Secrets From a Small Home: Contain Everything

Tuesday February 7, 2017

Over the past several months, I’ve been helping a good friend navigate the shift from one bedroom apartment with spouse to one bedroom apartment with spouse and baby (and dog). It’s a process, y’all.

In a series of posts, I’ll write up all the changes we made to both maximize her space as well as prepare for a new permanent house guest. For today, I thought we could focus on the backbone of the strategy:

Contain everything.

I’ll confess that I didn’t convert to the dark side of storage boxes until carpet moths forced our hand. But I kick myself for how long we tried to manage without them.

Since we’ve had Bean, nearly everything we own has gone into a storage box. If it’s not out and actively being used, it is packed up somewhere, organized in a storage box.

While these solutions came about due to our small space living, I think they could improve storage in any size house. If you have stuff, and especially if you’re tired of dealing with that stuff? Contain it.



First, let’s talk about the wonders of storage boxes. Let me convert you.

1) You can stack them. Perfect for the closet with a shelf and 3 feet of dead space above it. Putting everything in storage boxes means you can stack to the heavens and instantly triple your storage space.


(Pictured: wool blanket, sleeping bags, camping sleep pad, ski clothes, luggage, cat travel case. Just out of frame: photography equipment, cold weather gear, and earthquake emergency pack.)

2) They compress squishy things and make them stackable. That extra comforter and pillows for guests, the camping sleep pad, down jackets, extra towels. Not only can you compress that comforter into a storage box; by doing so, you’ve turned it into a solid thing that you can then stack. Linen closets go from a mess of stacked fabrics to a neatly contained storage system.



(Pictured, linen closet: all of our extra sheets, kid sheets, pillows, comforters, towels, blankets, placemats, family heirlooms, baby blankets, out-of-size kid clothes.)



3) Your closets instantly look more organized. Because they are. One box for extra linens. One box for fine tablecloths and linens that you only take out once or twice a year. One box for kids clothes that are either still too big or too small and ready to be handed down. You will always know where everything is, and no rummaging around to find them.


the container store boot boxes provide toy storage

(Pictured, toy storage. Read more about my method here.)

4) Use the boxes to sort your things into easy-to-locate categories. This was my ultimate solution to the Toy Situation. This is also our solution to office supplies, cat supplies, art supplies, sewing tools, lightbulbs, etc.



(Pictured, makeshift utility closet with Ikea pantry shelves: computer cords, office supplies, computer memory supplies, all tapes and glues, cat supplies, buttons and zippers for sewing.)




5) Especially in the bathroom, a nice storage box can instantly contain all the ugly things (make up, hair products, lotions) you have on your counters/shelves. Go from clutter to minimalist just by stuffing everything in a nice box.


5) The boxes result in instant decluttering feedback. Too much stuff in a storage box and can’t close it? Time to make some Goodwill runs.




All sounds pretty good, right? Let’s talk methodology.

1) Use transparent storage boxes behind closed doors/in closets/in cabinets. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for.



2) For storage out in the open, only use opaque boxes. You don’t want to be able to see through them. Also, use uniform boxes or boxes the color of your walls. Uniformity reduces the cluttery look of them; boxes the color of your wall makes them blend into the background and disappear. Hidden in plain sight!



(Pictured, above-door bathroom storage: extras bin for extra shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap, etc; medicines bin; bin for hairdryers, hair products; extra toilet paper bin.)


3) Make sure to get boxes with well-fitting, clamp down lids. If not, the top can buckle or bubble up, which means you won’t be able to stack them, which ruins the whole point.



Ok, here is my source list:

For visible storage




The Container Store’s Lacquered Boxes

Check out the entire line for different sizes to suit all your needs.








Water Hyacinth Storage Cube

The cube shape is also important here, for pure minimalist lines.





Closet storage


Sterilite Air Tight Storage Boxes

My favorite storage boxes because they CLAMP down tight. These are easily available at Target. They come in three (0r more?) sizes. Perfect for bulky things like pillows, quilts, winter gear, sports equipment.





The Container Store’s Clear Storage Boxes

The shoe boxes are great for small things like office supplies, cat supplies, computer cords, sewing tools, etc.

The tall shoe boxes are great for arts and craft supplies.

The sweater boxes are great for toy storage and holiday decorations.




Comments are closed.