Don’t Let These In Your Space

Skull and crossbones danger sign. Every home needs a resident.

If you’ve ever talked with a professional organizer, you’ve probably heard about the importance of assigning every possession a designated storage location. In other words, “Every item needs a home.” I go one step further, and tell my clients, “Every home needs a resident.” In order to justify their presence, containers should serve a purpose, namely to hold specific items. While it may seem handy to have a few empty baskets or bins lying around, they actually threaten our ability to stay organized. Here are a few reasons why…


Once an organizational system is put in place, it needs to be maintained. Items need to be put back into their designated locations on a regular basis. Unfortunately, when an empty basket or box is nearby, we tend to simply toss everything in sight inside. This makes the space look good, but function poorly. The empty bin tempts us to do what is easy rather than what is beneficial.


A large part of organizing is gathering like items together and then storing them in predictable, accessible, and logical locations. Drawer inserts, small baskets and shelf bins are all helpful tools for keeping disparate items from becoming intermingled. In contrast, large, undefined containers tend to accumulate whatever is nearby, which is likely to be items of varying sizes and purposes.


Being able to quickly identify the contents of a box or bag is important. Labels, tags, and clear containers are all useful for this purpose. Unfortunately, when items are tossed into an unmarked container, they often get “lost.” Large items obscure smaller ones, and only the belongings on the top can be seen


While doing a quick “round up” of clutter and tossing it into a large box seems efficient in the short run, it always results in a time-consuming future project. Now, in addition to the time required to put things away, you have the added chore of dumping the contents and sorting it all out. This process of reviewing and identifying muddled objects can be very time consuming.

Short term pain, long term gain

Keeping empty bins around may seem like a “get out of jail free” card in the moment, but it ultimately costs precious time, energy, and productivity. If you are tempted to sweep everything up just to get it out of sight, do yourself a favor and remove the temptation. Nest and relocate empty containers out of your main living and/or working area and into a remote location. This way you will have access to them when you need them, but won’t turn to them when you shouldn’t.

Have you ever tossed a mess into a box? Have you lost track of items this way?

28 thoughts on “Don’t Let These In Your Space”

    1. I find these bins and boxes full of mixed contents in so many homes, and it takes forever to sort them all out. Our belongings should serve us, not the other way around!

    1. I’m sure we all run into this situation, and it takes so long to sort through it all. Sometimes it is others who grab these bins (cleaning people, nannies, friends, etc.), so having them around is an invitation to a painful project ahead!

    1. Keeping a few is a good idea, but definitely never in the middle of your living space where you (or someone else) will be tempted to grab them to “clean up”! Good for you clearing out:) Nice to hear from you, Jessica!

  1. This is so true! I’m working with a gentleman right now who has an abundance of containers which we have been emptying. He used the method of rounding up mail and putting it into a container to look at ‘later’. Well, as you may imagine later never happened. I think we are going to end up donating many empty containers when we finally finish this project! Really great post!

    1. I think most of us in the profession know exactly what this is about. Bins, bags, canisters… you name it. How wonderful that you are helping this gentleman clear it all out. And then YES… get rid of them:)

  2. Keeping containers “just in case” is not always the best way to operate. It’s worthwhile to assess, consolidate and store only what number of these you will use soon. It’s best to avoid just in case as that usually leads us into bigger organizing challenges.

    1. Exactly, Ellen! And if you decide to keep a few containers, by all means don’t leave them lying around where you will pick them up and scoop items inside. Going back inside and trying to sort it all out is no fun.

    1. Exactly! Nothing undermines progress like those clutter traps… clear a space one week, come back only to find more confused boxes the next…

  3. I have a client that uses the IKEA bags and fill them with everything. They have at least a dozen. I asked her the last time I was there what made them start using them and she said it was habit because when they lived in an apartment they use them for clothes to bring to the laundromat. They now have expanded that use for anything from transporting stuff in to the house from the car and quick clean up before someone comes over. I definitely see that this is a crutch for them. I told her that she needs to find a place for rhe unused ones so they don’t get filled with ransom stuff. We now have a home for these bags. Hopefully it will help. I will ask the next time I go.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How To Make An Effective Garage OrganizationMy Profile

    1. That is exactly what I’m talking about in this post, Sabrina! Frequently, when people move into larger spaces, they have a lot of bins that were necessary when they were living in a small place and needing to “switch out” clothing. Now, they leave them around and end up tossing random things inside. Great suggestion to remove them to another location. I hope they have found this change helpful!

  4. Wow, I just read Sabrina’s comment re: the IKEA bags.That habit is a recipe for organizational disaster! Thanks so much Seana for bringing awareness to this topic. Great food for thought!

  5. Great post! Most people think that using a container justifies their disorganization and your post shows that is just not true! Thanks for shedding light on this 🙂

    1. I don’t like to “see” it either, Marcia. All my containers are in the attic or the guest room closet. I do like having a few within reach when I need them, but not about and about!

  6. That is definitely not my style, but I’ve worked with a couple of guys who stuffed newspapers and other items into bags and boxes and tucked them away, supposedly until they had time to deal with them, but we know that never happens. If they don’t have time to deal with it now, when will they? The more stuff gets piled up and mixed up, the bigger the job becomes.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…The Best Social Media Platforms for Building Your BusinessMy Profile

    1. Love that question… “if you don’t have time now (or at some point during the day), when will you?” It becomes an exponentially larger challenge to cull through the mixed up mess later!

  7. Hi Seana,
    Yes, I agree with less is more of course. I notice that people who want and try to get organized on their own tend to go out and buy containers, baskets, shelves, etc and by the time they get home they are too exhausted to really put any plan into place. It is really beneficial to look at what you have first rather than rushing out to purchase more clutter and boxes that might sit empty or full of stuff that is hidden away.

    1. Exactly… full of stuff that is hidden away. Once items get mixed up in a large bin, who knows what is inside? You’ve got to dump it out and start all over, which is very time consuming!

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