10 Ways to Contain Clutter Under $10

Posted by on January 16, 2013

One of the principles of organizing is to contain like items together, particularly small items that can get lost easily. But many people stop short of this important step believing they have to go to a specialty store to find the “right” containers, or they simply don’t know what container to use for the job.

Sometimes the perfect container is already at your fingertips; it’s just a matter of looking at what you have with a fresh eye towards organization. What you don’t have around the house may be purchased at national retailers for under $10.

1. Boxes as drawer dividers – There’s no need to buy plastic bins or trays for every drawer. The drawers in my craft area are very shallow and it was difficult to find anything on the market to fit. So, I used a department store jewelry box (shown top left) to corral small items that previously slid all around the drawer. If you have a stash of empty boxes, one might be the perfect size for a hard-to-fit spot.

2. Bowls on a tray or in a drawer – For a step up from a jewelry box, use small bowls to collect hair pins, buttons, or other small trinkets. Look for vintage finds at flea markets or estate sales, or dig out that set of dipping bowls you never seem to use.

3. Cosmetic bags – Do you ever get those cosmetic bags as a gift with purchase from the cosmetic counter? They’re perfect allies in the fight against clutter. Use simple tags to remind you what’s inside and use them in the bathroom to contain hair implements, travel-size lotions and other easily-lost items. In my linen closet I recently traded out decades-old free cosmetic bags for matching cotton bags ($4.99 each at Cost Plus World Market; shown bottom left) to contain and conceal bits and pieces related to eyes and ears; dental; and small cosmetic implements.

4. Candle holders and vases – A vase has a dozen or more uses, and jar candle holders have just as many. Once a filled jar candle burns to the bottom, freeze the jar a few hours to harden the wax. Remove the wax and clean the jar with dish soap and warm water. It’s ready to hold makeup brushes, hair clips, paint brushes (shown above right), pens, markers … anything, really!

5. Lazy Susan – Whoever thought of securing a tray to a plate with ball bearings in between deserves a medal. The lazy Susan is a genius idea for keeping small bottles and jars organized and reachable in cabinets, under sinks and in closets. (Target, $9.99)

6. Zipper bags – When I have a gaggle of anything – cords, ribbons, cotton swabs – I know the perfect container is in a kitchen drawer. With a variety of sizes and a secure closure, zippered plastic food storage bags are the go-to container for an organized life.

7. Soup cans – If you need a quick container for pens, pencils, or crayons, have soup for dinner. Remove the label and you have an industrial looking aluminum vessel, but cover it with wrapping paper, colored paper, or self-adhesive shelf liner for a more finished look. Be sure the edge of the can is smooth, or glue double-fold bias tape over the edge.

8. Jars – Save the lids to jars from baby food, salsa and spaghetti sauce and re-use clean, label-free jars. Any ink lettering on the jar such as the expiration date can usually be removed with a little rubbing alcohol. Spray paint the lids in a color of your choice to give them a cohesive look and suddenly you have a collection of containers. Gathered on a window sill or shelf, they can turn chaos into a pretty display of sewing supplies or craft supplies.

9. Candy tins – I use metal tins from French fruit candy drops to keep straight pins, paper clips and even coins. The tins are beautifully decorated with a vintage motif and look great on their own or in a grouping.

10. Beverage caddies – I cannot take credit for this idea as I saw it first in the airport restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa. The idea is to take the paperboard caddy that holds four or six bottled beverages and use it as a carry-all. At the restaurant the sections were filled with bottles of condiments, which would be great for a summer cookout at home. Or, place a  plastic tumbler in each divided section and use it for hair products, craft supplies or garden supplies. If desired, cover the beverage logos with pretty wrapping paper or self-adhesive paper.