When someone has a lot of stuff it’s not unusual for items to either be buried or pushed to the back of a cupboard, aka “out of sight, out of mind,” aka lost. There are some key methods to use when organizing stuff in cupboards, drawers and closets that make it easy to find things, but there are also methods to avoid.
Stacks: I don’t advocated stacks for papers. When you stack papers, rather than organize them in file drawers or graduated file holders where you can easily see them, anything at the bottom gets buried and easily forgotten. Example: the bill that you forget about until the second notice with a late fee or penalty arrives.
Also avoid the stack method in drawers, unless you are a super diligent launderer who puts the last worn t-shirt or pair of underwear at the bottom of the stack once it’s been cleaned, you will end up wearing whatever items are on top over and over. Instead stand neatly folded items like t-shirts on edge creating a “file” of shirts in the drawer so that you can see the folded edge of each and choose the one you want. Socks, bras, jeans, yoga pants—anything that can be folded to stand up in a drawer works with this method. For floppier items like sweaters, fold with tissue to make the item stiffer for “filing.”
Stacks do work in open shelving. Jeans are especially good for stacking—they fold neatly and the folded edge makes it easy to pull out any pair you like without much readjusting of the whole stack. Stacks in open shelving work great for folded towels and bedding also.
In the garage or storage areas, stacks of labeled containers with lids are also very workable, provided the stacks aren’t too high and the heavier containers always stay on the bottom.
In deep cupboards and drawers, containerizing items in drawer dividers or on trays makes it easy to pull out a container in order to see the items at the back. Another option is to add roll out shelving, like Rev-a-Shelf brand, so that you can pull out the contents as if they were in a shallow drawer. You do lose some space at the sides, but the space you gain at the back and the ease of use usually make it worth it.
The exception to containerizing is when you have many multiples of something, like paper towels, cans of beans, boxes of broth, and other common items. In such cases, having the same item in rows all the way to the back of a cupboard is not a problem as long as you keep moving the older items to the front so that you use them first and don’t wind up with a bunch of expired soup in the back.
Going vertical can help if you have a jumble of stuff on the floor as in a pantry or garage or clothes closet. Wire metal shelves are easy to put together and can be very reasonably priced. They work incredibly well in pantries. In a garage, add casters so that they can be easily moved around for sweeping as needed.
In clothes closets, shoe shelving to organize and get a pile of shoes off the ground is a huge leap forward for a lot of people. It’s amazing how something so simple and inexpensive can be so satisfying and helpful. I like the wire mesh shoe shelves from the Container Store.
A lot of people have a basket or a pile of shoes at the front door, and this is another area that can benefit from shoe shelves to make things easier to locate.
When you’re organized, something that continually gets moved to the bottom of the stack (the too tight jeans) or the back of the cupboard (that can of artichoke hearts) makes it easier to make a decision to lighten up and let it go.