September 2009 Newsletter

Tip of the Month: 8 guidelines for choosing and using containers

A good container is a critical organizing product; imagine trying to store lots of frequently-used books without a single bookshelf, and you’ll see how useful a container can be. Containers come in a wide range of forms: bookshelves, file cabinets, file folders, closets, kitchen drawers, wastebaskets, boxes, bins, baskets — the list goes on and on.

To make the best use of your containers, follow these guidelines:

1. Buy the containers near the end of your organizing project. First, you’ll want to decide what to keep and what to pass along to a new home (or recycle, or put in the trash if need be). Then you’ll want to decide where the items you’re keeping are best stored. After all this, you’re ready to get serious about containers.

2. Try to keep containers no more than 75-80% full. This will make it much easier to take things out and put them away. If you’ve ever tried to add one more file to an overstuffed file cabinet, you’ll know just what I mean!

3. Before buying anything new, take a look at what you already own. You don’t always need to buy new containers; you may already have things in your home or office that will work just fine. Just one example: I store dust cloths and extra sponges in pretty gift bags, on the shelf above my washer and dryer. I didn’t go and buy these; they were already sitting in my house, unused. Even if you want to eventually buy something new, sometimes it helps to test out a new storage idea with something you have on hand, to see if the solution really works for you.

4. Consider adding more shelves if your closet shelves are quite far apart, and the height of the space is a hinderance rather than a help. Yes, there are products to help you make better use of a tall space, but often just adding a shelf is the easiest and most helpful option.

5. If you’ll be buying containers, take some time to consider the best option for you. Do you care about the aesthetics, or do you just want something functional? What are your financial constraints? What values do you want to honor in making your choices?

Do you want to try to get something on freecycle or craigslist, or at a garage sale or second-hand store? If you’re buying new, do you want to a time-saving one-stop option like The Container Store, or do you want to take the time to find more unusual items? Do you want something made with sustainable materials, or something handmade, or something sold by a local business?

6. Consider whether you want open or closed containers. Lids on bins (and laundry hampers and file boxes) and doors on closets may make things look neater. But they also make it just a bit harder to put things away – and they also don’t work for those who work better when they can see their things.

7. Remember that square or rectangular containers use space better than round ones. That doesn’t mean you should never buy a round container. But if you’re choosing between rectangular or round food storage containers, I’d tend to go for the rectangular ones.

8. After you get your containers, label them! You wouldn’t think of using file folders without labels; many other containers benefit from labeling, too.

Organizing Quote of the Month: Junk Bunkers (when containers are NOT the answer)

We finally reach the day when our clutter is so overwhelming there’s not a single place left to put anything: even the walls are full. Then we are most vulnerable to the hidden persuasion of a junk bunker. That, simply, is an item we can use to store more junk, stacked higher and packed tighter. Junk bunkers come in various models, called desk organizers, closet racks, shadow boxes, shoe organizers, fishing rod racks, pen and pencil holders, trophy cases, entertainment centers, china cabinets, jewelry boxes and ring holders, pegboard organizers — and magnets.

— Don Aslett, Clutter’s Last Stand

Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month

Have an old leather jacket you no longer wear — but are still fond of? You could have it made into a bag; see the options from reMade USA.