It sure was a dilemma.
In every room, there seemed to be things we needed to keep, but I just didn’t know where to keep them. As a professional organizer, I’ve dealt with storage of all kinds, but I’d never felt as stumped as I did when we decided to rent out our tiny 770-square-foot beach home on the weeks the family didn’t use it.
Storage is a common challenge for a vacation homeowner, and with our tiny home, storage was limited to begin with. I knew both our family and the arriving guests needed a place to store things. So many things we use at the beach, from bicycles to beach rafts to suntan lotion, just don’t need to be hauled home between visits. On the other hand, as the property owner, not everything you use personally is an item you want to share, or you might not want to accept the liability for their use, as in the case of beach floats and rafts.
Vacation Home Storage: Build It Yourself!
After putting my mind to it, I realized there are two possible approaches to storage for both the renter and the owner. You might find one approach works in one room, but you need a different approach in another space. The first approach is to empty space in existing cabinets and closets so the renter has room for their things. The second strategy is to add storage designed just for the renter and keep the original storage for yourself.
With some creative thinking, I was able to find storage for our renters and leave our things pretty much in place. I will admit it was a good opportunity to remove the clutter of items we didn’t really use. Here are some of my ideas you might try in your own rental.
You’ll surely want to leave items you always wear when at your vacation rental. In my case that included swimwear, cover-ups, flip-flops, summer outfits, jackets for cool nights and so on. On the other hand, your guest will want to hang up their clothing, too.
One solution is to replace your traditional dresser with an armoire. Choose an armoire that offers a hanging bar as well as a few drawers. Allocate this space to your renters.
Next, add a lock to your closet so you can use it to store your personal items. Your guests won’t need to access the closet because they can use the armoire. Since you’ll be leaving the drawers of the armoire empty, add a cart of rolling drawers to the bottom of your closet to hold folded items.
Choosing a nightstand that offers drawers for storage is also a good idea. You can use those drawers to hold extra bedding or a spare blanket, useful for both you and your guests. Adding coat hooks or over-the-door hooks to the back of the bedroom door can provide additional clothing space for anyone using the room.
Of course, storage in your bathroom will depend on the layout and what is available. One of the best solutions is to add freestanding storage. You can use the usually-wasted space over your toilet by adding a space-saver unit. You can choose from shelves, cabinets or a combination of the two. This freestanding unit provides a place for toiletries for your guests. For yourself, you can add a locking doorknob to the linen closet or have a carpenter add a lock to your vanity cabinet.
Additionally, adding a hamper, additional towel bars and robe hooks increases bathroom storage and provides usable features for everyone.
While I didn’t leave much in the way of food when I’d leave our beach house, I did have a very nice collection of spices, vinegars and other items like canned goods and popcorn. I didn’t mind leaving it out until the day arrived that someone had packed up our spices and taken them home. I like to think it happened accidentally, but it was an inconvenience to return to the store on a busy holiday weekend to get goodies to cook with. After that, I decided some locked kitchen storage was in order.
In my case, because the kitchen was so tiny, I added a locking doorknob to a hall linen closet. Then I placed my cooking items in some easily-moved totes. They could move from the pantry shelf in the kitchen to the closet to be locked up. I didn’t want to lock the pantry entirely, as our guests needed a place to stash food and drinks.
Depending on your kitchen size and storage, you have a couple of options. You can add a lock to a cabinet or pantry, purchase a freestanding cabinet that locks or simply move your items, as I did.
Both you and your guests will need a place to put things you use on vacation. This could include bikes, beach chairs, golf clubs, boogie boards, rafts, hiking gear and so on. Choosing storage again depends on what is available to you. If you have a storage closet in the garage, you could add a lock. Or, you could add storage shed to the back of your property for personal use.
Freestanding deck storage boxes are a great idea for your guests to use. They are waterproof and come in a variety of sizes. There are some that are essentially a cabinet with shelves. This a great option for use on a back deck or near an outdoor shower to hold beach towels, sand toys and lotions.
No matter what storage you end up leaving for your guests, it is important for you to make sure they know it’s available. As part of the material you provide your renters, include a list of available storage areas and invite them to make use of those spots.
As a final tip, keep in mind that code-activated locks might be a good solution for owner storage if multiple family members use the vacation home at different times. Instead of keeping track of who has the storage keys, simply install locks with a keypad. Your family can just punch in a code to open any locked doors.
Lea Schneider is a nationally recognized organizational and home storage expert who has rented out her own small beachfront vacation home from time to time. Lea writes about home storage for The Home Depot. To review a fine selection of armoires and other wardrobe pieces, you can visit the Home Depot website.