Which Plastic Storage Bins Should I Buy? Advice From A Professional Organizer
Which Plastic Storage Bins Should I Buy? Advice From A Professional OrganizerBy A Jones For Organizing In General organizing, Paper organizing, Usability Problem
UPDATE: new lids
As of Summer , Target has redesigned their quart and quart clear bins to have new, sturdier lids. And the IKEA SAMLA bin page currently says last chance to buy for some of the SAMLA bins. (This made me worry that they might be discontinued. I use these bins constantly for my organizing clients.) It turns out that the SAMLA lids are being redesigned, to make them fit more securely. The new SAMLA lids should be available within a few months. Yay!!
What Difference Does It Make, Which Bins I Choose?
Shopping for plastic storage bins can be bewildering. Big, small, clear, solid colors, arent they all the same? Actually, no. Weight capacity, sturdiness, and visibility are important considerations. Read on for the purrrrfect sizes of plastic storage bins to buy from Target, The Container Store, and IKEA.
Bin There, Done That
Professional organizers know the best storage bins. We spend a lot of time lifting, sorting, and re-containerizing items for our clients. Spoiler alert: large, solid color bins like the ones show below are not optimal. Smaller, clear plastic storage bins are much better.
I know what youre thinking.
What about cardboard boxes? Why not use those for storage? Cardboard boxes are great for moving. But for long-term storage, they win the prize for The Wooooorst. Ill explain why later.
Books Are Heavy, Man
Books are physically heavy, and are often emotionally significant. You might ask, why keep books in long-term storage if you dont have enough bookcase space? Well, many people regard specific books as cherished old friends. (I can definitely relate.) As Marie Kondo would say, those books spark joy.
***The Minimalist approach does not work for everyone. My job as a professional organizer is to help you decide what you love and want to keep, not to urge you to get rid of everything.***
So I say, keep those books if you love them! Lets figure out how to honor your cherished friends and store them carefully.
Ready For A Quiz?
Which of these are best for storing books?
If you answered, none of the above, you are correct! These are all MUCH TOO BIG for storing heavy items. Some of these bins shown here have other Usability Problems, but they are all too large for books and paper.
Big, oversized bins are not good options for storing papers and books. Paper is surprisingly heavy when theres a lot of it. My free pro tip for you: heavy things like books and files should always be stored in smaller bins. Your back muscles will thank you. Your family members who will deal with your belongings later will thank you. And your professional organizer will thank you, too.
*** My free pro tip for you:
heavy things should aaaalways be stored in smaller bins.***
Bins That Can Talk Nonstop
Now that Ive told you about using smaller plastic storage bins for heavy items, lets discuss bins that will talk to you.
In A Clear Bin, You Can See Forever
(She thinks bins can talk? Should we stage an intervention?) Well, they do talk to you! Clear plastic storage bins are great communicators. After I finish an organizing project for my client, transparent bins will continue to broadcast their contents to them, for years after I am gone. With solid color bins, it is impossible to know what is inside and their labels aren’t always trustworthy.
Hey, Over Here, Here We Are!
See below, how these clear bins tell my client Hey, here we are! Your books and papers are right here! (Dont you love how perfectly 3 of these IKEA SAMLA bins fit across the shelves? Sometimes its like a fun game of Tetris.)
Okay, Youve Convinced Me. Smaller, Clear Plastic Storage Bins. Now, Which Stores: Container Store, Target, IKEA?
Here are my favorite clear plastic storage bins from these stores. They come in a range of prices and levels of sturdiness.
If you are lucky enough to have an IKEA nearby, they are a great source for inexpensive clear SAMLA bins of various sizes.
SAMLA boxes photo courtesy of ikea.com
IKEA SAMLA Clear Plastic Storage Bins
PROS: They are quite affordable, good quality, sturdy, and you can stack them up high. The lids are clear so you can see the contents from above. The labels are marvelously easy to peel off.
CONS: They have some interior molding that reduces the interior volume capacity. The lids, sold separately, rest lightly on top of the box with no audible click. So be warned: a breeze or a jostle can knock the lids off. UPDATE: the lids are being redesigned! In summer , an IKEA store associate told me that the new lids should be available in the Fall of . Im looking forward to seeing if the new lids stick on the bins more securely.
IKEA SAMLA 6 gallon bin
The 6 gallon SAMLA bin at IKEA is about the same size as the Container Stores Deep Sweater Box, but costs less. This size is perfect for storing books and other heavy items. Files will also fit in this size, as long as you fill it up full. Further down, Ill discuss plastic file boxes with rrrrrrridges. But for an inexpensive way to store a bunch of heavy paper, the SAMLA 6-gallon box is a super bargain.
For the widest variety of sizes and types, you cant beat the clear plastic bins at The Container Store. They range in size from small 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 accessory boxes that can serve as drawer dividers, all the way to 35 1/2 long shallow underbed boxes, perfect for longer toys or pieces of holiday decor.
Clear plastic boxes photo courtesy of containerstore.com
Container Store Clear Plastic Storage Bins
PROS: Good quality. They are sturdy and can be stacked up high. You get maximum volume capacity because they dont have interior molding like some other plastic bins do. The lids are clear so you can see the contents from above. The lids fit well and click when you push them on. Most sizes are designed to fit and stack together well.
CONS: Some are more expensive than comparable sized bins available elsewhere, so decide which advantages are important to you. The adhesive price tags are sometimes difficult to remove.
For storing heavy items such as books or files, I like to use the Container Stores Sweater Box, the Deep Sweater Box or the Boot Box.
Target Clear Plastic Storage Bins
Do you have bigger, lightweight items to store, such as large toys, holiday decorations, stuffed animals, or bedding? These 56 quart clear Sterilite bins are my favorite for larger, lightweight things. (Yes, I said lightweight only! Pillows! Stuffed animals! Christmas garlands! Dont fill these with books, paper, or heavy things!)
Target quart Sterilite bin courtesy of target.com
Sterilite quart Clear Plastic Storage Bins
PROS: The quart size is just right for larger (lightweight!) things like holiday decor, etc. They have no interior molding so you get maximum volume for the size. The lids make a satisfying click when you close them. The Sterilite labels are marvelously easy to peel off. For bigger items, these are a great bargain.
CONS: They are not as sturdily constructed as plastic file boxes are (more about those further down). Therefore, you cannot fill these bins with very heavy things and stack them up high and expect them to hold up. You can stack them up about 3 high, but more than that might make the lids bend and break. The lids are solid colors (usually white or blue) so you cannot see the contents from above.
Sterilite quart and quart Clear Plastic Storage Bins
Target carries a quart shallow bin with a solid color lid, and a quart shallow bin with a clear lid. The lids have been recently redesigned and seem pretty sturdy. If you are simply stacking them, then the clear lid isnt as important. But if you store these under your bed and pull them out, you will be able to see the contents much more easily with the quart clear lid. These bins are similar in size and shape as the Container Store Boot Box.
Target quart Sterilite bin, courtesy of target.com
PROS: The shallow quart and quart sizes are just right for flatter, heavier things, and larger books. The store adhesive labels are marvelously easy to remove. They are inexpensive, and a great value.
CONS: The lids on the Target bins might bend or break if you stack them too high with heavy contents.
Cat Not Available Online Or In Store
Here is a Sterilite quart bin with solid color lid, and a Container Store Boot Box with a clear lid. As you can see, they are about the same size, purrrrfect for large books or heavy items. If the ability to see the contents quickly from above is important (and it often is!), then the clear lid version will be worth every penny.
Target quart Sterilite bin and Container Store Boot Box. Cat not available online or in store.
Plastic File Boxes Have Rrrrrrrridges!
These file boxes with interior ridges are the absolute best way to store paper files. Staples, Office Depot, and Container Store carry these. The built-in ridges support the hooks on hanging files. This means that you can slide the files back and forth and access them, much more easily than in an IKEA SAMLA box or Container Store Deep Sweater Box.
What About Storing Legal Size Papers?
Got legal-size files instead of letter-size? No problem! File boxes are cleverly designed to hold either letter or legal size. Legal size files will fit lengthwise, while letter size files will fit in sideways. I love thoughtful, double-duty design like this!
PROS: These file storage boxes are heavy duty and very sturdy. You can stack them up high with confidence, without the lid cracking or failing. The lids thunk when you set them on and will not fall off when jostled. You can also find weather-tight file boxes.CONS: They are sometimes more expensive than comparable-sized boxes.
PRO TIP: Choose either clear lids for visibility or solid color lids for privacy.
Want to easily see the file labels from above? Get file boxes with clear lids. Want to keep those file labels private from nosy co-workers or others? Get file boxes with solid color lids instead. See below for a side by side comparison. Best Tips For Managing Your Papers: Labeling Files
In Conclusion, Let’s Discuss Your Big, Oversized, Solid Color Plastic Storage Bins
I know that you already have bins like these. Everyone has bins like these. Why? Because they are very inexpensive, and therefore they seem like the best solution for storing lots of things. They are not The Absolute Wooooorst for long-term storage, because that is cardboard. But these bins have several Usability Problems:
Sing It With Me! You Know The Words!
(1) They are too big. You know it’s true. Oversized plastic storage bins just tempt you to put too much heavy stuff in them. Especially paper and books. Will you promise me that you will only keep lightweight things in them? Like holiday garlands? Or extra bed pillows? Promise?
(2) They are not clear, so you cant see whats inside. You have to hope that they are labeled well, which, hey, brings me to the bonus reason:
(3) Labels often dont stick to them. Its a delicious bit of irony, isnt it? On clear plastic storage bins, where you can SEE the contents, adhesive labels will happily stay put. But solid color bins are often rubberized and sometimes even textured. Those kinds of surfaces will shed an adhesive label like springtime trees shed pollen in Austin.
Those rubberized solid color bins will shed an adhesive label like springtime trees shed pollen in Austin.
Yes, you can use duct tape and whatnot to make the labels stick. But a better solution would be to keep your belongings in smaller, clear plastic storage bins.
But, My Camping Gear Fits In Those Big Bins!
Ah, camping! The daily newspaper at the door. The freshly made bed. The mint on the pillow at night. What? Ok, so my idea of camping is when the hotel doesnt have room service. I know that there are lots of people who love camping, because I have organized their camping gear for them.
But, bear with me here because Im JUST ASKING: Have you sometimes thrown some small, heavy camping items into those large plastic storage bins? Heavy things that could fit in smaller, less back-breaking bins? Like, for instance, cast iron skillets? Hmmmm?
Cardboard Is The Absolute Woooorst
Remember at the beginning when you were asking, Why do I need to buy plastic storage bins at all? Arent those inexpensive cardboard boxes all I need? To answer this, I give you Exhibit A. So many things are wrong with this picture. Shall I list them?
(1) These boxes are WAY too large for books. You know that now.
(2) You cant see whats inside. Not only that, but you cant trust the label. See (3).
(3) Cardboard boxes crumple very easily. Sure, these boxes are labeled Books, and books arent breakable. But surprise!* At the top of the box, someone had stuffed in a cute decorative ceramic object. And yes, when those boxes were unpacked, that ceramic object was indeed broken and ruined.
(*I was not surprised.)
(4) Cardboard gets wet and moldy. Wet cardboard (and dry cardboard for that matter) will attract critters. We have a lot of bugs, roaches, silverfish, and mice in Austin and Central Texas. All of these little beasts LOVE cardboard. Do you want to give these critters exactly what they love? I didnt think so.
Go Forth And Organize
If you are organizing your things yourself, I hope this helps you make better choices when buying plastic storage bins. If the idea of doing it yourself is overwhelming, hire a professional organizer! See my FAQ page for answers to your questions.
I would love to know about YOUR thoughts on plastic storage bins!
Tags > labeling, paper, paper management, papers, storage, storage products
Keep it organized. Select Costco locations have the Iris Storage Box 45 Quart 3-Pack on sale for $ (after instant savings), now through January 12, . That is $4 off Costco’s new regular price of $ While supplies last.
Price, participation, and sales dates may vary by location. This product was spotted at the Covington, Washington Costco but may not be available at all Costco locations. Limited to stock on hand.
The Iris Storage Box is a clear, durable and stackable storage box with buckle-up latches. It has a 45 quart capacity ( gallon, 42 L). Made in the USA.
15 11/16″ W x 21 5/8″ L x 10 11/16″ H
Item # While supplies last. This product was spotted at the Covington, WA location. Price and participation may vary so it may not be available at your local Costco or it may not be on sale at your local Costco or it may be a different price at your local Costco. Prices may change at any time.
This is just a posting of a deal and not an endorsement or recommendation of any product. Please do your own research before making any purchase.
Thanks for supporting my blog!
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Great for organizing toys.TRACIGreat price. Good design. They stack well!5
It’s clear, useful & practicalsilviaIt’s clear, useful & practical5
Perfect little containerChristaI probably own 30 of these. They work great for organizing my craft room. My daughter has several in her room for toys as well5
Good productWanda E.Good product5
The lid does not stayCarolinaThe lid does not stay in tightly but otherwise works well for the need.4
The lids don"t secure toAdrienneThe lids don't secure to the actual base, they just sit on top. Wasn't what I was expecting. Wouldn't recommend.2
SAMLAJerriThese SAMLA clear storage bins fit perfectly in the BROR shelves 33 1/2 x 21 5/8 x 74 3/4, two at a time.5
Nice storage solution I loveCarolynNice storage solution I love that they are clear/see-through & stackable.5
Good valuemey j.Good value5
Perfect for under the bedalmaPerfect for under the bed5
Product is of good qualityK.Product is of good quality5
Good price and a sturdyBarbaraGood price and a sturdy container.5
Not strong enoughLORNANot strong enough3
The lid is too soft*LORNAThe lid is too soft*3
SamlaLINDANice storage container. I think it would be better if the cover snapped on. No big deal, it works for me!5
Good size and seems sturdy.JANEGood size and seems sturdy. Don't know why anyone would want one *without* a cover
Lids don"t clickAnneI love these lightweight, see through containers but with the lids clicked in place. The rest on too and don't always stay put.3
Amazing clear containerTeddiLove these containers, sturdy plastic and love that they are clear-makes it easy for storing and organizing!5
Handy for College DormsMAYRAI love this containers to transport stuff back and forth from college as well as keep it under the dorm bed.5
Great for storage but AILINIt's very deep which is great for storage. However, the top doesn't click, it comes off easily. Not a good idea when there are children in the house. That is the reason why I do not give it five stars.3
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Bin 45 qt clear storage
This is to get on your feet. He smiled. - Where is our princess.Top 5 Best Clear Plastic Storage Bins in 2020 Reviews
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Having hit her on the hands and sat down again, he continued to squeeze her crotch and with the words Why are you breaking.
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