Home organizing is big business these days, which is no surprise, given that we live in an unprecedented era of consumerism. To wit, the Container Store, a retail chain that sells, well, containers for stuff, earns $700 million in sales each year.
Though it certainly is easy to organize your things when you can drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on containers and closet systems, it’s also possible to organize without spending the big bucks.
Before we get to that, though, there’s something you need to do:
Get rid of things you don’t need, use, or enjoy.
All the organizing tips in the world won’t help you if you’ve got clutter all over the place. The FlyLady likes to say, “You can’t organize clutter. You have to get rid of it!”
Clearing clutter from your home costs nothing, and it will make your organizing job 100% easier. It will also save you money, because when you have less stuff, you’ve got less organizing to do, and that means you’ll need fewer containers, hangers, shelves, hooks, and other organizing tools.
Also, when you own fewer things, you’ll have much better luck at fitting it into your current closets, drawers, and cabinets.
Bonus: once you get rid of stuff you don’t need, your home will immediately look more organized, even if you haven’t filed or hung up a single thing!
After you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, you can focus on finding neat ways of putting away the stuff you’re going to keep.
1. Repurpose packaging as drawer organizers.
You can buy adorable drawer organizers at The Container Store for $5.99 apiece, but if you’ve got shoe boxes or empty diaper wipe containers, use those instead. They’re free and you’ll be keeping something out of the landfill.
If you’re creatively inclined, you can even repurpose cereal boxes to make drawer organizers, using wrapping paper and Mod Podge.
2. Use old kitchen items as organizers.
When you declutter, you’ll probably find some kitchenware that you don’t need. Before you throw it out, though, consider whether you can turn it into an organizing tool. For example, old stockpots can hold children’s toys (they’re great for magnetic toys!), old plastic food storage containers can hold spices, and unneeded rectangular fridge and freezer bins can hold art supplies. Takeout containers are also great for toy storage.
Also, most kitchens have an excess of mugs, and these can easily be used to store things like paintbrushes, pencils, and bubble wands
3. Make friends with hooks.
Screw-on hooks can be had for a dollar or two at hardware stores, and once you get a good set of drywall anchors (the self-drilling sort are easy to install and have excellent holding power.), you can hang them anywhere on your walls without having to worry about finding a stud.
You’ll probably want to pay a little more to get fancier hooks if you’re hanging them in an exposed area, but the inexpensive kind are great for maximizing storage space in places like closet walls.
4. Turn food jars into storage containers.
You know those glass jars that spaghetti sauce, pickles, and canned fruit come in? Wash them out, (let them dry in the sun if they’re smelly) and you’ve got yourself a pile of free storage containers. If you save similar jars, you’ll even have a cohesive-looking set.
You can get fancy and paint them (spray painting the lids is also a great idea!), label them, hang them on the wall, but they’ll manage to serve your purposes well even if you’re not crafty.
Food jars are perfect for, among other things, art supplies, buttons and other small sewing supplies, and bathroom items (q-tips, cotton balls, bandages)
5. Shop thrift stores.
Once you develop a good eye for seeing the potential organizing power in ordinary household items, a thrift store can be a great place to snag some organizing solutions on the cheap.
Check the container and wall-hanging aisles, of course (and don’t forget to imagine what a coat a paint could do to an ugly item!), but take a peek through the kitchen aisles as well.
You can often find rectangular glass storage jars and rectangular tins (the kind that nuts and cookies come in), which are great because that shape maximizes your home storage space. You might even score an old lazy susan that could help you organize the contents of your bathroom cabinet.
And if you’re one of those rare homes that doesn’t have an overwhelming number of mugs, you are sure to find plenty at a thrift store. (See tip #2 for mug re-use ideas.)
6. Look for unused vertical space.
Sometimes you don’t need more space; you just need to maximize it (maximizing the space you have is much less expensive than, say, a new closet system.)
Here are a few places to look: over doorways (could you put a hooks or a thrifted shelf above a door?), inside closets (empty closet wall space is perfect for hooks), and inside cabinet or closet doors (check out this super cool way to use the inside of a kitchen cabinet door).
Sometimes, you may need to drop some money in the organizing aisle of a store, but with some creativity and imagination, you can use simple, inexpensive, everyday items to bring order into your home.
Guest Post written by Kristen who is an east coast wife, mom, and blogger behind The Frugal Girl. In an effort to inspire others to live frugally.
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