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Containers and Organizing

Updated: May 24, 2023

An organizer's thoughts about the container craze and personal photos...

Raise your hand if you've walked by a bunch of cute containers in a store and felt compelled to buy them just because they're cute...(my hand is raised!)

And raise your hand if you've thought, "If I buy those containers, I'm going to go home and get ORGANIZED!" (my hand and a million others are raised)

I've been an organizer for almost ten years now and I can't tell you how many containers I've touched in that time - thousands, I'm sure.

Clearly, I have some thoughts about this :D

My top 3 thoughts about containers and organizing:

  1. Have a personal container store

  2. Use containers to keep categories together

  3. Clear clutter, THEN get containers to organize what you keep

Organizing and categories go together like peanut butter and jelly. Keeping categories together is critical to staying organized and containers often help.

So it's important to have containers, right? Yes, AND...

We don't know what containers we'll need for organizing until we get rid of everything we don't want.

My thought is: why waste time and money to organize clutter?

If you love buying containers and also want to get organized, I encourage you to adopt this little mantra the next time you get the urge to buy:


And then practice this thought:


Many times I've worked with clients and found containers of every shape and size, empty or half empty, adding to the clutter.

These often end up there because of thoughts like...

"Ooh, those are nice containers! I've wanted to get organized...I'll get these, then go home and get organized!"

And here we are, months or years later, still unorganized with mismatched containers all around, maybe half full, maybe holding who-knows-what.

The containers are not going to get you organized - only you can get you organized.

Yes, a professional organizer can come to your house and organize for you (please talk to me before you hire one), but they'll still clear clutter, find the gems, THEN get containers to finish the organizing.

One big key to this...

You may find you have just what you need without going shopping.

What I recommended to my students and I recommend to anyone struggling with clutter who wants to get organized:

Curb retail therapy of any kind for the duration of your organizing adventure - if you feel the urge to shop, check in with what feeling is underneath that urge, then take that emotional energy and turn it into organizing energy.

Yes, I'm serious. :)

Less shopping equals less stuff to organize!

We're bombarded with boxes of all shapes and sizes with packaging and such, so we'll likely find them all around the house, garage and office as well as continually coming into our house. (Maybe they breed?)

Start noticing the sturdy, nice ones - Apple products make notoriously nice boxes, while others are flimsy and ready to recycle as soon as it's opened...

Create a Personal Container Store

As you go through your house, collect nicer containers and boxes that could be used for organizing and put them all together. I know - that could mean a lot of containers and boxes.

First, throw away or donate broken, torn ones and donate ones you don't like. If you want clear space in your home, I recommend not keeping them 'just because.'

If the pile gets unmanageable, choose your least favorites and recycle or donate them.

Why keep a container store:

Then we can see what we DO want and how much of it there is.

Only then can we try different containers, different angles, different boxes and trays, until one fits just right.

It's like putting a puzzle together...

Does that make sense? If not, read it again :)

If you can't find the perfect container:

  • Make due with what you have

  • Make a note of the size and shape of the category - I recommend measuring and noting it in a text to yourself so it's available when needed (or when you get a container buying urge)

  • Keep your extra sensory organizing eyes peeled :)

  • If you get through your whole house and don't find the right container, THEN buy one that fits the category just right.

And one more little tip I've found helpful many times...

When things don't quite fit but the container seems perfect, ask:

  • Is there something else I can let go of?

  • Is there something that doesn't belong in this category?

  • Is there another, creative way I can put things in this container?

If the answer to all of those is truly no, then ask:

  • Is this really the right container?

  • Can I make due with this container without things getting unorganized until I find one that fits?

  • Do I need to find a better temporary solution?

  • Can I write down the dimensions for what I need a container or order what I need?

Here are some containers I use in my house - some I ordered specifically for items, some I found while decluttering, and some I found as I was wandering the world (or Goodwill and Target)...

Be willing to play around, try things, let things go that don't work.

None of these were the first container I tried for that category, and some won't be the last. Some, though, work so perfectly I'll use them for a very long time.

Keep trying until you feel what Marie Kondo calls the "click point," where you know it's so right for the item or category that you'll be inspired to put it away.

Happy clearing, decluttering and containing!



Please remember that I'm here for you! Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.

There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.

For inspiration and organizing tips in your in-box, join my e-newsletter, Sunbeams. Inspiration only, no spam, I promise :)

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