to start making fresh juice every day.

To be able to have this flexibility it’s important to remember the 80/20 rule. We use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. The other 80% sits there. And, we need to leave 20% worth of space in our closets, cupboards, shelves and drawers to allow for movement as we reassess and rearrange our lives.

For example, you need a more prominent and accessible spot for your go bag and evacuation important documents box during fire season than during winter. You shouldn’t have to reorganize entire cupboards or closets to allow these seasonal shifts, nor should your evacuation box have to sit exactly next to the door with your car keys from August to mid-November (unless there’s a red flag warning, then by all means, it should be by the door or in the car and ready).

Give yourself a huge hug for me! We are almost through an incredibly tough year. If you were anything like me, during 2020 you needed a lot more latitude in what “organized” looks like, and maybe a little extra storage space.