After household clutter is cleared out, the next step for less cluttered living is to organize what is left. In theory, everything that is left will be stuff that you like and use regularly. That means these items must be easy to reach. Think about it: If you can’t find something when you need it or don’t know you have it then you don’t really own it. Planning, location, and design of storage containers will help you avoid frustration. Don’t create container clutter for yourself! Follow these tips to create satisfying storage organization using good containers.

Plan ahead
What is a good container? Measure first and figure out your storage needs before you buy a nifty storage container, yes, even if it is on sale! Do a final clutter clearing of the items you want to organize too! In my example, I will discuss home entertainment: We accumulated many videos over the years. Next, we bought CDs. Now we accumulate DVDs. Before we could get an organizer for all of it, we needed to do some final purging and then counting followed by shopping research.

Allow ‘grow’ room
Next, we had to make an educated guess about our videos and DVDs to figure out how much future grow room we wanted to design into our storage system. Most of us will continue to acquire more—more of whatever it is. Make allowances for this on the front end to be happier in the long run.

Location. Location. Location. Ask yourself if the storage container is handy. It might appear simple, but it may not be functional. We had piles of DVDs tucked in an end table cabinet. It made the room look tidy, but it was hard to read all the DVD titles and reach them. We ended up with a storage rack that stood on the floor. For the first time, we could organize the DVDs and read all the titles at once! A simple life is a functional life, not necessarily a perfectly tidy life.

Where is the easiest location for you to access the storage container? Is it easy? Is it fun? If it isn’t, you won’t go there! Let me tell you about my houseplant fertilizer–For a long time, my five-pound plastic bag of fertilizer lived in its original cardboard box out in the garage. Eventually, it got closer to my houseplants by making its way down to my laundry room. Since my watering can lived under my kitchen sink and all my plants were upstairs too, I still was in a situation where I would think about fertilizing my houseplants, but I wouldn’t feel like running downstairs to dig out the fertilizer. To remedy this, I finally realized the fertilizer belonged under my kitchen sink, next to my watering can.

Design for convenience
Storage container design is also important. Does the container itself work? Are the size, color (clear or opaque), shape, and even texture right for you? Are you willing to get stuff out of the container when you need to? Or, does the container you have chosen put you off? Now that my fertilizer was next to the watering can, I found I still wasn’t fertilizing my houseplants because I didn’t like the leaky plastic bag inside the disintegrating cardboard box. When I used it, I didn’t like sticking a regular kitchen spoon into the bag or getting plant fertilizer scattered all over my kitchen counter top.

The answer for me was to pour the fertilizer into an empty plastic peanut butter jar, label it, and plunk an old baby spoon inside the jar with the fertilizer. Wow! I found myself looking forward to the next time it was time for me to fertilize houseplants.

Here is a tip: Large-mouth containers, ranging in size from empty frosting containers to large plastic ice-cream pails are great for anything you need to scoop out and measure–baking soda, baking powder, flour, sugar…Much less winds up spilled on the counter when you use it. Be sure to label and date everything!

Design is key. The design must fit your application. Smaller toiletries slipping between the wires of a cute white wire storage basket was a daily frustration until I replaced it with a solid plastic container. Plastic versus cardboard matters too if you are storing liquids that could run down the sides of their containers or leak, and you want to protect the surface they sit on.

You probably already have your plant fertilizer near your watering can, but pay attention to yourself. When do you neglect or stall about a task simply because it isn’t convenient? When you feel your frustration rise, look at the location and design that you have and change it to make your storage containers work for you!


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.

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