Stuff. It seems to multiply once it enters the home, creating new little piles of stuff everywhere you look. I would love to be a minimalist with only the bare necessities taking up my precious space, but unfortunately it just isn’t in my nature. I gaze in awe at photos on design websites and blogs of sparsely decorated rooms, kitchen shelves with 3 mugs and 5 plates on them, and nurseries with one small basket of blankets knowing that is not my life and not how my home is going to look anytime soon. Still, I work hard to keep clutter at bay and all the items that make their way into my home organized and easily accessible.
One challenge with this is that organizational products can be very expensive. All those cute storage bins and boxes, closet organizers, innovative pieces designed to whip your pantry into shape…they can be seriously pricey. But of course it’s entirely possible to combat clutter on a limited budget. Here are a few ideas to get you started tackling those piles without spending a fortune:
1) Clear out what you can.
I just finished saying that I am far from a minimalist, but I do try to donate, recycle, or throw away unused and unnecessary items, or those that are no longer in good repair on a regular basis. Before I purchase something new I think about where it will be stored in my home, and what I might need to get rid of to make room for it (I try to stick to a “one in, one out” rule when it comes to clothing.) I am a big fan of organizational guru Peter Walsh and love his concept of the “cost of clutter.” He explains that our possessions cost much more than just their initial purchase price; we also pay for the space to store them and spend valuable time maintaining these items and moving them around in an effort to keep our homes organized.
2) Hanging Pillowcases
Perfect for stuffed animals or dress up clothes in a child’s room or playroom, hats and mittens in the mudroom, or laundry, pillowcases are a useful and inexpensive storage container. If you have old mismatched pillowcases just taking up space this project could cost you nothing. Otherwise you can find inexpensive pillowcases at big box stores or even thrift stores. Cut a hole near the opening large enough to be able to hang it on a hook. Sew around the edge of the hole (like a giant buttonhole) for a more polished look, or even use a grommet (though this will add a little to the cost.) Add a label on the side of the pillowcase across from the hook with fabric or permanent markets, iron on fabric, or if you’re especially crafty, embroidery or applique.
3) Bulk Food Containers
Candies, cookies, and snacks often come in large clear plastic jars that are perfect to fill with small items. Gather all the little plastic toys kids seem to accumulate from kids meals, holidays, and birthday parties. Also great for crayons, play jewelry, small cars, blocks, or toy food. Create a unified look for a mismatched group of containers by using the same colorful label on each. I am a big fan of these chalkboard labels – they add a small cost but it’s easy to simply erase and re-write the label if the container’s contents change.
4) Colorful Boxes
Wrap the inside and outside of cardboard boxes with leftover wrapping paper. Best for adults and older kids as these likely won’t stand up to the abuse of preschoolers. Store the boxes on a shelf and use to corral art supplies, action figures, and toy cars in kids’ rooms or books, paperwork, and office supplies in a home office.
Any of these storage containers can also be helpful when it comes to tidying up the common areas. Make one with each family member’s name on it and when it’s time to clean up the kitchen, living room, or other spot in the house each person’s belongings can be quickly tossed inside his or her box or bag, and then all the containers can be tucked into bedrooms where the items can be put away.
One final tip – to make it easier for young children to put their own things away label bins and boxes with pictures rather than words.