The Container Store: Mixed feelings + 7 shopping tips

Container StoreAt long last, a miracle has occurred! A Container Store has opened for business here in New Mexico. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus! Fire the canons! Pop the champagne corks! Release the confetti, doves, and balloons!

Albuquerque, prepare to feast your eyes — and open your wallets!

It was a huge step down for me, in terms of access to organizing supplies, when I moved from California to New Mexico in 2005. I traded the two-story Pasadena Container Store — with its valet parking, freight elevator, and abundance of storage options, accessories, and gadgets — for the 99 cent clear plastic shoe boxes at Big Lots, plus a black Sharpie and some masking tape. (OK, an exaggeration, but only a mild one.)

Welcome to organizing paradise

The pre-grand-opening VIP party was great fun. There were private tours, special discounts, gorgeous flowers, fancy food, and champagne. I attended with my PONM buddies and generated much good-natured envy among my friends and followers on social media.

Container Store

I posted photos and asked readers to guess where I was. More than one replied along these lines: “You must have died, because it looks like you’re in Heaven!” Indeed, The Container Store is like Paradise and the Holy Grail to most professional organizers.

Who doesn’t love whole walls full of clothes hanger and wall hook choices? The latest in closet, kitchen, and garage organization? A rainbow selection of file cabinets?

But… I have mixed feelings.

Container Store

The first question everyone asks eagerly, once they learn I’ve been to the new store is: “What did you buy?” And my answer surprises them: Nothing. I didn’t buy a single thing.

Why not? I’m not opposed to buying things I need, and I’m certainly not opposed to buying them at The Container Store. They are a NAPO corporate partner, after all. But I just don’t need anything right now. I’ll go again later if, and when, I need something, I can assure you!

So…why am I not more excited?

Because I know that some of you – or someone you know — will forget that organizing is a process, not an event. And that containerizing is NOT the first step in the organizing process!

Sorting, purging, and assigning homes for your things all come before containerizing. And, as you work methodically through these proven steps, you usually will find yourself freeing up containers, some of which are still perfectly good. I always tell new clients to NOT buy anything before I come, because they might already have everything they need!

How can you go wrong?

If you think a shopping trip will solve all of your organizing problems, think again. It may even create some problems you didn’t already have!

Container Store

The extreme organization and beauty of the displays alone can seduce you into thinking that you, too, would be organized if only you were to buy some of these containers! Add a sale or discount on top of that and the temptation mounts.

Here are some recent comments I’ve read and overheard:

“The price was too good to pass up.”

Ack! This is how homes get cluttered and people get poor. How ironic would it be if your home got cluttered with pretty new Container Store merchandise? Remember: You save up to 100% if you don’t buy anything!

“You can never have too many fill in the blank.”

Yes, you CAN have too many fill in the blank. Trust me!

“Such pretty colors. Now to decide what I need these for.” — and —  “What could I put in this cute container?”

Nooooo! Don’t put the cart before the horse!

Here are my 7 tips for shopping at the Container Store without getting overwhelmed, cluttered, and broke:

Let’s say you are inspired to re-focus on your organizing project, or start a new one. Great! By all means, head for The Container Store….but first, please:

  1. Don’t skip steps. Sort. Purge. Assign a home for all the things you are keeping. If you skip straight to containerizing, chances are 80% that you will discover you did not get the right number, or the right size, or the right style for your needs. (I just made that up, but it suddenly seemed like a good application of The 80/20 Rule.)
  2. Make a list. What is your goal? Which containers or gadgets do you need? What problem will they solve? Do they need to be sturdy, decorative, or both? What size? Style? Quantity? Material? Color?
  3. Measure your space, and your stuff, and write the numbers down on your list. Draw a diagram that you can refer to while shopping, or take a photo to help you remember what you need.
  4. Container StoreDo your homework. Here is the top advantage — it’s also the top disadvantage — of shopping at The Container Store: So many choices! You simply can’t beat the convenience of so many organizing products available under one roof! But it can also be overwhelming. If you don’t focus on your goal, it’s easy to get distracted. Although the Albuquerque store doesn’t have every item shown (just so you know), their website is still a fantastic place to research your storage solutions before going to the store. It will save you lots of time, money, and energy. Don’t miss the videos and blog posts in each section describing the products and their applications in more detail.
  5. Set a budget. You are going shopping to solve a problem. Not for the fun of it. Well, OK, it WILL be fun, but there’s no reason to break the bank over it. Either way – shopping for necessity, or for fun — see #6.
  6. Keep a separate wish list. If you see some bright and shiny new things that tempt you, that you’d never considered buying before, jot them down or snap a photo. Promise yourself you will go back and buy them later if you still really want to. Impulse buys will only add to your clutter and subtract from your wallet. Chances are you’ll want to cross some things off your wish list when you look at it again later.
  7. Enjoy your purchases! Go home and feel the satisfaction of having purchased just the right items, and not a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

Containerize responsibly

So…go forth and organize! You have my blessing…as long as you containerize responsibly!

And remember, I’m here for you if you would like my help. Together we will identify what you use, love, and want to keep. Then we’ll store it in an organized manner and decide what to do with your unwanted items (e.g. toss, donate, sell). After that, if you need, or want, additional or upgraded storage, by all means, treat yourself to some pretty, new, exciting Container Store containers!

Don’t live in Albuquerque? No problem! I can help you virtually, or refer you to a trusted NAPO colleague near you.

What about you? Do you have a Container Store nearby? Do you love it? What is your favorite product? Please share with us in the comments below!

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Copyright 2017 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.

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Comments

  1. The nearest Container Store isn’t really very close to me. I think I would buy more there if it were closer, but I certainly agree with all of the points in this post. Containerizing is like the “frosting on the organizing cake” to me… what you do at the end that makes it all look and taste great!

  2. I love the Wish List idea. We have a Container Store nearby, and even I am tempted by the beautiful displays. But, an empty container, no matter how pretty, is just a beautiful box of guilt, right? Nice post, Hazel.

  3. Love this honest post, Hazel. We don’t have a Container Store in CT, but we do have an IKEA and I find that I practice your 7 practice tips when I go there. When you need to shop at a large store you really do need a game plan!

    • So many people are so thrilled with the new store that I couldn’t be gung-ho without saying what else was on my mind!

  4. Such good points! We organizers always see unused containers in our clients’ homes, because they were pretty or colorful. They sang their siren song of organizing promises, so the client bought them. It’s a good reminder that containerizing things doesn’t come first in the process.

    That said, I am a big fan of the store. I actually just bought something for myself that made my life much easier – a small car organizer that drapes over the headrest of the passenger seat. I am forever trying to keep track of my sunglasses and notebooks, so this little useful bag has given me a permanent home for those temporary things in my car. It works well for me! https://www.containerstore.com/s/swingaway-compact-organizer/d?productId=11003961&q=car%20organizer

  5. Oh, Hazel, you are so right. I LOVE The Container Store, and I love visiting with friends or family when I’m in Atlanta or some other city with one. I treat it like a research expedition — I get a sense of what I might need to recommend to a client someday, but I don’t necessarily need to buy something for myself. (Case in point? I’ve had a gift certificate for two years and have only spent a little of the value.) But it’s a huge source of information and potential solutions for my clients.

    • Indeed! That would be an added perk of working with a professional organizer. They help their clients narrow down the choices to what will really work for them. Thanks for chiming in, Julie!

  6. I might be the only one who does not love The Container Store. We got one a few months ago here in Omaha, Nebraska. I think it’s expensive. Yes, some of the stuff is great. I do like to browse in there when I go to the mall (it’s connected to one of our local malls). But I can’t imagine buying most of their things. I see some of their accessories and think “I can order that on Amazon (Prime).” We have an IKEA 3 hours away in Merriam, Kansas and we recently bought a lot of furniture and accessories there when we moved into our new house in May. It would have cost us so much more to get the stuff at TCS (not that they sell identical items to IKEA and vice versa). But TCS is fun to walk through and get ideas for storage! 🙂

    • I did see some items that I thought were reasonably priced… but I didn’t check enough to have a current opinion about that. I, too, am an Amazon Prime shopper. Generally speaking, I’d like to have the perfect thing that solves my problem and is attractive to me, regardless of where it came from or how much it costs. If it’s close by and can be delivered, so much the better!

  7. As usual, great post, well organized, great web page design, great emphasis display. Great you, Hazel, passionate as ever to help those of us who are challenged.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Vicki! Yes, I’m still keen to help, even if it’s more virtually these days.

  8. Amen to that – all of it! The last time I shopped at TCS was in San Diego. I went with a list and measurements as you suggest. And, lucky me, I had a gift card. I was wanted to buy a set of Oxo POP containers for my pantry items. They had a set of 10 for $99. Costco had a set of 8 for $50, I ended up buying 3 sets from Costco. I used my gift card to buy three large clear plastic bins with snap-top lids to orgou anize one of the basement compartments in our motorhome. They were very reasonably priced and fit my space beautifully. I’m in and out of those bins every day to get to my cycling and running gear and they are holding up really well. I also bought a canvas hanging sweater organizer to store my husband’s HUGE collection of T-shirts in the closet (we have limited drawer space). The organizer was only $20 – also reasonably priced. I do love the selection at TCS and I’m happy to know that if I need anything, I can stop in when we come to Albuquerque this fall! Looking forward to seeing you again.

  9. I don’t think The Container Store has come to Canada yet. We have something similar called Solutions, but it’s not quite as exciting, based of the pictures I’ve seen (though it’s exciting enough!)

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