As the owner of a growing online resale business, I’m constantly surrounded by antiques, vintage clothes, midcentury furniture and curiosities too numerous to count. For me, organizing and decluttering isn’t a seasonal event, it’s a daily to-do.
If you’re drowning in a sea of stuff, head to your local thrift shop. With a bit of creative inspiration, you’ll find dozens of tools to organize your space and preserve your sanity.
Resolve to be clutter-free this year with these secondhand finds.
Cheap, lightweight, strong and made of natural materials — what’s not to love about baskets? They’re one of the things I always buy at thrift stores because they come in all shapes and sizes and add texture to a well-decorated room.
Priced between $1 and $5 in most thrift stores, baskets are a budgeter’s best friend. Use them to organize pet gear, bulk food in the pantry and that mountain of remotes and game controllers in the family room.
Pro Tip: Be careful when storing clothes in natural fiber baskets. The “snag factor” makes other types of baskets a safer choice.
2. Vintage trays
Everything looks better on a tray. In the bedroom, use trays to organize makeup, colognes and perfumes. In the bath, waterproof cocktail trays are perfect for organizing and storing shaving supplies.
When shopping secondhand, look for vintage Florentine trays. These gilded wooden pieces are a hot collectible right now and work with almost any décor. Lucky bargain hunters can still find them for $2 to $10 apiece.
3. Old wooden drawers
When dressers and hutches can’t be saved, some thrift stores resell just the drawers. Solid wood drawers with tongue and groove construction will last a lifetime and are versatile organizers.
Use small drawers to tidy up your closets. They’re perfect for storing scarves, socks and belts. Add casters to large drawers to create unique under-bed organizers for shoes, purses and bulky sweaters.
4. Canning jars
Old canning jars are a staple in my picking business. I’ve bought rare ones at thrift stores and salvaged hundreds of others from crumbling old fruit cellars across the Midwest.
Simple and utilitarian, large jars are perfect for organizing craft and sewing supplies. Use small jars to store bathroom essentials like cotton swabs. In the workshop, they’re ideal for organizing screws, washers and nails.
5. Antique steamer trunks
Though they’re getting a bit harder to find, old steamer trunks used to be common in secondhand stores and estate sales.
Use a flat-top trunk as a coffee table or nightstand and store blankets and extra pillows inside. If you don’t like the look of overflowing bookshelves, organize those extra volumes in a dome-top trunk.
If you’re handy with a few basic tools, repairing and restoring a trunk is a simple weekend project. Pick one up for $25 to $75, and give it a new lease on life.
You don’t need to have a green thumb to love flowerpots. Use them to organize kitchen utensils, make-up brushes or small gardening tools.
Outdoors, large concrete planters can double as firewood containers or a discreet place to store rolled-up garden hoses.
7. Large bowls
Every home has a drop zone — that one spot where keys, mail and sunglasses get, well … dropped. If yours looks more like a disaster zone, organize it on the cheap.
Pick up a large stoneware, metal or wood bowl at your local thrift store and add it to your drop zone. But choose wisely. Bowls should be durable enough to handle carelessly tossed cellphones, keys and loose change.
If one isn’t enough, designate a bowl for each member of the family.
8. Muffin tins
Organize everything tiny with vintage muffin tins. In your home office, tins are perfect for wrangling paper clips, binder clips, push pins, rubber bands and keys.
If your jewelry box is overflowing — lucky you, by the way — use muffin tins to store earrings, pendants, rings and brooches.
9. Magazine racks
Online magazines have rendered magazine racks nearly obsolete. Turn vintage wire racks into clever bathroom organizers. They can hold everything from extra toilet paper to bath towels and bath mats.
Is your kitchen short on cupboard space? Use magazine racks to organize large cutting boards, baking sheets, rolling pins and serving trays. Easy storage. Quick access. What could be better?
10. Metal gym lockers
Over the years, I’ve bought several old gym lockers at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They’re the perfect solution for organizing coats and boots in a mudroom or sports equipment in the garage.
One word of caution: Tall lockers can easily become top-heavy. If you have small children in the house, anchor lockers to drywall studs to prevent tipping.
For more ideas, check out “12 Smart Tricks to Organize Every Room of Your Home.”