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Bin Potential

Many people I work with are motivated to organize because they are bothered by clutter in their home or office. They are tired of wasting time spent looking for things. Sometimes important papers, bills or checks are lost. Frustrating.

After frustration reaches a tipping point, it is time for a new system. A person might start looking at issues of Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living - or getting lost on Pinterest for a few hours. By the time one is ready to act the envisioned space is beautiful - coordinated bins with cute labels that match the curtain fringe!

While the spaces in magazines are lovely, most of us do not live or work in magazine-shoot-ready homes or offices. And those who do rarely decide to apply that style to their utility or craft room. Furthermore, if bins are going to be stored in cabinets or closets, there is little need to make them anything more than functional (artisan made labels are great, but not always neccessary).

Considering the things below before you purchase bins may help you find the ones that best fit your needs.

Who will use these bins? For kid use, bins should be light, easy to move, and tough. Toy cars can dent metal mesh but not sturdy canvas containers.

What will be stored in the bins? Target has some nice looking mesh bins, but the space between the wires is about an inch. This is great only for items that are larger than 1".

Why do you want the bins? Consider the size. You can put all your office supplies in a 12' square bin, but you will always have to dig for the things at the bottom. Get bins that are an appropriate size for what will go in them and how you will use them.

Lids can be a hassle because it requires another step to use it. At the same time, things without lids will collect dust. Will the items in the bin add visual clutter to your space? If so, get a cover!

Where will your bins go? If they are on a shelf in the basement next to the laundry machines, they don't need to be beautiful - just functional. If they are in your living room, you probably want them to be both beautiful and functional.

One of my biggest issue with bins is the shape. Many bins are smaller at the bottom than the top allowing them to stack. I like stacking bins, but I get very annoyed with wasting space at the bottom of bins.

This style, for example, is tapered at the bottom and has a decent sized lip around the top which wastes almost 2" of space at the bottom. When you have limited space, this unacceptable. (If the lip held a cover I would not mind so much, but these do not.)


This set, with the red handles, wastes some space, but not as much at the white ones.

Jinnet Fowles, another organizer in the Twin Cities, shared a tip at an association meeting that round containers hold 28% less than square containers of the same size. That is a lot of storage!

For basic storage bins, I use these from The Container Store. While most products at the The Container Store cost more than what you will find at Office Max, Target or Menards, these bins are high quality and priced reasonably (shoe box size: $1.89; smaller accessory box: $1.69; men's shoe box size: $3.79) They are a clear, easy to see through and made of sturdy plastic with a flat top for easy stacking. (Click on image to find online.)

These bins are not beautiful. You don't want to display them next to the China in a formal dining room, but for utilitarian purposes, they work great.

Regardless of where someone gets bins, it is a good idea to stick with one brand and style. This will make keeping track of lids easier and allow more options for stacking.

I also like these bins from Target that held my son's art supplies, but if you look closely ​you will see that the box with the crayons has a different color handle. Not a big issue of course, but something that annoyed me. (Click on image to see similar bins that Target carries.)


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