Organizing with Storage Containers

How to Organize with Storage Containers

We all have some trouble areas around the house where organizing is problematic.

One of those areas for me was the storage cabinets in the garage. We had family memorabilia, holiday decorations, tools, etc. piled in there in no particular order.

It was hard to keep it as organized as I wanted because we were all getting in the cabinets looking for this or that. Some items were stored in boxes that had nothing to do with the picture on the box (boy does that make it confusing); some things were in shoe boxes, single items placed on a shelf, and so on.

I’m sure some of you can relate to this and maybe it’s going on in your home right now. If it is – you can do what I did. I bought storage containers then we cleaned, organized and got our storage cabinets under control.

Now that we have everything packed away in an organized manner, when I need something, I know right where to go, all labels facing front and center. Oo-rah!

I like using storage containers, they can be used for storing so many of my personal items and family things – but I don’t buy them unless I need them.

Containers Are NOT Impulse Buys!

Today, there are thousands of storage container options available for you to buy. There are even entire stores devoted to selling you a ton of them.

While storage containers are handy places to put things, you might only be adding to your clutter by purchasing more than you need.

The key to properly using storage containers is to determine whether they are actually necessary.

  • You should never buy storage containers as impulse buys at a store, garage sale, or online.
  • When organizing your home, organize first – buy containers second.
  • Don’t buy a storage container because it’s cute or on sale. Don’t buy five containers when you only need two because you can get them a few cents cheaper by buying in bulk.
  • Too many people see a great buy or a nifty container; they buy it, and then plan to figure out a use for it later. If you buy storage containers this way, their use will likely be creating more clutter, or they will become fodder for your next garage sale!
  • Buying a container first and then inventing a need for it will only add to your clutter, making your home less, not more, organized!

Storage containers should be planned purchases when you’re clear on what you need and the sizes you’ll need. If, at that time, you find some that are on sale or perfectly matches your decor, that’s great.

Don’t Buy Storage Containers to Enable Your Packrat Gene!

If you tend to keep everything whether you need it or not, buying containers to store these things will not make you more organized and your home will not get decluttered this way.

Psst. Here’s the big packrat Secret:

Buying containers for your junk increases the value of the junk in your mind. You may not even realize it as it’s often subconscious, but suddenly your clutter has a home.

You feel like it now belongs in your home somehow because it has a place to go. You don’t even realize that you’ve wasted money and valuable space to keep things you don’t really want or need!

Before you buy a container, ask yourself these four questions:

1.    Is it temporary?

Will this container be a “temporary home only” for things you’ll sort through and put away or donate later?

This is allowed because it will keep your home neater during the workweek then you can go through the items on a weekend to put them where they belong.

2.    Is it long term or permanent?

Will the storage container you use be long term or a permanent home for items?

This applies for decorations, collectibles, small appliances, camping gear, sports equipment, clothing, etc. This is definitely what using storage containers is all about; a place for items used occasionally, once a year, seasonal, etc.

Keep in mind that even these should be looked through from time to time.

If, for example, you no longer use items (more holiday decorations than you actually put up, your child’s old Buzz Light-year decor, your size 5 jeans that you’ll “someday” get into again), sell them or donate them. Now you have more storage space if needed.

3.    Is it trash your storing?

Are you storing things in a container for items that (be honest!) belong in the trash? It’s OK to keep magazines until you read them, unless it’s been months and that day hasn’t yet come. Hmm! Maybe it’s time for them to go?

Even in 50 years, your magazine “collection” will be worth less than you spent on them. Do you really go back and read old magazines? Ever?

So if you’re thinking of buying containers for this type of storage, don’t, you’re only encouraging that packrat gene.

4.    Do they make things more convenient?

Sometimes closet space is sparse and containers for clothes come in handy. Sweaters store nicely in under bed storage containers during the summer. Don’t buy containers to store clothes your children (or you) have outgrown – even if the clothing item was hand knit by Aunt Sue (give it back).

Donate or sell outgrown clothing. People can use it, and you have no reason to keep it. If you have a weight loss goal, you’ll want new, updated clothing as a reward for reaching it.

Using Containers for Home Décor – or Not?

You might have read too many Martha Stewart books and think that every single item you own should be in some sort of decorative container.

If you’re trying to get organized, the last thing you need to worry about is putting your Q-tips and cotton balls in some cute container and your astringent in a glass decanter. Refilling and cleaning the containers is just one more thing you have to do.

The point of organization is to save you time and effort, not create work that takes more time and effort away from your life. Do you really care if people that snoop through your medicine cabinet or under your sink notice that you buy (gasp!) store brand cotton balls?

Keep things in their original containers, especially if the containers can be resealed or make it easier to dispense the items.

Using Wicker Baskets on Shelves

Lined baskets can be a big help when you store things on shelves, but putting them on shelves just to improve the look of your shelves is a waste of time and money.

If you use a closet with shelves instead of a dresser with drawers, lined baskets are essential for storing items that don’t easily stack when they are folded like undergarments, socks, scarves, and belts.

Baskets are not needed for sweaters, T-shirts, etc. Rolled towels in baskets look nice on a vanity in the guest bathroom, but they aren’t necessary for towels or washcloths in your linen closet.

Remember – buy baskets that are necessary. Don’t buy baskets and then invent a necessity for them!