Organize & Clean

Organizing Zen: How to Organize and Style Open Shelving

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Organizing Zen: Open Shelving

Shira Gill believes that “less is more” and that a tidy, organized home can lead to a simplified, happier life. Through years of helping people edit, organize and style their homes, Shira has learned what works and how to approach the process—and she’s sharing some of her best tips with Apartment Therapy.

Follow Topics for more like this

Follow for more stories like this

Do you use open shelves as a primary storage space for many of your household items? It can be challenging to create a functional storage space without compromising on aesthetics. This step-by-step guide for making your open shelf storage look great and work great will set you up for success.

Start Fresh

Start by removing all of the items from your shelves and wiping down all of the surfaces so you have a clean slate to work with. It’s helpful to set up a staging area for sorting as well as a few bins for donations, trash, and recycling.

Edit Like It’s Your Job

Evaluate the items you own one at a time and decide if they are actually worth the space they take up in your home. If space is limited in your house or apartment, it’s crucial to keep only what you truly use and love. Everything else can be donated.

Tip: While many charities and non-profits won’t accept used linens, animal shelters can generally make good use of your old sheets and towels.

Group Items by Category

Now that you have thoroughly edited your belongings, separate everything you want to keep into broad categories (towels, linens, laundry soap, crafting supplies, etc.). Grouping categories together will help you to take a visual inventory of what size storage containers you will need for each category.

Size Matters

Too many tiny items on shelves or counter tops can appear cluttered and over-stimulating. Using opaque bins and baskets in similar styles and colors will help create a clean, cohesive look.

Make sure to measure the height, width, and depth of each shelf before shopping for storage vessels and select attractive bins and baskets that feel intentional.

Store by Type + Usage

When setting up your shelves, make sure your everyday essentials are stored at arm’s reach in open bins or baskets to ensure easy access. Off-season and occasional items can be neatly tucked away in storage boxes on high shelves or concealed behind other bins or baskets. Make sure to store your heavier items on the lowest shelves so you can pull out what you need without breaking your back.

Tip: Ditch packaging whenever possible. A basket filled with toilet paper or paper towels (minus the plastic wrapping) can actually look quite lovely!

Make It Pretty

Treat your open shelving as your own little gallery where you can edit and style according to your taste and personality. Plants, ceramics or other decor elements add a fun touch to this otherwise functional storage area. Remember to play around with composition and have fun creating a look you will love and enjoy.

Shira is the founder of Shira Gill Home. She is passionate about helping individuals and families learn how to live well with less stuff. Her company offers full-service home organization and styling, as well as online resources and inspiration to help you design a clutter-free life. For information, free worksheets, and organizing resources, please visit: Follow Shira on Instagram @shiragill for weekly tips and inspiration.