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Which are the best supplies to use when organizing? The main attributes of worthy supplies are the following: appropriateness, beauty, durability, price, color, size, ease of use, ease of maintenance.

The supply must be appropriate to the task. Cardboard containers are not appropriate storage for items in an area that is damp or may get wet, such as a basement that floods, yet they are entirely appropriate to keep old tax records in the attic or to use on a temporary basis, as during a move. You probably also wouldn’t use cardboard or plastic to store things in the living room. A piece of furniture or an ottoman with hidden storage might be better choices.

Use the most beautiful supplies you can afford. To me, a plain but sturdy manila folder with a black and white label looks pure and beautiful, but you might prefer a brightly patterned file folder with a calligraphy label. People tend to prefer interacting with things they find beautiful, so whatever makes filing more enjoyable is a good thing.

I also advise clients to match items, for example, use all one color (and preferably clear) containers or all one color file folders. It’s easier on the eyes and the brain and is more aesthetically pleasing to most people.

Anything you wish to last must be sturdy. Shelving is the first thing that comes to mind. Besides not being durable, flimsy shelves can also be dangerous. Cardboard or very cheap plastic containers are not good choices for items you wish to store over months or years. A stapler that continually fails you by jamming needs to be thrown away and replaced (and don’t donate broken or unreliable items).

Obviously price will factor into your choice of supplies, but consider where you invest. A very good file cabinet is more important than buying the thickest, most expensive file folders or the largest, fanciest labeler. Spend on the item that needs to last and that is used most frequently.

With regards to color for organizing supplies, I like monochromatic: black, grey or beige file cabinets, black or white accessories and clear containers. If you thrive on lots of color and it makes organizing more fun for you, go for it, but in my own experience and with clients, a lot of color in the work environment can be distracting and make it hard to focus.

Size is important for containers. They must be large enough to hold a category of stuff but not so large that you can’t lift them on your own. If you have more than one large container of Halloween costumes and you are a childless adult, consider purging costumes until they fit into one bin. The heavier the item, the smaller the container, books for example, and forget containerizing super heavy items—your cannon ball collection—at all.

Supplies must be easy to use. Most of my clients don’t use their labelers because they are too complicated. Figure out one setting you like and don’t change it. Ease of use also means handy, so keep often-used supplies in logical, easy to reach locations. Remember, your desk should be like a cockpit and you shouldn’t have to leave it every time you need something.

Supplies should also be easy to maintain. I love Metro-style wire shelving, but it is difficult to maintain in a garage. It’s hard to keep up with the dust and rust on all those wires and the nooks and crannies in the structure. Also, the casters (which I love and find essential on garage shelving) tend to rust so need to be brushed with a steel brush once in a while. Still, they are the most appropriate, beautiful, durable, perfect-size, easy to use shelving within my budget, so I give them a pass on being a little tricky to maintain.