No need for commercial storage items - Storing your things to make your life shine

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

No need for commercial storage items
Storing your things to make your life shine

The world is full of handy storage items. Adjustable dividers, cloth racks that can be hung from the rod in your closet, narrow shelves that fit into small spaces. You can find storage items you never imagined existed at any store, from the local dollar shop to high-end fancy furniture and housewares stores. I was once a storage fanatic myself, so at one period, I tried just about every item there was on the market, including the weirdest and most exotic. Yet there are almost none left in my house.

The storage items you’ll find in my house are several sets of clear plastic drawers for my clothes and komono, a set of cardboard drawers I have used since I was in junior high school, and a rattan basket for my towels. That’s it. And all of them are kept inside the built-in closet. Other than these, there are the built-in shelves in the kitchen and washroom and the shoe cupboard in the entranceway. I don’t need a bookcase because I store my books and papers on one of the shelves in the shoe cupboard. The built-in closets and shelves, far from being large, are smaller than average. Basically, the only storage items you need are plain old drawers and boxes—you don’t need anything special or fancy.

People often ask me what I recommend, no doubt expecting me to reveal some hitherto secret storage weapon. But I can tell you right now: there is no need to buy dividers or any other gadget. You can solve your storage problems with things you already have in the house. The most common item I use is an empty shoebox. I have tried all kinds of storage products, but have never found any other that is free and still surpasses the shoebox. It gets above average marks for all five of my criteria: size, material, durability, ease of use, and attractiveness. These well-balanced attributes and its versatility are its greatest merits. Shoes come in boxes with cute designs as well. I frequently ask my clients, “Do you have any shoeboxes?” when I visit their homes.

Shoeboxes have infinite uses. I commonly use them to store socks and stockings in drawers. Shoebox height is perfect for standing up rolled stockings. In the washroom, they can be used to store bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc., and they’re also perfect for holding detergents and other household cleaning items. In the kitchen, they can be used to stock foodstuffs as well as garbage bags, cloths, and so on. I also use them to hold cake pans, pie plates, and other cooking items that get less frequent use. The box can then be stored on an upper shelf. For some reason, many people seem to store their baking pans in plastic bags, but they are much easier to use when stored in a shoebox. This extremely easy solution is very popular with my clients. I am always pleased when they tell me that they bake more often since reorganizing.

The lid of a shoebox is shallow and can be used like a tray. It can be placed in the cupboard to hold your cooking oils and spices, keeping the base of the cupboard clean. Unlike many shelf liners, these lids don’t slip and are much easier to replace. If you keep cooking utensils such as your ladle and spatula in the kitchen drawers, you can use the shoebox lid to hold them. This keeps the utensils from rolling about noisily in the drawer every time you open and close it, and because it acts as a divider, you can use the remaining space more effectively.

Of course, there are many other types of boxes that make handy storage items. Those that I use most frequently include the plastic cases that hold business cards and those that come with portable music players made by Apple. In fact, the boxes that contain many Apple products are the right size and design for storage, so if you have any, I recommend using them as dividers in your drawers. They are perfect for storing writing tools. Another standard item is extra plastic food containers, which can be used to store small items in the kitchen.

Basically, any square box or container of the right size will do. Large cardboard boxes or electrical appliance boxes, however, are too big for storage dividers, inconvenient for other types of storage, and just plain ugly. Please get rid of them. Whenever you come across likely storage boxes while you are cleaning and sorting your belongings, set them aside in one spot until you are ready to start storing. Be sure to discard or recycle any that are left once your house is in order. Never hang on to them in the belief that you might use them someday.

I don’t recommend using round, heart-shaped, or irregularly shaped containers as dividers because they usually waste space. However, if a particular box gives you a thrill when you hold it, that’s different. To discard it or to keep it without using it would be a waste, so here you should follow your intuition and use it for storage. You can, for example, use such boxes in a drawer for hair accessories, or to store cotton swabs or your sewing kit. Create your own original combinations by matching an empty box to fit an item that needs storing. The best method is to experiment and enjoy the process.

When my clients use what they already have in the house like this, they always find that they have exactly what they need to store their things. They don’t need to go out and buy storage items. Of course, there are plenty of great designer items out there. But right now, the important thing is to finish putting your house in order as soon as possible. Rather than buying something to make do for now, wait until you have completed the entire process and then take your time looking for storage items that you really like.