How do you organize your drawers and keep them organized?
February 19, 2016 11:56 AM   Subscribe

How do you keep drawers (and cupboards I guess) organized when there's a lot of little things in them?

For example, I have a drawer of make up in my bathroom and it turns into a hopeless jumble in a matter of a week or two. Do you have dividers? Little bins? Constant tidying? Do you have a system or philosophy for maintaining order? Labels on everything?

Other examples:
-keeping your pantry cupboard organized (pasta over here, beans over there, etc.)
-shampoos, lotions, bandaids, tums, and all those miscellaneous things you need in a bathroom cupboard

Ideally, I'd like a set-it-and-forget-it type of solution. I guess I need a way for "the place" of "everything in its place" to stop getting jostled around and mixed up. Interested in all your advice.

If it matters: I find organizing things really challenging, so if you know/have preferred schemas for organizing (especially bathroom/linen closet and pantry), I'd be interested. I don't like cleaning out things and I don't enjoy tidying. I will do all these things but it's like pulling teeth. Tidying is the least hated of those activities for me if there's places to put everything back. It can almost feel enjoyable sometimes. And I really like tidy spaces.
posted by purple_bird to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
bins bins bins bins bins bins bins bins bins

bins with little rubber feet or just double stick taped on the bottom for drawers, especially

The solution to "jumble" isn't reorganizing, it's to keep the organized things from getting jumbled to begin with.

posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on February 19, 2016 [17 favorites]

My first secret is to avoid having so much stuff. What I do have goes in boxes of some sort. Large drawers have storage boxes in them. I label the boxes.

It takes some time getting used to the hassle of getting things out and then putting them back in the right place at first but eventually you realize how much more efficient and sane it is.

Hunting for stuff all of the time is low intensity crazy making that you don't even realize is crazy making until you are crazy.
posted by srboisvert at 12:03 PM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have bins for things like makeup - one drawer with dividers, actually, separating out lips/face/eyes/etc - it's starting to get over-full, so I have a shoebox for "costume makeup" and a rule that buying fresh means I have to throw out the oldest thing.

Bathroom cupboard has a turntable for bottles, a bag for things my dentist gives me, a box of hotel-size and samples.

Pantry has a couple of turntables but in general no bins at all, just locations on the shelf: Tomatoes, beans, sauces on the turntable at the left, all asian ingredients on the right, all other cans (veg/fruit) in front. Things in boxes next shelf up with cereal on the right, baking mixes in the middle, pasta on the left. Dry goods bought in bulk go into mason jars and on a turntable. Bins of rice next to that, basket with bags of dry beans next to that. At one point we had masking-tape labels on the shelves, but they've fallen off and we haven't replaced them because it became habit enough that we both know where things go.
posted by aimedwander at 12:29 PM on February 19, 2016

This is the perfect situation to use the Pinterest search function. I just searched for "organize makeup drawer" and there are so many great options. You can search for any specific problem area and will get ideas that are easy to implement and will inspire you to keep the spaces looking good.
posted by raisingsand at 12:31 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are a lot of organizing blogs that have a ton of great ideas. I like

Organizing Junkie
I Heart Organizing
posted by radioamy at 12:42 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

For drawers, I like Ziploc bags. Is it adorable? No. But nothing ever falls out or creeps into a place it doesn't belong, they're cheap, if they start looking dinged up you just grab another, they stack, they squish, and you can easily see what's in them and whether you need more of something.
posted by teremala at 12:45 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Don't overlook the part about getting rid of things that you don't use anymore, and stuff that's too old to eat. I gained a lot of space just by doing that.
posted by wryly at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I bought an extra medicine cabinet and installed it in a hall outside the bathroom. We have two bathrooms, so that's three medicine cabinets, and they're still pretty full.

Simple caddy for pencil-shaped things - I cut a short section of 2x4 and drilled a bunch of diagonal holes in it, using various sizes of Forstner bits, to hold a bunch of cylindrical items that would otherwise clutter up the bathroom counter or drawer.

For shampoos etc. - I built a 2-level shelf at the end of the bathtub that's large enough to hold the not-yet-in-use shampoo and soap (on the lower level) and the in-use shampoo, soap, etc. (on the upper level, so that my arm is raised when I grab them and water doesn't dribble down past my wrist, so the shelves stay dry). The shelf is made of some simple boards (with routed edges so it looks nice), some coated hooks -- they don't rust -- and some coated chain, hung from two hooks above the waterproof wall area. I'm hoping to add a third shelf.
posted by amtho at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2016

I have no drawers and just cupboards in my bathroom (and a few shelves) and I have been ruthless about a place for everything. Basically I split it up like this

sink shelf

toothbrush, drinking glass, toothpaste, hand soap, hand towel

cupboard (with open shelving, picture)

- low shelf: zines and box with perfumes and all scented stuff
- middle shelf: a few baskets which have assortments of things
-- big basket: open jars of regularly used pills (vitamins, benadryl, advil), little jars with sets of things (nail care, tooth care, bandaids, lighters and incense)
-- open bowl:misc crap that I use once in a blue moon but like to have available so it's all in there so I can see it.
- semi-high shelf: stuff I don't use THAT often and big containers of things (hair goo, nail polish remover, witch hazel, hydrogen peroxide, first aid kit)
- high shelf basket: first aid stuff
- high shelf basket II: makeup (I almost never wear makeup)
- high shelf basket III: sunscreen and bug spray

cupboard (inside)

- top shelf: extra toilet paper and soap and q-tips and whatever, all in a plastic bin
- bottom shelf: bathroom cleaning stuff and big jars of sample products, extra candles

The big deal is that everything has a place so you just put it back there when you're done with it. I have a bit more space than I need but I've compartmentalized most of my stuff so nothing just ...lies down in a surface without being inside a thing.
posted by jessamyn at 2:22 PM on February 19, 2016

One thing to keep in mind is that generally speaking a drawer can only hold one layer of things before it becomes disorganized. This is especially a problem when trying to store small things in deep drawers, or when limited storage space forces you to fill drawers to the brim. An 8" deep dresser drawer that has 2" of nail polish bottles and the like on the bottom is full—resist the temptation to put more stuff in it, or it will become a hopeless mess!

Ideally, small things should be kept in shallow drawers—with some kind of organizing tray to keep them apart, if at all possible. Deep drawers are for bigger things. Also avoid the temptation to use up all the space in the drawer, as a drawer that is full to the brim is a drawer where most of the stuff in it will be impossible to find. If you don't have anywhere to store your things without filling the drawers to the brim, invest in more storage. It will make your life much easier.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

My silverware drawer is fabulously organized, as it only has one knife, one fork, one spoon and a spatula. It was always a fantasy of mine to get down to that. And it is beyond awesome. Life changing. Many are jealous...

That being said, I know most people want to hold on to their stuff, so clear bins, thick ziplock baggies, and put your most used items towards the front.

The baggies are amazing for storage, and you can find everything quickly as everything is visible.
posted by Vaike at 2:55 PM on February 19, 2016

For jewelry, little craft boxes that snap shut and have little compartments inside. This is good to organize earrings by colour. You can stack them, you can see through them, and the earrings don't escape all over the place.

For drawers, save your plastic fruit punnets and sort your foundation tubes, etc, into different punnets per type.

Warning: fruit punnets are flimsy. So do not put 100 bottles of nail polish in one and then try to pick it up. It will buckle, and you will suddenly be in the middle of a Jackson Pollock.
posted by tel3path at 3:22 PM on February 19, 2016

You didn't mention the fridge or freezer, but Fridge Binz are great for keeping them organized. They're made of super-durable plastic. I use them for corralling deli meat, snacks, fruit. I find that the crisper bins at the bottom just become giant gross wastelands of forgotten fruit, so we only use them to store random not-very-perishable or non-perishable things.

I also use a cabinet shelf in the freezer to give me more usable space.
posted by radioamy at 3:42 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I empty a small box, I keep it around a little while to see if it will find a home holding stuff in my drawers / shelves. Open top boxes that were shrink wrapped, tea boxes, clear tubs from salad greens, lidless Tupperware, that kind of thing. I don't have to run out and buy new organizers when I start using a new brand of something in a different shaped package or decide to wear a lot of lipstick or whatever. Decorate as desired. (This is a konmari thing if you want to get more ideas.)
posted by momus_window at 3:49 PM on February 19, 2016

If you want a specific recommendation, try InterDesign. Amazon carries them and they have all kinds of boxes, bins, organizers, etc. for makeup and toiletries. I bought a ton of them last year and it's helped so much keeping everything organized.

Also drawers are the worst. Do you have any shelves or dresser space you could use instead? Still put things in boxes and organizers to keep everything tidy, but I've found trying to manage drawers just becomes hopeless if you have a lot of stuff. You can't see everything or stack things.
posted by katyggls at 6:13 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

In drawers, I use the small plastic 'baskets' and small cardboard boxes. I am super cheap so I get the little plastic baskets at thrift stores.

My 2 proudest organizing solutions:

I keep most of my jewelry hanging on a bulletin board - you can custom-arrange push pins to hang necklaces (so they won't get tangled), french hook earrings can hang over a push pin, and post earrings can be pushed into the cork (like another kind of push pin). Finger rings and bracelets can be hung on push pins as well. Since it's hanging, nothing gathers dust and it doesn't take up any tabletop space. You can arrange the jewelry into it's own 'compositions' and it's already in a "frame"

I also have a long plate shelf (also procured from a thrift store) over my full length mirror with all my hair products and lotions. I have non-seasonal items in a shower caddy style plastic basket. Winter stuff: hair oils & hair masques & anti-static spray. Summer stuff: larger tubes of sunblock and foot powder. It's elevated enough that it's not cluttery looking (for my purposes, at least) but it's still within easy reach. And it's so nice to not have them reflected in the mirror, where it would make things look twice as cluttered!
posted by leemleem at 8:10 PM on February 19, 2016

Oh I just remembered another thing! I have long hair, so I use hair accessories. I have a pretty little natural fiber open-topped basket on my dresser top. Inside this basket, I have a small plastic tub - you could use tupperware. the lid is underneath the tub, so that if I want to travel with it, I can. My small "claw" hairclips are clipped on the rim of the small tub so that I can find them easily. Inside the small tub, I have bobby pins in a tic-tac style container, and hair elastics. Larger hair claw clips and other larger hair accessories surround the small tub, but everything is contained in a nice-looking natural fiber basket. Fancier hair accessories can hang from my bulletin board mentioned above.

Being able to easily toss something in an open basket means that it's easy and quick enough that I'll actually do it.
posted by leemleem at 8:21 PM on February 19, 2016

I'm a professional organizer, and I agree with those who've already said that decluttering and containerizing are what usually works. I've found these plastic handled baskets from The Container Store to be especially helpful in pantries and bathroom cupboards. They come in clear as well as white.

I've also been known to label the edge of shelves (as well as any containers being used, especially if they aren't transparent) so people remember what goes where - especially when things have been changed.
posted by jeri at 9:31 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

With regard to "set it and forget it," one of my solutions is that like things do not have to go together. I find that when I'm constantly "misplacing" something I'm actually putting it in a consistent place, just not where I arbitrarily decided it should go. I keep my cheese grater next to my canned tomatoes because if I'm using canned tomatoes I'm probably shredding cheese. I keep gloves in the hats I wear with them. I keep my vitamins next to my flour because that's where I see them and remember to take them. I keep my keys with my vacuum attachments because that's where I always set my keys down when I get home.

I also have a cube shelf and bins from IKEA and one of the bins is my "shit bin" where I put everything that always winds up strewn about my living room later. Stuff like my TV remotes, iPad, laptop charger, the book I'm reading, and - well, I just got up to see what else is in there right now and there's cat barf. So that's where all of us apparently put things we would otherwise leave strewn about the living room.

Re: makeup - I don't wear make-up but I have dozens of office pens and fun socks. To avoid decision fatigue/playing favorites I bring 10 pens to work every two weeks and I grab a random bunch of socks to wear for the next however many pairs I grabbed. I am seriously make-up ignorant but is it possible for you to put everything in your make-up drawer in a ziploc bag except for a few things that you use for a week or whatever, then rotate them out? Bonus: if I consistently go, "Ugh, not this one!" with a pen or pair of socks I get rid of it.
posted by good lorneing at 10:55 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use larger, squarish mason jars and little glass jars to organize hair stuff and small things. If you go to, they sell single-serving jars of jelly. The jelly is very tasty, and the jars are quite sturdy and surprisingly useful. They hold 1.5 ounces, which is the perfect size for tiny clips, hair elastics, or even rings. I use small makeup cases and soft pencil cases, too. They line up together nicely in the drawer : D

One of the best gifts I've received is a necklace holder like this. The one I liked to has a nice shelf, too, which could be really useful and/or decorative.

Marie Kondo suggests iPhone boxes, which are small and sturdy. I really like the interlocking desk organizers for bathroom items like toothpaste, floss, picks, etc. They keep everything really tidy and it's easy to maintain.

Speaking of Marie Kondo, if you haven't read her book, you might want to. My state of chaos ended after I read her book, spent 3 weeks dumping stuff, and I haven't had to de-clutter since.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh! I just thought of something. Are you in the US? Dollar stores are the perfect places to find small boxes. You can usually find them in the gift-wrap aisle. Also seconding the idea to check out Pinterest.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:50 PM on February 20, 2016

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