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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

I’m Drowning in Storage Containers! Taming Your Baskets, Bins, Boxes, & Organizers


A person's hand sticking out of a sea of storage containers

The Story of Hidden Clutter


When I first became a professional organizer, I expected to see a high level of clutter when entering most homes. What I didn’t predict was the large amount of empty storage containers and organizers. Bins, baskets and Amazon boxes. Functional, chic, cute, cracked, banged up, or seen better days storage. All shapes and sizes. And all these darn storage solutions were creating clutter! 


Is this you (awareness is the first step, after all)?  Or maybe you have a “friend” like this? Or perhaps you are a fellow organizer that knows what I mean? In either of these cases, please do read on to understand my take about storage clutter.


Why Do We Have So Many Storage Containers???


Your storage boxes are taking up too much space. Oh, the irony!


Here are some possibilities on how you got here:


An array of wicker baskets hanging on a rack for purchase

Riding on the Fumes of Motivation

You start noticing the clutter around you and the frustration is mounting. You need to do something about this NOW! So you stop by the Container Store, Target, or head online to purchase some storage bins and organizers on Amazon. The storage bins arrive but the urgency to declutter resides as the next urgent need enters your life and you move on. Sadly, the bins/storage boxes do not.


Overbuying

Buying is fun for some of us (not for me). Decluttering is not fun for most of us (Well it is for me, but probably not for you). If you are an overbuyer, the first step for you is to purchase something to solve this clutter problem you are having. And you procrastinate the part where you go through your things and think about how to organize items and how to use those bins you purchased. To learn more about how to streamline your shopping habits to stay organized read my previous blog post here.


You Used Them & Now You Don’t Need Them

Many of us have systems that involve boxes, bins, and organizers. We use bins for storing the next level of baby clothes as it is passed from one sibling to another. We use them for Christmas decorations or Passover dishes. We receive boxes that carry our Amazon items. We use makeup organizers and crafting organizers. At some point or another, we outgrow that system. Our life transitions and we no longer have babies or baby clothes. Or we downsize to a smaller space and donate our Christmas decorations and Passover dishes - we will let our children host us for the holidays! Our focus changes and our hobbies and interests change. Those empty bins and organizers accumulate. 


The Solutions for Drowning In Storage Containers


Half the problem of drowning in storage is that we are unaware of the sheer amount of clutter it is causing. So now that you are aware of the problem, you are on your way to solving it. Here are some solutions to get you to the finish line.


Woman in her unfinished storage room holding a filled storage bin and looking at the other clutter in the room

Declutter first:

This is an organizing mantra. Always declutter first, then organize what you are keeping, and only after doing those first steps do you purchase organizing solutions if necessary. What you will find is that you often have all the bins and boxes you need. So start with what you have, then tweak and upgrade. This will prevent the storage problem from recurring.


Put Like with Like:

As with any other category, put all your storage bins and organizers together to see what you have. Divide them into categories: Put all your clear bins together (stack if possible), corral your baskets into another pile, and finally, pile your other miscellaneous organizers into a 3rd pile. Now you can see them all and strategize. If you are staring at a monstrous pile, then it’s time to cull. How many extra bins does it make sense to keep based on potential need and storage space?


Create Rules and Strategies to Support Letting Go:

I find that storage organizers are similar to nice reusable grocery bags and cute gift bags. We collect them, accumulate far too many, then find it hard to part with them. When there is a category that clients find challenging, I suggest creating rules. For example, you could establish a rule that you will only keep baskets that fit on this closet shelf (space-related) or you will only keep X number of storage bins. Or you can create a rule that you will use baskets and bins for an upcoming project or event and then donate the rest. Having a source for passing on these items can also be helpful. Posting storage in your local “Buy Nothing” group is a  “feel good” way to pass things on to other people who you know will use the items with gratitude.  


And please, please, please get rid of those extra Amazon boxes. I love this Holderness Family Video that pokes fun at our love of boxes.


In Conclusion


By taking these steps, you'll not only reclaim your space but also ensure that your storage containers serve their purpose without becoming additional sources of chaos. So, let the journey begin, armed with awareness and the commitment to a clutter-free future.


Are you drowning in storage containers? Feel free to share your story in the comments. I would love to hear it!

10 Comments


orgassist
Apr 01

My downfall is boxes. You just never know when you'll need a [small/medium/large] one to wrap a gift, ship a parcel, or store something in. Whenever I run out of space in the area where I keep them, I go through and toss a bunch.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Apr 01
Replying to

Using the rule of space limitation is a great strategy. I also remember that a quick post on any local facebook group as well as a trip to the grocery store will get me the boxes that I need.

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Caroline Warren
Caroline Warren
Mar 26

Yes, it's amazing how many folks hold on to empty boxes. Especially since we've all gotten attached to Amazon since the pandemic.


I always caution my customers against going into the Container Store without a well-defined plan and measurements. Otherwise it's all too easy to become entranced with the idea of organizing your space with all the pretty boxes and before you know it you've spent $300 and still don't have what you really need.


And that's a great reminder to post boxes on your local "Buy Nothing" group. I once had a client whose garage was filled with boxes from her move that were now empty, but she was at a loss (and post-move, just overwhelmed) as to wha…

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Apr 01
Replying to

Caroline, great tip - I love Buy Nothing groups. It's a great motivator to pass things on when you know someone else could be using it.

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Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
Mar 25

Honestly, as much as I advise clients against acquiring storage containers before I get there, I'm often relieved when I see piles of unused storage boxes and bins, as it gives me a largesse from which to choose when creating systems. (In that way, I sometimes see the potential in all those containers just as the clients do; I'm just not emotionally wedded to any of them, which makes a great deal of difference.) We can get rid of the rounded-bottom baskets (except for Easter decorations) but keep the flat-bottomed ones for storage; we can drop-kick the cracked bins and clean the good ones. And Amazon boxes are the best for sorting and then packing of donations. So yes, grouping the…

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Mar 25
Replying to

Julie, that is a great point! I must admit, I also love having these extra organizers when I am decluttering and categorizing in a client's home. But when I am done organizing, some of these clients still have SO MANY extra bins. If there is room for a designated storage area for them then, no problem. If not, off they go. Corralling them and becoming aware of the excess is the key for me. And, as you pointed out with the rounded bottom baskets, some of the organizers are fairly useless in providing functioning organizing.

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Jonda Beattie
Jonda Beattie
Mar 25

I love the idea of grouping the storage containers according to type. When working with clients I gather all of the storage containers in one area. We keep them all (unless looking tired and past their prime) until we are finished with the organizing project. Then we designate a space to store what they want to keep for the future. How many is determined by the space.

I tend to accumulate Amazon boxes near the Christmas holiday season. I mail some gifts and am never quite sure what size I will need. But after the holiday the excess leaves.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Mar 25
Replying to

Jonda, I like your rules of only enough for a designated space and all excess must leave after the holidays. I do find that creating rules for all sorts of categories is the ticket and storage containers are no exception. Amazon boxes are particularly sneaky and tend to linger in corners, laundry rooms, garages, and porches!

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Linda Samuels
Linda Samuels
Mar 25

It's incredible how many bins and boxes accumulate. I have been guilty of keeping too many cardboard Amazon boxes. I use them to ship things. However, I realized I don't need to 'stock' so many of them. I have a designated shelf in a garage closet to keep several. I use that space for cueing me. I won't keep more than fit in that space.

I've also been holding onto various sizes of plastic Container Store boxes. They had a use, but currently are empty. It's helpful to keep some, but I could probably let go of a few. Thank you for the nudge.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Mar 25
Replying to

Linda, I am also guilty of keeping too many containers. Sometimes I put them in the trunk of my car so I have them handy when a client needs one. Often, I use them for donations which I find uniquely satisfying. Bags are the worst since they come from all types of places (birthday party gift bags, guest gifts, etc). My latest trick is to donate them on my Buy Nothing group. I hope the recipient is using them and not storing them or I am just passing the buck!

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