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Updated Aug 29, 2022 5:33 AM

Think you have a lot of stuff? You do. The average home in the United States is filled to the brim with things—about 300,000 items, according to experts. And ten percent of Americans keep even more stuff in rented storage units.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that storing all that stuff means people spend a staggering amount of time searching for lost items in their piles and piles of possessions. The Daily Mail reports that people lose 198,743 items over a lifetime, which works out to nine lost items every single day. That means you’ll spend 153 days (3,680 total hours) of your life just looking for those lost things.

If you have a lot of those “Where is my…?” days (and if you like the outdoors, you probably have a ton of gear, and have those days often) or if you simply feel that you’re surrounded by your stuff, storage bins will make your life vastly better. But what kind of storage bins is best for your stuff and your storage space?

Things to Consider When Shopping for the Best Storage Bins

Storage bins seem like they’re just glorified plastic boxes, but they vary in storage volume, shape, color, stackability, portability, and security. Matching those features to your storage needs is key to effectively organizing your stuff.)

The first consideration when selecting bins is fit. That means ensuring the bin’s volume and shape is just right to contain the items you want to store — and that the storage bin will fit into the space where you plan to keep it.

It’s also a good idea to think about color. Opaque bins are ideal for protecting the contents from the sun, or under circumstances where you don’t want to see all your stuff all the time. But transparent bins may work better if you do need to see what’s stored inside without removing the lid. Color is also useful for home organization. Color-coded storage bins make it simple to quickly locate seasonal items, such as holiday decorations.

Some storage bins are stackable for easy storage in tight spaces. This makes them ideal for closets or sheds with underused vertical space. And if you’re going to be moving those bins around, you may want to consider wheeled storage bins with a handle for simpler transporting. If you need to keep people out of your belongings, look for a model with a locking closure, or holes into which you can insert a standard padlock.

What Size Should You Get?

The size and shape of the storage bin you select will determine not just what can fit inside the bin, but also where you can store it. That’s especially important if you’re planning to store bulky items, or need to keep your bins in a tight space, such as under your bed.

It can be challenging to purchase the correct size and shape of storage bin online. The first thing to look for are the listed specifications of the storage bin you’re considering. The manufacturer should list the volume the bin will hold as well as the outside dimensions of the box, including length, width, and depth.

Some standard bins will also have labeling to help you pick the right box for the job. For example, storage bins designed to fit under most beds will say “underbed” in their title or description. Some will have labels like “shoebox” that help you estimate the size of the bin without seeing it in person.

To ensure a good fit, use a measuring tape to mark out the dimensions of the bin you want to get on your floor, and then set the things you plan to store inside that imaginary box. Use your tape to measure how high your pile is, and add in a little wiggle room. Then measure the place you want to store the bin to make sure it fits.

Best Storage Bins for Under Bed: Homz Underbed Storage Bin

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This 41-quart plastic storage bin is six inches high with the lid on, making it ideal for storing under beds. The bin’s lid comes in four colors so you can color code your stored items. These underbed bins nest together when not in use and have lids that snap closed securely.

When Are Stackable Storage Containers a Good Choice?

If you don’t plan to or can’t store your bins on shelves, consider stacking storage bins. These are designed to rest sturdily on top of each other when lidded. Some manufacturers refer to this design as an “indexed lid” since the lid is optimized to hold the base of another bin of the same style. Those are ideal if you plan to keep your bins in a small area, since you can maximize how you use the vertical space. The other benefit of stacking bins is that you don’t have to worry that your bins will wobble or topple over.

Best Stackable Storage Bins: Sterilite Stacking Storage Bin

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These 16-quart stackable storage bins are shoebox-sized to fit a wide variety of small items. The bins have indexed, opaque lids that seal tightly and make it possible to stack multiple bins. They are sold in multiples, so you can choose a set of 6, 12, 24, or 36 matching storage bins.

When Are Rugged Bins Necessary?

If you plan to fill your storage bins with household items and slide them under your bed or into a closet, standard plastic storage boxes with lids are probably a great solution. However, if you intend to store things that you want to keep extra secure, look for a bin with a rugged design. These have thick walls and lids that resist puncture and withstand extreme temperatures. They are a great option for storing important gear or emergency rations over a wide temperature range, Rugged, tight-lidded storage containers are also ideal for storing things like pet food or livestock feed or bedding, since the tough materials will keep out pests and moisture that can damage those products.

For maximum security, consider a locking storage bin. These are designed to accept a padlock-locking storage containers are perfect for protecting tools or gear in the bed of your truck or preventing pesky varmints (human or otherwise) from rifling through your gear.

Best Rugged Storage Bin: Rubbermaid Locking Storage Bin

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These Rubbermaid storage containers can be locked, handle temperatures between 0 to 100 degrees F. and stand up to rough use. The latch will accommodate a padlock. Multiple sizes are available.

When Are Wheeled Storage Bins the Best Choice?

If you’re filling your storage bin with super heavy items such as camping gear, tools, pet food, or livestock supplies, moving the bin may be very difficult or even impossible—unless it has wheels. Wheeled storage bins designed to transport weighty gear should have heavy duty wheels and rugged handles. Some include a telescoping handle so the unit acts like a combination storage bin and utility dolly. Since wheeled bins must tilt to move, the lids must latch securely or close with a locking mechanism.

Many wheeled storage bins have some of the other features that are important, such as latches that can accommodate padlocks.

Best Storage Bin with Wheels: Iris Wheeled Storage Bin

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This heavy-duty locking storage bin features rugged wheels and handles for portability.

This option has heavy duty wheels and handles so you can tip the bin and move it with ease. The package of two wheeled bins is constructed with rugged materials and includes a lockable latch so you can secure your items after you move them.

When Are Differently Colored Storage Bins Worthwhile?

In addition to simply giving you a choice of hues, color can make a difference in how your storage bins meet your needs.

Transparent storage bins make it possible to quickly locate items you have stored away, which saves time and minimizes the need to label your storage containers.

Many bins come in a variety of colors. That makes it easy to color-code items that belong to different family members (such as when storing projects or supplies belonging to children) or even different categories of items. If you’re storing items you use seasonally, such as fishing and hunting gear, color-coded storage bins make it simple to locate the correct bin without searching through your storage space.

Best Storage Bins for Color-Coding: Storex Project Box

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These project boxes have snapping locks to ensure a tight seal. They come in bulk packs of five, and you can choose between five colors (red, blue, green, purple, and white) or choose the rainbow pack so you can easily color code your life. You can get more and use combinations of lids and boxes for even more organization.

Brands to Know

Here are some major players in the storage bin market.

Rubbermaid

Rubbermaid is an iconic American manufacturer and distributor of consumer household goods, but the company actually began in 1920 as the Wooster Rubber Company, which made and sold balloons. In addition to storage bins, Rubbermaid is known for its trash cans, food storage containers, sheds, and laundry baskets.

Iris

Iris USA was the first company to bring clear storage containers to the American market 25 years ago. The Japanese parent company Iris Ohyama now has facilities in Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. The company manufactures home goods, small appliances, and pet products.

Sterilite

Sterilite Corporation began in 1939 when Tupperware inventor Earl Tupper partnered with Saul and Edward Stone, who manufactured shoe heels. At the time, shoe heels were made with wood, and the partnership took advantage of new technology to make plastic heels. The company branched out to manufacture plastic personal articles during World War II, and is now the largest plastic home goods company in North America.

FAQs

Q: How do you store storage bins?

Store storage bins that are full simply by stacking them. Put bins with the heaviest and least delicate items on the bottom. Bins that are the same brand and size should stack very securely. If you’re stacking bins of different sizes or brands, ensure they are stable. Empty storage bins nest together for compact storage until you need them again.

Q: Can I spray paint plastic bins

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You can spray paint plastic bins—and that’s a great way to refresh older bins or update a space. The most important part of painting plastic bins is the prep work. Plastic surfaces are slick and won’t “grip” paint without sanding. Choose 180 to 220 grit sandpaper and work by hand. Wash the bins to remove fine particles, then hit them with your favorite spray paint. Consider using chalkboard spray paint to make it easy to label the bins.

Q: How do you dispose of plastic storage bins?

Disposing of plastic storage bins can be challenging, especially if they are large. If the bin is in good condition, consider donating it so it can be reused by a neighbor, local business or charity organization. Bins in fair condition could enjoy a second life storing yard tools or composting food scraps as a DIY worm bin. If the bin is too far gone for reuse, check the bin for a recycling symbol and number. This will help determine if it’s a type of plastic that can be recycled in your area. The last option is to dispose of the plastic storage bin in the trash. Larger bins may not fit into trash receptacles and may need to be relocated to the garbage dump or cut into pieces to fit your local trash company’s guidelines for curbside pickup.

The Lowdown on the Best Storage Bins

The best storage bins make it easy to neatly organize the hundreds of thousands of items in your home. They are space-efficient and make it easier to find the things you need when you need them. The variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, along with models that can be stacked, easily moved, and secured, make finding the best storage for your needs easy.

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