Organizational Systems & Spaces That Have WORKED (& Why!)

It’s a lot easier to stay organized when you aren’t constantly adding more stock and things to spaces you already created and set limits for. When I’m evaluating a system that’s been in place that doesn’t seem to be working as I’d hoped, there’s usually a few culprits to be credited for the less than stellar maintenance. 1. It isn’t convenient for regular (minimal) upkeep; 2. It’ too complicated; 3. I use the space at a different frequency or in a different way than I assumed I would; or, 4. there’s too much stuff, in general. If I get honest with myself and acknowledge that number 4 is primarily at play, there honestly isn’t an organizer or solution in the world that will get me and keep me organized because it’s just about impossible to maintain a system like you want when there’s waste, excess, and items being added continually. But, if it’s 1, 2, or 3… well… there’s fixes for those 😉 Today, I’m sharing the spaces that have remained well organized, the best organizers that can be credited as the MVPs, and the reason(s) the system and space continue to work so well.

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You Might Be Setting Yourself Up to Fail If…

Before we jump into the systems that have been maintained (and why), I thought it’d be a good ida (and hopefully relatable) to run through a few things to avoid that may be setting yourself up for failure, despite best intentions. I can speak from experience (and I’m sure, you can too!)

  • You’re stacking too much — vertically or things in front of each other, within a cabinet. If there’s a lot of effort required to get what you need, you can forget about those buried items easily and also, it’s easy to get lazy about putting things back as they were.
  • You’re just rearranging things within a drawer/cabinet/space instead of actually assigning them homes — When I tackle a space, I always uncover things that should probably go elsewhere. If it doesn’t belong, don’t leave it there and turn each drawer into a catch-all. Remove it and take it where it does/should belong.
  • You are organizing for the photo instead of the system — The goal isn’t lining everything up and saying, “Done! Organized!” The goal is maintaining an organized system. Do the things that make sense to you and how you use your items.
  • You’re holding on to excess that should be discarded.
  • It isn’t convenient — Don’t try to create extra work for yourself. Think about your natural tendencies (where you look for things, where you naturally place things), and try to create systems that cater to those habits.

We could go on and on with hypotheticals, but instead, I’ll go ahead and share some of they systems that have been created, that have continued to work for me, and the reasons I suspect they’ve been successful.

Under the Kitchen Sink

It’s a notoriously tricky area, especially in a deep corner position with pipes in the center and a large disposal taking up a BIG chunk of room, like mine. A few years later — even after a kitchen makeover (see that reveal HERE) — and it’s still in order and operating perfectly.

Here’s why it works…

  • Despite having a lot of depth, things aren’t easily accessed back there. If I stacked or lined bottles and supplies back there, they’d be forgotten and getting to them would be frustrating. Instead, I only set up organizers and systems that I could reach and access, without moving things out of the way and positioned everything where I could see it, without digging.
  • I don’t stack often, and even though I stacked a few of THESE clear bins to make use of vertical space, I kept my daily-access towels on top and only placed less frequently used items below for more infrequent retrieval.
  • The multi-purpose bins have departments and dividers to make sure everything stays in its assigned space and doesn’t turn into a junk container. I LOVE THESE.
  • The Lazy Susan turntable. This is my MVP in more areas than I can count because even though only a small portion has cabinet door frontage (so to speak), it keeps everything visible and easily retrievable. It also makes use of some of the depth I choose to disregard. Find THIS ONE on Amazon, under $10 HERE.
  • Stacking things directly on top of each other isn’t for me — it isn’t convenient to reset. But, a riser that allows for bins to slide on top and underneath, without disrupting the system, is awesome. As an FYI, I don’t love the adjustable width risers because the third center leg impedes storage below.

The Spice Cabinet

I’ve still resisted the cohesive jars and pretty labels for spices since we have/use/go through so many and we purchase a lot in bulk containers. Since I started minimizing, I’ve actually considered it a little more but I would need a solid system that didn’t feel too complicated or take up too much space to store back-stock if we went that route. We also use some pretty obscure spices so I’m not sure how that would work and I haven’t put much brain power behind it at this point. But, as we currently stand, while I would love things to feel a little “cleaner” aesthetically and have a little more rhyme and reason, our spice cabinet continues to function well and remains manageable.

Here’s why it works…

  • Matching bottles and cohesive labels or not, THIS spice riser is an long time, all time favorite. It’s expandable and can accommodate a lot of jars. Even if we had cohesive bottles, we don’t have drawer space for them and would likely continue to use the riser. THIS is the one I have and use but if you prefer Amazon, I love this organizational brand (that offers a clear version HERE), and it is also adjustable.
  • Also, THIS 10″ lazy susan for the steak seasonings is key. Except in VERY few circumstances, I don’t like lining things up behind each other in a cabinet. Between the organizers on each shelf, there isn’t a lot of room to go rogue and that’s kept our limits well defined. Everything has a home.

Organized Spice and Baking Cabinet- Kitchen Organization- spice organization in original jars

Sources: 10″ Turn Table | Expand A Shelf Spice Jar Risers

The Pantry

Aside from a few bin switches, our pantry has remained virtually untouched in organization design for YEARS. That’s because… it works. If it starts feeling too crammed, it’s my signal we need to take everything out, check expiration dates, and by the time that rare activity is finished, everything is easily back in order. At the beginning of the year, I made it a personal mission to thin out the pantry and freezers and create meals around things we have a lot of/have had a long time. It’s been awesome, we’ve saved a ton at the grocery store, and our pantry has actually thinned out a bit since this photo. By the way, if you want to see our latest, simplified grocery and meal planning methods, definitely check out THIS post.

Here’s why it works…

  • Everything is grouped together, by what makes sense to our family. If a container is close/exceeding limits, that’s my signal that I need to incorporate that basket’s/shelves contents into meals ASAP.
  • Nothing is stacked or hidden — I hate to see canned goods in baskets and for us, that wouldn’t work. Just like the expandable spice risers, THESE can risers have been serving us since our last home, a decade ago. Yes, these very sets.
  • The turntables keep our corners accessible.
  • We didn’t decant everything, so when we get a variety at the grocery store, we aren’t in a pickle of what to/what not to decant. There’s a few items we stay stocked on that make sense to keep in THESE OXO POP canisters, but a lot of snacks stay in original packaging since we’re always switching things up.
  • THIS label maker is one of my favorite things. In a space where things can get confusing (especially to others in your fam), labeling has been key and I adore THIS label maker and THESE inexpensive label clips (both black, white, and combination sets HERE).

An Organized Pantry That's Proven to Work

Sources: Water Hyacinth Bins (various sizes) | Expand A Shelf Can Risers | OXO Slant Pop Jars | Turn Tables

How to Organize Cords and Cables in the Office

SourcesLabel Maker | Velcro Cable Wrap Ties 

The Drawers Where I’ve Used THESE Adjustable Dividers

100%, drawer dividers are the MVP of organization. Not only do they help anchor whatever you have in your drawers in place so things don’t slide around, but they are the ultimate custom organizer creators, when containers don’t exist for what you need. When things are sliding around, or, when your “container” is too large to separate contents (like a full drawer without compartments), it’s easy to go from tidy to disarray. Adjustable drawer dividers solves both issues. HERE‘s my favorite set — they come in two sizes, multiple colors, and in sets of four HERE.

Here’s why it works…

  • You can totally customize your drawer to the contents you want it to hold. You aren’t working with ambiguously sized compartments, trying to puzzle together what will/won’t fit inside. No leftover space, no awkward gaps… and, you can easily add/delete if your needs shift in the future.

Here’s a few places they’ve been used — all spaces that still look as great and function as well as they did when I first installed the expandable dividers

Kitchen Drawer Organizers -- Smart and Customizable

Sources14-Slot In Drawer Knife Storage | 7-Slot In Drawer Knife Storage | Bamboo Kitchen Dividers (4 pcs) | Cutco Super Shears | Tomato Knife | 7″ Slim Chef’s Knife | 4″ Paring Knife | 8″ Chef’s Knife | Steak Knives

Best Kitchen Drawer Organizers

Sources: Bamboo Plastic Bag Organizers (4 pc set) Bamboo Kitchen Dividers (4 pcs)  | Reusable Silicone Stasher Bags

Best Ways to Organize Kitchen Drawer

Sources: Bamboo Kitchen Dividers (4 pcs) | Pot Holders (set of 2) | Potato Masher 

How to Organize Kitchen Drawers with the Best Kitchen Drawer Organizers

Sources: Bamboo Kitchen Dividers (4 pcs) | Pot Holders (set of 2) | Potato Masher 

Using Dividers in Bathroom Vanity Drawers (& Other Favorite Bathroom Vanity Organizers)

SourcesAdjustable Bamboo Drawer Dividers (set of 4) | LED Travel Mirror | Shampoo | Conditioner | Hair Repair

The Stationery Desk Drawers

Honestly, I was dealing with not just a junk drawer, but a junk station. When I took all the contents out, I realized how much didn’t belong at all, and also, while a lot of contents were random, they weren’t that hard to categorize/assign. When I stopped viewing it as a center for junk and more of an easy-access kitchen utility area, I was able to implement easy solutions that started working for us.

Here’s why it works…

  • There are now actual assigned categories for the drawers and each has a purpose/reason they would be in the kitchen, next to the garage door.
  • Having more finite compartments has helped set limits within the drawers. If the compartment is full, I likely need to discard/re-home contents.

How to Organize a Junk Drawer

Sources: The Home Edit Six-Piece Kitchen Drawer Organization System | Battery Storage Case | Pouch for Spare Batteries (21-piece set) | Label Maker

I’ve used THESE clear modular organizers across so many drawers in our house now, I can pretty much configure anything I need to, depending on the contents, with multiple sets. Also, I just saw the 10-piece set is on sale right now for under $20 HERE. Again, having smaller defined spaces that don’t allow for excess/junk removes the temptation from tossing in things that don’t belong.

Junk Drawer Organization Ideas and Inspo

Sources: The Home Edit 10-pc Plastic Modular Storage System | Ballpoint Pens | Mechanical Pencils

Drawers Where I’ve Used THIS Clear, Customizable Organizer Set

As a matter of fact, THESE organizers have been so great (again, on sale right now), I gave them their own section in today’s post.

Here’s why it works…

  • Each drawer I’ve put them in creates boundaries and limits.
  • It’s easy to configure the different size bins within the container since they’re designed to be modular — it works even better if you’re working with multiple sets.

A few more places they are in full operation with confirmed functionality — my bathroom vanity…

Favorite Bathroom Vanity Organizers for Drawers & Cabinets

SourcesPlastic Modular Storage System ( 10 pieces) | Make Up Eraser

The office drawers…

Office Drawer and Desk Organization

SourcesPlastic Modular Storage Tape Dispenser/Stapler Set

The kitchen baking drawer…

Ideas for Organizing Kitchen Drawers

SourcesThe Home Edit 10-Piece Plastic Modular Storage System The Home Edit Six-Piece Kitchen Drawer Organization System | Silicone Spatula Set (3 pcs) | Measuring Cups (4 pc set) | Magnetic Measuring Spoons (8 pc set) | Small Shape Cutters (9 pc set)

As a side note, they’re also stackable. As I mentioned, I don’t love stacking since I think most of the time, it makes thing difficult to access, but in some cases (like how I used them under the kitchen sink with lesser used items), it works brilliantly.

Our Glass Food Storage

I had a major plastic food storage container problem. And, I could never totally commit to which was better — separating the lids from the containers or putting the lids on the containers and stacking. They were all different sizes, shapes, brands, and the majority were in stained/poor condition. I decided to upgrade to THESE glass storage containers but I guess at the time, I didn’t realize that in addition to better leftover storage, it would also make and keep me WAY more organized. Let me tell you — these have been MONEY. While I use them for storage, they’re also microwavable, freezable, and able to go right in the oven. I also love that aside from my mini glass containers and the large version (stored on the bottom slide out shelf with lunch containers), they all share the same lids and are interchangeable — they’re all the same width and length but just have different depths, making it a cinch to grab any lid for the container you need.

Best of Amazon Prime Day 2022

Sources: Glass Food Container Storage Set (18 pieces)

With our kitchen revamp, I had a double decker set of slide-out drawers added in the cabinet I planned to house our food containers and this single shelf holds everything I need it to. No more, no less. We have several currently in use so this doesn’t fully reflect our complete collection, but this is how we store and maintain them.

How to Organize Tupperware and Food Storage Containers

Sources: Glass Food Container Storage Set (18 pieces) | Small Lid Organizer

Here’s why it works…

  • Well defined space and limits set for containers — no space to pile them up in the back of a cabinet.
  • All take the same lid so there’s no hunting for specific lids.
  • All the same kind and size so they are stackable — both with and without their lids.
  • It’s simple — this pull out and cabinet only has one intended purpose for storage.

Our Flatware Drawer

Our last flatware organizer looked essentially very similar to our current one. It was expandable and I believe had all the same compartments. But, It wasn’t “heavy” enough to hold all the weight of the flatware without shifting every time the drawer closed. THIS sturdy flatware organizer totally fixed that problem.

Here’s why it works…

  • Because it’s hefty and stays in place, it functions more like a custom drawer instead of a drawer with flimsy after-thought compartments.
  • Because it takes up the full width of the drawer, all the space is used and there’s no temptation to store additional items in the drawer that could otherwise clutter it up.

Best Kitchen Drawer Organizers and Organization Ideas

Sources: Expandable Bamboo Drawer Organizer Shallow Drawer Organizers

Anywhere With THESE Divided Handle Bins

I mentioned these at the top of the post, but honestly, I have so many scattered around, where they make sense, and because the limits of each bin are so well defined, they’ve all kept their respective contents in check and well organized. Each shelf and space THESE divided handle bins reside contributes to systems that continue to work and stand the test of time.

NOTE: The version with the protruding handle has been out of stock for a while, but I found the divided version without the handle HERE.

Here’s why it works…

  • The handles allow for easy retrieval.
  • They’re subdivided to keep categories subdivided, creating specific homes for items within the overall container
  • They’re clear with no mystery as to what may be inside.
  • The compartments are finite enough to not allow excess or stray items.

Here are a few spaces I’m purposed these small divided bins.

In the office…

Favorite Office Organizers and How to Store Everything In Your Office

Sources: Divided Bin w/Handle | Labels from Label Maker

In the guest bathroom vanity…

Organization Ideas for Bathrooms with No Drawers

SourcesDivided Bin w/Handle | Labels from Label Maker

Under the kitchen sink…

Ideas for Organizing Under the Kitchen Sink

SourcesClear Handled Bin w/DividersBamboo Handle Scrub Brush (set of 2)  | Dye-free Scrub Daddy | Gloves | Ikea Sponges (pack of 3)

Among other places!

My Refrigerator Shelves

When we got our new counter-depth fridge, I wasted no time identifying and assigning homes to our regular contents. Coupled with our simplified grocery shopping and meal planning practices (see the full post on that HERE), not only has everything stayed well in place, but the fridge is easier to clean and it’s easier to see what we have and what we need, now. These quick snaps were taken at the end of a week, just before we restocked (at the beginning of the week, there’s always more produce and leftovers), but it honestly doesn’t look too different from these pics since we store a much more limited amount, now.

Here’s why it works…

  • I created systems within our fridge for the actual food we eat, and for our family’s actual needs.
  • Aside from water bottles or an occasional FEW jars on the top right shelf, I try not to stack items in front of one another.
  • I keep small regular items for Eliza (pouches, yogurt, fruit cups, etc.) in bins that are easy to pull out and sift through. We buy onions by the bag full so I also keep those in a tall narrow container, instead of in a drawer. They stay better longer in the fridge and a narrow, tall bin outside the produce drawers saves a lot of space. We were actually almost in need of a restock here.
  • Having finite and specific (but still generous enough) space for our leftovers, makes it all easy to see and forces us to eat them.
  • We meal plan and aside from a FEW items we always like to have on hand, we don’t restock items until a weekly recipe calls for them again. This has saved so much time and we don’t often have to toss things that have gone bad.
  • We adjusted our shelves based on the contents we have.

A few of the MVP organizers…

  • THIS lazy susan that keeps us from lining things up or stacking items where we can’t see them…
  • THIS reversible beverage mat — shallow enough for a counter-depth fridge, takes up no extra space, is reversible for one side to hold cans and one side to hold bottles, and holds more than a 12-pack of cans.
  • THESE tall, narrow bins that occupy vertical space and make it easy to pull out and sort through.
  • My salad spinner — this one is THE BEST and it’s how I prep AND store my lettuce for the week, each week.
  • Stackable Wine Holder — super affordable and while mine is in a spot that can’t be stacked, if you are constantly chilling wine, there are plenty of shelves that would accommodate the height to stack them.
  • Lidded Egg Crate — you can stack things on top, too.

Refrigerator Organizers

Sources: 10″ Lazy Susan | Reversible Beverage Mat | Handle Bin | Lidded Egg Crate | Salad Spinner | Stackable Wine Holder | Narrow Bins

Organized Refrigerator

Sources: Reversible Beverage Mat | Salad Spinner | Stackable Wine Holder | Narrow Bins

How to Organize Cans In a Fridge

Sources: Reversible Beverage Mat | Stackable Wine Holder

My Bathroom Vanity Cabinet

I established rules before organizing my vanity and I’ve stuck to them!

Here’s why it works…

  • With tall cans and bottles, if you’re reaching behind other bottles, you’re gonna be knocking everything over. It gets out of hand quickly. Because I only permitted a single lazy susan for spinning access (the max size I could go without hitting the pipes), and didn’t line cans up in the back, everything stays just as it should. Again, if you aren’t using turntables inside deep cabinets, you’re missing out.

Vanity Cabinet Organizing with Turntables

Sources:  9 Inch Turntable (set of 2) | Facial Steamer

My Puzzles

When I was dealing with stacked boxes in multiple places, I was overwhelmed and it wasn’t working out. When I shifted to a bag system, everything changed.

Here’s why it works…

  • They take up less space.
  • They’re all uniform in size now.
  • They’re contained to one bin instead of multiple surfaces and cabinets
  • They boxes don’t come apart, spilling out stray pieces.

How to Store Puzzles with Puzzle Storage Solution

SourcesRattan Basket | Zipper Pouches (pack of 24) | Bin Label Clip (similar) | Label Maker | Clock | Bubble Pot | Cabinet Knobs

I actually didn’t know just how much I was going to love these bags and have since expanded their use to lots of other places, like Eliza’s playroom for all those small pieces. I keep a few others on hand and find myself randomly using them, not just for home storage, but for zipper pouch needs in tote bags, too.

Organizers for Junk Drawers

Sources: Pouch for Spare Batteries (21-piece set) | Label Maker for Label | Black Label Tape Cartridge

My Receipts

I’ve used the same accordion file for years now, buying a new one at the start of each year. It’s just the perfect width (not too narrow) and contains it all perfectly. I keep it in a plastic bin so if I’m lazy, I’ll toss receipts in the plastic, lidded bin, and then pull out the bin, log the receipts, and then file them away.

Here’s why it works…

  • It’s a system that doesn’t require IMMEDIATE action but once they’re filed away, I never have to look at them again.
  • The accordion file is long so you don’t have to fold receipts up tightly like most coupon-style files.

Tax Prep and Planning Essentials

Sources: Accordion File for Receipts

My Office Cabinets

You can see the receipt bin’s home on the top right 😉 But having divided out all the random stuff I like to keep on hand, it was easy to categorize what made sense and create a system that I’ve stuck to.

Here’s why it works…

  • I know exactly where to go to find what I need now.
  • There aren’t miscellaneous bins to collect junk and random stuff.
  • The full space is used well.

Office Organization and a Full Before and After Makeover

SourcesStorage Bins (pack of 12) | Document Storage Box Teardrop Vase | Cabinet Pulls 

Some things all these spaces have in common…

  • I’m using organizers as tools to aid in my systems… the organizers themselves can’t be solely relied upon to KEEP me organized.
  • I’ve identified clear homes for items.
  • I’m not constantly adding new items — I’m typically only accessing and maintaining.
  • None of the systems are difficult to maintain. They’re easily accessible and work with my natural instincts.

While these have worked well, nothing is perfect and I think we’re all prone to occasional slip-ups/laziness, no matter how “great” or confident we are in our implemented systems. But editing down items, discarding extra, and being more mindful of what we bring in our home has helped a TON. There are plenty of spaces I have yet to tackle (MORE than plenty), and plenty that could benefit from some decluttering, but… we’ll get there. For now, we’ll celebrate these wins that have proven to stand the test of time.

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  1. 5.19.23
    kathleen adams said:

    Your organization tips are the best I’ve found. I love to organize & you do a great job of sourcing ( I am an Amazon girl!) & explaining why this one works where. Especially since you have minimalized your lifestyle! Thank you!

    • 5.22.23

      Thank you for taking the time to visit, Kathleen! I really appreciate your kind note. I’ve found that keeping things organized helps so much for my current minimalistic direction.

  2. 5.23.23
    Libbe said:

    Onions in the fridge, eh? Perhaps I should think about that. And a lightbulb went off in my head when I saw the lazy susan in your fridge. I’ve used them other places (spice/baking cabinet) but never thought of using one for things like sour cream, cream cheese, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve knocked something over trying to get to the right item in that section of my fridge!

    • 5.24.23

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by, Libbe. We use lots of onions in our cooking and I’ve found that keeping them in the fridge makes them last longer, since we typically purchase a five-pound bag at a time. I hope you will try the turntable a try. I, too, use them in the pantry, cabinets and in my bathroom vanities. It really works great in the fridge, too.

  3. 6.6.23
    Anne said:

    Thank you for all the amazing tips. I moved from three bedroom home to a two bedroom apartment, so lots of organizing.
    I was looking at your under kitchen sink photo. I am curious what is above or behind the Lazy Susan on the left
    side. I can see a spray bottle nozzle, but cannot see what the arrangement is.

    Thank you again for all your great tips!

    • 6.6.23

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by, Anne! Here’s a link to my original “under the kitchen sink” original post. I have back stock stored behind the Lazy Susan on a storage riser. There are lots more pics in that post, including the shot you are needing.