Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips and tools: Space and storage

When looking for the perfect container for a category of things, whether it be a glass jar to hold your seashell collection, a magazine holder to contain your subscription to National Geographic, or a linen closet that will hold all of your sheets, blankets and towels, too often people look for a container that will hold those items "just right." Just right means it is the perfect size to hold however much of something you have--a jar in which your seashells go right up to the brim, a linen closet in which every shelf is full of linens.

This is a cardinal organizing mistake. Do not think that by finding the perfect sized container you are getting organized. Rather, you are shooting yourself in the metaphorical foot. What happens when you go to the beach and pick up a beautiful shell and want to add it to your collection, or your next National Geographic arrives and you suddenly have no place to put it because the magazine holder is full? You're carefully selected system is suddenly useless, and you either have to find another container for your new possession, spend time taking everything out of the old container and finding a new, larger one that will fit everything, or just shove the new item on top of the old items, which is how most linen closets end up looking like disaster areas.

Save yourself the trouble by selecting a container that is actually big enough to allow room to add to it. It is the nature of life that we tend to accumulate more of the same kinds of things. Leave space in that glass jar and leave room at the top of your plastic boxes. Don't fill everything up to the brim and you'll be surprised at how easy it is to stay organized.

Of course, sometimes you have a finite amount of room, such as with a linen closet. In that case, culling the linens that you no longer use or are damaged and donating them is the best way to make room for new stuff. You can also consider the one-in-one-out rule, which works well for clothes as well.

Eventually you may fill up a container to the brim, even after careful culling of no longer loved, needed, or used items, and that's okay. Organization goes hand in hand with flexibility.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by yeowatzup
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

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