I'm (shortly) going to be trying out a new organizing technique: project boxes. And supply boxes. And practically everything in boxes. The key to this is boxes that will stay shut when I close them, and open easily when I want to open them, both without tape. Like, perhaps, cardboard mailer boxes.
What led me to this was noticing that I have a lot of small stuff that doesn't cope very well with open shelves. Or cabinets. Or, really, much of anything. How to store them, without a mess, and lots of wasted space? Maybe in bins; well, no, that doesn't cover everything; some things are 12" long, or 8" wide, and don't fit. Maybe in shipping boxes? No, I don't want to go 10" deep for only 2" of stuff; that's wasteful. Can't find anything that way.
At work, office supplies are stored in labeled drawers; and no single drawer is big enough to get too much of a mess in it. What's the difference, really, between boxes and drawers, except how they open and close? But, functionally, that turns out to be a very key difference. A box that doesn't open-close conveniently is only useful for moving.
Example, all those wonderful uhaul boxes I have from my last move are tough, durable, very useful... except the top flaps are always springing up and getting in my way. They're extremely awkward to use when not taped shut, because of that. They demand I have two hands free to use them, and then stacking another box on top requires three or four hands.
So, obviously, I don't want a split-flaps-on-top box. Then I remembered the keyboard boxes that high end computer keyboards used to come in; the whole top folds down, and there are tabs that tuck in. Like, well - like a pizza box, but with fully sturdy bottom edges, and more depth. Hmmm...
Simultaneously, I was also hunting the net for food service boxes; like you get a microwave entree in, that store in the freezer. They're cardboard with a plastic food-safe lining. This would make it easier to pre-cook large meals and then store single-serving freezer meals. I figured I could probably find them under bulk food boxes. I was right, and in the process, I came across other bulk cardboard box websites, which spurred more ideas of how to use boxes effectively. Such as for storing craft projects in progress. Or, really, anything.
The image above is what I ordered this time; that website let me order in 50-box units, so that order totals 250 boxes. Shipping is kinda steep :( but I have to admit that's a hell of a lot of cardboard, and cardboard is kinda heavy. But, at less than $1/box, it beats the heck out of the plastic organizers you would find at a dedicated home organizing retail store (typically $10-$15/box). Plus the white cardboard is way easier to label with a marker.
So, here's my plan.
Two packs of boxes are fit to standard letter size paper, and 2" deep. These will be "kit" boxes. They may be used for art projects, or electronics projects in progress, or small crocheting or sewing projects, or quilt blocks, or art markers, or paint tubes, or household supplies, or medicine bottles, or spare parts to small appliances, or whatever the heck small stuff I need to store. One size fits letter paper; the slightly bigger one fits letter paper inside tabbed folders, or things that need a full 12" to fit. So, I can store instructions, diagrams, plans, along with the project components. No more need for a separate filing system.
I expect these boxes to be the work-horse of my organizing system. Since they're only 2" tall, I can stack a lot of them on a given shelf, and as long as they're labeled they'll be really easy to use. Some may even get stood up on edge. I also got one pack of the 4" deep ones, just in case specific projects need taller storage, but expect to use those more rarely.
Then, I got a smaller but deeper box size, fitted to cds/dvds (laying down tho, not standing up to flip through). Again, labels are key, but this will give me an easy way to store rarely-accessed cds like software installs and old data disks. This deeper box size will also help with misc household - batteries, light bulbs, vacuum cleaner bags, cloth mop heads, small accessories, and awkwardly sized items that don't fit in the "kit" boxes.
I also got a set of open-top-bin boxes, which will make grab-ables out of staplers, tape, pens, etc.; anything I want to remain very easy-access. Most supplies, however, will go into closed kit boxes and be labeled, so envelopes aren't getting bent and damaged, fancy paper is protected, etc. When I "run out" of open-access supplies, their replacements can be pulled out of a kit box and moved to open storage.
This combination should let me store nearly all the "small stuff" around my house with minimal fuss, and stack the boxes easily in a closet or open shelves, with fairly dense use of space but still very easy to access any given thing. Since the boxes are fairly small, labeling is easy; there's only one "kind" of item in any given box. This avoids the issue I had with uhaul boxes: "Office supplies: pens, envelopes, resume paper, stapler, glue, glue gun, box cutters, markers, acid-free ink, + misc other"... where any box had a really large variety of only vaguely-related items.
Also, since I am a renter, I am limited in what I can do to modify the house to fit my needs. Instead, I need to fit my style to the space already in the house. The cheap laminate storage cabinets I've been getting (half-height bookshelves with doors, basically) end up poorly utilized because I have no way to subdivide the space; either things get to be a jumbled mess or I put so few items in any cubby that it takes an enormous amount of linear feet of storage to make it work. There's got to be a better way.
Once the boxes arrive and I have at least one room re-organized using them, I'll try to remember to follow up with some photos.