When I started organizing professionally in 2006, containers were not quite as evolved as they are now, just 15 years later. In fact, my favorite container store of that time, Hold Everything, chose that particular year to close all of its stores (something I would think the chain’s owner Williams-Sonoma now regrets). Garages at that time were full of brown cardboard boxes and those heavy plastic bins in opaque colors of Stepford-forest green, not-seen-in-nature purple, industrial grey and sad ocean blue.

Having to say goodbye to Hold Everything, Target was my next best-loved container source, although for some reason, their reliable clear plastic bins were only available with lids in that “sad ocean” blue color. I am not sure why white or clear was not the Sterlite company’s first choice, but I was stuck with blue. For a client in LA for whom sad ocean blue would not work with the Gucci and Dolce in her closet, I spray painted every lid silver.

Target next carried the Sterlite bins with lime green and fuchsia lids. Fairly recently, due to popular demand since I guess no one at the company had common sense, they began offering white lids pretty exclusively.

When containerizing, spray paint has often been my best friend. Cardboard wine boxes, shoe boxes, sunglass boxes, iPhone and iPad boxes and others are great to spray paint, cover in fabric or paper and otherwise customize to create storage that matches and is more aesthetically pleasing. 

Vintage suitcases, small chests of drawers, wood wine boxes and bookcases filled with glass jars or square storage baskets are other creative ways my clients and I containerized items before Container Stores opened in the area.

IKEA made a particularly good tall and skinny chest of drawers that had six slim drawers. It was perfect for one client’s stationary collection, another’s silk scarf collection and a third’s cocktail napkins, incense and candles. Although made of lead-heavy particle board and requiring a handyman to put together properly, these narrow chests of drawers fit nicely into hall closets and were really successful storage solutions. But in 2016–alas! like so many good things–they were discontinued.

I was shocked to learn that the first Container Store opened a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (1978, northern Dallas). Today the hugely successful nation-wide chain sells over 10,000 organizing-related items. A few of my favorites are:

  • Inexpensive clear containers with (thankfully) clear lids, from shoe box size to large bins
  • Stackable metal mesh shoe shelves
  • A wide variety of trash cans to suit almost every space and need
  • Heavy duty rolling clothes racks with canvas covers (sold separately) for storing extra clothing
  • Intermetro metal shelving—but only when on sale, usually annually in August
  • Like-It Bricks brand plastic stackable boxes for storing bathroom items or pantry items; I especially “Like-It” (them) for cupboards under sinks. These are expensive, but sturdy and very attractive in clear, grey or white.

Of course, the closest Container Stores are still a trek—either Walnut Creek of Corte Madera are the nearest locations for Napans. Locally, the container section at Target has diminished since 2006 but you can still find a good amount of items like drawer dividers, baskets and plastic containers with lids in the Kitchen and Bath sections of the store. Up Valley, Steve’s Hardware has a good selection of containers and I especially like their clear acrylic drawer dividers. Cartons & Crates in Napa is my go-to for carboard boxes and moving supplies. Staples and Office Depot have excellent items for organizing the office and paper.

And of course, Napa is the envy of the nation  when it comes to cardboard and wood wine boxes! For moving and short-term storage of books, a cardboard wine box can’t be beat.