The average new home in the US has increased in size by more than 1,000 square feet since 1973, but we continue to fill our ever-growing spaces with things. In response the home organizing industry has exploded, with sales of organizing products reaching 16 billion in 2016. As a professional organizer I am part of this industry but as an insider I take many issues with it as well. Here are five things the organizing industry is trying to sell you that I’m not buying (and I don’t think you should, either!):
1. Every item needs a specialized container - Walk through the organizing aisle of any big box store and you will find storage containers in every shape and size. Many of these are designed to hold specific items, such as holiday decorations or gift wrap. Most household stuff can be stored in bins of a few basic sizes, and small items in drawers can be organized using boxes you already own from jewelry or electronics. Remember, if you buy that specialized container and eventually get rid of the item, the container becomes clutter as well.
2. Fit as much as possible into your storage spaces - Many organizing products are designed to allow you to fit the maximum amount of stuff into your storage spaces, like shelves that sit on top of shelves or hangers that hold 5 pairs of pants. While making full use of closets and cabinets can help, especially in older homes where storage is at a premium, packing these areas chock full does not make for a functional living space. Think about how much easier it will be to retrieve, use, and put things away if they are stored in a single layer with a bit of space on each side.
3. If you need more space, just rent it - Self-storage facilities are everywhere, with 1.7 billion square feet of space available to rent across the country. Currently 9.4% of US households rent a storage unit. The assumption is that if you run out of space for your stuff at home you can easily shuttle it off (for a monthly fee, of course). I recognize that off-site storage is sometimes necessary during a move or when a home sale is pending, but renting a storage unit is not a long-term solution to having too much stuff. If your family has outgrown your space, it’s time to pare down.
4. Organizing products are trendy - The next time you walk through Target notice the storage bins in trendy colors displayed prominently on end caps. If you pay attention you’ll see their colors change every season, and I can’t help but think we are being encouraged to change our storage containers as often as we change our clothes! This is crazy, obviously. A few good-quality containers in neutral colors (I stick to white and clear) will serve you well for years to come.
5. Complicated organizing systems are best - Searching Pinterest for organizing hacks turns up a lot of intricate systems for filing and arranging your things. While some people will take the time to maintain an alphabetized system or one with a million categories, most will not. Accept this about yourself and your family members and make it easy. If the best your kids will do is toss all their shoes into one single bin in the entryway, just be happy they are in a bin!
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Make it fab!