Organizing Secrets: Containers

I had to laugh.

He stood there looking at me with all seriousness, shaking his head. "I always wondered who in the world buys all those containers in Target," he said. "Now... it's me!"

After coaching a young family for a few weeks, dad didn't see the need for containers until he transformed their attic into a thing of beauty. He created zones for the holidays, their kids outgrown clothing, off-season items, and keepsakes. All were in transparent containers, clearly labeled, neatly lined up along the outer perimeter of the attic.

Early in their organizing coaching sessions, I encouraged them to begin categorizing their storage stuff, putting one category in each container as much as possible. They did it. And it revolutionized their storage.

Containers are amazing. But I don't begin with containment. First, you need a vision for what you're organizing toward. More space? Emptying a room? Downsizing for a move? Creating more breathing room and ease? Once you can articulate your organizing goal, you purge. Then, and only then do you begin the process of containment.

Here's why I love containers.

  • Containers provide natural boundaries and limits. When the container is full, it's full. It provides a natural limit to what you can keep.

  • Containers provide immediate relief. The act of containing random, loose items also creates visual and emotional relief, seeing that it's contained. When you're in a pinch for time or overwhelmed by clutter, it's amazing to feel a sense of relief by simply grabbing a couple of laundry baskets and clearing the clutter into the baskets. Suddenly, surfaces are no longer spilling over and the clutter is contained, caged so to speak, ready for taming. The trick is to make sure you deal with it!

  • Containers create homes for belongings. I find it fascinating that when you create a perfect home for stuff, the stuff is more likely to find its way there. When I create a specific place for the dog collars and toys to live, more often than not, they end up there. But if there isn't a designated home... they wander. Homeless. Containers create homes for homeless stuff!

  • Containers help us remember. If you're like me, you have a tendency to recall things by a color or shape or texture. I know that my trinkets from elementary school are in the cedar box. I know my cards and letters are in the black box with music notes decorating the lid. I know that the dress-up clothes are in the guest room under the bed and it has a green lid. Note how I assign one category to a container. That makes life infinitely easier!

  • Containers create structure. Both literally, and figuratively, containers help us build a priority system. Some containers are solid, sturdy, and air-tight. Precious or fragile stuff gets stored in those. If I know my treasures are going to live in the basement, attic, or garage, the actual structure of the container needs to assure me that my treasures are safe from critter and humidity invasion. But my containment for my daily toiletries doesn't even have a lid... it's an open bin or basket because I'm reaching into it all the time. It's also plastic, knowing that I'll want to clean it frequently and it needs to house spills that might occur. High priority storage vs. common everyday use is reflected in the type of container you use. Your value for the stuff shows in its container home.

  • Containers improve storage use. If you have one shelf above your hanging rod in the closet, chances are you're losing valuable storage space near the ceiling. How wonderful to utilize all your available space, using containers that stack and fit the vertical space your closet offers you. We often lose storage opportunities in linen closets, clothes closets, pantries and cabinets in kitchens, all because of fixed, immovable shelving. You can make better use of the space when you contain categories and stack them, fitting the exact amount of vertical space offered by each shelf.

The other thing I love about containers is that you can let your personality shine. Be as cute, decorative, or industrial as you want and make the baskets and bins fit your style, serving as beauty and function in your home!

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