The way we clean and stay organised is as personal as the way we conduct our grooming routines; what’s right for you, won’t be right for others. Watching a family member or flatmate clean and organise might send you into a tailspin, but unfortunately, not everything has the same idea of ‘clean’ or even ‘clutter-free as you.
You and your loved ones may even hold gravely different perspectives on good and bad storage, which is tricky terrain that, more often than not, only trial and error can resolve. However, if clutter has become a problem, or if you simply feel the urge to organise but feel unsure of where to start or what storage might be worth the investment, and are getting nowhere with helpful suggestions from friends and family, you’ve come to the right place.
Here, we details the common storage mistakes we’re all guilty of and solutions for amending those bad habits.
1. Rethink open shelving
In theory open shelving is great; you can see all your treasures laid out or stacked up, thinking you’ll never misplace an item again but life has a habit of getting in the way, as does dust. The issue is, open shelving is hard to keep clean and eventually it can become a dumping ground; home to coins, receipts, mail, miscellaneous debris that mysteriously piles up, especially if this shelving is close to your front door or in common areas. Keeping it clean takes diligence and careful editing.
If you’re a fan of open shelving, no matter what, rethink how much is tucked into or on these shelves, editing now means less visual and real clutter as things pile up. Also assess how you might be able to add useful, smaller storage items like bowls or boxes which are easily removed and sorted through when you have time, and much easier to pull out and put back than 20 different knick knacks that each need dusting. These catch-alls can be where mail or coins are dumped until you have time to clean up.
2. One size does not fit all
If you’re on an organisation binge it can be very tempting to shop for matching containers as this might feel visually appealing and lend your home a stylish uniformity. But, the reality is, your life isn’t uniform and certainly your belongings won’t thoughtfully adhere to this one-size lifestyle.
What you need is a multitude of storage solutions that will slot into all manner of spaces and fit objects of every size and shape. Take your linen cupboards for example, where hand towels, toilet paper and pegs may sit among spare pillows and linens. If this is the case, spending time sourcing solutions for each item, or groups of items, will save you time in the long term. Toilet paper should be easily accessible and visible in a basket for example, not tucked away in an opaque box, as you will fall victim to running out.
Likewise, pegs or small items like cotton buds and spare sponges should be visible but stored in small jars so that they take up little room but you’re aware of stock level. Small shallow baskets, or caddies or buckets are useful options too, especially if you need to move these items around more often than not. Cleaning products can be lumped together in bigger, stylish boxes so that they remain hidden but organised. Hand and tea towels can be rolled up and piled into baskets which are easy to move and allow the fabric to breathe a little, plus you’ll be able to see what’s clean.
3. Out of sight, out of mind
A common storage mistake we all make is to rely too heavily on big tubs, containers or baskets and pile everything in and then instantly forget where everything is. Not only does this method mean more work in the long run, especially if linens haven’t seen the light of day for months, but it can mean having to pull everything out and make a big mess to locate one small item.
The mistake here is not being able to see what you have or what’s clean and not organising with care. Ideally, what you want is to find storage solutions that are useful (read: transparent or sheer) and get yourself a system. Even if you’re not a system person, leaving labels on boxes or tying tags to handles can be an easy solution to your storage issues.
And, as above, being able to see what’s clean or what you’re running low on, whether that’s in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room, can mean saving your precious time and energy. In short, don’t just hide everything away and pretend it’s not there, organise with care and your future needs in mind.
4. You’ve been ignoring your drawers
Like open shelving, drawers can become organisational nightmares within a matter of months, even weeks. If your drawers are your secret shame, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But now might be the time to finally sit down and tackle them. We keep our cutlery in a neat, orderly fashion with drawer dividers but for some reason that trend never made it to our other drawers. This may be a viable solution for drawers filled with paint brushes, pens and random stationery, even beauty paraphernalia, especially pencils, tubes and tools.
If you’re dealing with a mess that you would like to be proud of upon opening your drawers, gather small bowels, tea cups, plates and trays together (this may take some time) and then divide your belongings up into categories (jewellery, grooming products. etc.) and then do not deviate from this system. It will be easier to find items and you’ll actually want to open that drawer again.
5. You didn’t consider colour coding
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but certainly there’s something to be said for colour coding items like books, magazines or even beauty products. Firstly, it’s visually appealing—we all love a rainbow—and secondly, it can make clutter feel managed, or at the very least pretty.
This approach has been dubbed the ROYGBIV organisation method and, as noted, takes its cue from the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) and can be applied to literally any areas that need help. One look at The Home Edit’s Instagram account you will see how this approach can makeover your fridge, desk, pantry and even smaller areas like drawers to help you find visually engaging storage solutions. This means opting for storage that you’re comfortable with being on show but blends in to let your organised rainbow shine. Think, glass jars, transparent boxes and trays.
6. Your furniture isn’t helpful
Fixing storage woes can be as simple as finding furniture that can multitask. It may seem simple but when you take stock of your pieces, how many function as more than just a table or chair? Stools, especially those designed to sit at dressing tables or at the foot of a bed, are perfect for hiding shoes, toys, accessories or excess linen. And what about your coffee or side tables? Great that they hold a lamp, but what about room underneath for odds and ends? CDs, records, notebooks and stationery can be stored here for easy access. If you’re working with a small home, having multitasking furniture is a non-negotiable, especially if you’re low on cupboard space or looking to fill narrow areas.
7. You’re not thinking about over-the-head solutions
Accessibility is an important storage consideration as you don’t want to make it impossible for yourself or your family to reach items needed daily. However, the world above eye level (which, granted, is different for us all) holds a tonne of storage possibilities. Cupboards, shelves and bookcases which tower over you may be under utilised and may be a suitable home for fragile pieces you want on display but rarely use. Bigger vases, which are lovely to look at, might be better suited clustered together on top of a bookshelf when not in use, rather than tucked away in a cupboard and taking up precious space.The same goes for serving bowls or platters which can be difficult to store but you love the look of. All we’re asking is that you look up, and reevaluate the possibilities.