Can woven bins, plastic boxes and lacquer trays help you get organized? Yes. Are they necessary? No. Although buying a fun, colorful or sleek storage container can provide motivation toward keeping items neat, it's possible to stay organized — and be environmentally friendly — without spending an entire paycheck on merchandise to hold your merchandise. Here's how.
DON'T BEGIN WITH BINS
Never start an organizing project by buying bins. I understand that it can be easier — and more fun — to shop for storage containers than to make the sometimes tough and emotional decisions to part with items, but culling, decluttering and reevaluating your belongings is an essential first step.
Start by taking inventory and getting rid of the items you no longer need or want. Sort through your jewelry, clothes and shoes. You may realize that you no longer like or won't wear some of them. After paring down one category, you may not need extra storage supplies. Or you may need something other than what you initially thought.
Once you've narrowed down what you have to organize, measure your shelves, drawers or cabinets, and make a list before you head out to the store or start filling your online shopping cart. A list will keep you on track and ensure you get what you need without overbuying.
SHOP YOUR HOUSE
Your house probably has a bunch of containers you can repurpose for organizing. Shoe boxes are great drawer dividers and can be covered in wrapping paper to give them personality. Plastic food containers — either from stores or carryout — can be used to stash craft and office supplies, Legos and Barbie accessories. Bookshelves can be used in closets for purses and shoes, and glass jars (from pasta sauce, for example) are great for buttons, spare change or even paper clips.
Save a few small gift boxes to divide your earrings and bracelets, or use teacups from your china set for rings. Silver trays that aren't for entertaining can become trays to keep your makeup organized. Repurposing heirlooms gives them new life and lets you enjoy their beauty.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Just keeping similar items together reduces the need for bins to designate certain categories. If all of your pasta is grouped in your pantry, you don't need a bin to keep it all together. Either way, you can see what you have and will know when it's time to buy more. The same goes for items such as gift-wrapping supplies. If you have a specific place to keep them, they'll be easy to find when you need them, and you'll notice when you're running low. And you don't need a fancy organizer for storage: An upright laundry bin is perfect for rolls of paper, and a couple of gift bags work well for storing ribbon and tissue paper.
Having a specialty storage solution is helpful if it motivates you and works well in your space, but it's more important to know what you have and where to find it, and that's a function of always putting items in their designated spots.
BUY LESS, NOT MORE
One way to feel more organized and in control without buying a single container is to simply purge excess stuff and commit to buying less. We often feel the need to buy more containers and other organizing products, because we've maxed out our spaces and think we need to find "new" or additional ways to store pieces.
I understand that many of us like to shop and stock up, but what if we all just bought less stuff? If you had two pairs of sunglasses instead of 10, you wouldn't need a special container to keep them in. If you had six bottles of sunscreen and not 24, you wouldn't need a basket for your stockpile. And if you had fewer clothes, you might not need bins to store sweaters, fleeces and boots under your bed during the warm-weather months.
There are houses where storage space is truly deficient, and it's essential to maximize the space using every organizing tool there is. But if you have plenty of space, it's worth considering whether to lighten your load, so you can spend more on those communal gatherings we all hope to get back to soon.
Nicole Anzia is the owner of Neatnik.