Most of us pile all the leftover paint into unmarked graves in our garage. When we need to do a little touch-up later, it's nearly impossible to remember which paint is which, and it's even harder when most of the labels are covered with paint. I have a few lessons I've learned that can help keep those cans organized.
Keep a record: Keep an easily accessible record of each room's "vital statistics": paint color, brand and finish.
Martha Stewart has recommended writing the paint's name and product number on painter's tape and putting it on the back of each room's light-switch plate. She has also suggested dipping a paint stick halfway into the paint and writing the color, number and type on the other end of the stick. You can tie all the swatch sticks together with string.
Annie Elliott of Bossy Color in Washington recommends storing unused paint in Mason jars. Elliott says, "Putting leftover paint in an air-tight jar will not only make it last longer, it will also take up less space. The amount of paint that fits in a jar will be all you need for normal touch-ups. If no touch-ups are made for several years, you'll likely need a whole new can of paint anyway, because the colors will have faded." Elliott recommends labeling the jars with the manufacturer, color number, name and finish, as well as the room and date.
Or, record your colors in a Word or Excel document on your computer. Whichever method you choose, be sure to do it as soon as the paint is dry. And don't forget to make note of the ceiling and trim colors, brands and finishes.
Don't let paint cans pile up: It is much easier to find the color you need if you're not looking through three generations of paint. If you've just painted your dining room, discard the cans of the previous color immediately. This will save you time and headaches later. If there's only a minuscule amount of paint left in a gallon-size can, it's not worth the space it's taking up. Unless the paint is cleaned up, closed and stored with care, it won't last more than a year or two anyway.
Avoid storing paint in places where the temperature reaches extremes, like next to the dryer in the laundry room.
How to dispose of paint properly: Most communities offer locations to dispose of hazardous waste. Check the websites of local jurisdictions. Alternatively, you can dry out your unused paint before throwing it away with your household trash. Small amounts of paint will dry if you leave the lid off, but larger amounts require combining the unused paint with absorbent materials such as cat litter or sand. You can also buy paint hardener.