The single most transformative product that I suggest to my clients is a set of freestanding shelves. When the floor is littered with stuff, the fastest way to pick it up and get it organized is via a shelf unit. Shelves are my secret weapon. I appear completely clever when I suggest the perfect set of shelves. A shelf unit is a great way to sort, organize, condense and clarify a bunch of stuff. Shelves are especially useful for someone who is visually oriented, i.e., he needs to SEE what he has. The following information may be elementary to some, but if you are unfamiliar with shelf units this is a primer on their characteristics that will help you decide the best type for your needs.
Shelving units are available locally and on the web. There are many options and your choice depends on what you are storing (and where). Do a little research then go for it. If your shelf unit turns out to be unsatisfactory for the intended purpose it can always be moved to a different location for a new life. The characteristics to consider are: material, size, quality, and function.
First, material. There are plastic, metal, solid wood and composite wood units. Plastic is a great choice for basements because it does not rust in dampness. Plastic is also lightweight. Metal tends to be stronger but strength really depends on the design and quality. Metal shelves are a good choice in the garage or basement to hold heavy bulky items as they generally withstand more weight. Solid wood (pine, oak, cherry) is pricier but prettier. Solid wood shelves are a perfect fit for a family room or bedroom. Shelves made of finished plywood are also a good, strong, choice that goes well in living areas. The composite wood options (chip board, particle board, medium density fiberboard - look up differences if you really want to know) are economical, tend to look fairly nice in living areas and are available in many sizes and configurations. These can be “cheap” in that the wood material can tear or break at the cam and bolt fasteners and are difficult to repair. They also tend to be dense and, therefore, heavy.
Second, size. Really think about the purpose of the unit so that you are not disappointed. Plan what will be stored on each shelf unit; ideally similar items are grouped together on each shelf and unit. Measure and count existing bins to estimate space required. An average size for a plastic unit that works well for general storage is three feet wide by six feet tall by eighteen inches deep (front to back). Of course the size will depend on your available space. A common size for a metal unit that holds larger, heavier contents can be more like five or six feet wide by six feet tall and eighteen to twenty-four inches deep. This sounds awfully large but when you have multiple large bins it is exactly what you need.
Third, quality. Read the product information to determine whether each shelf will support the intended items without sagging. Units are rated for maximum load per shelf, for example, 50, 100, or 250 pounds. Look at a display if possible to see if the material looks sturdy. Often the relative cost gives you an idea of quality. Buy one and try it out before purchasing multiple units. Purchase the best quality you can afford because you will appreciate it for years to come.
Fourth, function. What you will store on the shelves determines the best material and surface. Think about the types of things you want to store: linens, bins, large items, cleaners, pantry items, books, toiletries, food, or small appliances. Then determine the best fit. Think scale. I often see small, rickety plastic units in garages where sturdy, large, metal units would make more sense. Wire shelves are okay for boxes and bins but exceedingly frustrating for small items that tip over or fall through. However, wire shelves can be fitted with thin, rigid plastic liners to steady small items. In fact, some units come equipped with them. Regarding cleaning, wire shelves and honeycomb plastic shelf surfaces collect less dust so require infrequent cleaning. A solid shelf surface (plastic, metal or wood) collects dust but on the positive side will contain spills.
Here are some examples for deciding what to purchase for particular situations.
--If you want to organize bulk kitchen supplies in the basement, choose a plastic unit three feet wide with a honey comb type shelf surface. The shelves should be twelve to eighteen inches deep so all items are visible and none get buried in the back.
--To organize equipment stored in the basement choose metal shelves that are eighteen or twenty-four inches deep to easily accommodate bins, holiday décor, camping/sports equipment.
--To organize books, toys, or clothes in a child’s room, choose a composite wood unit two feet tall by three feet wide with one foot square compartments. For safety, make sure to take the time to secure all units to the wall using a strap or bracket.
As mentioned above, a shelf unit can be the turning point in getting a space organized. Shelves facilitate a key organizing concept: declutter the floor.