Homeowners across the U.S. are drowning in their stuff — and desperately looking for ways to organize it.
Home organization products constitute an $9.7 billion industry in the U.S., according to the Freedonia Group market research firm.
But for every newfangled organizational contraption, there is often a simpler — and cheaper — solution.
The tension rod is one such solution. It lacks the novelty of the latest organizational product, but makes up for it with multi-functionality.
You can find these little wonders for less than $5 or $10 at retailers such as:
Here are eight ways to convert tension rods into anything from a filing cabinet to a spice rack.
1. Filing ‘cabinet’
After Stephanie Adams of the blog The House on Hillbrook found that even file cabinets at thrift stores were too expensive, she got creative with a chest she already owned.
She used tension rods to create a built-in filing system that still left plenty of storage space in the chest — all for $13, including the hanging file folders.
2. Vertical kitchen storage
Tension rods can be installed vertically between cupboard and pantry shelves for storage of large flat kitchen items like cutting boards, baking sheets and platters, as demonstrated here by Martha Stewart Living.
This helps free up space and make the items easier to retrieve than if they were stacked on top of each other horizontally.
3. Cleaning bottles holder
No more than a tension rod is needed to free up cabinet space while making bottles of cleaning solutions more accessible.
Kim Christensen of A Real-Life Housewife recommends spending a few extra bucks for a higher-quality rod for this project, though:
I bought the cheapest one I saw at Walmart and it is kind of flimsy. It will do the job, but it would be better if it was a little stronger.
4. Trash-bags holder
These garbage bag holders free up cabinet space and serve as a dispenser that makes it “beyond easy to grab a trash bag right from the roll,” according to Simply Organized.
The professional organizer behind the blog, Samantha Pregenzer, made these two with a dowel rod and brackets for less than $15.
5. Pot rack
Adding hooks to a tension rod adds to the types of items the rod can hold.
In this example from Home for 4 Sweet Home, S-shaped shower curtain hooks hold frying pans and other handled kitchen tools.
For more pot-rack inspiration, check out “How to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Big.”
6. Lid containment
For lids, try using a tension rod as a divider that keeps them upright to save space.
While this example from The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking involves pot and pan lids, this organizing trick also works for lids to plastic food storage containers, according to Better Homes and Gardens.
7. Spice rack
The Family Handyman magazine is known for its step-by-step tutorials, but this project is so simple that it could be explained in a 28-second video.
Here, the tension rod is placed high in a cabinet, about 2 inches from the top, to hold short spice jars, preventing them from getting lost among taller jars and therefore making them easier to find.
8. Spice drawer
If you prefer to store spices in a drawer, tension rods can be used as dividers that keep the jars neat, as shown in this example from the blog de Jong Dream House. (If you like the glass spice jars pictured here, you can find them on Amazon.)
Have you ever used a tension rod for anything besides drapes or shower curtains? Tell us about your project in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.