Can’t Take the Clutter? Try the Container Concept!

Before and and after decluttering the kitchen counter

Do you find yourself surrounded by clutter and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in your home? Do you accumulate items, with every shelf, drawer, and countertop bursting with “stuff” and don’t like how the excess “stuff” makes your home look? Is it difficult to either clean your home yourself – or have your professional housecleaning service clean your home – because the “stuff” has accumulated on surfaces, making it difficult to even get to the surfaces to clean them?

Here is a workable solution to gain control over your home spaces so that you can enjoy a clean, uncluttered home – The Container Concept. The idea of containment encourages you to prioritize, refine, and reduce your material world to only include things that you use and appreciate. It’s an active extension of the old Benjamin Franklin adage: “A place for everything, everything in its place”.

Understanding the Container Concept

The Container Concept is about setting physical boundaries on your possessions. The idea is simple: if you have a defined space for a certain type of item, you will be conscious about what you keep and what you don’t keep. It’s a way to ensure that everything you own is intentional, and has a place where it is stored.

Select a container — a box, a shelf, a drawer, or any physical space — and decide that this will be where you store a type of item. For instance, you may use a basket to contain all your beauty products, a bookshelf for your favorite books, a shoe rack in the mudroom for shoes. The items are allowed to expand and contract within the confines of the container, but they must fit in the container and NOT expand to outside the container.

Here’s how you can incorporate this principle into your home.

Step-by-Step Application of the Container Concept

1. Identify Clutter Hotspots

Start by identifying areas in your home that are cluttered or have overflowed their containers or have no containers, whether piles of clothes on the bedroom floor, a bathroom sink that is covered with makeup, lotions, toothpaste, and hair products, or grocery staples that have overflowed onto the table, floor or other surfaces. These are hotspots that need containment. An organizer we worked with told us that one of her clients proudly said: “Every horizontal surface in my home is used for storage!” This had lead to the dining table, side tables and bureaus, ottoman, stair treads, floors, and even window sills being so chock full of “stuff” that every room in the house was visually disorienting. The client often couldn’t find things, double-or triple purchased items, and the surfaces of the home a layer of dust had settled on everything. He worked successfully with a local organizer using the Containment Concept to pare down his belongings and then keep his home uncluttered by not allowing items to grow outside of their “corral”.

2. Choose Your Containers

Select the “containers” you’ll use for containment. A container is just that – something that contains items to a specific area. Containers don’t have to be just jars or boxes. If you are organizing books, a bookshelf will do for a “container”; for socks, a sock drawer; for kitchen tools, a kitchen utensil crock or holder. The container should limit the number of items you keep, so the size of the container matters.

3. Sort and Prioritize

Once you have your containers, sort through the items you plan to contain. Prioritize based on usage frequency and personal value. The best products, books, or clothes should make it in; the ones you keep around “just in case” should be re-evaluated. Give them away to a friend, relative, donation center, or toss them. (You could sell unwanted items, too – but “To Sell” boxes sometimes become another area where clutter gets tossed, only to languish in the “To Sell” box until, finally, the “To Sell” box items are given away or tossed. Be honest with yourself – are you really going to put those items up for sale, label them, and ship them out?)

And – you don’t have to risk getting overwhelmed by trying to containerize everything at once. Start with the area the “bugs” you the most – whether it’s a bookshelf, a spice drawer, or a toolbox.

4. On-going “Stuff” Decision Making

The container is now your decision-maker. Because it only holds the space for a certain number of items, you are by necessity going to have to to be mindful about what makes it into the container and what doesn’t. If you acquire a new item that doesn’t fit, either discard or donate an old item to make room. Do not buy another container, and then another. Limit the items that are in the container and be ruthlessly consistent about tossing or giving away items rather than allowing them overflow their container.

Overcoming Resistance and Maximizing the Effect

Resistance is common when it comes to letting go of things. Memories, sentiment, and the ‘what if I need it’ mindset all play their part in our attachment to stuff. The Containment Concept is an effective tool to counteract these emotions. By giving your belongings a fixed and finite space, you reframe your approach to organizing.

Allow the Container Concept to guide you in confronting your emotional attachments. When you find that a container is full, evaluate the items in it. This forces you to decide which items are your favorites, and are important enough to stay. The Container Concept is about setting rules. When you decide that a container is full, you reinforce the boundary by not allowing spillover. The Container Concept encourages the habit of conscious consumption. Before buying something new, you’ll ask yourself if you have space for it.

By setting yourself confines using the Container Concept, you can begin to experience a cleaner more organized and and more stress-free home and the satisfaction of a well-contained life.

Want to keep your home tidy and clean? Let Belle Home Housecleaning maintain your clean, tidy home for you. We are located in the heart of New Haven County and service homes of all sizes, keeping them organized, clean and fresh so families can enjoy their homes. Call us today at 203-647-0383 or visit us at for a free quote.