07 July 2013

Reclaim Your Space - Containers & Labels

* This is the fourth post in a six part series about how I reclaimed my studio spaces.
* See the third post "Reclaim Your Space - Hyperfocus".
* See the second post, "Reclaim Your Space - Enlisting Help".
* See the first post, "Reclaim Your Space - Your Mindset".

Let's talk storage containers, shall we? (One of my favorite topics, love them almost as much as I love post-it-notes.)

**A couple people asked me how I decided what size and quantity of bins to buy. 

In terms of the size, I chose a 17 quart because I knew it would stay reasonable in terms of weight. Super huge bins are out for me, hate them. Can't move 'em, take up too much space, and they are just another black hole. Small and portable is what I need. I also didn't want anything with holes in it, solid sides.

I bought twenty because it was the cheapest way - to buy in bulk (and I had a lot of stuff to tame). The ones I got are from the Container Store and are called "Our Sweater Box". Also love that they are made in the U.S.A.  :)

When the purge began I had all shapes, sizes and colors of baskets and bins. I would take things and put them in the baskets and feel as if I had organized them. Clearly it wasn't working. And those were just the open baskets and bins.

I also had larger containers with lids on them full of stuff. I did some more thinking prior to buying the containers I did about why the containers/bins I had weren't working and realized two very important things:

1. If the items I have are not out in the open or in a see through container, then I don't remember I have it and will end up re-purchasing the exact same items. The phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" could have been written about me.

2. If the box has a lid on it, I consider whatever is in it archived and I'm not likely to go into the box because I've decided the stuff is "old", "not needed" or "off limits." (No idea what that's about but that's how I think about it.)

Knowing these two things really helped because I was able to get rid of all the containers that weren't see through (except for the drawers in the IKEA organizers but there is a solution for that too). And I was careful about what I put a lid on. But really, those two catching points for me pose a big question - how do you create a space that is aesthetically organized when everything needs to be visible?

Here's one way:

Use the container, put the lid beneath it so the lid itself doesn't turn into clutter (had that problem too) and set it on a shelf. (Please note that if you are ever in need of a safety pin, I own 1,342,097 of them. I'm willing to share.)

I also realized that labels are a good thing. I resisted them for a very long time because I felt like I was pigeon holing a space and I immediately felt tied down.

Well, yeah. That's the point.

As Mary the Wonder Organizer said, I've just freed up brain space because I don't have to try to remember where everything is. Things have a home, it gets put there, end of story.

I got a little bit label happy:

Clear, concise and being able to see everything (either via label or clear container) takes away the possibility that I will be buying duplicates.

I have a lot of projects and samples from all the articles and classes I teach. Those went into boxes with lids. I'm happy to tuck those away out of sight. I want to hold on to them for the time being but I don't want them taking up real estate.

The key lesson learned: Simply owning containers and baskets and organizers does not make you organized. They must function the way you need them to, no matter how cute they are. :)

In the next post, I'll talk about how to get rid of the stuff you don't want to keep.


Deirdre said...

I also love containers and think the labeling makes total sense. My only suggestion would be to replace the labels you have and make a ThermoFax screen for a great artistic label! After all they should be inspiring too right?

:-D eirdre

Robbie said...

You know how much I love my label maker (i even have a label on hubbies decaf coffee carafe). And omg...i have lids to my containers all over. Great tip for placing them under & creating a shelf..love these posts...good thoughts for us to process & apply! Thanks

Lynda said...

Last time I organized - over a year ago - I bought some boxes and labeled them. But since I stack them I need to put the tops on them. It's really helped but now I think I need more!

Debbie said...

thanks for sharing your process. I hired an organizer two hobbies ago, and it was liberating. exhausting, but successful. Now I collect fabric and paints and paper, and I know somethings gotta give. I have those same container store boxes, plus lots of shelving. Good luck on your adventure. I wish Mary the wonder organizer lived near me. I would do it again.

Sea Air Arts - Deb H said...

I too am a label convert. It helps to know where to put things so I can just put them away and not have to remember/look for their home. Makes putting them away a lot more likely (as opposed to the deal-with-it-later pile). I've also used (mostly) those towers of clear plastic drawers (I have a million, stacked two high) as I can find stuff without shuffling stacks of containers. But I'm looking at your bins and my Ikea wood shelves and thinking that size is a perfect solution for some of the loose items.
I also love those great shelves you have with the tub-drawers - very nice!

Susan said...

wow this really is possible!!!

Jeannie said...

I live in a climate where blowing dust and harmful sun rays are a problem. Things have to go into covered storage. I like old suitcases. They are funky and fun, they hold just the right amount, so lifting isn't a problem. I label each with a luggage tag. I wish I could have open storage. I think having things out help the creative process. Love the sweater boxes and I think I can use them myself. Thanks, Lynn!

Cedar Ridge Studio said...

Thanks for letting us follow the process. We could be twins out of sight out of mind.
It was my goal to spend the next 2 months clearing out my stuff. this is perfect I can learn from you and maybe succeed this time.

Marie MacDonald said...

Where did you get the wooden cases with rails for the tubs? They look great.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments. I am amazed at the nice containers and racks I come across at my local Goodwill store. The blue, 2 squares wide by 7 tall Ikea CD towers that was so popular for many years are a great size for many things. See them here:


2 of them hold all of my Procion dyes. The are the right size for the 1 lb size on down. I can see at a glance what I need. I found another 2 last week at Goodwill again. I discovered they are the perfect size to fit a pair of shoes in each of the holes: one summer and one winter.

You are SO right. If you cannot see it, you will not use it.

One last comment on labeling...maybe it is a little OCD, but when I label the outside of my containers, I lay out the masking tape, slightly stuck to the rotary mat and use a Sharpie to write what I need. I can trim the edges with an old rotary cutter. That way, the labels have nice, neat left and right edges, rather than being torn. I know, a little psychotic, but it all looks neat and clean in the end - and easier to find.

Thanks for the process.
Johanna in Menomonee Falls, WI

Art Tart on a Farm said...

I do love my label maker. It really helps in so many ways.