Coming up with proper storage solutions is a key component in any organizing project. This post is not intended to encourage you to go crazy stocking up on baskets and bins, in fact, it is to help you prevent unnecessary over-purchasing of storage. I have always had jumbo-sized heart eyes towards beautiful and decorative storage, and places like the Container Store only feed my devilish thoughts of “needing” something that I don’t. Have you ever walked out of Target with a bin in your hands because it was darling and you “knew you could definitely find a use for it”? I have done that more than I would like to admit.
Last year I went on a massive whole house purging spree and I took note of the storage pieces that didn’t make my final cut. Majority were impulsive buys and others were purchases made from poor project planning. I have completed many storage and organizing projects over the years, and I have had my shares of fails and successes. However, the successes seem to be increasing as I learn by doing. Today I thought I would share some storage tips that seem to be a positive factor in the projects that have had long term benefits for our home.
TIP ONE: WAIT
Every organizing project begins with a good clean out and emptying the contents of a closet, drawer or even an entire room. This is an important part of the process and allows you to assess the contents and rid of all the extra clutter that bogs down the space. At this point in the game, containers and storage are not the answer. You can’t know what types (or the quantity) of storage solutions you will need until you have taken the time to sort, purge and determine the items that will remain. You may realize by the time you are done sorting, that you don’t need any new storage at all, or that you already have adequate resources on hand.
TIP TWO: MEASURE
This is so obvious yet it took me years to gain the patience to really measure every last inch of available space prior to purchasing storage. So grab a piece of paper and draw out your closet or drawer and add all of the specific measurements. While working on our linen closet, I took measurements of our closet door (height and width and door knob location) as well as the closet depth, height and width. If there are any fixed shelves, dividers, or obstructions, those measurements should be noted as well. This paper containing your measurements will come in incredibly handy while space planning on searching for storage solutions.
TIP THREE: FUNCTION FIRST
I prefer to jot down what types of products I am storing in the space along with what qualities I am looking for in the specific storage pieces. Some items require storage that is easy to clean; other belongings require soft-sided bins to prevent snags. Sometimes it is nice to be able to see the contents of the bins while other times it is visually appealing to keep clutter concealed. Does your product require airtight storage or need to breathe? Should the storage be stackable to make the most of vertical space? Do the contents inside require additional sorting? Occasionally, small drawers make more sense while in other occasions an open top bin will be a game changer. Really think through all of the details that will ensure the items are being stored correctly and in a way that makes sense for the family to access and maintain their belongings.
TIP FOUR: FAMILY FRIENDLY SOLUTIONS
Speaking of family, now that you know the qualities you are looking for in the storage, it is time to consider how easy that storage will be to maintain. The goal is to save time, money and energy once the project is completed. Less time looking for things, money saved by not doubling up on purchases or losing billing statements and less energy wasted by easing the way the space functions. Now is the time to consider what type of storage will accomplish those goals. Throw out the idea of “perfection” and think about what will be the absolute easiest for everyone to maintain. Here are a few examples of behaviors and solutions I have witnessed with my family:
- Hampers: We have open top hampers and hampers that require the step of opening them to toss the clothes inside. Our open top hampers have a higher success rate of being used by the family than the hamper on a hinge. Those hinged hampers end up with clothing on the floor right in front of them.
- Hangers vs. Hooks: Our coats can either be stored on a hanger in a closet or on a hook by our door. Although I prefer them tucked out of site behind the closet door, the kids pick the hook 100% of the time because it is quick and easy. So that is where they live unless we are expecting company. Ditto for towels. They won’t take the time to fold the towel over a towel bar, but they will toss one quickly on a hook.
- Drawers: A dish near the door is more likely to be a landing zone for my husband’s daily belongings than a tray inside of a nearby drawer. I love decorative dishes for managing everyday necessities.
- Toys: Open top bins with simple and forgiving categories that are also low to the ground have a better chance of being used than a lidded box up on a shelf. Storage ottomans that allow kids to quickly toss toys inside without much thought are also a great solution for spaces shared by adults and kiddos.
- Lidded Organizers: Just as the hinged hamper or drawers don’t always work, lidded boxes and bins slow down my family as well. Whenever possible, I remove the lid from the storage container to eliminate that extra step when putting items away.
Bottom line, the more steps it takes for someone to put something away, the less likely it is to happen. And if the solution is just to toss something in a basket and walk away, then that is just as big of a win as the recent Power Ball drawing.
TIP FIVE: VERSATILITY
This one is my favorite and one of the most important factors I look at when investing in storage. How we are living today is different than the stage of life we were in three years ago and also won’t look the same in three years down the road. Organizational systems evolve and change all of the time, but storage can be expensive and it is always my goal to select items that will last and that can be easily reused down the road. So what makes a storage item versatile?
- Basic: I love a pretty patterned box or magazine file as much as the next person, but if your style changes or your home’s color story shifts, then that pretty piece of storage is at risk of no longer bringing you joy or being relevant to your space. I am more likely to be adventurous if I am creating something inexpensively, but when it comes to purchasing new, I have learned to stick with basic colors and finishes which will guarantee that they will work with decorating scheme down the road.
- Woven Materials: Woven baskets will never go out of style. The woven baskets that I purchased 10 years ago still look like new and always blend with our home no matter how much my tastes change over time.
- Acrylic: Acrylic is another finish that will stand the test of time in both function and style. Dividers make sense in any room of the home, as do many desktop and vanity organizers.
- Bookcases, Dressers, Armoires & Credenzas: There are specific types of furniture that can serve an endless variety of functions. Bookcases are my “go to” because they are slim yet flexible enough to work in spaces such as entryways for shoes, living rooms for media, books and games, dining rooms for china, bathrooms for linens and toiletries and bedrooms for clothing, accessories and linens. Think about pieces that can serve you now, and also down the road should you move or change how a space functions.
- Quality: A piece of storage that is constructed well is sure to outlast something that was made poorly and inexpensively. It is always important to find a balance between budget friendly and quality, because cheaply made products may end up costing you more down the road (and may unfortunately end up in a landfill faster).
I have always loved problem solving, so as complex as all of this sounds, I love the thrill of the hunt and the challenge to not only find something that will work well for my current needs and project (size and function), but also thinking about how that storage product could be used down the road in at least 2-3 other areas of our home. And of course, if I am unable to locate a product on the market, we challenge ourselves to DIY something instead.
Here are a few examples of our favorite and most versatile storage pieces:
Multi-Purpose Bins: These bins are my absolute favorite because they are lightweight, the contents are easily identifiable, they come in a variety of sizes, they are inexpensive and insanely versatile. I have used these bins in our fridge, freezer, under the bathroom sink, pantry and now our linen closet. They have also stood in as temporary paper management as well.
Media Boxes: I typically purchase the inexpensive white storage boxes from IKEA, and use them in our living room to hold photographs, in my office to store cords and craft supplies, and in my closet to store clothing accessories and nail care products. I appreciate they can be out on shelves yet hide smaller items within specific categories.
Y-Weave Baskets: These popular Target baskets are extremely sturdy and the smaller ones work great as drawer dividers and in bathrooms for toiletry organization. The larger ones worked hard for us for years in our playroom (shown above), and someday can be moved to manage clutter in the garage, shed, laundry room or storage room.
Acrylic Drawer Dividers: Acrylic dividers are the easiest to keep clean, making them ideal in bathrooms and kitchens. I also love these because they allow pretty drawer liner to shine through for a moment of happiness whenever we open a drawer. Not only do we utilize acrylic organizers in my vanity and office drawers, they have also held up to daily use in the kid’s school supply drawer as well.
Magazine Files: Perfect for sorting magazines, yes, but also great for sorting paperwork in an office or on the kitchen counter. They also work great in kitchens to hold cookbooks and meal planning supplies or even water bottles or rolled linens. Tin magazine files have also been known to rock as hair tool storage.
Large Handled Baskets: I keep these near our seating areas to catch pillows and extra throw blankets, but they also look beautiful in a laundry room and work hard as a place to store items used for a portable home office.
Desktop Organizers: Although I do use them at my desk to hold small notebooks, pens and paperclips, these organizers also hold remotes in our living room and makeup/toiletries in our bathroom.
Decorative Bowls: Perfect for keys, change, small office accessories, hair accessories, jewelry, sewing essentials… Anything small is the perfect candidate to be stored in a pretty dish.
Utensil Caddies: I love that these can be toted around the house and yet still look nice on an open shelf or in a cupboard. We have used these for art supplies, tools, cleaning supplies, pet care, and nail care kits.
Shoeboxes: Typically sold for around $1, these bins are great for items that are accessed less frequently because they are cheap and stack nicely (less frequently because to get inside you have to un-stack, open a lid and re-stack when finished… too many steps for daily management). I love using them to divide a variety of hardware in our storage space, to hold automobile essentials in our vehicles and now for medications and hair care tools in our linen closet.
Q-Tip Containers: Those travel-sized containers are the best for keeping your purse organized. Use them for your ear buds, bobby pins and hair ties, spare change, business cards, charger cords and memory cards.
FAVORITE STORAGE RESOURCES:
- Container Store: Let’s face it, this place is the mecca storage happy land and if you are looking for items that need to fit a specific criteria, there is a good chance you will find it here. Just be sure to enter the store with a specific list and blinders on. They are also the answer to my acrylic loving desires.
- Target: As much as I hate to give in to the big red bullseye, I head to Target when looking for shoeboxes, caddies, woven baskets and utility style bins.
- Amazon: Because I always find great prices on Amazon, they have a giant selection and I make sure to make the most of my Prime membership.
- HomeGoods: They offer reasonable prices on baskets, containers, acrylic pieces, wall storage, cleaning supplies and drawer liners. And it is always pretty.
- IKEA: IKEA wins big in my categories of keeping storage basic and also in playing nice with my pennies.
- Etsy: When breaking the rules and looking for something unique and beautiful, Etsy wins every time.
- Small Businesses: Some of my favorite (and most popular) home decor and decorative storage pieces have come from smaller, locally owned boutiques and businesses. I love that many of the talented folks that own these stores use their creative eyes to source unique pieces when I don’t have the resources or time to hunt down something special myself.
And because I am asked frequently about many of the storage products we use all over our home and their sources, below are links to some of my absolute favorites: