Organization takes space

We recently organized our freezer with a shelf riser and a couple of storage baskets from the Container Store and learned two things:

  • I had been buying bag after bag of frozen chicken thighs because I kept thinking we were out. I think there were four bags in total, two opened.
  • Once we had the riser and baskets in place, it was much easier to get to everything (and tell whether we were indeed out of something), but less total stuff fit in the freezer.

This second observation is an instance of a general principle: organization takes space. There’s the volume occupied by the organizing tools themselves (often very small), but the arrangement puts such a constraint on what shapes are left to be filled—under the riser, inside the baskets—that less of what we might want to store there will fit. That’s why we still have a “junk drawer” in our kitchen that contains all of our small kitchen tools higgledy-piggledy: if we tried to put in neat little dividers so that everything were easily accessible, it wouldn’t all fit inside.

But sometimes the space taken up by organization is worth it. We’re very happy with our new freezer system, and now that we can tell what’s inside, it doesn’t need to hold four bags of frozen chicken thighs. I’m also much happier with how I’ve spent my day when I make a plan and check in with it throughout the day, even though it takes time and effort that I’m not always happy to spend in the moment, and even though it means I do more chores and have less time for fun things. And if, like me, you have trouble with negative self-talk, investing a little of your brainpower in keeping your other thoughts in check can pay massive dividends.

I’m curious: what are some areas of your life where the space taken up by organization is or isn’t worth it?

4 thoughts on “Organization takes space

  1. While you are right, sometimes more organization can net you more space. For example, I recently started storing my clothes vertically in stead of horizontally and not only has that given me better organisation, it has also increased the number of clothes I can store and see at one time. I’m very happy with the change.


    1. That is true, good point! I do that in my drawers too. 🙂 Now you mention it, a similar clothing situation where organization gains you space is in travel packing: Clara and I often fold our dirty clothes for the return trip because having them in neat stacks makes it much easier to fit them all in the suitcase. And even in our junk drawer, we make sure to nest the measuring cups and spoons.


  2. Our bookshelves are one area where we just haven’t sacrificed the space for proper organizing. what we really need is another bookshelf, but we don’t have the child-free space (our kids aren’t very gentle with books at the moment) or the money for another bookshelf so at present, almost all of our bookshelf space is double stacked with books- anything to get the most amount of books in a smaller space but out of the boxes they were trapped in before.
    I have been storing various seed types in mason jars in my fridge because I’m told they keep longer that way. That’s worth the space for me as opposed to keeping them all in one big folder that would take up significantly less space!


    1. Nice! I feel like the bookshelf is a classic battleground for space vs. organization. Our books are mostly organized by genre, but we have to make some exceptions for tall books that only fit on our bottom shelves. It’s a problem, though, whenever a section grows to just larger than one shelf-width. That usually precipitates a major re-organization—ugh! Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often.

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