U5.5 How to do it – Store

When you’ve finished digitising an item or a collection of items, the physical items that remain will need to be stored. While you’ve been sorting and organising the items, you may have been thinking about the size and type of containers you might need, which locations they might go into, and how the overall space might be utilised. Now is the time to firm up on those ideas. When deciding where to store stuff, it’s worth considering both what space is available and where you want to use the material. Clearly, if you are only ever going to use particular items in one part of your house, then it makes sense to store them in that part of the house. Likewise, If you are only ever going to use an item at a desk, it makes sense to store it in or next to the desk. Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to locate the material in the most appropriate place – but at least if one understands the most desirable place, then the most effective compromise can be made.

When you have established the space you are going to use for storage, it’s important to make the best use of that space. This often requires exploring all sorts of possible configurations to come up with the best solution. The following general principles taken from the 2 pager on ‘Practical approaches to Order from Chaos’ may help you to do that:

  • Ensure there is easy access wide enough to walk through and to get the largest objects in and out.
  • Avoid piling things one on top of another – piles make it very hard to remove things and put them back. If it is absolutely necessary, then make it just two or three or four large things like boxes which can be easily lifted off of one another rather than lots of little things. Try to avoid piles of books and papers at all cost. This also applies when you put things into boxes.
  • Avoid putting things one in front of the other unless the one behind is much taller than the one in front – it’s important to be able to see what is there and to be able to get things in and out easily.
  • Make full use of all the space – including the height. This may entail installing shelving. It may also require some experimentation to put the right shaped things into the most appropriate spaces – it’s rare to come up with the most effective arrangement at your first shot.  A particular instance of this is when using adjustable height shelving; there will be an optimum – but rarely an obvious – height for each of the shelf spaces, but it may take a little trial and error to establish what they are.
  • Finally, if possible, put things into enclosed spaces to avoid the dust accumulating. For books I am a total convert to glass fronted bookcases – particularly the IKEA BILLY range. Documents can go in filing cabinets (bit clunky though) or desk hanging folders (but they always seem to fall apart and get stuffed too full), or briefcase type filing boxes (small but pretty handy) or display folders with transparent pockets (you can get ones with 40 pockets from Wilko for about £3 – they will take 80 different A4 size documents if you use both sides, and they will sit neatly on a bookshelf – this is one of my favourite types of storage containers). For other items, I always try to put things in boxes or suitcases or plastic bags. [Another sort of container not mentioned in this extract from ‘Practical approaches…’ is the photo album with slots for slip-in descriptive tabs. If informative file titles are used, the titles can be copied and printed out for use in the slip-in slots.

Some other general points from other experienced organisers are also worth bearing in mind:

  • From Liz Davenport: A common mistake people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out. This approach is a fatal trap. Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out…. Each file drawer should have at least two inches of play in it so when you want to file something, you can easily open the file with two fingers and drop in whatever you need to file.
  • From Marie Kondo: The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have…. The essence of effective storage is to designate a space for everything you own….. The five criteria for choosing storage containers are size, material, durability, ease of use, and attractiveness. Shoe boxes come out top by this set of criteria!

Once an item has been stored, it usually becomes invisible, concealed within its container. However, in some cases, it is possible to have the best of both worlds by using a container that doubles as a display mechanism. An obvious way to achieve this is to use a display cabinet. However, another approach is to frame items either singly or as a collage, and to hang the frame on the wall – examples of both approaches are shown in the photo below. Bookcases are, of course, specifically designed with this dual storage/display capability. Wherever possible, you should try to design storage solutions which double as display mechanisms so that items can be seen and appreciated with minimal effort.

All the above guidance relates to physical objects. However, there will also be a need to provide storage within your computer system for your digital objects. Such storage will be within a folder system, and you may be tempted to create multiple layers of folders to provide structure and organisation for its contents. As a general rule, I try to avoid this because, apart from anything else, navigating multiple layers of folders can become very tedious and time consuming. If your file titles are informative, as discussed in U5.4.2, then there will be less need to embed structure into folder layers and folder names can be kept as short as possible.

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