Organizing on a Budget

Professional Organizer Linda Isom shares a few ideas.

As a general rule, there are three questions you should ask yourself when you choose to repurpose a container:

1. Is it a sturdy container?

2. Is it the right kind of container for the use I had in mind?

3. Will it help me meet my organizational goals?

Once you have answered to yourself these questions, you can move forward and repurpose! Here are some ways to organize your home by repurposing items you may already have in your possession. You may not have originally thought these could be repurposed-but think again!

Cookie Tin

Although this container was originally used to store cookies, it can also be a great way to store other things around the house. Here we have made dual use of it by adding memorabilia from a treasured trip. I always have a habit of saving little mementos and information about places to see or stay. This is a great idea for using items that would otherwise be thrown out or stuffed in a drawer. We used Modge Podge glue to decorate the container and also to seal and waterproof it after we were finished. Not only is this great to store markers, pens, office supplies- it is a visible memory of a magical trip.

Another use for this container was created with some left over black spray paint that was sitting idle in our garage. We purchased inexpensive vinyl for under three dollars (©Word Candy Vinyl), and have created a new place to store our dominos game whose container was not salvageable.

The sky is the limit to what you can add to a tin like this- National Geographic maps, old greeting cards, scrapbook paper- whatever works for you. And best of all, it’s free.

Ground Pepper or Cinnamon Tins

Think a pepper or cinnamon tin is useless? Think again! After a “Go Fish” playing card box tattered beyond repair, we created a new home for the beloved game with a used ground pepper tin. We washed the inside out with soap and water and used a colored piece of paper Modge Podge craft glue and sealant. Then we added the stickers from a surplus my son had in his sticker stash. And viola! A new home for his “Go Fish,” cards.

Baby Food Containers
Who knew repurposed baby food containers could have so many uses! These sturdy, airtight containers have endless possibilities! From paper clips, push pins, cereal, crafts to ear buds cords (a use I stumbled upon a few days ago), these containers are simply wonderful to repurpose with.

Canvas Tote

As a teenager I worked in a grocery store bagging groceries. Our duties also included putting items back on the shelves that were misplaced or had discarded at the checkout counter. We called them “go backs.” I thought this was a perfect name for the container I use to run errands in the card and clean out the car at the end of the day.

To create a “GO BACKS©” bin, make sure it is big enough for your personal or family’s needs.
Store it near your front door, the door you come in and out of most, or in your car for the following things:

• Friend’s toys or clothing that are left behind

• DVD’s / Games that need to be returned

• Library books

• Small Items to donate to a charity

• Newspapers or magazines that need to be

• Letters to be mailed

• Bank deposits

• Items that need to returned to a store

• The uses are endless!

The “Go Backs©” bin, also comes in handy once you have finished your errands and the bin is empty. At the end of the day when you’ve made your last trip in your car, you then use the bin to remove all items that don’t belong in your car (toys, shoes, socks, backpacks, food, etc). Put them in the empty bin and take it in the house. This eliminates losing kid’s school papers, bank receipts and other things that may come up missing. Thus you have cut down on the “I can’t find this,” problem.

So, pick a bin, basket or whatever kind of container is around in your house that you think may work and try it out. You won’t believe you ever lived without it! I use my “Go Backs,” bin nearly every day.

Laundry Baskets

Laundry baskets have so many uses! Our picture shows how we have used one to store outdoor sports equipment. It’s large, sturdy, and holds a great deal. It is also great for pool and swimming toys as it is waterproof.

Another use for this plastic wonder is nightly cleanup.
We all know at the end of the day there are toys, shoes, laundry, papers, books, etc. to be put away. I make a conscious effort to try (I don’t always succeed) to have a picked-up house when I go to bed. It makes mornings so much easier! For a long time I found myself gathering things up in my arms to the point of dropping things just to avoid making multiple trips when putting things away. Weary of all the trips I was making, I devised my own system of putting things away in a faster more efficient manner.
My brother calls this “The Ten Minute Blitz,” (thanks Mike!). It really it only takes about that many minutes to have things put away for bedtime.

So say there’s a little mess in every room. Take a laundry basket into the living room and put in everything that belongs someplace else. Then move on to the dining room or kitchen. Take out everything that belongs in that room, put it away, and pick up items that go someplace else. Do this in every room in your home. If you have multiple levels, go level by level, thus making the trips up and down the stairs less of a hassle. After two trips around, everything should be back in order. Get the kids involved (my son loves helping me; he thinks it is a game). Then when you wake up in the morning you can start your day with a clean slate.

Homemade Magazine Holders

Most magazine holders cost anywhere from seven to ten

dollars. You shouldn’t have to pay money when you can make one yourself, with a design of your choice. All you have to do is use an empty cereal box. My son and I made his coloring books holder with green wrapping paper and simple clipart from our word processing program. We cut out the pictures and glued it on the wrapping paper. We added Modge Podge to seal and waterproof our design. As you can see, it is not perfect, my son did most of the work, he enjoyed doing it, and it is great for all of his coloring books.

Here are directions to make your own magazine holder from an empty cereal box:

Step 1

First, measure your empty cereal box so that you know where to make your cuts. Pick one side of the box. From the bottom, measure up about four inches and draw a line right across. You will not be cutting the other side of the box , as it will be the back of your magazine holder. Starting at the side of the box that will stay intact, measure and make a mark on the front of the box, two and a half inches in. Also make measurement mark on the top back of the box.

Step 2

Make your cuts. Remove the entire top of the box (where you would open the box of cereal). On the side of the box, remove all of the box from the top to the mark you previously made.

Step 3

Make your slant in the box. Starting on the front of the box, from the point where you made your two and a half inch mark to the side of the box, draw a diagonal line to the point on the side of the box where you removed the cardboard. Repeat for the back of the box and remove the cardboard above your cut lines. The box should look similar the magazine holder in the picture.

Step 4

Choose any type of paper covering that you prefer in any type of design. I chose some green wrapping paper; however, scrapbook paper, spray paint, or whatever you like can be used. Place double sided tape on the edges of the box, and then place the covering on the box. You will not need to pre-cut it.

Step 5

Cut your covering so that it aligns with the edges of the cardboard. You can choose to put the covering on the inside of the box or leave it plain.

Step 6

Using Modge Podge glue or Contact Paper, seal the covering onto the box. Also cover the entire covering itself. It gives the magazine holder a nice sheen to it.

Step 7

Smooth down all of the taped edges. You now have a custom made magazine holder for a fraction of the price!

With a little bit of elbow grease and imagination, organizing your home and everything in it does not have to cost a lot of money. With these ideas, you will have fun along the way!

Linda Isom enjoys helping people get organized so they can run their lives, not be run by them. For more information about Linda and her services call 801-643-1237 or visit

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