Tip #1: Save and reuse everything
Okay, maybe not everything. I don’t want to hoard items for no reason, and I am not necessarily a go-green type of girl (no offense to those who are), but some of the items on my re-purpose and reuse lists may surprise you. See for yourself:
- Zip-top bags are something we use on a daily basis in homeschooling to keep things organized, but you don’t have to be a home school teacher to find value in them. I use them for crafts, toys, game pieces, puzzles, and lots more. You can also cover them with duct tape (leave the opening alone of course) and have a homemade waterproof baggy for your diaper bag. The secret most people don’t know is that you can wash and reuse these once or twice before they no longer work. A big thanks must go to my mother-in-law for opening my eyes to this one! I don’t do this after I have used these on something gross like raw meat or anything, but if I just had a few crackers in the diaper bag, you bet I will place it in the dishwasher and reuse it for non-food storage! Yes, you read right- in the dishwasher. Just make sure that you turn your “high temp wash” and “heated dry” completely off before running your cycle as melting them would completely ruin the point (and possibly your dishwasher). They can come out a little cloudy so remove and dry them promptly.
- Cereal boxes and other non-corrigated cardboard is something that our family consistently has more demand of than supply. There are so many home school, office and craft uses for this stuff! I use this on backing for learning cards (to make them more durable), for pattern templates in sewing (the ones “I’m sure to use again”), and I even turned some into paper trays. Emma from P is for Preschooler uses her cereal boxes for when the kids paint. Great idea!
- Plastic zipper bags such as those you find bedding sets in are ideal for kids clothes that are too small or don’t fit yet, out of season clothes, and for gift bags and tissue paper. You can squeeze the air out for long-term storage, or have them on hand in your craft closet. They also make a lot of smaller (and a lot of times cute) ones for really cheap at most thrift stores. These have endless possibilities.
- Regular old cardboard boxes are used frequently in our home for all kinds of things in almost every room. Don’t like the trashy look of a cardboard box ruining your beautifully organized space? Me neither! I used an old Top Ramen box, some t-shirt fabric and some cute decals from my son’s pile of too small clothes to create what I call a “faux canvas bin” (pictured below). You can use almost any type of fabric and a hot glue gun to create this masterpiece. If you are sew-savvy, you can even make removable drawstring liners to create extra drawer space on your closet shelves, or to make matching take-along bags for toys. I’ve only done this one test box so far, but I plan on making one with dinosaurs, one with trains, one with blocks, one with dolls, and one for misc. toys…. That should do it for the toy space right?
- You can reuse almost any plastic food container once it is empty. Restaurant take-out containers work well for this because they generally come with no labeling on them. If you don’t have those, no worries. There are other options. Yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese containers will do. Just take nail polish remover to the paint on the outside. If you are reusing it for food, apply with care using it only on the outside of the container and lid and wash it very thoroughly as I haven’t yet researched the volume of toxic chemicals these types of plastics can absorb. Not a big yogurt eater? No problem. You can also reuse most produce baskets for things that aren’t liquid. We use these frequently for school as well. Just hand-wash these with mild soap and hand dry. Add your own cute labels to these and you are done!
- Baby wipe containers are reused every time our home sees a new one. These are great for arts and crafts supplies, hygiene needs, and more. My personal favorite use for these has to do with crocheting. Place your ball of yarn in the tub, pull your starting string through the hole, and get to work on those baby booties! A little rubbing alcohol (and probably any other type of alcohol) will remove the stubborn stickies from any sticker labeling. But if you plan on reusing your wipes containers for more when you purchase them, Huggies luckily sells some really cute options now for only a few cents more.
- Cardboard oatmeal containers can be reused over and over for your pantry’s dry storage needs. I use every one I have for things like dry beans, flour, quinoa, couscous, and the list goes on. I try to buy a store-brand when possible because – other than the obvious immediate savings – they usually have an easily removable label. You can also optionally cover these in paper to match your kitchen. Be sure and add labels because if you are like me with this tip, you will have too many things in your pantry that all look the same if you don’t. The only drawback I see in these is that you can’t get it wet or it’s bye bye container (and most likely bye bye food).
- Tin cans of various sizes and shapes can be glued to magnets for instant organization. Hang up a large oil pan or cookie sheet and your little one has an art easel complete with supplies (just make sure you sand or hot glue any sharp edges). That’s what I eventually want to have for Blueberry Ball’s art center. Or, you can have your own magnet board above a desk or in the bathroom for make-up and toothpaste. By gluing the magnets on, you can use any container. Not just tin. How about a spice rack above your stove? Wait a second… Am I writing a post or creating a to do list for myself? … anyway… I love this idea because it is so versatile. You can use small containers (like for breath mints and such) that already have a vintage appeal to them, or you can use your old soup cans and paint, fabric, or paper to suit your home’s style.
- Empty disinfectant wipes containers are perfect for organizing all of those plastic grocery sacks under your sink. However, I do not suggest this if you are planning on using them for groceries, because the container will always smell like chemical cleaners. We use our grocery sacks for trash mainly, so it’s the ideal solution. You can decorate as much or as little as you like. I covered mine in scrapbook paper.
- Stop by your local thrift store often. Baskets, plastic storage bins with lids, and make-up bags often end up at second hand stores, but they also disappear fast, so keep your eyes appealed!
Whew, that was longer than we expected, wasn’t it? Do you have any organizing tips for little or no cost? Have any specified questions on organization? I’d love to hear!