If you regularly spend extra minutes—or even hours—looking for something that should be easy to find, you’re probably a victim of storage sabotage. But don’t feel too bad; it happens to the best of us.
Even people with a knack for organization have trouble decluttering their space. Sometimes the very thing that seems to make storage sense is what will have us pulling our hair out a month later wondering where that pesky remote or favorite pair of sneaks ran off to.
Stop being a storage victim and start taking control of all the objects in your life. The first step is knowing what NOT to do. Here are nine of the most common storage mistakes that everyone makes.
1. Overstuffing Shelves and Cabinets
Nobody ever said that every inch of every storage shelf needs to be covered. You do not need to display every book you own or shove all the kitschy trinkets your parents brought back from their travels into the china cabinet. The same goes for the fun tableware you regularly change out with seasons and holidays.
It will be easier to find the title you’re looking for if you’re selective about what you display. And if you rotate your festive tableware seasonally, you’ll never have to dig through a whole year’s worth of holidays to find the Valentine’s Day table runner.
2. Buying Before You Organize
When you’re fired up about getting organized it’s tempting to run out to the store and snatch up a bunch of storage bins and other organizing products. The problem with this is that you usually end up with storage solutions that don’t meet your storage needs.
To store things like a pro, have a storage plan first and then shop. This way you go into the store knowing exactly what you need instead of ending up trying to force your items into storage solutions that don’t work.
3. Thinking One Size Fits All
Your mom always used small, rectangular plastic bins for storage and you see no reason to try something different. But the problem with limiting your storage options to one is that you don’t have just one type (or size) of things to store.
Consider the items you need to store as well as the space in which you have to store them. If you have a long, narrow cupboard, buy organizers that fit the space and the items you wish to keep there. To maximize under-bed storage find short, wide containers that easily slide out of sight.
4. Stacks, Stacks and More Stacks
So many of us fall prey to the mistaken idea that if something is stacked, it is organized. It’s no wonder you missed your cousin’s wedding reception last spring after burying the invitation in one of several stacks of mail on your desk.
Whether it’s paper, books or linens, stacking things up isn’t the best way to permanently declutter a room. And it makes it really hard to find the poor things that end up at the bottom. Banish stacks of mail by regularly throwing out anything you don’t need and storing the rest in a convenient mail sorter that has a place for bills, invitations and other correspondence.
5. Overlooking Prime Storage Space
Have you ever noticed how much space in your home is over your head? Since you can’t look it in the eye or reach it without getting on your tip-toes, vertical space is often overlooked. But all that space is perfect for storing items that are only used occasionally.
If space is at a premium in your house, start looking for “hidden” spots that you can convert into storage savers. The most commonly overlooked spaces are narrow areas and vertical real estate. Add shelves or creative cupboards to create instant storage space by using these previously “invisible” areas of your home.
6. Going Deep
A nice, deep drawer or cupboard might seem like an answer to prayer, but if you stack too much stuff in there you’ll never find anything. Deep storage is misleading because if offers a lot of space to put things, but makes it nearly impossible to access the things in the back or on the bottom.
Make smarter use of deep storage spaces by adding dividers and organizers that will help you see and reach everything you need.
7. Embracing Junk Drawers
We all tend to forgive ourselves the indulgence of at least one junk drawer. But the reason it’s called a junk drawer is that it’s full of all kinds of things we don’t know how to deal with. And junk drawers are like a virus – once you’ve got one it’s likely to spread.
Keep your drawers from becoming magnets for clutter by organizing drawer spaces. Use small trays, bins, and dividers to give all that junk a place to live. Once you see how nice and neat your junk drawer can be, you’ll be ready to give all your drawers a smart storage makeover.
8. Keeping Out-of-Season Items Year-Round
For most of us storage space is limited, so why crowd it with ski gear, pool gear and gardening tools all at once? Rotating seasonal items is one of the easiest ways to open up more storage space and make things easy to find.
If it’s sporting equipment, designate one closet to these items and only keep gear you currently use in the house. Put the rest in a basement, garage or shed and trade things out when the leaves start turning.
PRO TIP: This is smart practice for clothing as well. Rotate your summer and winter wardrobes and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find that dress you’ve been looking for since last spring.
9. Skipping Labels
We can talk all we want about finding the right storage containers, but if we put everything away without labeling it we’ll still end up frustrated. It’s great to put everything in its place, but there’s no point if we can’t remember what went where.
Look for storage containers that come with built-in labels. It’s also easy to add labels to just about anything. Before tossing that bin in the back of the closet, take a few extra minutes to label it. A few minutes now can save hours of aggravation later.
Now that you know what NOT to do, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start correcting those storage mistakes that drive you crazy.