Organizing Pitfalls #12: Buying containers too early in the process

We’ve all had that experience of seeing the pretty pictures on Pinterest, in a magazine, or on TV. It’s this beautifully organized space that looks SO appealing and you think, “I wish my closet, pantry, or living room looked like that.”  

Those pictures are amazing inspirations, and yes… as organizers we love to look at them too. However, as an organizer, what I’ve also seen too many times are the clients who aim for that beauty and run out to buy the pretty bins, boxes, and other trappings. They excitedly whip their space into shape stashing all their bits and bobs into the new prettier boxes… and then within two weeks, they can’t find anything and the whole system dissolves back into chaos.  

Or you get the other, an even more unfortunate alternative. You buy a bunch of pretty boxes and then discover that they don’t physically fit or work in your intended space, so they end up languishing unreturned trying to be useful in various other random locations in the house. The vision remains unachieved and the clutter of stuff has now grown to include a bunch more random boxes.  

The myth that pretty bins make you organized 

The various organizing and home goods stores would love for you to believe that if you just came and bought more stuff from them your life would become immediately better and all your organizing problems would be solved. But, as a professional who’s seen this myth in action for over a decade now, I’m sorry to burst your bubble and say that it’s simply not true.  

Without a clear system in place those pretty bins become stash zones or hiding places. You end up confused and searching through numerous places trying to find what you’re looking for… in other words you’ve made life harder, not easier for yourself.  

The problems with jumping the gun 

 Here are several reasons why the solution ISN’T to immediately buy more bins: 

  • If you’re not crystal clear on the specific category of stuff that the bin will store, then it’s becomes a catch-all stash zone. 
  • If you haven’t taken the time to sort and weed your stuff to know how much of that specific category of stuff you have, then you don’t know if the bin you’re buying is big enough to contain the volume of stuff. 
  • If you haven’t considered where in your home space this category of things would best fit and be accessed then you might be trying to shoehorn in a solution that’s less than ideal. 
  • If you haven’t measured the dimensions of the closet, shelf, or cabinet you intend this bin to live on, then you may discover it simply doesn’t fit or won’t work in that intended space. 
  • Rarely is the problem of resolving too much clutter in your home fixed by adding yet more stuff… the place to start is with evaluating what you have. 

This is quite literally one of the MOST common mistakes people make, and it also fuels one of the most common misunderstandings new clients have when they plan to hire an organizer. 

What an organizer can’t do for you 

Somehow folks seem to assume that our years in the organizing world means that we can walk in, visually survey your room in a few minutes, write out a shopping list of all the storage things you’ll need to buy, and then everything will be perfect with a quick trip to the store.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not how it works. We don’t have some kind of magic vision that allows us to instantaneously see the perfect organized system for any space in seconds. 

What we do know how to do is ask good questions and guide our clients through the process to create a beautiful and sustainable outcome. That’s why at Living Peace we teach our 8 Steps to Organizing Success. We aim to guide clients through a successful organizing process that’s focused on developing a clear system for how you use your space, as well as how you want it to look and feel when you’re done. 

How to organize any space successfully 

What can you do to avoid this “buying pretty bins” pitfall? 

  • Watch this video to learn about the 8 Steps to Organizing Success and where your organizing process should actually start to create a sustainable outcome. 
  • Use our SWABS system to setup your space successfully. 
  • Don’t skip the planning phase: Start with your vision for the space. What are the activities, actors, and outcomes happening there? How will it look and feel when you’re done. What is the future you are moving toward?
  • Once you’re clear on your vision for the space, then always, always start by sorting your current stuff into categories. Sorting what you have is ALWAYS the first step in system setup. (Buying bins and containers is step 5 in the process.) 

When you walk down this path successfully your reward is an organized space that functions beautifully and can be easily maintained over a long term. So, if I promise that you’ll get to the pretty bin buying eventually, could you find some patience to wait for that reward? 

Share your story 

Have you ever experienced this pitfall? I’d love to have you share your story in the comments below. It’s ok… I PROMISE you’re not alone.  🙂


Image: Storage boxes/Ikea




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