Sunday, January 30, 2011

Organize It: Develop A Storage System

Many people who come to my house comment on how organized I am. Admittedly, I am pretty organized. In fact, I love to organize. Yes, I really do. Because I am organized, my husband can ask me where the duck tape is and I will tell him, "In the linen closet about knee high in a bin labeled "Tape." It doesn't matter if it's electronics, earphones, extra extension cords, contact cases, 3x5 cards or anything else. 99% of the time, I can tell you exactly where an item is in our house. This is because it has a specific spot that it should go. This is the key to staying organized. Everything has a place. It doesn't matter how big or small something is, it has to have a place or it will get tossed.

If you would like to get organized but don't know where to start, or have tried but haven't gotten very far, it's probably because you need to develop a storage system. I have four different sizes of plastic bins that I use to organize pretty-much everything in my house. I don't have a junk drawer anywhere because literally everything has a place it should be, all the way down to screws, nails and hair-ties. Let's look at them together. Each bin or tub is used to store one type/category of item by itself.

1. Large purple tubs-Target
2. Medium sized clear bins with blue lids-Target
3. Shoe box sized clear bins with blue lids-Target
4. Small boxes with dividers-Walmart

We're moving so these were the first "boxes" packed
 I use the large tubs to store bulkier items. Categories include: camping clothes, electronics (old computers, cables, video game equipment etc.), gardening supplies, Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, sewing supplies, scrap booking, etc. These bins stack well and they fit well on the large storage shelves we have in both the garage and basement. I originally started purchasing these tubs in college and have continued to purchase the same type in two different sizes (shorter and taller but that use the same size lid) over the years.

My medium sized boxes are used to store smaller amounts of items. In our master bedroom closet, I line the top shelves with medium sized bins. Categories include: swimwear & sunscreen (it keeps it all together so I remember to bring the sunscreen when I go swimming), snowboard waxing kit (my husband waxes our boards himself to save money), toolbox, stationary, dark socks (I don't have room in my sock drawer for these and since I don't wear them as often, they get their own box), stamping supplies, craft supplies, my daughter's wooden puzzles, etc. If something outgrows a medium sized box, I will either split it between two medium sized boxes or move it up a size to a large purple tub.

My shoebox sized boxes of course hold smaller groups of items. Since I tutor and use a lot of flashcards, I have a box for flashcards of all types. In my linen closet I have one for travel supplies, deodorant, razors, nail polish/supplies, etc. This size is great for making sense of all of those toiletries. It makes it so simple to find something in the linen closet and also to see when you're getting low on something. When Taeya was younger, I purchased a lot of about 30 pairs of shoes for her on Craigslist. They ranged from infant to size 6. I had a shoe tub for each sized shoe and when she'd outgrow one size, I'd just pull down the next box with the next size shoes in it.

Hair ties & Barrettes
Screws & Washers
The small, divided bins will probably surprise many of you at how detailed they are. I find it so much easier to sort each and every little category. Then, I'm not searching through a big box for these little tiny items. If I find a screw, paperclip, or hair barrette lying around the house, it will most likely end up in it's little cubby in the appropriate box. As I find things, I put them where they belong so I don't have to keep moving them around or dropping them in my non-existent junk drawer.

Nails, hooks, thumbtacks, etc.

Stacked in my closet

It takes some time to develop a system like this but once you have it set up, it literally runs long as you and the members of your family use it. I can't tell you how many times my husband has thanked me for being so organized and always knowing where an item he needs is located.

If you'd like to try starting a system like this, here are a few tips to consider.
1. Think through what sort of bins/tubs you'd like to use. Whatever you pick now, you will probably continue to use for years so make sure you like it. I chose the opaque purple tubs because I didn't want to see what was in them. In hindsight, I probably would select a different large bin but what I have works so I'll stick with it.
2. Make sure you don't purchase seasonal tubs because they will change all the time and you won't be able to continue to add to it year after year.
3. Purchase bins at a place that you can go back to over and over. (This is why I use Target/Walmart). I really love the clear, stackable bins they have at The Container Store. However, I don't have one near me and don't want to order online and pay shipping so I don't use them. It's a great resource if you DO have one nearby though!

I hope this inspires you to find some areas of your home that can use some organization and gives you a place to start. 


  1. I've always said that I'm gonna "die" trying to be organized! I won't give up! :) Thanks for the tips!

  2. MEGAN! This is WONDERFUL!!!!! I so want to be like you :) I have a hard time becuase i know we have 2 many things, but I just can't give a lot of it up. Also, I'm always looking for good deals on those plastic bins, as they can be very very pricy. I need to get a good stock pile going and just start.

  3. I use bins a lot too. Pretty much everything in our basement is packed in bins and labeled. I have some other ones in the house too. I'm like you and I'm so organized I can tell someone where to find things even if I'm not there! I love it that way!

  4. Your post inspired me to purge and reorganize my closet today- Moving on to the bathroom cabinets and bedroom tomorrow :)

  5. Glad I could be of some help and a little inspiration. Rachel, it's awesome to get organized before you move. It'll make it so much easier as you unpack.
    Annie, I'm sure it'll look awesome when you're done!