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Are Shelves Better Than Drawers? Organizer explains

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If you’re remodeling or creating a storage space, you might ask yourself this question: “Are shelves better than drawers?”

Both are lucrative options found in various areas throughout a home or building, so it can be challenging to decide which one is right for you.

Shelves and drawers have valuable purposes. Drawers are more suitable for storing small items or various shapes and sizes. Shelves are better for larger items or for creating a decorative space. However, both tend to get cluttered, but shelves will put the mess on display. The ideal solution is to add drawers and shelves.

If you’re considering installing shelves, drawers, or both, it’s important to know the pros and cons of each.

This article will share some of the most important aspects of why you should (or should not) choose shelves over drawers. 

Are Shelves Better Than Drawers?

The answer to this question really depends on who you ask.

Someone working as a mechanic may prefer drawers to house their tools and pieces, while a homemaker may find displaying their items on shelves preferable.

The key is to know the pros and cons of each to make the right choice for your space.


Shelves are great for two purposes: storing larger items and putting items on display. Sometimes, shelving can do both.

My kitchen shelves.

For example, someone with a fine shoe collection will want to store and display their shoes in their closet, making shelving the most viable storage option.

Shelves also accept other forms of storage. You can use designer boxes, intricate baskets, and other storage solutions on the shelves.

This opens up a realm of possibilities when it comes to stashing items big and small. 

Another plus for shelving is that it allows for more freedom in design. If you want tall shelves, then space them out. If you need shorter shelving, then create as such.

With personalized options, you can create the ideal space and mix and match with boxes, baskets, and other items.

The biggest drawback to shelving is that it can become quite a mess.

With items being removed and potentially falling over, you can start to deal with a wreck.

Not only is this a nuisance for the person storing items, but it also creates an eyesore that many wouldn’t want in their space. 


Drawers are the ideal option for storing smaller items.

Not only will small pieces have a safe space to be stored, but you can add things such as dividers and compartments to file away successfully and create a clutter-free finish.

Drawers also offer the perfect location for items you do not want to display, which isn’t an option with shelving.

So, all of those pieces and items that are irregularly shaped, unattractive, or hardly used can have a spot to be stored.

However, drawers are not the go-to for larger items as they will get filled up quickly.

You also have the risk of items getting stuck in the drawer, making it challenging to slide open and closed. Without proper dividers and containers, small items like jewelry or nails can create large-scale messes. 

Another issue is that drawers cannot be placed high up. Since you will not see the inside of the drawer when it is above shoulder height, it is rendered useless. 

Which One is Right for You?

Drawers and shelves have their advantages and disadvantages. The best thing you can do is assess what you need to store.

Are you storing larger items, like blankets and appliances? Then shelving may be the best option.

Are you storing smaller items, like makeup and pencils? Drawers will be the right choice.

You can also mix and match drawers and shelves too. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

You can hide small and unpleasing items in the drawers, while shelves can act as a storage space for larger items or items you would like to put on display. 

Which is better, cupboards or drawers?

If you’re creating a storage space in the kitchen, one common question is whether or not cupboards or drawers are the better options.

Well, the same is true for shelves and drawers. Both should be used in the kitchen.


Because drawers will carry spoons, knives, and other small items, cupboards are ideal for storing pots, plates, and bowls.

What is the difference between a shelf and a drawer?

A shelf is a rectangular structure with a hollow interior for storing large items.

A drawer is more of a box-like structure that slides in and out of a larger structure.

They can vary in size, but they are fairly short and best suited for small items most of the time.

Are cabinets more expensive than drawers?

One of the major drawbacks of choosing drawers is that they are more expensive than cabinets (and shelving, for that matter).

That’s because drawers require specific hardware and construction to allow for the drawers to slide open and closed. This is not necessary for a cabinet or shelving unit.

Are hanging shelves good?

Hanging shelves are a great way to add extra storage to any room.

They can house a multitude of items without taking up too much space. They can be a great choice inside closets, for example, when you want to store bulky items like sweaters or purses without taking up too much space.

What to put in drawers vs. shelves?

What you decide to put in drawers vs. shelves is entirely up to you. However, keep in mind that things stored on shelves are put on display.

So, you might want to reserve shelves for things such as blankets, shoes, and books. Items such as underwear, t-shirts, batteries, utensils, and nails should go into drawers.

Here is my hybrid solution: I put IKEA crates (Amazon paid link) on my shelves so I can see inside while also hiding the ingredients i put in the crates. It is easy to pull them out and put them back in as well.

Check out this tour of my kitchen for more inspiration.

Tiny Kitchen Tour (Space-Saving Solutions)

Final Words

When it comes to creating the perfect storage space, plenty of people wonder – “Are shelves better than drawers?” The truth is, a mix of shelves and drawers is the ideal choice.

Having shelves and drawers gives you more options to store your items, from big bulky things to small and unsightly items.

Next, you can learn if dressers need a mirror, or what a gentleman’s chest is.


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