Tips to Declutter Your Storage Room

Welcome to our storage room, also known as the Dumping Ground for Everything We Don’t Know What To Do With! From tools, to toys, to batteries, and old workout equipment, this space has gotten out of control over the past couple of years. In fact, lately, you could barely even walk through here. Yikes!

My best tips to declutter your storage room

I actually shared the first peek at our storage room exactly two years ago when I showcased our new tool storage in here (which we still love, btw). Since then, we’ve had another child and I’ve done countless DIY projects, so it’s gotten much more cluttered. During those projects, I was always coming in here, getting supplies, and haphazardly putting my extra paint, grout, or tile back in here. Not good.

Why Should You Declutter Your Storage Room?

Our messy storage room

I hope I’m not alone in having a garage or storage room that needs a good purge. I think it can be easy to just grow into the space you have. We have this big storage room and crawlspace, so we would just put stuff in here, even though we didn’t actually need all of it.

Our messy storage room before

Even though this space is out of sight, having a bunch of stuff and clutter can really weigh on you. Even worse is when you actually need something that you’ve been holding onto and storing, and you can’t find it! If this sounds familiar, I hope you’ll learn some things from today’s post and apply them to your own home.

Set Aside The Time

First, I think it’s important to set aside time to tackle this big project. I blocked out four hours in my work day to focus on our storage room. (Spoiler alert: I ended up needing a few more hours to finish it!) Put the time in your calendar, wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting a little yucky, and put some headphones on to liven things up. I listened to music and podcasts throughout my afternoon of decluttering and tried to make the most of this task.

Clear Out The Big Stuff

Make piles in your yard while you organize

It was hard to even move around our storage room because of all of the stuff in here. I chose a day with nice weather, so I could move lots of the items to our side yard while I worked on the space. Removing some of the big items that were in the way gave me some breathing room.

Make Donate/Trash/Sell/Keep Piles

In the side yard, I started “Donate”, “Trash”, “Sell”, and “Keep” piles, so I would know exactly where to place items as I was bringing them out of our storage room. We have a side door from our storage room that leads outside, so this was very helpful. I found myself going up and down those little stairs many times during this day!

I recommend loading up on some contractor bags for any items that you’ll be trashing. They’re a bit thicker and heftier than a normal garbage bag and they can contain all of the trash you’ll be getting rid of during your big decluttering day!

Sort Into Categories

My best tips to declutter your storage room and tools

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty overwhelmed at first. Where the heck should I even begin? I decided to start with my tools and project supplies since they were scattered throughout the entire space. I walked around and brought them all to one area where I could go through everything, bin by bin.

I tossed old supplies, added extra tools to my donate piles, and did my best to sort each item into categories. Because I do so many DIY projects, I accumulate a lot of random supplies. During my most recent bathroom renovation, I was having so much trouble finding certain tools that I knew I owned! It felt good to get everything in working order so that I won’t run into that same problem for my next project.

Take It All Out

Organizing our tools in the basement

I’m a big fan of the “Take everything out and only put back what you truly need” method for every box and drawer. This forces you to make a decision on every single item. Plus, you can then put things back with intention and in an organized manner.

As for figuring out what to keep and what to throw away, I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to stuff. Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should hold onto it. As I mentioned, clutter can weigh on you and it certainly does for me. Just knowing that our storage unit was a big ol’ mess gave me anxiety every time I walked into the basement, even with the door closed to that space!

Really think through each item and ask yourself if you need it, if you regularly use it, and if it’s something that makes you happy. I know, I’m going all Marie Kondo on you, but it’s true! Don’t hold onto stuff just because.

Keep Sentimental Items Safe

Sentimental items
Finn made this collage for me back in 2004 for our 9-month anniversary of dating! Can’t believe it has survived all of these years!

Four years ago, while still living in our old condo, we rented a storage unit nearby. During winter, a pipe froze at the storage facility, and all of our possessions were ruined. You can read more about it here. We were forced to get rid of a majority of our childhood treasures. Now, we each have only one or two small plastic bins with pictures and yearbooks that we were able to salvage from that flood.

keep sentimental items safe
A pic of little Casey before a dance recital

Luckily, with our most recent flood, those bins were up high on a shelf and in plastic containers, so they didn’t see any water damage. Just be thoughtful about the stuff that is really important to you. I recommend plastic containers with lids and strategic placements within your home.

Wait to Buy Storage Bins

My best tips to declutter your storage room

These storage shelves were actually left by the previous owners and we’ve used them since Day One of living here. When you have shelves like these, it’s important to measure them and find containers that will maximize the space. We like these clear bins because we can get a peek at the contents inside and they fill the space perfectly!

However, I always recommend waiting until you’re finished decluttering your storage room before you go out and buy, buy, buy! Declutter first and organize second!

How to Dispose of Old Needles

All of the needles for my baby
Announcing our pregnancy with Rory in 2019

We had one bin in particular that was a bit heavy to go through. It was a large plastic bin filled with thousands of used needles from my pregnancies. They’ve stuck around because we never took the time to figure out the proper and safe way to dispose of them. Now, I finally had the emotional bandwidth to tackle this task.

How to safely dispose of used needles

I found this site to be really helpful in figuring out the best way to dispose of used needles. Every area has different parameters for disposal, so be sure to consult the site before tossing. Here in Illinois, they recommend putting used sharps in strong, plastic containers. I then duct-taped them shut and wrote “do not recycle” on them before tossing each bin in the trash. Most cities have drop-off sites too, if you want to go that route.

How to Dispose of Old Paint

Paint cans in our storage room

Paint was another category I needed to tackle. I’ve gone through so many cans of paint over the four years of living in this house and I had quite a few gallons to dispose of. Again, consult your city guidelines for this one. Here in Chicago, they recommend drying up the paint with kitty litter or sawdust to absorb the paint in the can. Then, throw it away. This site has more details.

Where to Donate Building Materials

The final category that took some research for me was building materials. I have extra tile, lumber, and tools and didn’t know the best place to donate these materials. I ended up bringing a car load of stuff to my local Habitat for Humanity Restore. Each store has guidelines for donations (here’s my local one), so be sure to consult that before showing up with your haul.

Make Donation Trips Immediately

Make sure you take donations immediately

I had some pretty sizable donation piles at the end of my decluttering day. Instead of calling it a day, I loaded up all of the stuff into my trunk and went and donated it immediately. Why? Because oftentimes you declutter, make a donation pile, and then that pile just sits there taking up space in your home for the next month or longer. I didn’t want that to happen, so I made a point to get it out of the house right away. Build that into your time.

List Items to Sell Right Away

Selling items on Facebook Marketplace

Another pile that can stick around is the “To Sell” one. We had some baby and home items that were in good condition, so I took photos of them right away – while still out in our yard – to sell. Facebook Marketplace is my go-to for selling unwanted goods and I was able to make about $350 from items that were just sitting and collecting dust! Here’s a blog post with all of my best tips to sell on Facebook Marketplace.

Our Storage Room – Now

My best tips to declutter your storage room

Is this the most glamorous storage room in the world? Absolutely not. I have mismatched bins, no labels in sight, and things are not picture-perfect over here. But, it’s 10x better than it was and you can actually walk through the space now!

Our organized storage room
Getting our tools organized
Our tool storage

The top of our tool storage bench hasn’t been clear in months, so it was nice to finally get that space back!

What’s Left To Do?

My best tips to organize and declutter your storage room

There are a lot of random cords throughout the space that we need to remove and/or tuck away better. For example, there is a 30-year-old security system that is dangling off the wall. I think we could snip that right off and get it outta here. As for the others, I think they need some tacking up to the ceiling so it’s less hazardous walking through here.

My best tips to organize your tools

I would also like to buy another storage piece for the tool area to hold more items. That bench currently has old drop cloths in it, but I’m sure I could find something a tad more functional.

I’d also like to whip out my fave label maker and go to town on a few of the bins. You know it’s little stuff like that that can make our lives easier!

Are You Ready to Declutter Your Storage Room?

My best tips to organize your storage room

What do you say? Are you motivated to get rid of some of your excess stuff and streamline your life and home? I know you can do it!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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