As a professional organizer, I confess that a stroll through The Container Store makes me drool. There are many beautiful & functional organizing products available today, and I love them all. However, if you don’t have either the time or money to buy a bunch of products, don’t despair! A lot of my favorite tools are items you probably have lying around the house. They may not be pretty, but they can function very well.
First, a few general principles when choosing items to reuse.
1. Only use what can be thoroughly cleaned. You don’t want to smell old milk in your drawers!
2. Square trumps round. Although jars are pretty, they waste a lot of space in a drawer. Only use them on narrower shelves.
3. Go for sturdy over pretty. Tools which are flimsy just don’t work well.
4. Fit the recyclable to the need, not the other way around. Before you go fishing in your recycle bin, identify what you need.
5. Always label containers so everyone knows what should (and hence what shouldn’t!) be kept inside.
Now you are ready to get started. Identify an area to work on, such as a pantry, a drawer or a deep shelf. Empty the contents, wipe the area clean, and sort through the pile. This is the time to get rid of what you no longer want!
In order to get organized, you need to subdivide the space. A deep shelf needs smaller containers that can serve as drawers. A drawer needs shallow containers that can fit inside. A tall space benefits from having “stairs” so you can see all the items when you look inside. When you subdivide, you give yourself the ability to assign a very specific home for each item. This is where the recyclables come in. Take a few measurements and then hunt through the house to find containers that will fit. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
For subdividing a large space or deep drawer
- Shoeboxes/ corrugated cardboard boxes (remove the lids)
- Milk crates
For inside a shallow drawer:
- Lids from boxes
- Cereal boxes (cut them down to size)
- Egg cartons
- Ice cube trays
- Altoid or other mint containers
- Swiffer floor wipes boxes
To hold small items on a shelf:
- Old plastic ice boxes
- Baby wipes boxes
- Large plastic containers with screw on lids (e.g. Mixed nuts from Costco)
To hold round items (e.g. headbands, bracelets) :
- Oatmeal container
- “Pringles” style potato chips
- Old soda bottles
A few other tips:
Original containers (e.g. the box of trash bags) work well as a “drawer” on a shelf.. just remember to tear off the cardboard lids.
An empty tissue box can be tacked to a wall/cabinet door to hold plastic grocery sacks.
Old buttons can be great for keeping earring sets together, especially for travel.
Old plastic bag closures (e.g. from a loaf of bread) can be used to label cords or mark the edge of a roll of tape.
Rectangular boxes (e.g. from aluminum foil) can work well for storing spools of ribbon (again, tear off the lid).
Toilet paper rolls, cut lengthwise, work as a clip to keep wrapping paper rolls from unfurling.
Old cardboard wine cases (with the dividers inside) can be turned on their side, put on a shelf and used to store items such as yarn or electronics cords.
The possibilities are endless, so get your creative juices flowing. For more ideas, check out my Pinterest page on Organizing with Recyclables. If beauty is important, you can always cover an old box with fabric or contact paper.
Have an idea not listed above? Please share it… we’d love to learn from you!