Containers Increase Your Organizational Prowess

Although using vertical space to increase your storage capacity is almost always an excellent idea, sometimes things must be corralled in horizontal ways. Try some of these container ideas to make the most of the “other dimension.”


• Mesh lingerie bags can hold doll clothes, small toys, socks by individual family members and bathtub toys hanging in the tub.

• Preserve photos, letters, greeting cards, baseball or Pokémon cards, and all manner of other sentimental treasures in archival-quality photo boxes by person, event, category or chronology. 

Tackle boxes can hold fishing gear, but also cosmetics, jewelry, coin collections, sewing notions, office supplies, small tools and hair accessories. They’re portable, easy to rinse out and easy to snap shut securely.

Tins, bins, boxes, jars, cans, canisters, cookie jars, orphaned dishes and tea cups, fish bowls, flower pots, mugs and vases all make fine (and fun) receptacles, especially if they’re lidded, stackable, transparent and/or labeled. Cluster them in visually pleasing groups to contain just about anything small. 

• A banker’s box, lidded plastic file box or empty copy-paper box can hold the files you want to archive. Label the container with the contents and date before it goes into deep storage, and add a “destroy date” if the files have a limited life.

• Corral hairbrushes, hand mirrors and perfume bottles on a pretty tray or mirror on a dresser or vanity. When displayed together, they constitute a good-looking collection.

• Put a bowl, tray, dish or basket right inside the door to catch wallets, keys, glasses, phones, receipts, loose change, jewelry and all that other stuff that ends up in pockets and purses so that you’ll always know where these important items are. Clean out the containers very often.

• If you leave your boots and shoes on a plastic shoe tray when you enter the house, you’ll thank yourself when you can just rinse off the tray instead of cleaning the floor. 

• Quilted china-storage cases protect china and stemware in zippered, quilted bags: round ones hold plates and bowls; rectangular ones with dividers hold glasses and cups.

• Place an in-box, basket or tray at your paper-processing spot to hold papers to deal with later. If family members do the same, everything will be waiting for you when it’s time for your (frequent, scheduled, high-priority) paper-processing sessions. 

Totes, buckets and baskets with handles can hold cleaning supplies, gift-wrap sundries, grooming products and craft necessities. If your paper-processing place is somewhere other than a desk, outfit a tote – or rolling cart – with office supplies to create a mini, mobile office. Roll the cart into a closet or corner when you’re finished working.


• Prettify plastic tubs and metal cans with contact paper, washi tape or stickers to hold markers, paintbrushes and pencils.

Berry boxes can hold a pair of scissors and a ball of string or twine. Thread the loose end through a hole in the box, and the ball will stay put while you pull out the length you need.

Hand-wipe canisters and baby-wipe boxes can securely hold any little item by snapping the lid shut.

• A collection of plastic food trays and tubs, small boxes, little tins and other small, salvaged containers can form an ingenious infrastructure for your administrative-sundries (aka junk) drawer or any other spot that would benefit from compartments.

Shoe boxes are useful vessels for children’s treasures and diorama projects.


• A large, lidded basket; wicker or wooden trunk; or set of stacked vintage suitcases can serve as a nightstand, end table or coffee table. And any table or nightstand with shelves or drawers is better than one without.

• In a mudroom or foyer, place baskets, boxes or cubbies beneath a bench whose seat flips up to reveal a storage compartment.

• A hollow ottoman provides storage, seating and a table surface when you put a tray on top.

• A rolling cart with a butcher-block top expands kitchen work space and may offer storage through shelves and a drawer below.

• Outfit an armoire or small closet to become a self-contained home office.

Pairing horizontal storage methods and creative containers with vertical strategies to corral your belongings can turn you into an organizational maven!

Paula Apfelbach, who previously owned Breathing Room Professional Organizing in Madison, now copyedits the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living magazine.