How to find your own personal organizing style so you can save time and money on containers and storage systems that don’t work for you.
You’ve probably heard about a design style, which is an overarching theme of a way to decorate your home. But have you ever thought that you have an organizing style too? There are a lot of ways you can organize your house, and not every system, container, or storage furniture will work for your specific needs. Here’s the main types of organizing styles and how to figure out which one is for you.
What Are Organizing Styles?
An organizing style is a method you follow to make sure your home and life organization systems and routines actually help you live a less-stressed lifestyle. There are three main types, and each has its own version of “extreme” that we aren’t even going to get into. Today I want to keep it basic and general, so if you feel lost when it comes to upping your organizing game, you can have a baseline of where to start.
The Three Main Organizing Styles
When you are organizing with functionality as your main focus, you worry less about the look of your organized spaces and more about how it will help you and your family. A functionality-focused organizing style prioritizes the usefulness of containers, storage furniture, and systems so practicality is front and center.
Functionality Focused Organizing Examples:
- Keeping your most-used products on the bathroom counter on a tray for easy access
- Storing kitchen utensils in a canister on the counter next to the stove
- Arranging kids’ toys in cubes for fast cleanup
- Open shelving and hooks in the garage to see all your outdoor tools at once
- Arranging hanging clothes by sleeve length or occasion
Functionality-focused organizing doesn’t always mean cheap mismatched containers and having everything out in the open, but that is totally fine. The price and quality of the storage solutions you choose don’t make your organizing systems less effective. Remember that a container is really just a hollow item that holds stuff, so whether it’s from the dollar store or The Container Store, they all do the same job.
An aesthetic-focused organizing style is very similar to interior decorating. This style prioritizes the look of the storage solutions over the functionality. That doesn’t mean you have a bunch of pretty baskets that you stuff all your things inside with no rhyme or reason, but it does mean that you put more thought (and money) into the containers you choose.
Aesthetic Focused Organizing Examples
- Keeping all bathroom products tucked away inside cabinets and drawers so counters are clear
- Arranging toys, clothes, and food items in rainbow order
- Lining up woven baskets on shelves to hide clutter
- Lots of space between items on shelves to achieve an airy and store-like appearance
- Custom vinyl labels on all containers
Minimalism isn’t really as much of an organizing style as a lifestyle. When you live the minimalist lifestyle, you are very intentional about the items you bring into your home and don’t have any “excess.” With minimalism, you don’t really need to organize much because you don’t own much. This doesn’t mean you do without; it just means that you choose to only have things that help you live your daily life or provide beauty and entertainment.
- Not owning kitchen gadgets and small appliances in favor of standard hand tools
- Not keeping duplicates and extras “just in case”
- Having a curated capsule wardrobe that can be mixed and matched
- Using natural items for cleaning versus a closet full of specialty products
- Kids have a small but versatile collection of toys that inspire creativity
How To Know Which Organizing Style Is For You?
Finding out your organizing style isn’t as simple as taking an online quiz and choosing which photos you like best. A photo isn’t going to tell you how that system will work in your everyday life. Sure, we all love a pretty space, but sometimes the “out of sight” aesthetic look translates to “out of mind.” And sometimes a fully stocked pegboard of all your tools in reach actually makes your mind feel cluttered and chaotic.
The real key to finding your organizing style is experimentation. Yes, it takes a little time, but so does buying things that don’t work for you and having to either stand in line to return them or deal with hagglers when you resell on Marketplace. Experimenting with organizing styles saves you money too, which is a huge win.
My Exact Method For Experimenting With Organizing Styles
Step One: Gather Supplies
You’ll need the following items for this to work effectively, and you don’t have to spend any money. Just search your house; you likely have them all already.
- A clear container with a lid if possible (mid-size)
- A solid-colored container or basket (about the same size as the clear one)
- A tray
Step Two: Head To The Bathroom
Why the bathroom? Because this is a space you use every single day. You start your morning routine here and end your bedtime routine in the same place. Plus, you have a lot of stuff in the bathroom, so it allows you to really test these processes.
Step Three: Gather Your Most-Used Bathroom Products
Things like toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, moisturizer, etc. You can also throw in some of your favorite specialty products and items you don’t use as often but would like to. (AKA, aspirational products like that bold lip color that you never wear because it’s way out of your comfort zone.)
Step Four: Fill the clear container with all the items and test placement.
Leave the container on the counter for a day or two with the lid on, then for another day or two with the lid off. Next, try the container under the sink or on a shelf in the bathroom for a couple of days. I know it sounds annoying and redundant, but I promise this works, so stick with it.
Over the course of this week, you’ll start to see whether you prefer items to be left out on counters and shelves or whether you like them put away behind closed doors. You’ll also get a feel for how comfortable you are with clear containers and lids.
Step Five: Move the items from the clear container to the solid one and re-test.
Now you’re going to test the areas you liked best, but with a solid container instead of clear. If you preferred the countertop or a shelf, put the solid container there. If you liked it being under the sink, put it back in the exact same place. If you liked a lid, make sure your solid container has a lid too. Leave it in place for two or three days so you can really get a good feel for the changes.
This helps you decide if you prefer clear or solid containers. Not just in the bathroom, but anywhere around the house. Some people prefer to see everything (functionality-focused) while others prefer to hide anything that could be perceived as clutter (aesthetic-focused).
Step Six: Curate a minimalistic daily product lineup.
Here’s where the experiment may get uncomfortable. Select only the items you use every single day. No additional moisturizers, no variety of makeup colors, just the absolute basics you’d pack in a carry-on bag for a two-day trip.
Put those on a tray on the bathroom counter or shelf, and put the other items in one of the containers you used earlier with the lid on and placed in an inconvenient spot. I mean really inconvenient, like the back of the cabinet under the sink or even another room.
For three days (or longer if you want), try to only use the items on the tray. Sure, you can access the other items anytime you want. But this exercise helps you try out living more minimally. If you realize over time that you don’t miss all your “extras,” then dipping your toe into minimalism may be worth a try (The Minimal Mom on Youtube is a great place to start). If you like having options, you’ll know minimalism is not for you.
What If You Want The Aesthetic Look But It Doesn’t Work For You?
The media has really glamorized organization over the last few years. From TV shows with rainbow-ordered refrigerators to TikTok videos of someone with the longest nails ever decanting milk from a carton into a $40 jar, how could you not feel the pressure to keep up with the Joneses?
If you really want that aesthetic look but it didn’t work for you from a functional standpoint, that means you haven’t quite nailed down your organizing systems yet. It doesn’t matter how pretty your containers are or how expensive those baskets in the pantry were, you need to have routines and systems in place to maintain them or they’ll all just pile up again.
This doesn’t translate to “wait until I can buy nicer bins” or “wait until my kids are older.” Before you can have an aesthetic look, you have to be able to manage a functional one. So for now, focus on decluttering and organizing with that you have, even if it’s recycled shoeboxes. Over time, you can upgrade those containers to the ones you really want without having to train yourself to use them and risk wasting money on things that don’t work for you.
Need To Declutter?
If this whole experiment process made you realize that you just have too much stuff, I’ve got your covered. Here’s my 28 Day Declutter Challenge with daily prompts of items to go through and downsize. Remember that the less stuff you have, the less you need to organize. And the less you need to organize, the less containers you need to buy and storage space you need to have available at home.