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

Even the most organized person makes storage mistakes. Luckily, most are an easy fix. Here's how to identify what you can do to improve your storage strategies.

Overstuffing Shelves

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 to 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.

Want to get organized? Pick the right storage container for the right job and you'll be on your way. Follow these tips for choosing bins, baskets, and more.

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. Watch and see how to pick the right container for your storage needs. 

Relying on One Type or Size of Storage

Not everything you own is the same size, and not every type of storage you need should be either. A mix of sizes and types can help you quickly solve storage dilemmas and find more visually pleasing solutions for odd-shape items.

Ignoring Narrow Spaces

There's a lot of storage usefulness that can be eked out of tight spaces. In this small living room, for example, a full-size side table would have overwhelmed the adjacent door and the traffic pattern. A storage-smart solution: a narrow table with a surface for a lamp and drink, plus a bottom shelf perfect for stacked boxes.

Making Storage Too Deep

There’s often an impulse to make storage as deep and as big as possible, to gain enough room for present and future items. But sometimes it’s OK to resist that pull in favor of narrower storage. The advantage is two-fold: You can often gain extra storage spots in otherwise ignored areas, and with fewer items, your storage has less chance of getting cluttered and disorganized.

Passing by Overhead Spaces

There's a ton of potential storage square footage above head height and in a range of rooms: closets, kitchens, baths, even above headboards. Take advantage of it for both display and storage; use built-ins if the room is more public in nature or flexible systems for private areas.

Not Tending to Visual Clutter

There are lots of items that contribute to visual clutter in our home, and that can lead to storage problems. Electronics are a good example: Cords and plenty of devices may lead to tangled plug-ins and a jumble of items. Solve those visual storage problems with vertical containers in pretty patterns or colors; when it's pleasing to look at, you're more likely to regularly tend to your storage.

Insisting on Closed Doors

Storage doesn't always have to be hidden to be useful. Open shelves or doorless cabinets can help to ease access or allow you to develop a collection of well-loved items that are well-seen, too.

Discouraging Accessibility

If your family members can’t reach what they need, they’ll ask for help getting it -- and be unable to put it back, too.  To solve that problem, include storage that’s accessible for all: books on low shelves or racks, clothes at arm’s length, and cabinets stocked with daily necessities.

Not Rotating Items with Use or Season

There’s often a quick storage solution to overstuffed closets: Take out everything that’s not currently in season. Those items needn’t be transported to far-off rooms; under beds or on above-head-height shelves make good out-of-season storage spots.

Cluttering Up Your Drawers

There's a reason a junk drawer is called a junk drawer: It's usually the repository of all those things we don't want, or don't know how, to deal with.  And if you're not careful, all your drawers can quickly become clutter magnets. Instead, give yourself (and your junk drawers) a break, with organized spaces that rely on smaller trays, dividers, or other containers or bins.

Not Subdividing Storage

Even narrow closets or cabinets can quickly become a storage nightmare, with a hodgepodge of items with no order.  Luckily, bins, containers, trays, baskets, and the all-important labels can quickly restore storage calm. Subdivide by color or type of item, and label shelves, too.

Choosing Single-Purpose Furniture

The best storage pieces are those that enable multiple ways of organizing, using, and disguising items. That's true even for the smallest of elements in a room, such as a nightstand in a bedroom. The best versions include hidden storage, long-term spots such as open shelves for favorite books or other items, and daily-use surfaces.

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