Your Storage Bins Might Be Stealing Space From You—Here’s One Easy Way to Tell

published Feb 18, 2021
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The month leading up to our out-of-state move, I trekked to the store at least once a week to buy good storage bins. Storage bins with wheels, storage bins with lock-on lids, smaller storage boxes to nest inside the bigger ones — I bought whatever was on the shelf, hoping they would contain all my stuff until we got to our new house. 

By the time I got home and began packing, though, I became a lot pickier than I was in the store. The bins looked so spacious when they were empty in my cart. At home, finagling with framed art and kitchen appliances, I worried they wouldn’t be big enough to store all of our things. 

The flaw, I noticed, was in the design. Sure, the label said they could contain 50 gallons, but 50 gallons of what? All these bins were so much narrower than they seemed, making it near impossible to fit the bigger objects I was trying to pack.

A recently viral TikTok video by pro organizer Leslie Hatch Gail of Declare Order captured the reality I had been experiencing: Many home organizing bins, including the bigger storage bins I purchased, are tapered so they’re widest at the top and narrower on the bottom. The reason? The tapered design stacks well, making it easier to fit them on shelves, both in warehouses and in stores.

These types of stackable bins are great if you plan to stash them away (empty) periodically. But most people buy bins to organize their things onto shelves, meaning tapered bins don’t allow you to maximize your available storage.

How much space your bins are stealing from you depends on just how tapered they are. If they’re not dramatically different sizes at the top and the bottom, the effect might not be super noticeable. (It’s especially apparent when you’re using your storage bins to store box-shaped items — like a pantry storage bin for cereal and pasta.) But now that you have this pro tip in your arsenal, maybe you’ll think twice about tapered stackable bins the next time you’re shopping.

If your goal is long-term storage, the TikTok pro organizer recommends looking for storage bins that are as wide on the bottom as they are on the top, such as storage cubes or boxes. This way, you’re not losing out on valuable storage space when you fill them and line them up on a shelf.

Small drawer organizers, like the ones in the TikTok video, are especially guilty of this space-stealing measure. So here’s another tip: Instead of dividing your drawers with tapered bins, opt for squared-off drawer dividers to ensure you’re using every inch of your drawer storage.