Get Organized Using Containers You Already Own

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Woman with glass storage containers
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

Ever want to get organized, but the thought of spending money on containers talked you right out of it? There is a way around spending money on beautiful containers and other fancy organizing gadgets; you just have to get creative and look around your house to see what you already have.

Not sure what to look for in a reliable, sturdy container? Every time you make a purchase, you have a decision to make: To throw away the container your purchase came in or not.

It’s safe to say sometimes you really are left with just trash, but other times you are left with a great opportunity to organize something.

Think twice before you toss that box

A box of vintage family photos
Maria Dryfhout /

Start looking at boxes and liners as compartments that can hold other items. Thin boxes are great to use when organizing your drawers. They don’t take up a lot of space, and you don’t even have to worry about decorating the boxes since they are in drawers and not visible. Here are some examples to help get you thinking.

If you have shoeboxes lying around, you can create your own custom drawer dividers. If the boxes happen to be too tall or wide, all you need is a pair of scissors to create the perfect fit. Remember, they don’t have to be pretty, just functional.

Shoebox lids can be handy, too. If you have wire shelves and find that smaller items fall through or heels get stuck between the wire, line the shelf with a shoebox lid. The rim will keep small items from rolling off, and the cardboard top is just enough to offer a solid surface for shoes and other items.

Electronics come in thin but sturdy boxes that would work really well to organize your drawers. Small jewelry boxes make great little cubbies for your junk drawer. Once you have the box and lid in place, you can use a paper clip to clip the boxes together so they don’t move around.

Not only are you saving money by using boxes you already have at home, but you are also getting exactly what you want. When you buy a drawer organizer it comes in sections already laid out for you. Sometimes those sections are too small, too long, or too shallow, or perhaps the organizer itself doesn’t fit in your drawer.

Large cereal boxes are great for magazines. Cut the box on an angle and file a year’s worth of issues. If you find they are too flimsy for your liking, reinforce with another box or extra cardboard, or connect boxes with duct tape or binder clips to keep them upright and sturdy.

Oatmeal containers can be used for hairbrush storage or awkward items. Or turn them on their sides in a linen closet to store washcloths, soap, or tiny shampoo bottles.

Jars hold more than just food

Mason jars
Stephanie Lena Lee /

Clear jars work wonders when trying to corral multiples of the same small item. When you can see what you are looking for, you are more apt to put things back where they go and you spend less time searching for items in the long run.

Mason jars or old jelly jars come in a variety of sizes and can be used for a variety of things. You can decorate with them, organize your desk with them, fill them with cotton balls and have them out on the countertop in your bathroom, even use them in your craft room to organize your craft items.

If you aren’t into decorating your home with mason jars, you can also use them in your drawers or in your pantry to house baking items, seasonings, popcorn, or any other dry foods. Simply write the name of the ingredient on the flat jar lid. Mason jars keep pantry pests out, too.

Grandpa had the right idea when he used to take those baby food jars to the shed and use them to hold nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and any other small object that needed a place to call home. Even touch-up paint can be stored in a baby food jar, instead of keeping those big, crusty paint cans that only have a smidgen of paint at the bottom.

Make the most of plastic containers

DIY storage
BigLike Images /

Plastic containers are another great way to organize your drawers at no additional cost to you. You can use the plastic containers that you get when you purchase deli items at the grocery store. Or use throwaway Ziploc or other brand containers for a neater look.

Some ideas for using the plastic containers could be storing your USB cables, glue, markers, car fresheners, earphones, chargers — all the things you need but don’t get used every day that are currently thrown in your junk drawer. Separate them all by category. Label the lid of the container and place them back in your junk drawer. Now you have a drawer that is more orderly and looks so much better.

Baby wipe containers can be used again and again after they are empty. The hinged lid allows you to close the container up tight. Reuse for homemade baby wipes, bathroom supplies, or even small toys.

There you have it, ways to organize without having to spend a dime! Who knew organizing could be so cheap. Next time you get the urge to organize something, look no further than your home to supply all your organizing needs.

Other organizational ideas

home decor DIY /

Here are some other organizers you can make with items you have on hand:

Shelves: Use milk crates turned on their sides to hold linens, jackets, books, and anything else that will fit. When they’re inside a closet, they don’t have to be the prettiest. They just need to function.

Decorative storage boxes: Instead of buying adorably decorated boxes to put around the home, make them out of old shoeboxes using either heavy-duty wrapping paper or contact paper. If you’re really crafty, you can paint the boxes to match your room, then store photos, reading material, or remote controls inside.

Over-the-door fabric shoe holder: Don’t let the name trick you. These multi-pocket hanging racks are a perfect catch-all for any closet. You can use one in the coat closet to hold hats, umbrellas, bug spray — anything you need to grab on your way out the door.

Over-the-door plastic shoe rack: Are you out of cabinet space? These racks are great for holding cleaning supplies in laundry rooms, kitchens, or garages.

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