13 Storage Mistakes You're Currently Making (and How to Fix Them)

Get organized with these simple tips.

floral wallpapered walk-in closet looking into bedroom
Photo: David Tsay

Storage might seem like a no-brainer, but a few mistakes can hold you back from the ideal organizing situation. Luckily, most are an easy fix. Here's how to improve your storage strategies and get organized the right way.

01 of 13

Overstuffing Shelves

White shelf with décor next to large framed photo
Seth Smoot

There's no storage rule that says every square inch of a shelf must be crammed full of stuff. In fact, that's a quick way to lose track of items and create unwanted visual clutter. Instead, try alternating vertical and horizontal elements. If one section of a shelf has several books or containers, give the other side some visual breathing space with a photo or other collectible. Use mobile storage, like a bar cart (Better Homes & Gardens Nicola Metal Bar Cart, $50, Walmart) to provide extra serving space when hosting, and move it out of the way when it's not needed.

02 of 13

Using the Wrong Container

Baskets, caddies, boxes, and canisters are all versatile storage containers, but it's important to use them for the right job. To get the most out of your storage, you'll need to be strategic about which type you use for different kinds of items. Watch and see how to pick the right container for your storage needs.

03 of 13

Relying on One Type or Size of Storage

linen closet organized with bins and baskets
Lincoln Barbour

Not everything you own is the same size, so your storage containers shouldn't be one-size-fits-all. Instead, use a mix of sizes and types of storage, including open mesh baskets (Better Homes & Gardens Large Rectangular Orb Baskets, $37, Walmart), fabric bins, glass jars, and wicker baskets. This can help you maximize space and find more visually pleasing solutions for oddly shaped items.

04 of 13

Ignoring Narrow Spaces


Small rooms can handle a lot of storage if you're strategic about it. For tight spaces, choose furniture pieces that work hard without taking up too much space. In this small living room, for example, a narrow side table (similar to this Better Homes & Gardens Steele End Table with Drawer, $80, Walmart) offers a surface for decorative accents or a drink, plus an open shelf for books and a lower drawer for hidden storage.

05 of 13

Making Storage Too Deep

wooden shelving and cabinets home decor
Ed Gohlich

Extra-deep cabinets and wide shelves work well in some areas, but sometimes (especially in smaller spaces) narrower storage solutions are the most effective option. The advantage is two-fold: You can often gain extra storage spots in areas that would otherwise be too small, and with fewer items, your storage has less chance of getting cluttered and disorganized.

06 of 13

Passing by Overhead Spaces

White shelving headboard
Miki Duisterhof

If you're searching for more storage space, look up. There's a ton of potential storage square footage above head height and in a range of rooms: closets, kitchens, baths, and even bedrooms. Take advantage of the area above eye-level for both display and storage, stashing the items you use least frequently closer toward the ceiling.

07 of 13

Not Tending to Visual Clutter

Green shelf with iPad plugged into outlet
Greg Scheidemann

Visual clutter can make an otherwise orderly space feel disorganized and chaotic. Electronics frequently contribute to this; all those devices and their corresponding cords can lead to tangled plug-ins and a jumble of items. Solve those visual storage problems by using vertical containers in pretty patterns or colors. When it's pleasing to look at, you're more likely to regularly tend to your storage.

08 of 13

Insisting on Closed Doors

floral wallpapered walk-in closet looking into bedroom
David Tsay

Storage doesn't always have to be hidden to be useful. Open shelves and racks or doorless cabinets can help to ease access or allow you to put favorite items on display. When deciding what to store out in the open, choose items you use most frequently, like your go-to purse or that jacket you wear several times a week.

09 of 13

Discouraging Accessibility

shelf unit with books caddies and bins
David Tsay

If your family members can't reach what they need, they'll ask for help getting it—and won't be able to put it back either. To solve that problem, incorporate storage that's accessible for everyone in the household, including young kids. Consider stashing books and toys on low shelves or cubbies, storing clothes at arm's length, and stocking easily reached cabinets with daily necessities.

10 of 13

Not Rotating Items with Use or Season

clear shoe storage box with lid

Here's a quick fix for overstuffed closets: Take out everything that's not currently in season. Coats, shoes, and other seasonal items don't need to take up precious storage space all year long. Utilize under-bed space or upper shelves for out-of-season items to free up drawers and racks for things you'll actually need in the near future.

11 of 13

Cluttering Up Your Drawers

Drawer with items placed in bowls
Miki Duisterhof

Drawers can easily become dumping grounds for miscellaneous things we don't know what else to do with. To keep your drawers from becoming clutter magnets, corral loose items with small trays, bowls, dividers, and other containers. Edit the contents of the drawer down to the things you actually need and designate a spot for each type of item.

12 of 13

Not Subdividing Storage

home close organization with storage bins
Granen Photography Inc

Closets and cabinets can quickly become storage nightmares without a proper organizing system. To restore calm to a chaotic closet, enlist the help of bins, baskets, and boxes in a variety of sizes. Divide items by color or type and sort them into individual bins, adding labels to each one to further enforce organization.

13 of 13

Choosing Single-Purpose Furniture

Bedroom with green wall next to window
Marty Baldwin

To maximize storage space, choose furniture that enables multiple ways of organizing and storing items. When choosing pieces like nightstands and side tables, look for furniture that features a variety of storage options, including hidden spots and open areas. Combine drawers, open shelves, and tabletop surfaces for an all-in-one solution.

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