Organizing on the Cheap
Trying to get my tiny 1950s bungalow organized is on my to-do list every day. I've accepted that it will be a never-ending project, or at least until we move and I start organizing some other house. I am always on the lookout for creative, inexpensive ways to organize everything from the kitchen sink to the laundry room to the ever growing supply of photography and crafting "stuff" that clutters the office. And I am always looking for ways to do this by reusing or up-cycling items I already have around the house. Lately I've noticed that the most difficult items to organize are the littlest ones - you know, those things that get lost in the back of cabinets, the bottoms of drawers or under the dryer. Here are my favorite tips for organizing those things:
In my case, the laundry room is a corner of the basement. I set up a small shelving unit to store detergent, dryer sheets and the like. Like pretty much everyone, I keep the obvious jar for loose change. Also on my laundry shelf you'll find an empty plastic dryer sheet box. This is where I store all those little free sample packets that show up in the mail or the Sunday paper or attached to some other item I've bought. I used to lose them all and they would never get used. What a waste; they are super handy to have around when you run out of detergent in the middle of laundry day! So now I keep them right there, stored away nicely on my shelf. I use a second empty dryer sheet, with a hole cut in the top, to store other miscellaneous things that inevitably end up at the bottom of the washer and dryer, such as buttons or barrettes.
Oh, the kitchen. If you have one of those new-fangled-granite-stainless-steel kitchens with a 500-square foot pantry, then you may not understand this. But if you have a tiny kitchen with practically no counter or cabinet space, then you get my desire to have a place for everything. Otherwise, I end up spending a lot of time digging around for what I want, which just makes a big mess. So, to organize my pantry (and I use the term pantry loosely), I gathered up all of the little baskets I had accumulated (most of them were in the yard sale pile) and used them to organize like items--one for granola bars, one for oatmeal and grits packets, one for tea, and on and on. Now there aren't 20 different cardboard boxes stacked up everywhere, falling out when I open the door.
In place of a traditional bedside table, I put a vanity set that was my grandmother's. It's a great way to store jewelry and other items and I can still use the top as a table for alarm clocks, water and other bedside essentials. The matching chair is perfect for stacking books and magazines. Above it I attached a row of hooks to a picture frame and use it to organize my necklaces. Functional art, and now my accessories are accessible.
This is the best place in the house to organize by reusing other items from around the house, because there are so many little things. Gather up all the empty jars, little boxes, produce containers and boxes with lids, and then get started. How this goes really depends on what you happen to have that needs to be organized. Mine ended up something like this:
- Poking a hole in the lid of a vintage refrigerator jar and using it to dispense twine.
- Using vintage boxes with lids to sort and store stationery, envelopes, postcards and greeting cards--plus they look really cute stacked up on a shelf.
- Filling all sizes of jars with everything from pens and thumbtacks to ribbon and tape.
- Filling empty Crystal Light containers with beads and buttons and other "littles."
Organizing your home is as much about the little things as the big. Taking the time to find usable storage items around your house and putting them to work is definitely worth the time. Doing just the few little things I've mentioned here has saved me lots of frustration--and time spent looking for things and then cleaning up the mess made while looking for things.
Here are a few other ideas I found around the Internet that might help in your quest for organization:
- The Better Budgeting blog suggests using cereal boxes to store magazines that you want to keep long-term. She also suggests labeling everything, which is something I haven't done yet, but plan to do eventually.
- The Hillbilly Housewife makes the best organization suggestion ever: de-clutter. And then have a yard sale or sell items online. I'm currently in the process of doing this, and it feels so good to add something else to the yard sale pile!
- All You magazine has a lot of tips for organizing your home according to room.