A tiny home can feel spacious and airy when it’s well-organized. Meanwhile, a huge house can feel cluttered and claustrophobic if things aren’t stored properly. Even celebrities with huge houses can hoard, and make their mansions feel minuscule once inside. Like with anything in life—your money, your looks, and your home—it’s about what you do with what you’ve got. If you don’t learn that skill, you can go from rich to poor quickly, post-liposuction fit to flabby in a week, and tidy to messy overnight. We have to cherish, respect, and care for what we have. And doing that with our home is a great start, because when your home looks good, you feel good. You can feel motivated and energized. The appearance of our surroundings affects us greatly like that.
Now, a lot of people have perfectly lovely homes that look cluttered simply because they don’t know how to store and organize things. There’s a reason that there’s an entire industry around professional decorators and, you guessed it, organizers! It’s an art form. It’s a skill. And it’s something in which a lot of us are a bit clueless. You have the best intentions when you pick up those cute storage baskets and shelves from the home goods store. And then, somehow, you look at your home and think, “Hm. This isn’t what I envisioned. This looks cramped. This looks cluttered.”
We have our instincts. Maybe it’s what our parents did. Maybe it’s what’s quick and easiest. But what’s quick and easiest isn’t always worth it if the result is an eyesore. If it’s hard to navigate your home and find things, then you actually lose time on the back end. Here are storage mistakes you’re probably making.
Clear, plastic storage bins help you see everything at a glance, but they also let everyone else see everything, and that makes a space look cluttered. Stick to opaque storage bins and simply add a small ID sticker on each one to let you know what’s inside of them. You don’t need to see your kid’s toys and your staplers and paper clips peering through clear bins.
Too many decorative storage pieces
Decorative storage is smart because it’s multifunctional, adding both visual intrigue and removing some clutter. However, some people overdo it, and stuff their home with decorative baskets and ottomans. Those, in and of themselves, take up a lot of floor space, and can create a messy look. It’s best to stick to just a few substantial decorative storage pieces.
Tables without storage
There’s no reason to have a table that doesn’t have storage. End tables. Nightstands. Long tables on which you display photos. Even your kitchen table. There are always designs that have drawers in them, or shelves. Buying a table that has no storage space is a wasted opportunity. You can put remote controls in the drawers of the couch end tables and cloth napkins in the drawers of a kitchen table, and instantly make these areas look neater.
The wire basket
When you understand why the clear baskets and bins have to go, you may opt for wire baskets. These can have an industrial-chic appeal. However, due to the nature of wire, they still let you see what’s inside the baskets. And, once again, things look cluttered. Go with cloth or thick wicker baskets, to conceal what’s inside.
Putting things on shelves is an art form. It’s important to strike a balance. So, for example, if you have a set of shelves for books and albums, don’t just cram each one full of as many of these items as possible. Stuff every other shelf, and, on the shelves in between, keep things simple. Put just a few books, and then a decorative candle and some plants.
Purposefully “displaying” items
It can feel quirky or trendy to use your practical items as decoration. So maybe you decide those wine goblets or pretty salad plates could make nice decoration on some shelves, and then you’d also have a place to store them. Unfortunately, you can usually only get away with displaying a small handful of these items, and you must spread them out. Anything beyond that, and things look cluttered. Your home can look like a warehouse.
Not having a tiny ladder
It’s good if you’re making use of the shelves that are high up—too high for you to reach on your own. But, make sure you have a small ladder to get to them. If you have no way to access those items, that’s not actually a good use of storage space. And waiting for your taller partner or roommate to get home to reach something for you isn’t sustainable.
Baskets/bins without handles
Once you’ve picked out opaque bins made of cloth or wicker, make sure you find ones with handles. You need a way to grab these and pull them off of their shelves. Having to grab handle-less bins from the sides is difficult, and poses the risk of spilling things.
Messy under-bed storage
You can store things under the bed, but don’t just jam things down there in piles. Get under-bed storage items, like shoe boxes and bins in which you can roll up sweaters. There are storage items specifically made with low profiles and handles that can easily be slid in and out from under a bed.
Under-bed storage with no skirt
Once you’ve properly packed the items you want to store under the bed in storage bins, consider adding a skirt to the side of the bed. This will cover up the things you have under there in a way that looks attractive and intentional. Nobody but you needs to know that all of your winter sweaters are under the bed.
Organizing clothes by color
A lot of people organize clothes by color because it looks pretty, but it’s not really a functional way to do things. Instead, organize clothes by season. That’s how you actually wear them. Having a black cashmere turtleneck sweater next to a black pool cover-up isn’t very useful. You’d never grab those two items on the same day.
Avoid deep shelves. These can be appealing at first since they seem to offer so much storage space. But you only wind up grabbing the things in the front row. Reaching far back to get the other stuff means removing the stuff in the front row, and that’s a hassle. So the back rows go ignored. It’s best to get narrow shelves.
Ignoring the high points
You can use some of the high spaces in your home—like those shelves that are up towards the ceiling for some reason—to store attractive family heirlooms that look nice, but that you barely use. Those shouldn’t take up precious storage space lower down, where you should store the items you use daily.
Keeping all items out, all year long
Why should your winter coats take up space in your closet all year long when you only wear them two months out of the year? And your closet is stuffed to the gills? Use under-bed storage, or garage storage, or even hallway storage to cycle out clothes by season. Just keep the clothes for the current season in your bedroom closet.
No drawer dividers
Don’t just toss things I a drawer to roll around and become tangled. Invest in some drawer dividers. They not only keep things from knocking up against one another and becoming tarnished, but they also make a drawer look nice—like the ones you find in boutiques.