How to Choose the Right Storage Containers


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Nov 08, 2023

How to Choose the Right Storage Containers

We don’t know what it is about back-to-school season that makes us want to

We don't know what it is about back-to-school season that makes us want to declutter our spaces, but with fall right around the corner, we have the organizing itch.

Whether you’re packing away summer bedding or rethinking your kitchen pantry, the right kind of storage can make home organization a whole lot easier.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite boxes, bins, and baskets for most of the spaces in your home (except for the children's spaces—those need advice of their own). Like grape jelly and smooth peanut butter (we said what we said), the ideal storage container should go hand in hand with both the environment it will live in and the things you’ll be stashing inside it. These containers will make that reorganization project a breeze. And they will leave your closets and shelves looking just as satisfying as these soothing #restock videos.

Storage bins are a great way to organize your seasonal gear. These breathable, zippered iWill Create Pro Storage Boxes are perfect for storing bulky winter clothing in the summer or putting away linens in the winter. They are also ideal for storing garments that need airflow, like wool sweaters. These were the easiest boxes to load and unload, so they’re also great for storing items you need regular access to, like scarves and belts.

For storing bulky winter comforters and blankets, we like the generously sized Misslo Folding Breathable Jumbo Storage Bag. This bag is less of a hassle to open and close than a space-saver vacuum bag, and it even made storing a king-size comforter an easy task. With a Misslo bag, pulling out a blanket on a chilly night during those shoulder seasons is also relatively easy.

Any closet could benefit from a few Iris Weathertight Totes. They are sturdy and easy to use, and they come in more sizes (12) than any other storage bin we tested. So they’re perfect for storing anything from shoes to sports gear. They’re also see-through and stackable, so it's easy to see what you’ve stored away, and they make your closet look extra-put-together.

For smaller accessories, socks, and underwear, dividing your drawers with organizers can help keep things from getting jumbled. After researching 15 and testing four sets of drawer organizers, we recommend the Dream Drawer Organizers. They took up less room, stayed more firmly in place, and were easier to adjust than the competition. These were the only drawer organizers we saw that included pieces to subdivide drawers both vertically and horizontally, a feature we loved.

The classic, streamlined Pyrex Simply Store 18-Piece Set is the best glass container set our kitchen team tested. Made from tempered glass, these sturdy containers survived multiple counter-height drops onto wood without breaking. Unlike other glass containers we tested, the Pyrex containers have a smooth rim that's less likely to chip over time, and they look nice enough to use for serving. If you’re set on plastic—or you need something lighter and more portable, albeit less durable—we recommend the Snapware Total Solution 20-Piece Food Storage Set.

We think the Rubbermaid Brilliance Pantry Food Storage Containers are the best dry storage containers for most people. The lids and containers in this set are incredibly sturdy and seal tightly, even after multiple runs through the dishwasher. Their neat, rectangular shape gives your pantry an organized look, and they stack easily, too. If you tend to buy in bulk or have a more-spacious pantry, our kitchen team also loves these rugged, sturdy Rubbermaid Commercial Space Saving Food Storage Containers. They are designed for restaurant kitchens, so you know they can survive anything you throw at them.

Baskets and bins can help contain wayward boxes of pasta, bags of rice, and snacks on your kitchen and pantry shelves. One of our senior editors swears by The Home Edit by iDesign Stacking Pantry Bin to keep pantry ingredients under control. "[I’m] really happy with these," she told us. And one of our senior staff writers uses these Akro-Mils bins in her pantry and all around her kitchen, including above (and even inside) the fridge. "They’re stackable and have a label holder. And they’re super-durable," she said.

At our test kitchen in Queens, New York, we use these iDesign Linus Deep Drawer Organizers to keep all of our utensil clutter tidy. Lesley Stockton, our kitchen senior staff writer, likes to use these shorter drawer organizers at home because she has shallower drawers.

If you have a storage space to organize and need affordable bins, consider Home Depot's HDX Tough Storage Totes. They come in eight stackable sizes to fit a wide range of storage spaces, and our test bins have held up perfectly after nearly three years of long-term testing.

Jackie Reeve's family has bought several more since testing, and they use them in their unheated workshop and under their deck to store small equipment, extra bags of feed for their chickens and rabbits, and gardening supplies. The bins aren't waterproof, but they’ve kept pests out on their small farm. They are made with polypropylene, so these bins are not as tough in extreme-cold temperatures as some of our other storage-container picks, and they break more easily when dropped. But if you live in a mild climate or aren't worried about years-long durability, we recommend these bins for garages and basements (the smallest size is about 19 by 13 by 10 inches, so they might be too big for around-the-house use).

The Rubbermaid 24 Gallon ActionPacker is the best storage container we found for outdoor use. If you need something nearly indestructible for storage outside your home, it's more durable than the Home Depot HDX bins. It's also our only storage-container pick that can be padlocked. The combination of durability, security, and portability make this the best outdoor bin we’ve ever tried. In our outdoor drop tests, it performed better than other bins after being tossed down a flight of stairs onto a concrete floor. Jackie's ActionPacker bins have also withstood a bear attack and almost three years of Pacific Northwest outdoor weather.

The Innovative Storage Designs organizer is our top pick for desktop organizers. It's our favorite all-purpose desk organizer, with room for about 250 sheets of standard 8.5-by-11-inch paper and compartments to store writing tools and small office supplies.

Staff writer Anna Perling found this organizer has a better combination of compartment sizes—including two open-ended file slots and several small, shallow spaces for items like paper clips or mini binder clips—than others she tested in its price range. Plus, Anna said this plastic organizer's material felt sturdier than other plastic models she tried.

If you don't mind spending a little more for sturdy bamboo organizers, MobileVision's Desktop Paper Tray File Folder Holder & Bamboo Drawer Set and Caddy Add-On are the upgrade picks in our guide to desktop organizers that will help hide all the paper clutter on your desk. The file holder has five slots and fits over 500 sheets of paper (that is, an entire ream). Its smaller front slot holds mail or important items that you want to keep visible.

The large drawer works for bigger items like large binder clips, notepads, business cards, and earbuds, but smaller items like paper clips won't have a designated space. Anna found it sturdier in testing than other modular organizers we tried, and its pieces won't rattle or slide around on a desk, even when stacked.

For our guide to the best home office furniture and supplies, our staff spent 10 hours researching 30 different filing cabinet models and performing hands-on testing with four of them. We found the Lorell 14341 18″ Deep 2-Drawer File Cabinet to be the best option for most home offices. It had the smoothest drawers, and it felt sturdy even when fully loaded. Plus, it's one of the cheapest filing cabinets we’ve tested. The lock won't stop a determined person from accessing your documents, but it does keep the drawers closed. And the two color options (black and tan) will blend in with most offices.

To keep your cooking gear organized, our kitchen team recommends The Container Store's Stackable Drawer Organizers. But we also like them for wrangling supplies in your office drawers. Made of acacia wood, these modular organizers come in seven sizes that you can mix and match to custom-fit drawers (sizes run small enough to hold paper clips and long enough to keep pencils and rulers organized). If you have deep drawers, you can stack same-size bins to get the most out of a drawer's vertical height, too.

If you just want to partition your drawer space without using small bins for every office supply, you could also use the Dream Drawer Organizers from our guide to closet organizing ideas, which we mentioned above.

Jackie Reeve

Jackie Reeve is a senior staff writer covering bedding, organization, and home goods at Wirecutter since 2015. Previously she was a school librarian, and she's been a quilter for about 15 years. Her quilt patterns and her other written work have appeared in various publications. She moderates Wirecutter's staff book club and makes her bed every morning.

Daniela Gorny

Daniela Gorny is a supervising editor covering home goods, linens, and furniture at Wirecutter. She previously worked as an architect and received a master's degree in city design and sociology. You can usually find her walking her dog and exploring the hilly trails of Los Angeles.

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