If you’ve ever been inside The Container Store or gone shopping for new food storage bins for your pantry, you know just how overwhelming -- and expensive! -- it can be to purchase the tools all those home magazines say you need to get organized. It’s enough to scare off even the best-intentioned from getting started. So my first piece of professional advice when it comes to shopping for baskets, bins and drawer dividers to create order in your home is...just don’t. At least, not yet. And maybe never.
For starters, acquiring more stuff, no matter what it is, is probably the very last thing that will improve your situation. Most people already have way too much stuff, which is a primary factor leading to the current disorder in their homes. Purchasing more will only exacerbate the problem. Secondly, you can’t possibly know what to buy until you know how and where you will be using it. Guessing (and likely guessing wrong) will cost you time and money you may not have and lead to greater frustration. I’m assuming you already have plenty of that, am I right? Finally, your shopping excursion will feed into the false notion that it is a lack of organizing tools that has created the disorder in your home rather than the lack of an organizational plan. I’m sorry to tell you that there is no magical invention sold in the home goods section that will transform your chaos into calm without a solid understanding of how you use your space and a plan that reflects this.
Now that we’ve dispensed with what you shouldn’t do, let’s turn our attention to what you should. Obviously, you’re going to need a place to put all your stuff once you’ve purged your excess and sorted it into tidy categories. The good news is that with a little resourcefulness and a smidgen of creativity, it doesn’t have to cost you a single red cent to organize your home.
Start by raiding your recycling bin for jars, boxes (shoe boxes are great), plastic containers of varying sizes, and old shopping bags. Gather some ziploc bags, scissors, tape, a stapler, a few labels (or blank paper if you don’t have any) and a marker. You are now ready to begin purging your excess stuff, sorting what’s left into categories and designating homes for each category according to how you use it and how accessible it needs to be.
Once you know where you want to store your items, select or create holding spots or dividers as needed to keep them neatly separated and labeled using the materials you’ve gathered. Need drawer dividers? Make some using strips of cardboard and some tape. No crock to hold all your large kitchen utensils? No problem. Just grab a large jar, flower pot, or an old pitcher. Lots of earrings but no jewelry box? Repurpose a box grater to hold the danglers and a small glass dish for your studs. You are limited only by your imagination.
Yes, I hear you...you want a pantry worthy of Instagram, with matching jars labeled using trendy fonts. The good news is that if that’s your thing, you can still have it. The even better news is if that’s not your thing, or if you can’t afford that level of luxury, you can keep your homespun organizing solutions until you can...or forever. The functionality will still be there, and if the cardboard tears over time, there’s plenty more where that came from. Either way, you end up saving money by testing out your new organizing system without investing any money in pure aesthetics. If you plan to upgrade later, start making a wish list now of the organizing tools you want to purchase. Include specifics like what size, shape, material, color you want that will work in your space. If you used a transparent container to store something but are bothered by the visual noise, make a note to purchase an opaque version. If stacking your open bins would save more space in the cabinet, consider buying ones with lids. The longer you wait to go shopping, the more likely you’ll make wise choices to suit your needs once you do.
Save big bucks and add a personal touch to your space by repurposing purely sentimental objects into functional ones. This is an excellent way to place the object in your path where it will trigger all those wonderful memories instead of consuming valuable storage space in the back of a closet where you will rarely encounter it.
You’ll be amazed how easy it is to divide your spaces, create holders for items both large and small, establish zones, extend your storage, and make items more accessible by using everyday objects you already have lying around your home. Here is just a smattering of examples:
Don’t let a lack of fancy organizing tools or funds to purchase them delay you from getting started in restoring some order to your home. Visit my Organizing Outside the Box board on Pinterest to get more ideas for using everyday objects instead. If, after that, you still need to acquire something to get the job done, don’t overlook your local neighborhood giveaway groups, yard sales, thrift shops and dollar stores as viable sources. Remember, you probably won't be giving your guests a tour of your drawers and closets, so save your money for decorating the areas they are more likely to notice.
Next week, I’ll share some of my favorite easy peasy and economical DIY tools for creating more space and order in your home. Until then, keep it easy peasy!
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Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.