by Susan McCarthy
If you’re struggling to keep things organized at home, you may be looking to purchase the organizing supplies that will make a difference. Here’s how to determine what you need.
When I see images of organized spaces on Pinterest or Instagram, I still feel a moment of sheer longing. So pretty! So tidy! So, organized!
But then I remind myself that these are areas staged for a photograph not organized for functionality. Sure, some spaces look practical, and they might be. But others? I can just look at those spots and know that the moment someone tried to use something … or put it away … the neatly curated order would fall apart.
And that’s one of the first lessons about organizing supplies, aim for practical pieces over those that merely make a spot look pretty. If a piece doesn’t meet your actual need, then it isn’t going to help you stay organized.
When to Shop for Organizing Supplies
Some people who’ll tell you how to get organized will have you start by buying bins and boxes and other supplies to put your stuff in.
This is wrong.
How do you know what to buy until you really see what you have to organize? Maybe you currently have stuff that you don’t even need. Or perhaps items from the category of stuff that you’re working on are in multiple places in your home.
You need to take a few actions before you go shopping. Why waste your time and money storing things you don’t need or putting them in an inappropriate container?
The Purpose of Organizing Supplies and Products
Every organizing gadget, shelf, cubby, cabinet, divider, etc. should do two things.
Help you retrieve what you’re looking for when you need it.
Make it easy to return the item to its home, or storage space, when you are done using it so that you can find it again the next time you use it.
Storing things “just in case” you need them or for “someday” or because you don’t want to make a decision about some items isn’t being organized.
Organizing is about a functional home. Now, organizing something that you use once a year is still about function! You use that item. But because you don’t use it frequently, you want to store it in an appropriate location (easy to access, but not someplace where you’re looking at it every day).
The First Step to Getting Organized
Before you organize, you want to declutter. Remember, organizing things that you don’t, won’t, or can’t use wastes your time, money, energy, and space. Yes, decluttering takes time, but removing excess things inherently makes a space more organized.
When you have less stuff, you can better see what you do have.
Also, decluttering helps you see what organizing supplies you might need. You don’t know what’s going to help you create order if you don’t have a clear sense of what you have that needs organizing. When you declutter, you might realize that you don’t need the bins, baskets, and gadgets you thought you needed because you have less stuff in the space.
And even after you declutter an area, you want to live with your stuff as it is and see what help you need to keep your things orderly. For example, if you have a pile of jeans or sweaters on a shelf in your closet and every time you reach for one to wear the pile tips, then you might want a shelf divider that will keep the stack upright.
The Organizing Supplies that You (May) Need
Before you hit "add to cart," look around your home to see if you already have supplies that you could use, particularly if they aren't working in the space where you're currently using them.
Hooks – I know, so simple, right? But hanging something on a hook is much simpler than using a coat hanger. Hooks are perfect for things like coats, bags, robes, and towels. If something is dropped on the floor or draped over a chair, a hook or peg may be your solution.
Shelf risers – I don’t know why shelves are installed with so much space between them, but you can lose a lot of storage opportunities and the chance to keep things accessible. For example, if you are stacking cans in your pantry two high then shuffling through them might leave a mess.
A shelf riser creates a movable shelf between two shelves in your cabinet, which means that instead of things being stacked, they can be set on their own shelf, which can make it easier to retrieve and return items.
Shelf dividers – Shelf dividers are a bit like bookends, they keep stacks of items from slipping over. A horizontal file sorter may also serve your needs. These items keep things like piles of clothing from tipping over; empty handbags upright; and keep floppy, unstructured items from becoming a disorganized pile.
Drawer dividers – Pictures of drawer dividers sorting underwear or socks look nice but consider if that’s really going to help you find what you need. Also, will the divider make it more difficult to put these items away?
Drawer dividers and divided trays are helpful for keeping small items separated (no getting a pushpin jammed in your finger when you’re looking for a paperclip). You can also cut down cereal, rice, and pasta boxes and make your own dividing trays.
Dividers only work if there is one type of item in each section … otherwise you’ve simply created numerous small spaces of disorder.
Caddy or rolling cart – I group these two items together because they help you move things from one space to another. If for example, you don’t have a craft room, a caddy or rolling cart can help you keep things stored out of sight until you want to use them. And you have a convenient way to clean up when you’re done.
If you don’t have the space for a home office (or you prefer to do paperwork in the living room to supervise or spend time with children), a caddy, rolling cart, or rolling file cabinet or box can make it simpler to move a group of items together.
Before You Start Shopping …
Remember, organizing tools and supplies should make it easier to retrieve and return items. You want to be able to find what you need when you want it. And you need to be able to put things away with minimal fuss or you risk these items becoming cluttered.
So, first, declutter. Are you really using the things that you are trying to organize? What issues are you having with the items where they are stored right now? What would make it easier to retrieve or return these items from their storage space?
If you have too much stuff in a space, no organizing tool solves that problem. A space – drawer, shelf, cabinet – can only fit so much stuff before things become messy. Decluttering may help you realize that you don’t need organizing supplies at all!
More Resources to Help You Get Organized
Hi, I'm Susan
I'm a former teacher who became a professional organizer (and not because I'm a natural-born neatnik). I live with my husband and fluffy cat on a river in Massachusetts. I crochet, make handmade cards, and love reading young adult novels. Learn more about my decluttering journey here.