5 Storage Habits of Neat Freaks
We found out how professional organizers keep their own homes tidy—and why they rarely throw away shoeboxes.
They Act Immediately
Sue Bollinger of Tidy Up with Sue in Seattle uses this mantra with clients—and herself: "Don't put it down; put it away." The thinking behind the directive is wonderfully straightforward: You can stop clutter before it begins by simply placing items in their proper spot as soon as you're finished using them.
Their Most-Used Items Are Always in Sight
Eye level is key for New Yorker Karin Socci, of The Serene Home. She makes sure to stash anything she uses daily in a place that's about even with her head, so it's as easy to put away as it is to get out (forget about getting up on a stepstool to reach that pot you cook with almost every night). If there's an item she only uses once a week or less (such as a waffle iron), it doesn't rank high enough to command a "prime storage real estate" spot on her countertop or in eye-level cabinets.
They Hide Labels
"Nothing is more distracting than product labels," says Socci. Hand cream, shampoo, cleaning products, food items—not only can packaging distract your eye and make your drawer or cabinet appear cluttered, but a hodgepodge of containers can make storage more difficult. For example, if you transfer opened bags and boxes of beans, cereal, pasta and rice into clear plastic or glass containers, you'll know what's inside at a glance (and how much you've got), and they'll fit more neatly into your pantry.
They Don't Buy Fancy Storage Systems
The pros we spoke to consistently told us that some of their favorite storage containers are ridiculously simple: cardboard shoeboxes. Bollinger likes them because they're not too big (so you can fit them in your existing drawers), and they can hold everything from T-shirts to jeans (she folds clothing, stands it up in the box à la Marie Kondo and lines them up vertically, so she can see every item). Katrina Hassan of Spark Joy London says smaller boxes such as ones that previously held iPhones, luxury soaps, fancy chocolates or jewelry are ideal for creating compartments within a drawer. They keep things from sliding around when you open the drawer and they're lovely to look at. "Opening a cupboard, drawer or storage space is a joyful experience in itself," Hassan says.
But They Do Buy Some Containers—with a Caveat
Of course, there are things just can't be contained in a shoebox, and a big storage bin can be helpful for larger items or collections you only use occasionally. Caitlin Roberts of Minimize with Purpose in Southern California has a few such boxes in her garage for Halloween and Christmas decorations. A pretty bin, lovely as it is to look at, can make you forget all about where those Christmas stockings are. Not so with a see-through box; her rule is that they must be clear, so that every time she's in the garage, she sees them and is reminded of what's inside.