Inexpensive Storage Solutions
People think that organizing storage solutions have to cost a lot of money. And if you walk through a Container Store, indeed, you might have some sticker shock. But real-life, practical solutions don’t have to come out of a glossy catalogue. Even tidying guru Marie Kondo advocates for using simple and inexpensive materials to help organize your home and all of your belongings. She is a self-confessed box enthusiast.
I think the following are some of the most under-utilized and under-appreciated, easily accessible and affordable organizing solutions. I know, because I use many of them myself. Here are some of top recommendations, in no particular order.
Cardboard: Obviously, you think of cardboard and you think of boxes. Cardboard can also make for a really cheap organizing structure, especially if is a thick cardboard. For example, cut off the top panels and tip the box on it’s side. Or, just flip it over and start stacking. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box ;)
Ziplock bags: They come in a lot of sizes and can be useful storage for practically anything.
Rubber bands: These office main-stays can bind together stuff that needs to stay together. I’ve been loving the extra large rubber bands lately to help keep stacks of papers together.
Velcro: Similar concept to rubber bands only can be a little more sturdy. Velcro is also great for binding together electrical and computer cords.
Tape and a sharpie for instant label maker: Don’t have a fancy label-maker? No worries, scotch tape and a sharpie (and some readable penmanship) can do just as well.
Bungee cords: Great for organizing in garages, workshops and tool sheds. You need to allow for the flexible “give” that bungee cords have, but once pulled taught, it is very strong, and there are handy and sturdy hooks on each end.
PVC: PVC pipe is sold at hardware stores and comes in various diameters and lengths. It can come in handy if you need a way to sort long (or short) skinny things. I’ve also seen some people cut the pipe very short and make a wall-mounted installation of cubbies for anything from art supples to decorative accents. I’ve used it as a way to help organizing my crafting fabric into rolls.
Re-use cans/bottles: For the following three items, the use is determined by your need, and lets face it, DIY ability. But in general, metal cans (think soup cans) once cleaned and wrapped with some pretty paper can make a great container for art supplies, and such. Or, punch some holes in the bottom and make little widow ledge planters :)
Mason jars or other glass jars: Keep the lids and use to store various household items. Or, storage for leftover soups and sauces. Toss the lids and use as a container for larger items or decorative vase.
Plastic cups: Think Solo Cups. The plastic makes it nice if you need to glue them together or punch holes in them.
US postal boxes as lateral files: Say, hypothetically, that you receive one of the large skinny flat rate priority mail boxes from someone. And rather than just tossing the box in the recycle, you carefully open it, (remove the contents) and then reseal the side. Then, you cut the box right down the middle. Boom! Instant lateral paper file holder. And, while it says on the boxes that they are for shipping use only, they are also free. Just sayin’
Egg cartons: I include this in as honorable mention for my dad. I remember growing up he always used to store old dryer lint in egg cartons. I’m not sure why dryer lint. I think he used it as a fire-starting material when he’d go camping. But if lint collecting isn’t your thing, egg cartons can be a great container to sort small things like crafting beads, small office supplies, and miscellaneous other do-dads.
Binders: 3-ring binders are good for more than just holding papers. With plastic sleeve inserts they can hold magazine clippings, collectible cards, photos, CD’s, etc. Anything semi flat will work.
Cinder blocks and plywood planks: Rare is it to find the occasional dorm or first-time apartment-dweller not decorate with the very functional and affordable cinder block and plywood bookshelf solution. The materials are relatively inexpensive, if not outright free through free-cycling, easy to assemble, and very sturdy. Just be careful not to stack the shelves so high that they become top-heavy, or the plywood unsupported in ways that the wood shelves become bowed.
Milk crates: You can buy plastic crates retail, but if you know your local grocer, you might be able to get some for cheap (or free). They are sturdy and versatile, and great for holding odd-shaped items. You can stack them one on top of each other, or, stack them face out for a bookshelf storage solution.