Whether you’re staring down a quarantine, prepping to stay inside while the panic passes, or just hoping to max out your next trip to the grocery store, it can be hard to find a place to put surplus items—especially if you live in a small home or apartment.
Precariously stacking everything in one corner of your living room is always an option. But rather than add to an already stressful situation, we thought we’d help you find a solution that will calm some of that chaos.
We asked organization pros from all over the country for tips to help max out space in your place, no matter how many cans of food and rolls of toilet paper you stock up on.
1. Remove packaging
One of the best ways to start saving space on all your extra supplies? Ditch the bulky packaging.
“Cardboard packaging often takes up double or triple the space of its actual contents,” says Amy Bloomer, owner of Let Your Space Bloom. “Removing it is a huge space saver.”
Bloomer recommends stripping excess cardboard packaging from nonperishable food items, toilet paper, medication, and frozen food, just to name a few. Once you recycle all that cardboard, you’ll realize you have more space than you originally thought.
2. Make good use of the freezer
Speaking of frozen food, your freezer is good for way more than just holding all those sad, preservative-filled microwave dinners.
“Just about any fresh food item can be frozen,” says Kait Schulhof, founder of A Clean Bee. “For example, I recently juiced about 10 lemons that we weren’t eating fast enough. I transferred the lemon juice to an ice tray and froze the rinds as well.
“The lemon cubes can now be added to hot water drinks, used in cleaning projects, and more. The rinds can be used sparingly in smoothies, grated in recipes, or used to infuse distilled white vinegar for cleaning purposes.”
Buy up some fresh fruits and veggies, then store them in your freezer for weeks of healthy meals.
3. Keep heavy stuff low to the ground
One of the hardest parts about storing a surplus of items is figuring out where to keep the heavy stuff, like large bottles of water.
“Keep heavier items, such as the water bottles, either on the floor or on low shelves, to avoid shelf collapse,” suggests Sherri Curley of The Practical Sort. “Create shelving that can support the weight of the bottles if you need to.”
Another trick of Curley’s: Buy stackable packs, smaller bottles, or narrow gallon bottles to fit more per shelf—one in front of the other. “Round bottles are less friendly for nestling,” she says.
4. Buy a stepladder—and go vertical
While it makes sense to keep the heavy stuff close to the ground, don’t be afraid to go vertical when it comes to lightweight supplies like toilet paper and other paper goods.
“Invest in a foldable footstool,” Curley says. “The top third of most closets isn’t used effectively and efficiently, because it’s difficult to reach for most folks.”
Remove your lightweight goods from their excess packaging and stack them in the tops of your closets or on top of high furniture in spare rooms.
5. Look for hiding places in other rooms
We’re guessing you don’t have a ton of visitors at the moment, making your extra bedrooms and guest rooms the perfect place to store stuff.
“If you bought extra supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, hygiene products, or other nonedible items, and you are short on the space where you normally keep those items, store those under beds or dressers in your bedrooms or guest bedrooms,” says Eileen Roth of Everything in its Place.
“If you have empty drawers in a dresser for guests, you could also use those drawers, or extra space in the guest bedroom closet.”
6. Do some spring cleaning (since you’re stuck at home anyway)
If you need more storage for your extra supplies, here’s a wild idea: Clear out space for them!
“Create storage space in your home by decluttering your current storage areas, like garages, laundry room areas, closets, and even under the beds,” says Nancy Haworth of On Task Organizing. “You can use clear plastic under-bed boxes to hold toiletries and paper goods, or even repurpose an extra room or an entire closet for overstock storage.”
Need more organization for your new storage space? Add in some free-standing wire shelving from Amazon.
7. Create a ‘store’ to organize your inventory
When you’re stocking up and shoving everything you bought under beds and in the back of closets, it’s easy to forget what you have. That’s why Julie Brooks, of Peaceful Place Organizers, recommends keeping all your supplies out in the open in a makeshift “store.”
“Designate an area near the kitchen as the store,” she says. “This is where all back stock of food and toiletries will be kept. Keep similar items in semi-clear containers that are labeled and can be stacked.”
With an in-home store, you’ll always know how much of each item you have left, and how quickly you’re using them.
“It prevents your whole living space from becoming a warehouse, and it also evokes a sense of normalcy and alleviates anxiety about scarcity,” Brooks says. “It’s important to maintain a visually calm, peaceful space in this stressful time.”
8. Pace yourself
Although it might be tempting to buy every last item in the store, take a minute to consider what you really need.
“I know that there’s a lot of panic about being quarantined, but it’s important to be mindful when stocking up on surplus items,” says Katy Winter of Katy’s Organized Home. “Are you buying things with an expiration date? For example, medicine? Ask yourself how many bottles of Tylenol or how many cough drops are really necessary.”
Then ask yourself if it’s still something you’ll need in the coming weeks or months, when the panic dies down.