May I introduce you to my home? It contains a lot of stuff. A LOT. OF STUFF. I suspect I am not the only one. If you choose not to be minimalist (or minimalist in spirit but not practice), you end up having to find a place for all that stuff. Once your closets are full (oh, yes!), or if you don’t have many closets (I know your pain), we often end up looking at cabinets or shelves for the rest. And that is a good option for items we use often, like shelf-stable food or cookie sheets or toiletries. But the option will fail if it’s not sufficiently organized.
It helps to be able to find what you need AND minimize visual clutter in the process. Shelving is great because it is easy to access. It can be a problem, though, if it’s just more layers of unknown piles stacking to the ceiling. If what you need is buried, you can’t get it and you are oppressing your brain in the process!
Sort. Sort. Sort. Put like items together. Make it easy to see where things are in a split-second glance. Consider also which items are often used together. Mixing bowls can be in the section next to the brownie mix. Plastic food storage containers can be in the section next to the plastic bags for post-dinner clean-up.
Do your best to fit the items to the shelf size. Big shelf, big stuff. Push the little things to the smaller shelves. The less you have stacked, the easier it is to put your hand on it when needed. This also goes for bookshelves. Keep the big, tall books on the taller shelves and the short paperbacks on the more narrow shelves. It will fill the space better and look neat.
Put what you use most where it is easiest to reach. The heavier, less frequently used stuff can go on the very bottom shelf. The lighter items can go on the top shelf. You will see and reach for the middle shelves the most, so save yourself a few inches.
Hide what you can in plain sight. We’ve already discussed closets, but this is also for shelving out in a room. Using baskets or bins or banker’s boxes covered in contact paper will help cut down on the clutter in the room. It is there, but you don’t have to look at it until you need it. Using a neutral color for the bins or paper cover will make the shapes blend into the background. Or you can take the opportunity to add a pop of color to the room.
Mix up your shelving. You can use the same set of shelves for books, a few boxes, a vase with flowers, a few picture frames, and toy storage. Bonus: it looks decorative, just like in catalogs! This will also help relieve some of the pressure to fill the shelf with whatever you had earmarked for it. Keep what you need and is meaningful. If you only need enough books, toys and pictures to fill one shelving unit — excellent. If it eventually expands to two, no problem, but resist the urge to force the expansion just to fill space. Note: you will still need to sort into separate areas. For instance, one shelf is books, one shelf is half books and half pictures, and the bottom shelf is toys.