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"Bin There...Done That" (or Organizing with Containers)

If you're like me, you've found yourself highly motivated to organize a space, but then all your momentum came to a screeching halt when you tried to decide what kind of containers to use. You shopped and and in stores. You pondered and pondered. You prowled Pinterest and analyzed Amazon. Acrylic? Fabric? Plastic? Wicker? Glass? Open? Closed? Large? Small? Sets or Individual Pieces? Matching or eclectic? And you never got started because you couldn't figure out how to make it perfect.

Well, I've learned a lot over time, and I have good news to share with doesn't have to be perfect and your organizing project doesn't have to start with the container choices. In fact, it should NOT start with containers.

Organizing is a project with a process. Repeat after me... a

p r o c e s s. If you follow this process, it will become more clear to you which, if any, containers will best suit your needs. There are actually 5 major steps (developed by Julie Morgenstern, an expert in the Professional Organizing field) that will make any organizing project a success, and containers don't even need to be considered until step 4!


Step 1 - Sort like items with like items into categories (This requires you to remove and touch every item in the space)

Step 2 - Purge the expired, no longer needed/used, broken, etc... items. Be ruthless. If this step is difficult, make one pass and then come back to it another day to make another pass.

Step 3 - Assign homes for each category. (For example: a baking zone in your pantry, a medicine zone in your bathroom closet). Choose easy access spaces (called "prime real estate") for items you use daily. Choose lower shelves for heavier items.

Step 4 - Containerize if needed. You can stack, fold, hang, arrange your categorized items, or you can place them into containers. Now that you know how large each category is, you will also know how large the container needs to be. The goal should be to keep things in their place so the space can stay tidy. I offer you two considerations here: 1) Choose containers large enough to allow a bit of extra room in case you find another item in your home that belongs in that category. 3) Choose containers that fit in the space, not just that fit your stuff.

There is no need to make this part Pinterest worthy. Be honest with yourself. If you are trying to save money - find cardboard boxes, shoe boxes, cleaned lunchmeat containers, old cell phone boxes (these work great in shallow drawers!). You can also find great deals at discount stores such as Walmart, Big Lots or Marshall's, to name a few. If you like to hide your stuff, then go for opaque containers. If you like to display your stuff, then use transparent.

For convenience, bins on shelves make it easier to reach items up high or deep in the back. Bins on the floor make it easier to clean because you can slide them out of the way. Lazy Susan's are a great way to reach things "in the back" without having to move other items out of the way. Tiered risers are great for canned goods, stacking and layering, so that items in the back don't dissappear.

Step 5 - Equalize. This is the stage where you "live with" your newly organized space for a few days to see how it's working for you. There will probably be a few things you want to "tweak". Maybe you realized that some items need quicker access or some can actually be donated. Once you've made the last few changes, don't forget to LABEL the containers or shelves. That way everyone in your house knows where things go, too!

Pssst. Have you noticed it yet? S.P.A.C.E is the acronym to remember:

S = Sort

P = Purge

A = Assign

C = Containerize

E = Equalize

So, give it a try. Pick a drawer or a shelf or a closet or a room. Don't stress about it, just start the process. Even without the perfect containers, you will have an organized space that is free of unnecessary clutter and looks nicer than before. You can always upgrade to fancier containers later.

Organizing containers

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