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Susan and Jim's goldmine storage room

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Ready for the storage room of your dreams? Take a look at this guy:

Susan and Jim have this gigantic storage room in their basement, and I do mean gigantic. At 15 feet wide by 35 feet long, this space is a storage goldmine, but as it stood it was being underutilized, and thus overflowing. Now to be fair, it was being asked to do a serious job! The room holds overflow storage from the kitchen—party and hosting gear, along with heirloom china. There’s the extra refrigerator, but there’s also all the summer outdoor cushions, and a ton of sports equipment, a handful of kayaks, all the holiday decorations—but mostly, there were boxes and boxes and boxes of records and memorabilia—an incredible volume of documentation of a long career on Capitol Hill. All of which was stored in decomposing cardboard boxes, in an unfinished room with insulation dripping from the ceiling. No bueno.

We knew that priority number one had to be ensuring that everything in the room, but especially the paperwork, was categorized, documented, and stored safely in the space. We began by removing everything from the room, working section by section. We unpacked each box, inventoried what was inside, and combined and consolidated into new plastic bins. Plastic is great for storage—not only can you see what’s inside at a glance, but the bins are a uniform size and shape, which makes storing and transporting them easier, and there is a decreased risk of mold or moisture problems on important items.

While we were working on inventorying and repacking items in the room, Susan took the time to deal with the dripping insulation problem by having the entire room finished. Installing drywall and paint gives the room a bit more in terms of climate control, and protects against some of the worst of the dust in the space. It also just looks way, way prettier.

The new inventory and coding system (below) is crucial for finding specific items in a space this large. It’s for it to be easy to know where to look for things, but also that you have a way to know for certain where to find that one document among the many identical boxes on a shelf. We did a few things: first, we made an Excel inventory of everything we repackaged. Second, we zoned the room by category, so that memorabilia, sports, career paperwork, kitchen items, holiday, general storage—each had its own area of the room. It’s easy to see at a glance where to look for, say, the Easter decorations. Finally, each box got a printed label with its number, location, category, and contents, so that there are several ways to find each and every item in the room.

We joked during the project that by the time we were finished, the room would feel so huge that Susan and Jim could host dance parties down there. So as a thank-you gift, once we finished we sent them a disco ball, which now hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the room. If that doesn’t make for the fanciest storage unit ever, I don’t know what would.



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