Ah, the trusty plastic storage bin. A common sentiment is, “Great! All the extra stuff that doesn’t fit in our living spaces has somewhere to go, out of the way!” Beware - using plastic storage bins to “hide all the clutter” in your space can actually work against you if you’re not careful.
If we filled one or several of these bins every time our spaces got too cluttered for our liking, without first addressing if and how these items will be used again, we’d someday wind up with stacks of mystery plastic bins. Without categorizing and clearly labeling their contents, finding what we want later might be tedious and exhausting. Of course, there are ways to utilize this tool to get and stay organized. In my experience, these are the most common uses for plastic storage bins. Below each example, I’ve provided tips for managing each category:
Seasonal or other home decor not being used
This one can be tricky: we might have decorations that have been passed down from family members, or that we used during a particularly sentimental time in our life. Ask yourself: Do I use all of these decorations? Is there anything broken that could be repaired, or is it too far gone? If you haven’t used some of these items in over a year, it might be time to consider letting them go to a home where they’ll be used.
Sporting or other recreational equipment
I’d offer similar advice for addressing this as I did with the home decor. Make sure all the gear is in good repair and has been used within the last two years. Be honest about whether you’ll be using it again! We’ll cut this category a little slack because the pandemic might have put a temporary hold on your favorite sports.
Toys children don’t play with anymore
Oftentimes, these get put away to make space for new toys that have moved in. The intention behind storing the toys might be to offer them to new family members or our friends’ children in the future. It’s likely that day may never come. If the collection becomes too much to manage, consider moving items out of the house now. First, ask friends and family if there’s anything they might want. Otherwise, there are local children who could use those toys now. People have good luck with Facebook, NextDoor, or making a donation drop. Make sure to separate out the broken toys - nobody needs the uneccesary frustration.
Clothing that’s out of season or outgrown
The routine of swapping out cold/warm weather clothing can be quite the chore. I encourage paring down your wardrobe in order to eliminate the clothing swapping routine. If it feels best for you to switch out seasonal clothing but it’s become too much, it’s time to evaluate and simplify. Are there pieces that remain in the bin year round but stick around because “there’s room for them?” For clothing that’s been outgrown - is there someone you know who can use it now? If the item of clothing fits again someday - is it something you’d want to wear, or would you just go out and get new clothes anyway?
Guests are coming over and to hide the clutter…in the bin it goes.
The general idea in this scenario is neat stacks in the garage look more inviting than clutter all over the house. These bins are the most time consuming to sort and address because there could be multiple categories in one bin. Books might be mixed with clothing, kitchen gadgets, toys, crafts, and a whole array of other items. Do your best to sort into categories and address from there. Has life felt better with this stuff out of your living space? You likely won’t miss it if you donate it!
Do you feel like your plastic bin storage system is helping you make easy swaps or does it weigh you down? What are your favorite items to revisit when it’s time to access them?