Are you guilty of collecting too much stuff? It may be because you buy too many catch-all containers to corral it all. Our writer blasts these inanimate clutter enablers.
Like a lot of people, I collect way too much "stuff." My New Year's resolution is to take care of the clutter once and for all. Really, this time. I know it's February, but still, I'm determined.
I'm all for clever, useful storage solutions. In fact, I'm known to get a little overzealous in the presence of some of the latest and most stylish storage items (I mean, have you been to The Container Store
lately?). But there is one that drives me crazy: the catchall container
. To me, catchall containers are little more than glorified junk collectors.
Beware of the catch-all storage system: it can cause more chaos than good. Platinum, Flickr
Take for example, Merriam-Webster's definition of a catchall: Something that holds or includes odds and ends or a wide variety of thing
s. And my definition: Any box, basket or other container that is intended to serve as a dumping spot for random junk.
Yet design magazines, websites and showrooms use catchalls as perfect accents and accessories
for any room. Sure, they're attractive from a design perspective, but they lack real-world functionality. They only serve to give the buyer a false impression of utility. For instance, the basket featured in the entryway of a show home or the pages of a website stylishly houses an antique letter opener and small set of keys. But in your home, it ends up home to junk mail, receipts, odd mittens and any other bits of front door clutter.
Personally, I've used a variety of catchalls throughout my life: an old wooden crate, a crystal serving dish, pottery dishes, a big wooden bowl and some decorative boxes. The expanding containers eventually become so overwhelmed that I'm forced to stash them away in the basement. Plus, once I've tossed something in a catch-all, there's a good chance that it will never see the light of day again. Sure, catchalls might keep the junk off your floor and counter, but the concept just promotes moving a mess from one location to another, as opposed to actually dealing with it. Ultimately, this just creates a bigger mess, more stress and wasted time.
So why would organization gurus
recommend a storage system that so clearly worsens (or at best delays) the problem instead of actually solving it? I asked an organization expert to weigh in on the catchall quandary.
"The concept of catchall containers is to collect items when you either enter the home or during a quick tidying up session," Dana H. Korey of Away With Clutter, Inc.
explains. She acknowledges the key component to making a catchall basket system work is to periodically sort through it at least once a week and put items back where they belong. "If you don't, then the basket becomes a confined archaeological dig and you haven't solved any of your issues."
Apparently, the very disciplined among us can manage a catchall storage system that is routinely edited and emptied. I learned that to optimize the usefulness of catchalls, you should assign each container a specific category, instead of tossing random items into all of them without rhyme or reason. For example, place your bills in one container, toys in another, and junk mail in a third. With multiple containers designated to specific categories, you will know where things go if you are in need of a short-term "dump" before dashing in or out.
Ultimately, this makes cleaning and organizing easier when you actually get around to it. The caveat: you have to be disciplined enough to stick to the system.
Maybe Dana's clients are more disciplined than myself, but I never sort until I need something -- and even then, the clutter doesn't actually get dealt with. Despite my disdain for catchalls, I've pared down my collection to a manageable few: a basket to collect keys, as well as magazine racks, toy bins, stationery baskets and other catchalls with clear designated purposes. But I've abandoned the catchalls that were accumulating random things and giving me an excuse to postpone actually organizing items.
Want to get rid of clutter in your home and save time? Here's my golden rule: handle everything once, and only once. This means you don't stack papers in a basket for sorting later. Instead, sort and file as soon as they come into the house.
What are your feelings about catchall containers? Let us know in the comments below.
And for more about clutter control, check out this short video:
Magic Tricks of Professional Organizers
12 Ideas for Organizing with Baskets
Organizing Tip: Use Baskets