Stuff for stuff. That’s how I used to view plastic bins, drawer dividers, woven baskets, and all things known as “storage solutions.” I’ve been so resistant to buying organizing products that I’ve DIY’d the bottom of cereal boxes into organizers and even donated my wedding dress because it was taking up too much closet space.
So it felt strange to scroll through Pinterest and suddenly be mesmerized at the sight of cereal in clear plastic bins, jewelry in ridiculously delightful stackable boxes, and labels with cutesy cursive handwriting. I then started to watch Get Organized with The Home Edit (thank you, algorithms) and wondered how much nicer my home would be if only there were “zones” for my scrunchies, makeup, wooden spoons, coffee, socks, and towels. Four episodes in, an even more alluring thought crept into my mind: How much nicer would my life be?
With Pinterest screenshots saved and The Home Edit’s “form and function” motto in my brain, I said the words I never thought I’d say to my husband: “Do you want to go to The Container Store this weekend?” From the looks of the packed store with customers rolling carts of bins, boxes, and baskets, I am late to the storage solutions game. Very, very late.
During my two-hour container shopping spree, I bonded with a fellow shopper who rejoiced when I showed them where I found the pop-top containers. I overheard a conversation with a pregnant woman and their partner gleefully browsing storage options for a nursery. And I eavesdropped on someone who was looking to make a new apartment feel more like home after a breakup.
It got me thinking: Do we buy organizational products because we have so much stuff? Or do we buy them because it simply makes us happy to bring order to a world where so much is out of our control? Could it be a little bit of both?
Organizing as self-care
Organizing and cleaning for self-care is well documented in shows (insert: Monica from Friends), articles, and even quirky checklists on Etsy. There’s even a whole season dedicated to it—spring cleaning! And studies show the opposite: clutter causing feelings of procrastination and stress. (As I write this, I am in my relatively new WFH spot, facing away from the kitchen rather than toward it because the non-stop rotation of dishes, water cups, and wrappers makes me irritable.) WebMD even lists better sleep and higher self-esteem as potential benefits of decluttering.
All this to say, if it works for Monica Geller—it’s good enough for me!
Do we buy organizational products because we have so much stuff? Or do we buy them because it simply makes us happy to bring order to a world where so much is out of our control? Could it be a little bit of both?
My organizing spree set in the weekend after Roe v. Wade was officially overturned. A time (still) filled with a combination of so many feelings—frustration and fear, disappointment and pessimism. With every space that went from messy to tidy, I could see and feel progress. A little juxtaposition, perhaps. The act of giving every little thing a place made me feel calm and confident—like I was putting together a puzzle I knew I could solve; one that needed no one’s consent but my own.
Now looking at before-and-after photos, I’m equally patting myself on the back and feeling shameful of how gross we let it get before it got better. Something I’ve been stewing on a lot lately.
Organizing helps control what we can control
Of course, organizing didn’t change the world or do anything to change the reason I was feeling anxious, to begin with, unfortunately. No woven basket will cure that empty yet swollen feeling in my stomach or the fear I have for the world my 2-year-old niece is going to experience. My desire to grow a family of our own feels stranger and more complicated than ever.
Still, I look at these storage solutions I once disliked as little wonders that gave me something to do when I really needed a focus, a distraction, and a reminder that chaos can become beautiful again—or at least better.
15 Home Organizing Project Ideas
So if you’re in need of some random organizing and cleaning projects to keep your mind on something that’s not whatever it is that’s taking up space in your head, here are some ideas that helped me. I hope they help you too.
1. Organize spices
Consider sorting them alphabetically, labeling the lids (if it makes sense for your layout), and tossing out expired ones.
2. Tidy the areas under the sink
I love this under-the-sink shelf which made it infinitely easier to fit what I wanted out of sight (pregnancy tests, tampons, random collection of medicine, ya know).
3. Invest in dresser storage
Drawer organizers can be a game changer. I also love folding my clothes the Marie Kondo way to maximize space and see what I actually own.
4. Vacuum your mattress
Next time you take the sheets and pillowcases off your bed, vacuum your mattress. You may be surprised/appalled at how much dust comes off.
5. Go through reusable totes, grocery bags, lunch boxes, etc.
Pick favorites and consider donating or recycling the rest. Wash them and let them air dry. I used to stuff all of them into one big bag, but folding them individually looks nicer and makes it easier to grab on the go and not make a mess.
6. Wipe down all knobs & light switches
Think of all the hands touching these surfaces, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t wipe these down sooner.
7. Sort greeting cards
If you like to keep extra greeting cards handy for last-minute special occasions, consider organizing them in categories such as birthdays, weddings/engagements, baby-related, holidays, just because, sympathy, etc.
8. Make a system for books
Dust them off, take off pesky tags, and organize them in a way that brings you clarity and joy.
9. Tackle the pantry
One of my favorite tips from The Home Edit is to try to sort a space by placing large items at the bottom and smaller items at the top. This made our small pantry feel bigger and gave me some structure when trying to make it cohesive.
10. Deep clean the fridge
Ooh, few things are as satisfying as a fridge refresh. Taking everything out and cleaning it may even make your food taste better—it did for me at least.
11. Organize jewelry
I bought jewelry organizers, which were super useful to not only get me organized but also keep me organized.
12. Change up framed photos
Make a space feel new-ish by swapping new photos and prints in frames.
13. Tidy the desk
Instead of using desk organizers, I repurposed a candle vessel as a pen holder and used pouches from various stores to stash my chargers, post-its, and erasers.
14. Go through makeup
Sort through your stuff, clean brushes, and consider tossing anything that you deep down know you won’t use.
15. Organize shoes
Depending on how many shoes you have, this project can be a lot more work than it sounds. Need some inspiration? My sister’s tip is to organize them by color instead of type of shoe.