The problem with open-style storage

Hanging pots

I’ve been pondering why on earth so many people have adopted the new fashion for open style storage. It makes most homes look far more cluttered than they really are, it creates more cleaning, and it exposes everything to much more wear and tear.

Designer homes featured in trendy magazines have no doubt played their part, but there must be something more, and I think I’ve finally figured it out. The simple fact, when you do the maths, is that open style storage is much more affordable because it doesn’t include the cost of DOORS!

But is the saving worth it?

If you are super neat, love dusting, and don’t own much stuff, then it’s probably fine. But if you have a fair number of possessions, and especially if you have a busy life and don’t have time to lovingly arrange everything to look ‘just so’ or spend hours each week cleaning, then it’s not such a good idea.

In terms of feng shui, the difference between closed and open style storage is huge. With closed storage, energy flows more smoothly around your home, causing you to experience a corresponding ease and smoothness in your life too. With open style storage, the objects on each shelf present an obstacle that slows energy down, and if things are untidy or disorganized, the effect is even worse. It can make everything you try to do in life be much harder work than it need be.

Why closed storage is best

I’ve noticed that open storage seems to especially appeal to people who have clutter, and also perfectionists, who fear that out of sight is out of mind. Clutter doesn’t melt away just because you store it in cupboards with doors, but it does improve the energy flow of a space so dramatically that the clients who invest in this solution all tell me how much better their lives work afterwards. They also report there’s a lot less dusting to do!

Let’s be clear here. I’m not recommending you just throw clutter into cupboards or wardrobes (cabinets or closets, if you’re American) and close the doors and that’s the end of the matter. If you have clutter, there is still sorting, clearing and tidying to do. But many people find it so much easier to do this if the energy in their home flows smoothly to begin with.

There’s scientific evidence to back this up, too. In a study titled Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex, researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute measured how much visual clutter can affect a person’s ability to focus. It didn’t surprise me at all that they discovered people are more productive and generally function better when the distractions of visual clutter are removed.

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2012, updated 2019


About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her international bestseller, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, has sold over 2 million copies in 26 languages. She is known for her in-depth, practical and perspective-changing approach.
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2 Responses to The problem with open-style storage

  1. MaudeI f says:

    Interesting. I think that open storage and interior decoration are also merging. Affordable art and decoration is highly commercialised. Clean lines are encouraged. Why have a picture, something personal in fact, on the kitchen wall if you can artfully hang pots and pans, that more or less look design because of the clean lines and curves ? Add a 5-dollar series of framed pictures and big, your home is “design”. So one key to understanding open storage must be that “everything” needs to look good. Ironically Karen, I think this is an influence from Feng Shui or Asian design, Ikea…

    Personnally, I find it very difficult to keep open storage clean – dust, cats, kids and even me… So, my challenge is to solve the “fear that out of sight is out of mind”. I try to do that by investing ALL of my space, even the closet, through some kind of mental awareness or spiritual ownership. You know, my living space also is what’s inside a closet, not just the “living space” I physically move about in.

  2. m says:

    I’m not surprised to see this post here, but… I am by no means a person who enjoys or possesses clutter yet I prefer open storage almost always to hiding things behind closed doors. Clothes and the like may be an exception though, as they create such an amount of dust, and I don’t live for cleaning up.

    As a result of many things we recently purchased a dresser, closed drawers and all. It’s nice, right size and fits our decor and the place reserved for it. And it gathers clutter. Should all the stuff be on open shelving, where I can see it whenever I wish, there wouldn’t be any clutter. When things are visible they must be more worthy of a spot in a home and loved enough to get saved. Whereas hidden somewhere, any piece of scrap might make it. That’s probably why many people find that the more storage space, the more stuff they keep to fill it up (we live in a smallish appartment and have lots of empty shelves though). I’ve already decided to sell the dresser when sometime in the future we move to a place where fastening open shelves on the walls is an option.

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