Choose the right containers for organizing your space

Choosing the containers for organizing a space often holds people back from even getting started, but it’s not so hard if you follow a few basic guidelines like these.

Have you ever opened your closet, cupboard, or drawer, and not been able to find what you’re looking for—even though you’re positive it’s there? You’re not alone!

Frustration over lost items and the time you waste digging for them (or the expense of buying unnecessary duplicates), is among the top triggers that make clients reach out to me for help.

After sorting the items into keep, donate, and toss piles, the next big decision we make is how to put them away. The goal is to keep the items accessible, undamaged, easy to find, and/or requiring little to no further maintenance (e.g, ironing or dusting).

Sometimes the solution is to stack or hang items. But many times, the items are absolutely begging for containers!  So, how do you decide when your organizing project needs containers?

When to use containers

Containers can give any space a more organized and cohesive look, because they cut down on the visual clutter that comes from seeing many items at once. If having that nice Zen-style look appeals to you, but you don’t want to pare down your home to the bare bones, containers are a great option.

But containers aren’t a requirement for organizing a space. Many things stack or hang perfectly well—and make it possible to see what you have—while keeping the items in good shape.

I recommend using containers for organizing are when you want to corral items that:

  • Can’t stand up on their own, like handbags and spice packets;
  • Tend to shift, lean, or are hard to access from a stack or pile, like sweaters and napkins;
  • Are small and slide around, like kitchen accessories or makeup;
  • Are thin and slip through, or otherwise are unsteady, on a wire rack closet organizer.

Which are the best containers for organizing?

I like to ask groups this question when I’m presenting, while showing them a table full of various container styles. Their answers are creative and well-thought-out, but MY answer—based on years of helping clients get and stay organized—always gets a laugh:

Without a doubt, the best containers are the ones you will use (and like)!  

Sharing tips on choosing containers for organizing with a local WIN group

It’s true though. If you don’t like them, or they’re a pain to use, you’ll avoid them.

To get started, first think about your needs and your tastes, and whether you’ll prefer clear or opaque in your space.

  • Opaque containers give you a very nice “clutter-free” look; the downside is that you can’t quickly see what you have.
  • Clear containers allow you to see what you have, but that ends up being their downfall as well…  It can be a more “cluttered” look on the shelf.

If you’ve tried opaque before but items have got lost, you had to throw expired food, or generally you or your family often can’t find what you’re looking for, it may be a sign that you need to switch to clear. And remember, labels can really help the whole family, ESPECIALLY if you’re using opaque containers!

So, give a little thought to the issues your family is having with a space, and which style is most likely to work for everyone.

In the end, even if you don’t get the “pinterest worthy” look you might like, if your choice gives you the function you need, that’s more important.

More Guidelines for Choosing Containers

  • Limited space: Containers with straight sides ensure no shelf or floor space is wasted. If you’re going to store vertically, you’ll want flat-topped boxes. Keep your stacks to 3-4 high; if you have the height and want to go higher, install shelves.
  • Large items that flop or lean: For bulky items like blankets, handbags, pillows, towels, and sweaters, you can choose simple vertical divider racks, or go for more substantial stacked or hanging open-front bins or even clear plastic boxes. Again, it’s easier to keep stacks straight, minimize wrinkling, and prevent toppling piles when you limit stacks to 3-4 items high.
  • Small items that flop or lean: Often small pantry and/or beauty items get lost because they can’t stand up. Small containers that are the width of the items you want to store are your best solution here.
  • Shoes & Boots: Shoe racks—hanging or on the floor—work for many, but if you’re a shoe fiend you may prefer to keep them in clear plastic boxes so they stay dust-free and protected from damage. For extra protection, add a moisture-absorbing packet of silica gel and/or potpourri to keep them fresh. Boots can be stored in bags, or even hung with boot or pant hangers; tall ladies’ boots can benefit from being stuffed with crumpled tissue or newspaper.
  • Small items in drawers: The key with drawers is to prevent items from slipping back and forth—this repeated sliding over time mixes everything up and makes it hard to find what you need. The before-and-after photos below show you what I mean.

Choose a set of low, interlocking, open-topped boxes, like the ones in the 2nd photo, below. These come in all shapes, sizes and materials—from the inexpensive plastic ones shown here to elegant bamboo, canvas, and more. You’ll find options designed specifically for toiletries, desk, and kitchen drawer organizing online or in those sections at places like Target.

The containers you choose also have to fit your budget. (The Container Store has virtually everything you might want, but you may not like the hit to your wallet; I’ve sourced some nice options here, and share others on my FB page too.)

I hope these ideas make choosing containers for organizing your space less stressful! Join me on Facebook for more ideas and tips. And remember you can easily start your container search with my favorite products, right on our product page.

SOS by Lisa | Professional Organizer, Home Organizer
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