The Best Storage Bins & Containers to Keep Your Home Organized
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Take tidying up to the next level with these indoor storage solutions.
Ideally, homes should have enough built-in storage to house and protect everything you would ever need to store away. But we don't live in an ideal world, which is why we're constantly buying storage containers and bins to put away our various precious things. And when it comes to storage bins, you've got options — arguably too many options. From rugged plastic tubs in your basement to soft-sided clothes storage for your bedroom to a non-hideous way to keep your kids' toys organized in your living room, today's market has a storage container for practically every need. But which are the options actually worth buying? That's what this guide will help you decide.
When it comes to finding the perfect storage container for your organization needs, there is no "one size fits all" approach — it all depends on what you need to pack away. If you're storing holiday decorations in a leaky basement, that calls for a much hardier caliber of bin than if you need to keep some clothes under your bed. Having said that, here are some of the common traits you'll want to look out for when shopping for most types of storage bins.
Most storage bins are made to stack onto one another, or in some cases, to fit smaller versions of themselves stacked inside of them. If you get multiples of the same storage bin (and, indeed, most are available in multi-packs), this stackability will improve your organization by allowing it to take up less space and be more aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
When you're packing your storage bins to the gills and stacking them one on top of the other, it puts a lot of strain on them. And the last thing you want is for a lid or side to crack, potentially crushing what's inside or letting in moisture (or vermin). So you'll want to opt for a storage bin that's made to withstand such abuse. A rugged lid is a must-have, and you'll usually want to opt for containers made from thick and durable plastics like polypropylene or polyethylene, which are both strong and pliable.
What good is storing your stuff if you can't get at it when you need to? A storage bin should be easily accessible, with a lid that isn't difficult to open and a size that's manageable enough to move it when you need to. Other features, like transparent windows or even total construction from clear plastic, can also aid in usability by showing you what's inside the bin without having to open it.
This goes back to the hypothetical leaky basement vs bedroom storage situation. If you're storing your stuff in an area where flooding or leaks are potentially an issue, then you're definitely going to want to look for storage bins that claim to be waterproof or leakproof. They don't need to be able to withstand a hurricane like an outdoor storage box, but they do need to keep your stored goods dry if the tide in your basement rises, so to speak.
Rubbermaid's ubiquitous Roughneck Storage Tote is probably what you think of when you picture a storage bin. You've almost certainly come across these at some point in your life, and can probably hear in your mind the satisfying "chonk" noise the airtight lid makes when you press it closed. They're made of polyethylene that's resistant to cold weather and designed to take a beating — stack these boxes one on top of the other and they won't bend or buckle. If they do, no biggie, as Rubbermaid backs them with a lifetime warranty. Despite their durability, Roughnecks are also lightweight and easy to carry with the built-in handles. Perhaps the only drawback is their ugliness — they're very utilitarian-looking and could never be confused for being anything other than a storage bin.
If Rubbermaid's Roughneck is too much of an eyesore for you and you're looking to store some gear where you're going to have to look at it all the time, then Like-It's Stacking Storage Containers are a great alternative. These were designed with style in mind, with a handsome ribbed exterior, a stylish silhouette and an available range of striking shades. They're more than a pretty face, though, as that ribbing allows for non-slip stacking, the airtight lid is totally waterproof and the largest size can hold up to 220 lbs. These storage containers are even rated for outdoor use. You do have to be careful when you clean them, though, as certain cleaning products like steel wool or organic solvent can degrade the material.
A similar and slightly more affordable alternative to Rubbermaid's Roughneck Totes, Sterilite's Stacker Totes are similar in design — with a few key differences. They're made from a rugged and durable plastic that's BPA- and phthalate-free, and they're designed to be stacked, with deep and shallow sizes sharing the same footprint to allow for more versatile stacking. Where they differ from Roughnecks, arguably to their detriment, is in their lid and handle design. Sterilite uses flip-over locks on the lid that double as handles. In theory, this makes for a more secure lid, but I've found that these locks can sometimes open inadvertently when carrying the bin, since they double as handles, meaning you could have a mess on your hands. It's also worth noting that, unlike the Roughneck, these totes do not come with a lifetime warranty.
If Rubbermaid's Roughneck series isn't tough enough for your storage needs, then meet the Brute, from the brand's commercial division. Brutes are made from an industrial-strength, high-density polyethylene resin. They're more rigid and can carry heavier loads than roughnecks, making them ideal for areas like the garage where you may be storing heavy items like tools. Like Roughnecks, Brutes are stackable, feature integrated handles on the side and their lids are airtight. They're suitable for outdoor use and their handles feature holes that allow water to drain out, reducing the chance of mold or bacteria growth. The tradeoff for their added durability is their increased heft and stiffness, which makes them a bit more difficult to carry and transport than Roughnecks.
Unless you're storing clothes on the floor in your basement, you probably don't want to put them in a big plastic tub. Treat them with a little more finesse and care by getting a storage bin that's designed specifically for clothing. This popular example from Sorbus has a cloth exterior that won't look out of place in your bedroom closet, but they're still plenty tough. The exterior cloth is waterproof and is stretched over a metal frame, giving these enough rigidity to be stacked on top of one another. They also feature a zippered clear plastic window in the front, giving you an unobstructed view of your stored clothing. And when you don't need to store your clothes anymore, you can simply fold up the empty bin and store it flat. Even though the fabric on these bins is treated to be waterproof, I would advise against storing them anywhere where water is actually a concern. The zippers on the front and top aren't waterproof, and if you set these bins in standing water or under running water, your clothes are definitely going to get wet.
Ah, the classic milk crate. While obviously designed to transport bottles of milk, the crates have long served as de facto storage for odds and ends thanks to their strength, open-sided visibility, light weight and stackability. But milk crates were never designed to be an end-all storage solution, which is why Sidio reimagined the milk crate to come up with a container that is. SidioCrates are rectangular and come in a range of colors. Like traditional milk crates, they're durable, lightweight and stackable. Unlike milk crates, their walls are closed to prevent anything from falling out, they have a locking lid and — most notably — they feature a modular design that allows you to organize (and reorganize) interior dividers in 40 divider slots to suit your storage needs. And if you've already got a bunch of milk crates lying around? Well, SidioCrates are designed to be stackable with those, too. All of this innovation doesn't come cheap, though, and building out your set with dividers, lids and mats can quickly escalate your cost.
Read our review of the Sidio Crate.
Sometimes, you just want to see what you've got in storage without having to unstack and open bins. For that, clear plastic bins are the way to go, and the Container Store's (previously called "Iris") Clear Weathertight Totes are an excellent and affordable choice. They're available in a whopping nine sizes to meet all your storage needs and are made from an ultra-clear polypropylene material, eliminating the fogginess of many alternatives that make it difficult to see the containers' contents at a glance. Their airtight and watertight lids are aided with a urethane foam seal, making them ideal for keeping out moisture and bugs (they're even recommended for on-boat storage). And while their lids have flip locks similar to Sterilites, they're located on the sides opposite the handles in most sizes, so you can carry them in confidence without fear of accidentally popping open your lid. With clarity comes compromise though, as these are not as durable as the more rugged opaque options in this guide, making them more prone to cracking.
Say goodbye to the typical ugly plastic under- bed sliders and hello to this gorgeous storage solution from Open Spaces. These are like high-end suitcases that live under your bed, made from soft and breathable nylon-backed canvas that will keep whatever you're storing nice and comfy, whether it's clothes, books or bedding. These bins are lightweight at just 2.5 lbs, and at 7.9" tall will slide under all but the shortest of bed frames. They have real leather handles for a luxurious touch and open from the top via a zipper. And while the good looks are a big plus for this storage container, be advised that keeping them looking good might take a little more work than you'd like: the fabric is prone to wrinkles and needs to be steamed occasionally to get them out.
Ditch that opened bag of dog food in your pantry for something that's both more hygienic and more stylish. Yamazaki Home, which has innovative and good-looking storage solutions for every conceivable need, makes a series of pet food containers in three sizes. I like the middle size, which holds 15 lbs, features a clear lid so you can keep an eye on Fido's food levels and seals airtight so kibble stays fresh and crunchy. Like most Yamazaki products, it's available in black or white, and it even includes a measuring scoop for dosing out the perfect portions. It might be the perfect pet food container, with maybe the only downside being that it's on the pricey side at $55.
When you have kids, there's a constant battle to keep your home from turning into a McDonald's PlayPlace. Toys accumulate, and getting kids to put them away can be like pulling teeth. And even if your kids do put their toys away, many toy storage containers look too much like toys themselves. In other words, they're not something you'd want to display in your living room. Enter Ikea's best-selling Trofast. This storage system, which has use cases beyond storing toys, is ideal for putting away kids' playthings. Its neutral styling fits into any decor, its low profile and sliding bins are easy for your kids to use and its multiple boxes of different sizes encourage organization. It is still a piece of Ikea furniture, and the frame is made of particleboard, so don't expect this storage system to last for too many years.Read our review of the Sidio Crate.