Mission 2 Organize

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Organizing Products


If you are like any of the members of the Mission 2 Organize team, you love any excuse to go to places like The Container Store or Target. While these are great places to buy organizing products, one should fight the urge to purchase anything until after answering four important questions. Answers to the questions “Have I decluttered yet?”, “What do I plan to place inside these containers?”, “How big is the area where I plan to place this product?” and “How tall is the area where I plan to place this product?” are crucial when beginning a project. 

In this article, we are going to take a detailed look at the four questions listed above so that you are fully prepared to shop online or in person for exactly the products you need for any organizing project you are tackling.

1. Have I decluttered yet?

Some of our clients want to purchase a bunch of organizing products before the Mission 2 Organize team comes out for our first organizing session. We typically will encourage them to hold off until after we have started the process of organizing. Why, you ask? The simple answer is, “We haven’t decluttered yet!”

There is no point to buy a tower that will hold 250 cds when you only plan to keep 45 of your favorites. The same holds true for any group of items you own: makeup, greeting cards, tupperware, watches, bed sheets, etc.

It is important to not only declutter one room, but every room, drawer and cabinet before making your purchase. Items from the kitchen might be found in the basement, bathroom items could be located in the bedroom. One time, we even found a can of artichokes in our client’s bathroom! Once you have decluttered the entire house and made decisions about each category of items, you are free to move on to question #2.

“Even though it may be tempting, resist the urge to buy your organizing products first. Declutter before you shop.”

Schae Lewis, Certified Professional Organizer®

2. What do I plan to place in these containers?

Consider the size of the items you are containing. In general, small items need small containers and large items need larger containers. Think about your average paper clip. You wouldn’t want to store them in an 18 gallon storage tote. A couple options that would be more appropriately sized are a 3x3x2 inch drawer organizer or a 2x2x4 inch paper clip dispenser.

Take pens for example. Most pens are just under 6 inches long. Because of that a 3x3x2 inch container won’t be sufficiently sized. Instead try a 3x6x2 inch drawer organizer for a small amount of pens or a 6x6x2 one for a larger quantity of pens. Have pencils (which are longer than pens)? You’ll need a container that is 3×12 then!

Yep, this means you’ll need to get out your tape measurer. Trying to contain hats? Measure the largest one and write down the measurement to take to the store or cross-reference with the online product measurements. This is really the only way to ensure that your items will fit in the container.

“An elephant won’t fit into a bird cage no matter how hard you push.”

Schae Lewis, Certified Professional Organizer®

3. How big is the area where I plan to place this product?

This step is often overlooked, but considering its importance, it should not be. Start by measuring the area where you will be placing your product. Let’s say you plan to place baskets on the shelf at the top of your coat closet for hats, gloves and scarves. Measure the length of the shelf (typically the right wall to the left wall). It is also important to know the depth of your shelf so measure the shelf from front to back.

For example:
Shelf length = 53 inches
Shelf depth = 12 inches

Be sure to take into consideration any obstructions. This might be pipes in a cabinet under a sink or a fuse box inside a closet. Don’t forget to measure the opening of cabinets as well. Sometimes cabinet doors obstruct the opening and will shorten the length you have available to work with. You want to make sure you can remove the baskets once you get them in!

Now that you know how much space you have to work with, you can start shopping for products. In our coat closet example, we have 53″ x 12″ to work with. If there are no obstructions, we would choose 3 large kiva bins which are 12.25″ x 17.25″. Placed lengthwise, those 3 bins would take up 51.75 inches of length and hang over the edge of the shelf by only 1/4 of an inch which is fine. This fit allows for a little wiggle room (1.25 inches) to get the bins in and out.

“Vertical space is the most underutilized space in every room of any home.”

Schae Lewis, Certified Professional Organizer®

4. How tall is the area where I plan to place this product?

Just like the length and width, it’s crucial that you know the height of the area where you will be placing your organizing product. Your product could be too tall for a shallow drawer or too short for a tall cabinet that has limited shelves.

Maximize your space by purchasing a product that consumes a majority of the available vertical space. Take a tall cabinet with limited shelves for example. You wouldn’t want to place a container that is only 2 inches tall in a space that is 50 inches tall. What a waste of space! Insert a stackable product like these open bins or these drawers.

Figuring out that your product is a mere 1/4″ too tall for your space right in the middle of your organizing project is annoying; trust us! Once again, measuring in advance is the key to success. Measure the height of your drawer, space between your shelves or empty space in your closet. Cross-reference with the product description for the item you need to purchase.

“Don’t be afraid to adjust your shelves up or down to ensure a perfect fit.”

Schae Lewis, Certified Professional Organizer®

As you can see, the keys to success when tackling an organizing project include decluttering, evaluating and measuring. Make sure you have condensed what you want to organize so you know how many and what types of products you are going to need. After evaluating what you need, begin measuring the spaces you wish to organize to ensure your products will fit. Whether you use shelves, baskets, drawer organizers or bins, we hope you use these tips to obtain the full benefits of your organizing products.

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