Why is The Container Store is so satisfying?

The psychology behind home organization

organizingpsychology image
Grouping items into categories can help eliminate guessing where to put things back.

Picture this. You are walking through The Container Store. The rows and rows of color-coded bins. In perfectly straight lines. With everything having a specific spot. The only things to view are bins that all match.

Can you feel your brain creating that image in your mind? And do you feel that sensation of relaxation run down your spine?

You're not alone. 

The rise of organizing imagery has reached an all-time high. Because more and more people realize that sense of relaxation when everything has a spot. Everything is lined up. And everything makes sense to your brain.

Your brain likes things to make sense. It creates connections between two things to help you better make sense of a situation. It likes things to be orderly and organized. 

Your brain loves a good story. So, it takes bits of information to create a story about a person, place, thing, or event. Which allows your brain to process that information in a way it can digest.

With organizing, your brain needs a story--and storing things in bins that all match tells that story. Because everything has a place to go. There are no distractions caused by mismatching items. There is no visual clutter. Your brain can create a Zen moment for you based on one image of an organized pantry.

Now organization will look different to different people because our brains all look different. But the idea is the exact same. Your brain craves order. It craves making sense of things. It craves stories.

When your brain makes sense of things, like having everything in straight, tidy rows, it can process more difficult things like advanced calculus or figuring out how to make dinner for a rather picky child. 

Basically, your brain is able to relax, which causes your nervous system to calm down. Which reduces the flight, fight, or freeze response. And if you live in that flight, fight, or freeze response daily, your brain may be craving a way to calm itself down. 

It is no wonder why walking through The Container Store can be so satisfying. It basically calms your entire body into a state of relaxation so you can tackle more challenging things. And allow yourself to process things that may be cluttering up your mind.


So how can you create this state of relaxation in your own home?

Start by creating one small drawer, closet, or corner into your "perfect space." The space you can go to just calm your body. Feel that Zen in your entire being. 

Look at things that you find relaxing at stores like The Container Store. What do you notice first when walking down the aisles. Then ask yourself how you can create that in one small area of your home. 

Maybe you need to line things up in rows on a shelf. Maybe you need labels on bins. Maybe you need matching bins so you don't get distracted by visual clutter. 

Whatever you notice, start there. And set up a small area. I am not talking about your entire house here. A small closet that is already limited in clutter. A drawer that may be rather empty. A shelf that can easily hold a few items.

Use that as your anchor. Because as you see how calming that small area is to your body, you will want to create more small spaces of Zen. 

Now I will warn you that this process has been known to snowball into whole home organization. And the individuals who completed this task have been able to live happily ever organized.

Jessica Litman is the founder of The Organized Mama, a Chicago-based organizing and media company.

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