When looking at storage, I take several things into account.
- First, the area I choose must be for gaming alone. When I go to my Enginarium, I don't want to have to sort through clothes or Christmas decorations. All the gaming stuff should be right there.
- Second, The space should be large enough to accommodate everything. Once I start looking for something to work on, I don't want to have to go to three different rooms trying to track it all down.
- Third, the space should be accessible, meaning that the doors are easy to open and provide an easy means for installing shelves or moving boxes in and out.
- Fourth, it should be dry and free of mold or other undesirable effects. Moisture should be rigorously monitored and addressed with sealants, dehumidifiers, and regular cleaning.
- Next, be aware of fire hazards. Cardboard, paint, and plastic like to burn. Do not choose an area near wiring, heaters, boilers, dryers, or anything else with a remote chance of getting hot.
- Finally, the area should be secure. Most thieves might not want to haul off an army in the night, but what about your little nieces and nephews who come over to visit? Do you want them getting into your space marines and hobby paints? Lock it up to be safe.
Next you will want to look at storage devices.
- I started with buying steel shelving units from the hardware store. I bought the tallest ones that would fit in my storage room and bought several at once. I wanted them to match up evenly and chances are that the one you buy this year will not have the same dimensions as the one you buy next year. Buy a bunch and get it over with.
- At the same time, invest in all the plastic containers you need. Again, buy them at the same time and get ones that stack and come in different sizes. The tubs I bought are clear and fit two wide on the shelves I bought. They come in two different depths and lock together nicely when stacked. I also bought another style that have pull-out drawers for tools and paint. I also bought a number of Plano boxes for my pre-painted minis, like Star Wars and Heroclix. These boxes are clear plastic and have customizable compartments. They are then put in a larger plastic tub like the others I bought.
- Your painted armies should be stored in foam trays and boxes. I keep mine in cardboard boxes and write the army name on the side. I am switching over to plastic, however, since the cardboard does deteriorate over time.
- The last item I got was a small shelf unit with a bunch of little plastic drawers. These are commonly sold as storage for nuts and bolts, but they also work great for a bits box.
Once you have your room and storage devices selected, it is time to put it all together. When putting models away, be sure that they lay flat and are not under any pressure that could cause breakage or distress. Leave a little room under the lid so they have room to "breathe." I keep dessicant packs from shipping containers and distribute them freely around the boxes. Put all your tools in a safe place together. Mark the outside of their container with their contents. This will save time when cleaning up or starting a new project. Seal all loose items like sand and flock in the proper container. Spilled anything is a waste of money and can contaminate other projects in the Enginarium. Store larger things like game boards and sheets of foamcore or plexiglass standing straight up and down. This will minimize warpage. If you have anything flammable or under pressure, like spray paint, keep it in a separate area- preferably in a garage. If the garage gets too cold or hot, however, keep it in a steel cabinet in the basement or other storage area. Temperature changes can destroy these items.
Focus on efficiency of space. I saved quite a bit of room by going to all of my miniatures that were still on sprues and cutting them off. Usually an entire regiment or squad can be reduced to fit in a drawer of my bits box. Store like items together and throw out anything you don't need or haven't used in a couple of years. If you have a neat piece of something you would like to use in the future, ask yourself if you could make the same thing better out of foamcore and pink insulation. If it has a distinctive feature, just take a picture of it and throw it away. Also take a look at some of your older projects. Would the local game shop want it for game night? Could a new gamer use it? Don't be afraid to pass on some of your older stuff. Sentimentality is for the weak. Take a picture and give it away. If not that, then consider ebay. Why not make a couple bucks and spend it on new stuff?
Now you have a sweet storage area for all your stuff. Don't forget that your hobby supplies and armies represent a significant investment. Clean the Enginarium regularly and be merciless with spiders and ants. Do not allow anyone to smoke in the storage room or even drink pop. Punish all offenders immediately and make an example of them before the Emperor. Don't let the space become a fire hazard- pick up the floor and beware of clutter. If it can't fit in one of your boxes, then throw it out. A clean storage room will allow you to better complete your projects and move on to the next one. If it is full of crap, inaccessible, or dirty, your chances of getting anything done are exactly zero.
Now get to it!