Simple Stuff: A series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.
If you’ve ever endeavored to do a proper clean out of a room, you know that the little stuff that filters out can be the most perplexing of all. Where to put it? How to organize it? How to keep it from accumulating?
As I’ve said before, part of the answer for me is a handful of pouches, bags, and other soft-sided vessels for keeping everything tidy. And as I’ve also said, the secret is keeping like with like. Cramming true miscellany into one bag isn’t a route toward organization, it’s a route toward hiding things and, possibly, unwittingly repurchasing something you already have. This is serious business, after all, and we must stay vigilant.
Suffice to say, I’m not a stockpiler. Don’t ask me for a spare toothbrush, in other words, I probably don’t have one. But there are items in the world of bathroom and kitchen supplies where having more than one of something is either helpful or unavoidable. For those things—mason jar lids, and nail grooming supplies, and essential oils, and hair elastics—small bags are an answer.
The bags are helpful for keeping these kinds of things organized, but they’re also helpful for creating a bit of visual order. Opening my closet door and seeing a series of similar bags neatly tucked into a basket feels better than opening a closet and seeing a jumble.
They can also function in the same way that keeping only a limited number of hangers in your closet might: by staving off the accumulation of things you don’t really need. Impulse nail polish buys (or hoarding nail polishes that are long past their prime) might become more rare when you know you have a finite space back home to keep them in.
As you all know, order can be achieved regardless of the design on the outside of the bag. Choose whatever you love, or gather whatever you already have, and put small bags to use for a bit of organizing. I especially like to use plain old cotton or canvas, but I have a few old favorites (like the embroidered pouch from India in these shots) in the mix, too. Many of the bags that we use are the same kinds of small drawstring pouches that find their way into our lives via gifts (and that I recently talked about being nice for toting around snacks). As it happens, they’re also nice for storing bobby pins, or extra bars of soap, etc.
If you’re hoping for a fresh start or you’re otherwise bagless, here are a few other options:
+ Linen Fred Pouches from Fog Linen come in subtle stripes or plain gray. They have wide gussets that allow for ample storage room and easy propping in a spot like a closet shelf or cabinet.
+ I recently bought a few of these plain jane Natural Canvas Pencil Cases (pictured above) in an assortment of sizes for better tackling my bathroom-related clutter that I actually need to store in my clothes closet. (#lifeinatinyapartment). I personally love their simple shape and customizable size.*
+ Alternately, this set of four Cotton Canvas Zipper Bag would also look neat and uniform.
+ If you’re afraid of leaks or spills, this First Aid Ditty Bag is made of natural linen and it’s lined with water-resistant fabric. It looks like a lovely option for first aid supplies or essentials oil.
+ For folks looking to make your own: This Purl Soho Simple Lined Zippered Pouch Pattern looks simple to follow (and then you get to make all the decisions about color and size you’d like!).
+ Most small drawstring bags of the sort that gifts sometimes come in can be purchased very cheaply in very large numbers. I’ve never found buying this sort of thing to be particularly valuable, but if you have a need for a larger number of bags (but still not an order in the hundreds), these Cotton Muslin Bags are a sturdy choice (pictured above!).
+ If you have the need to stash anything quite a bit bulkier, the Field Bag from Fringe Supply Co. is one that I’ve long admired. It’s designed to stand upright on its own, and it’s made especially with knitters in mind, but I think it could be handy for all kinds of sorting needs. Plus, it looks built to last an actual lifetime.
+For folks looking to make your own drawstring pouches: Consider making a set of Drawstring Bags in Linen Grid. Simple and pretty.
*A note on labeling. I babysat for a family in college who had the most immaculately organized home of any I’d ever seen. Everything in the house had a spot to live in and those spots where labeled with an old fashioned label maker. It struck me as a combination of smart and wacky (a favorite combo). While I haven’t gone so far as to label the contents of my linen cabinets or my pouches, I can understand the impulse. At least occasionally, it’s nice to acknowledge that you share a house with other humans who might not also be mind readers. Colored ribbons on zipper tabs, fabric marker notes on a corner, or a bit of rustic embroidery, would all make for easy distinguishing factors. (Brightly embroidered pouches brought to you from a best friend in India work too.)