STYLE Savvy: Is That Container Earning its Keep?


Now that we’ve spent a month talking about lists and planners in an effort to contain and control our time, it’s time to move on to containing and controlling our stuff. If you haven’t yet taken the personal and organizational styles quiz, now might be a good time to do that. The quiz was originally posted for parents to take with their kids in mind, but the same styles apply — you simply need to keep yourself in mind wherever the quiz says “your child.”


Photo: Pixabay

If you have taken it, I’m sure you were quite impressed by my very scientific, technical terminology. When I came up with the style names, I was working with elementary-school students, so the names needed to be non-threatening and kid-friendly. As I began sharing these ideas with adults, I found that they appreciated the silliness of the names, too — perhaps because they made an overwhelming task seem less daunting. And so the names stuck.

These silly names — I love stuff, I love to be busy, I need to see it, drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere — will continue to pop up whenever we discuss styles. The first three (in blue) are the personal styles. Personal styles are the way we naturally function — a part of our personality. The second three (in red) are the organizational styles. Organizational styles are the methods we naturally use to keep our stuff together and accessible…or not. Unchecked, these styles are more likely to lead to chaos than organizational success, but the good news is that organizational success lies at the intersection of our personal styles and our organizational styles. Best of all, with the right tools, progress is not only possible, it’s easy*.

So let’s get started. Since containers — bins, baskets, binders, file folders, drawers, closets — are at the heart of nearly every organizational system, let’s begin there. Pick a “container” in your home that serves a storage function. It can be one you love (a success story — Container #1 column) or one you hate (a challenge — Container #2 column). Then, using the chart below, assess your container. Or, if you have time, assess two containers — one that’s preferred and one that’s not working.

Is Your Container Earning its Keep.cropped


Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the containers and the styles, because knowing what you need from a container is key to creating an organizational system that works. Keep in mind that any container, whether it’s a file folder or a closet, is a tool and should therefore be working for you, and not the other way around.

And please — share your insights in the comments below. It’s amazing what a difference the proper tool makes.

*Back in November and December, I wrote STYLE Savvy posts dedicated to each of the styles, so if you’re looking for more information about your styles, try scrolling back to the posts that pertain to your styles so you can use them as a sort of cheat sheet.


Copyright 2016 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.


  1. I am working on a container issue at my “corner desk” in the living-room corner. I have no place to keep 3 or 4 reference books that I use frequently. Right now I have them in a fabric bin (right size) in the location I’d like to keep them, but I don’t like the look of that in the living room. NOT the right color/style and NOT attractive. I’m thinking I might look for a wooden crate and turn it on its side like a bookshelf. Then I can use it as a footrest as well. I like this checklist–it’s helping me think through my container choice.

    • Glad the checklist is helping — planning on another one next week. 🙂 I like your bin idea.

      I went through at least three different containers on the counter in our kitchen that houses the mail before I finally came up with one I like (an open file bin with file folders that suits my drop and run style). I’m still ironing out the wrinkles…like the dumping of mail on the counter by others who inhabit the house, and the homeless mail that really should go somewhere else — but it’s the best it’s been in quite some time. A work in progress….

      I get unreasonably excited when I find a container that’s both attractive and functional.

      • I have way too much Cram & Jam going on for a bin to work for me. That’s why I’m thinking about a crate (but it has to be a cute one, since this is the living room). A crate set on its side, as a mini bookshelf, limits what I can pile into it.

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