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Spaced Out

Deb Vos

• Rethink room function. Some churches save space by redesigning existing rooms to be function-specific. For example, various ages rotate through arts/crafts, media, storytelling, and group/prayer/worship rooms on a weekly or daily basis -- saving the need to house each of these components in every room.

• Update or eliminate equipment. Replace the piano with a small keyboard. Lapboards rather than tables work well for upper elementary and preteen kids. Many ­churches use stackable chairs or no chairs at all. Carpet squares work great in place of chairs-they can be stacked and set aside or arranged for comfy seating during teaching time. Check with carpet stores for free carpet samples.

Disorganized Storage Areas

No matter what size your church, storage is always an issue. Use these ideas to get disastrous storage areas under control.

• Get rid of it. Pare down "stuff." Purge your supplies, teaching materials, games, and more. This may be hard to hear -- and even harder to do -- but it's necessary. This is your first step in organization. Donate leftovers to other organizations. Host a garage sale. Throw away broken toys. Don't save those old crayons because you think you'll have time to melt and remold them later. Purge every six months, and create a team to join you for these biannual Purge Parties.

During our portable church days, every week we towed a trailer with nine wheeled cabinets holding all our children's ministry supplies. We had to go through the cabinets every two months, pitching broken items and restocking supplies. And in those days, not owning a church building meant everything went into my garage unless we got rid of it. So we learned how to get rid of it.

• Store off-site. Find storage for items you can't get rid of, but still need access to occasionally. This works well for seasonal items. Consider renting a storage unit or enlisting the help of a congregation member who has an extra storage area.

• Take pictures. It's difficult to part with that backdrop scenery for last year's VBS or the beautiful quilt the kindergartners made to decorate the hallway a couple years ago -- especially when great memories are attached to the items. So take a picture of it, put the picture in a scrapbook, and then throw out that clutter.
• Invest in closet organizers. Closet organizers, stackable crates and tubs, and resealable bags are essential to maximizing your space. Add shelves to wallspace, attach hooks to the backs of doors, and slide plastic bins under counters, tables, and benches to reduce visual clutter. Hang pocket shoe bags inside closet doors to organize smaller items. Resealable bags are available in all sizes and are great for storing all kinds of items. Neatly label your organ­ized drawers, bins, and tubs, and keep similar items in the same areas.

• Clear everything out of problem areas first. If your space is overwhelmingly cluttered, heed this advice: Completely empty the area and start over. It's easier to redesign an area and get rid of stuff when it's not in the room. Take time to look over the empty space. Think about what you want in the room and put back only those items. Donate, discard, or file everything else.

• Maintain organization. Once everything has a place, and your tubs and drawers have labels, assign a volunteer to freshen up everything monthly. Don't add to your supplies; replace them. If you buy a new toy, let go of an old one.

• Say no to what you don't need. Let's face it. When folks clean out their closets at home, they usually call the church first to get rid of their extra stuff. If you don't really need it, just politely decline. It's okay to say no, thanks. Explain that you're doing exactly what they're doing -- organizing and getting rid of stuff.

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