Implementing a great storage system in your home is key to keeping everything neat, tidy, and organized . Unfortunately, stacking things on top of each other and throwing things in a drawer isn’t going to cut it when it comes to having a useful storage system.
“As a professional organizer, our clients want and need orderliness in their homes—our purpose is to provide the manpower, tools, and strategies to meet those needs,” explains Audra George, a professional organizer and owner of Pretty Neat: An Organization Solution in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “Through the years, we have seen client-implemented storage solutions that could have been done a little differently to optimize their space. A few tweaks and the storage would be more functional, and long-term maintenance much easier.”
Below, we’ve asked two professional organizers for the many storage mistakes people make and how to fix them, too.
Storing photos and important documents in a non-climate-controlled environment.
“To fix this issue, pictures and important documents should be stored inside a climate-controlled environment if possible,” says George. “This keeps your important memorabilia and documents in great shape and easy to access when you need them.”
Keeping items that aren’t needed.
The biggest storage mistake you can make is keeping things that aren’t serving you a purpose, according to Crimsyn Hawk, a professional organizer and owner of Spaced Organization in Atlanta, Georgia. “The more items stored in a space, the more things there are to sift through in the future, and the harder it is to keep things tidy,” she explains.
To fix this, Hawk likes to think of her storage space like a budget—each room has a limited amount of space to store things in a neat and efficient manner, so she considers that her space budget. “I don’t want to waste my budget on things that aren’t serving me a purpose—the more space I ‘save,’ the more efficiently I can store the things I actually need,” she explains. “And the less I keep in the space, the easier it is to maintain its neatness.”
If you’re having a hard time trying to figure out if you should hang onto something, Hawk suggests asking yourself the below questions.
- Does my current self like and value this item? If the answer is no, what’s keeping you from letting it go?
- Is this something that I would repurchase? If the answer is no, it’s likely that the item has little value to you.
- Can this item be replaced easily? If so, consider keeping it only if you can think of a circumstance you will need it in the near future.
- Am I only keeping this item because I feel like I have to out of respect? If it isn’t serving you or making you happy, you shouldn’t feel entitled to store it in your space.
Buying storage bins before you know what you need to store.
“Go through your space ahead of time, to make note of what you need to store and what you intend to keep, before determining what storage solutions to buy,” suggests George. “This step will save you time and money in the long run.”
Not creating zones in each space.
“Grocery stores have heuristics in place to ensure that your shopping experience is easy and streamlined,” says Hawk. “You should aim to make your storage spaces zoned out by category, too, so that it’s easy to navigate and ‘shop’ for the item you’re in search of.” To fix this, Hawk suggests sorting “like with like” to determine what your categories are, and then section out the space so that each category lives in its own zone. This will simplify your future searches and it usually makes the space look instantly neater.
Overfilling containers so you cannot see what is in them.
“Containers come in different sizes for a reason,” says George. “Choosing the right size container is important but also allows the ‘boundaries’ of the container to keep you from overbuying more than you need.”
Not resetting your spaces regularly.
“If we want to avoid the overwhelm that comes with overcrowding our spaces, it’s best to check in with them on a regular basis,” suggests Hawk. “Regular resets can lead to more intentional purchases and less impulsive ones by staying familiar with what you currently have in each space—you’ll be more aware of your ‘space budget,’ what you have, and what you need.”
To fix this issue, Hawk recommends setting aside time to sift through each of your rooms and the contents at the beginning of each season. “This helps me stay on top of any overcrowding, prioritize the accessibility of the things I’ll need most the coming season, let go of things I don’t need, and assess my remaining ‘space budget’ for potential new items.”
Using different shapes and sizes of bins together.
“Using similar sizes and shapes of storage containers in a particular space allows for storage items to fit better in a space and gives a more cohesive look and function, showcasing your items and hard work getting organized,” explains George.
Storing items in areas you don’t see often.
It’s easy to throw things in a hidden room, behind closed doors for the sake of less clutter in another space. That habit, though, can cause a whole slew of problems down the line. “We tend to forget about things we don’t see on a regular basis, which can lead to overbuying and overcrowding,” explains Hawk. “So, in short, ‘out of sight out of mind’ is not a game you should be playing with your things.”
Hawk recommends making sure to be intentional about what, how, and where you store your things when you’re putting them away. “Take the extra minute or two to place them in the correct zone (which should be in a spot you’ll think to look for it next time) and in a way that is easy to see at first glance,” she says. “I like to use clear bins because they allow for a quick visual and save me time.” Bonus: when we use clear bins we tend to keep the contents of them looking nice and neat.
Storing items in open bins without lids.
“It’s not a great idea to store your belongings in open bins without lids, where dust, moisture, or insects might be a problem,” warns George. “The solution to this is utilizing lidded bins to keep your items clean and dry in garages and storage areas.”
Stacking too many storage bins on top of each other.
“A benefit of lidded bins is that they can stack, but stacking too many together makes it difficult to access what you need,” says George. “If possible, use shelves to separate bins instead of stacking.”
Mixing random items in bins that do not belong together or make logical sense.
“One benefit of utilizing bins is that similar items are stored together so they can easily be found when needed and put away after use,” says George. “Having miscellaneous items together will make locating your items more difficult—store items that logically go together and your life will be much easier.”