Shelf vs Drawer…when you need one or the other

This is a subject near and dear to me…partly because as a professional organizer it’s an organizing issue I am called upon to solve all the time, and partly because I recently discovered that I haven’t been applying the very principles I teach on this subject…how’d that happen???

I just met with a new client who is struggling with her master clothes closet.  One of the most glaring issues is a built-in shelf unit at the back of the closet that she has to use to hold folded clothing…sort of.  Usually these units are meant for shoes, but this one doesn’t have enough shelves for shoes.  It just has a few shelves and a lot of useless space in between them.  She’s frustrated, which is understandable.  Her clothes are falling all over the place.  Everytime she needs something, she has to dig through a pile and it becomes even more disheveled.  What she really needs here are drawers, so I am going to have figure out how to give them to her.

Shelving nightmare

This closet shelf system is not great for storing stacks of clothing.

You have to think of a drawer as bin.  We bin like objects to keep them together.  Socks in a drawer, utensils in a drawer…anything that needs to be corralled together really needs a bin or a drawer.

Drawers of utensils

Drawers are great for holding like items.

Shelves, on the other hand are great for display and holding objects stacks of items that we pull from the top down.

Display shelf

Shelves are great for displays.

Dishes work well on a shelf when we take the top plate off a stack, or we pick up the entire stack.  They work less well if we need the 4th one from the bottom because we’ve got to do a lot moving things about to get to that 4th plate.

Dish shelving

Stacks of dishes work because we take the top item and leave the rest in place.

Pull-outs are a type of drawer.  Generally I see them in lower kitchen cabinets and pantries.  They are generally built in when a series of pull-outs are behind a door.

Pull-out drawers in pantry

These pull-out drawers make it easy to see what you’ve got in a pantry.

In my own kitchen, for the last 10 years, I have been working with a pantry cabinet filled with a wire shelving unit.  I went out and bought bins for each shelf and used the bins to hold like items.  Problem, anytime I needed something in the back of the shelf, I had to take out the first bin, set it down and then pull out the 2nd bin to get what I needed it.  It was really a royal pain.

As part of my condo renewal in November, I took a look at all the areas of my home that weren’t working for me and the pantry was at the top of the list.  So off to The Container Store for a free standing Elfa shelving system and voila, I now have pull outs – so much easier work with.

Shelving system

This wire shelving system sat inside the pantry cabinet for 10 years. Glad to see it go.

An Elfa free standing drawer system

Now I can simply pull out a drawer, pick out what I want and slide the drawer back in place.

Why did I go through 10 years of monkeying around with shelves and bins before the I asked if there wasn’t a better way to do this?  Same reason my clients wait so long to call in an organizer…you try to adapt, no matter how bad the system is!  Finally, when you’ve had a enough, you call for help. And so I did…


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