If cleanliness is next to godliness, then simplicity is next to greenness. Many of us own so much stuff that figuring out ways to simplify, store, and condense should rank as a top priority. I found this out just a few weeks ago when I cleaned out my closet and discovered piles of forgotten new clothes. I'd basically just increased my wardrobe by 10% and crossed a whole bunch of items off my shopping list, too.
This week, Green Dad looks at some handy consumer goods that make streamlined storage and simplified living/working spaces a snap. The list comes not just by way of weekly research, but personal experience. I can vouch for quite a few of the items through overwhelmingly positive firsthand experience, starting with the first item on the list.
Hard drives rank among the most elegant storage solutions on the planet. Why hold onto 1,000 CDs, for example, when you can store every single song on a drive that fits in the palm of your hand? Try this factory-refurbished Western Digital My Book Essential Edition 1TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive ($49.99 plus $7.99 s&h, a low of $15). A drive this big can hold 250,000 songs, 200,000 photos, or 120 hours of video, which gets all your files in line.
Stackable storage tubs may not rank as sexy as a hard drive, but boy are they versatile: What can't these things hold and store indefinitely, aside from perishables? Around our house, we use them for everything from holiday decorations to afghans passed down from my grandmom. This Sterilite 30-Gallon Storage Bin 6-Pack ($53.82 with $3.97 s&h, a low by $15) gives you ample storage for all your odds and ends, and it comes to just $9.67 per bin.
Closet shelving units are for serious neat freaks, and I plan on graduating to one as soon as I can save up the dough. Hats off to Elfa for creating some of the most space-efficient and snazzy closet solutions around, and they're currently on sale at the Container Store's website. Yes, some of these Elfa closet solutions top $3,000, but a great place to start on a budget is the Elfa Platinum Reach-In Closet Package ($529.47 with pickup, $75 off). Note that this package is designed for a standard space, with two bifold doors from 75" to 78" wide with a minimum 8-foot ceiling, 2-foot depth, and no fuse boxes, cables, or other obstructions. To check out other Elfa packages on sale, click here.
Stackable crates are cheap, easy ways to tidy up closet space until you have the dough for one of those sleek storage systems. I use them in my closet at present, and they work great: All you need are the typical office-supply crates for filing folders that have interlocking fittings on the sides. I have 10 on my closet's back wall, and they snap together like LEGO blocks when I put them up. Any brand's a good bet, but I'll give a shout out here to the ones I use, the OfficeMax File Crates ($7.49 for one plus $7.95 s&h; check here for coupons).
Loft beds make the most of a small bedroom footprint, and kids love 'em because they create a personal, cozy nook that's ideal for studying or whatnot. You can easily spend more than $2,000 on a loft bed with all the bells and whistles. But this Dorel X Loft Bed and Workstation ($199.98 with free shipping; Walmart charges the same with free Site-to-Store) has sleek, minimalist flair at a great price.
An over-the-door pocket shoe organizer in the pantry? You bet; my wife uses this trick to store bulky and odd-shaped items (such as aluminum foil rolls) in a way that makes them easy to stack and locate. Any old shoe tree will do here, but I'd recommend the Household Essentials 24-Pocket Canvas Organizer ($15.29 with $5.99 s&h, a low by $7). Definitely give this a try, because it really does streamline storage. (FYI, the last time I checked there was no such way of retrofitting a spice rack to store ties in your closet.)
Cable ties for wires tidy up electronic cords faster than you can say "Lost that %^@!! remote again." A note of caution here: Don't zip-tie cables that you anticipate replacing at some point, as you'll have lots of work to undo and redo them somewhere down the road. Otherwise, bundle your cables at least every foot or so. This 39" Cable Tie Roll ($2.99 with free shipping) offers one of the cheapest such options you can find for the task.
Pot and lid organizers are a tricky lot because, in many cases, the solution looks dorkier than the problem. Burly hanging racks make it seem like your kitchen belongs in a skit at Medieval Times, while most of the flimsy lid organizers I've checked out don't look ready for prime time. A cost-effective and wonderfully simple compromise, this Enclume Shelf Pot Rack ($64.20 with free shipping, a low by $16) will fit unobtrusively in a corner of your kitchen, and it comes with six hooks that slide to hold your pots and pans. Above them, six slots make for a neat space to tuck your lids. It has a holding capacity of 100 pounds and it's American-made, further inspiring my confidence in this product.
Photo credit: thatjonjackson via Flickr