DIY Storage and Organization Tips

Simple solutions for getting it all together using things you probably already own.

from Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things

Adhesive Tape

Got an ungainly heap of glue and caulk tubes on your workbench? Cut a strip of adhesive or duct tape several inches long and fold it over the bottom of each tube, leaving a flap at the end. Punch a hole in the flap with a paper hole punch and hang the tube on a nail or hook. You’ll free up counter space, and you’ll be able to find the right tube fast.  See more uses for Adhesive Tape.

Aluminum Pie Pans

  • Glitter is notorious for turning up in the corners and crevices of your home long after your youngster’s masterpiece has been mailed off to Grandma. But you can minimize some messes by using an aluminum pie pan to encase projects involving glitter, beads, spray paint, feathers … well, you get the picture.
  • Bring some order to your children’s — or your own — inventory of crayons, beads, buttons, sequins, pipe cleaners, and such by sorting them in aluminum pie pans. To secure materials when storing the pans, cover each pan with a layer of plastic wrap. See more uses for Aluminum Pie Pans.

Baby Wipes Containers

  • Don’t toss those empty wipes containers. These sturdy plastic boxes are incredibly useful for storing all sorts of items. And the rectangular ones are stackable to boot! Give the containers a good washing and let them dry thoroughly, then fill them with everything from sewing supplies, recipe cards, coupons, and craft and office supplies to old floppy disks, small tools, photos, receipts, and bills. Label the contents with a marker on masking tape, and you’re set!
  • Do you save plastic shopping bags for lining the small wastebaskets (or perhaps for pooper-scooper duty)? If so, bring order to the puffed-up chaos they create by storing the bags in cleaned, rectangular wipes containers. Each container can hold 40 to 50 bags — once you squeeze the air out of them. You can also use an empty 250-count tissue box — the kind with a perforated cutout dispenser — in a similar manner. See more uses for Baby Wipes Containers.

Berry Baskets

  • Are you tired of throwing away prematurely rusted steel wool soap pads or smelly sponges? Place a berry basket near the corner of your kitchen sink and line the bottom with a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fashion a spout on a corner of the foil closest to the sink that can act as a drain to keep water from pooling up at the bottom of the basket. Now sit back and enjoy the added longevity of your soap pads and sponges.
  • Don’t toss out those lightly used paper towels in your kitchen. You can reuse them to wipe down countertops or to soak up serious spills. Keep a berry basket in a convenient location in your kitchen to have your recycled towels at the ready when needed.
  • A clean berry basket could be just what the doctor ordered for organizing your vitamins and medicine bottles. If you’re taking several medications, a berry basket offers a convenient way to place them all — or prepackaged individual doses — in one, easy-to-remember location. You can also use baskets to organize medications in your cupboard or medicine cabinet according to their expiration dates or uses.
  • If you don’t want to bother untangling knots every time you need a piece of string, twine, or yarn, build your own string dispenser with two berry baskets. Place the ball inside one berry basket. Feed the cord through the top of a second, inverted basket, then tie the two baskets together with twist ties. You can also mount an inverted berry basket on your workshop’s pegboard and use it to hold and organize your screwdrivers; they’ll fit neatly between the slats.  See more uses for Berry Baskets.

Bottles

  • An empty 2-liter soda bottle makes the perfect container for storing and dispensing plastic grocery bags. Just cut off the bottom and top ends of the bottle, and mount it with screws upside down inside a kitchen cabinet or closet. Put washers under the screw heads to keep them from pulling through the plastic. Fill it with your recycled bags (squeeze the air out of them first) and pull them out as needed. You can make a twine dispenser the same way, using a 1-liter bottle and letting the cord come out the bottom.
  • If you’re fed up with Lego or erector-set pieces underfoot, make a simple carryall to store them in by cutting a large hole in the side of a clean gallon jug with a handle. Cut the hole opposite the handle so you or your youngster can easily carry the container back to the playroom after putting the pieces away. For an easy way to store craft materials, crayons, or small toys, just cut the containers in half and use the bottom part to stash your stuff.
  • The next time you bring home a 5-pound (2.2-kilogram) bag of sugar from the supermarket, try pouring it into a clean, dry 1-gallon (3.7-liter) jug with a handle. The sugar is less likely to harden, and the handle makes it much easier to pour it out.
  • Why keep leftover house paints in rusted or dented cans when you can keep them clean and fresh in plastic jugs? Use a funnel to pour the paint into a clean, dry milk or water jug, and add a few marbles (they help mix the paint when you shake the container before your next paint job). Label each container with a piece of masking tape, noting the paint manufacturer, color name, and the date.
  • Are you always searching for the right nail to use for a particular chore, or for a clothespin, picture hook, or small fastener? Bring some organization to your workshop with a few 1- or 1/2-gallon (3.7- or 2-liter) jugs. Cut out a section near the top of each jug on the side opposite the handle. Then use the containers to store and sort all the small items that seem to “slip through the cracks” of your workbench. The handle makes it easy to carry a jug to your worksite.  See more uses for Bottles.

Cans

  • Tired of fumbling around in your tool pouch to find the tool you need? Use empty frozen juice cans to transform the deep, wide pockets of a nail pouch into a convenient tote for wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers. Make sure to remove the bottom of the can as well as the top. Glue or tape the cylinders together to keep them from shifting around, and slip them into the pouches to create dividers.
  • If your office desk is a mess, a few empty cans can be the start of a nifty solution. Just attach several tin cans of assorted sizes together in a group to make an office-supplies holder for your desk. Start by cleaning and drying the cans and removing any labels. Then spray paint them (or wrap them in felt). When the paint is dry, glue them together using a hot glue gun. Your desk organizer is now ready to hold pens, pencils, paper clips, scissors, and such.  See more uses for Cans.

Candy Tins

  • Don’t lose all the little pieces of that broken jewelry you plan to have repaired someday. Keep the pieces together and safe in a small candy tin.
  • You are late for the party but you can only find one earring from the pair that matched your dress so nicely. To prevent pairs of small earrings from going their separate ways, store them together in a little candy tin and you’ll be right on time for the next party.
  • Use a small candy tin to store snaps, sequins, buttons, and beads in your sewing box. Label the lids or glue on a sample for easy identification of the contents.   See more uses for Candy Tins.

Cardboard Boxes

  • A good way to safely store fine crystal glassware is to put it in an empty wine or liquor carton with partitions. You can also use it for storing lightbulbs, but be sure to sort the bulbs by wattage so that it’s easy to find the right one when you need a replacement.
  • Store your magazines in holders made from empty detergent boxes. Remove the top, then cut the box at an angle, from the top of one side to the bottom third of the other. Cover the holders with self-adhesive decorative paper.
  • A clean liquor carton with its dividers intact is a great place to store rolled-up posters, drawings on paper, and canvases. Just insert the items upright between the partitions.
  • When you take down your Christmas tree, wrap each ornament in newspaper or tissue paper and store it in an empty liquor box with partitions. Each of the carton’s segments can hold several of the wrapped holiday tree ornaments.
  • Keep a decorated empty wine or liquor carton with partitions, and with the top cut off, in your child’s room and use it for easy storage of tennis rackets, baseball bats, fishing poles, and such.  See more uses for Cardboard Boxes.

Cardboard Tubes

  • To keep your knitting needles from bending and breaking, try this: Use a long cardboard tube from kitchen foil or plastic wrap. Cover one end with cellophane tape. Pinch the other end closed and secure it tightly with tape. Slide the needles in through the tape on the taped end. The tape will hold them in place for secure, organized storage.
  • Roll up leftover fabric scraps tightly and insert them inside a cardboard tube from your bathroom or kitchen. For easy identification, tape or staple a sample of the fabric to the outside of the tube.
  • Nothing is more useless and frustrating than tangled string. To keep your string ready to use, cut a notch into each end of a toilet paper tube. Secure one end of the string in one notch, wrap the string tightly around the tube, and then secure the other end in the other notch.
  • Before storing diplomas, marriage certificates, and other important documents in your cedar chest, roll them tightly and insert them in paper towel tubes. This prevents creases and keeps the documents clean and dry.
  • Spending more time untangling your Christmas lights than it takes to put them up? Make yuletide prep easier by wrapping your lights around a cardboard tube. Secure them with masking tape. Put small strands of lights or garlands inside cardboard tubes, and seal the ends of the tubes with masking tape.
  • You want to save some of your kids’ precious artwork for posterity (or you don’t want it to clutter up the house). Simply roll up the artwork and place it inside a paper towel tube. Label the outside with the child’s name and date. The tubes are easy to store, and you can safely preserve the work of your budding young artists. Use this method to hold and store your documents, such as certificates and licenses, too.   See more uses for Cardboard Tubes.

Clipboards

  • When you are following a recipe clipped from a magazine or newspaper, it’s hard to read and keep clean when the clipping is lying on the counter. Solve the problem by attaching a clipboard to a wall cabinet at eye level. Just snap the recipe of the day onto the clipboard and you are ready to create your kitchen magic.
  • Hang a clipboard inside a kitchen cabinet or pantry door and use the clamp as a convenient, space-saving way to store your place mats.
  • Most of the time, sandpaper is still good after the first or second time you use it. The trick is to find that used sandpaper again. Hang a clipboard on a hook on your workshop pegboard. Just clip still-usable sandpaper to the board when you are done and the sandpaper will be handy next time you need it.  See more uses for Clipboards.

Clothespins

  • Organize your workshop, kitchen, or bathroom with a homemade rack made with straight clothespins. Space several clothespins evenly apart on a piece of wood, and screw them on with screws coming through from the back of the board (pre-drill the holes so you don’t split the clothespin). Now your rack is ready to hang.
  • Okay, you found one shoe. Now, where the heck is the other one? From now on use clip-on clothespins to hold together pairs of shoes, boots, or sneakers, and put an end to those unscheduled hunting expeditions in your closets. It’s a good idea for gloves, too.  See more uses for Clothespins.

Coffee Cans

  • Before you put those hamburger patties in the freezer, stack them with a coffee-can lid between each and put them in a plastic bag. Now, when the patties are frozen you’ll be able to easily peel off as many as you need.
  • Line a coffee can with a small plastic bag and keep it near the sink to hold kitchen scraps and peelings. Instead of walking back and forth to the garbage can, you’ll make one trip to dump all the scraps at the same time.
  • If you have more belts than places to hang them up, just roll them up and store them in a cleaned-out coffee can with a clear lid. Coffee cans are just the right size to keep belts from creasing, and clear lids will let you find each belt easily.
  • Have an empty coffee can nearby as you’re going through the kids’ pockets before putting up a load of wash. Use it to deposit gum and candy wrappers, paper scraps, and other assorted items that kids like to stuff into their pockets. Keep another can handy for coins and bills.
  • You want small items like screws, nuts, and nails to be handy, but you don’t want them to take up workbench space. Here’s a way to get the small stuff up out of the way. Drill a hole near the top of empty coffee cans so you can hang them on nails in your workshop wall. Label the cans with masking tape so you will know what’s inside.  See more uses for Coffee Cans.

Curtain Rings

  • Keep nuts and washers on metal shower curtain rings hung from a hook in your workshop. The ring’s pear shape and latching action ensure secure storage. Put nuts and washers of similar size on their own rings so that you can find the right size quickly.
  • “Where are my mittens, Ma?” “Where did you leave them?” “I dunno.” Something as simple as a curtain ring can help you do away with this dialogue: Drive a nail in the mudroom wall. Hand kids curtain rings and tell them to clip their mittens together before hanging them up.  See more uses for Curtain Rings.

Egg Cartons

  • Instead of emptying the coins in your pocket into a jar for later sorting, cut off a four-section piece of an egg carton and leave it on your dresser. Sort your quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies as you pull them out of your pockets. (Dump pennies in a larger container, such as a jar, or put them in a piggy bank.)
  • Organize buttons, safety pins, threads, bobbins, and fasteners on your sewing table.
  • Organize washers, tacks, small nuts and bolts, and screws on your workbench. Or use to keep disassembled parts in sequence.
  • Keep small Christmas ornaments from being crushed in handy, stackable egg cartons.   See more uses for Egg Cartons.

Ice Cube Trays

  • If your junk drawer is an unsightly mess, insert a plastic ice cube tray for easy, low-cost organization. One “cube” can hold paper clips, the next, rubber bands, another, stamps. It’s another small way to bring order to your life.
  • If you’re looking through your toolbox for that perfect-sized fastener that you know you have somewhere, here’s the answer to your problem. An ice cube tray can help you organize and store small parts you may need at one time or another, such as screws, nails, bolts, and other diminutive hardware.
  • You’re disassembling your latest swap-meet acquisition that has lots of small parts and worry that you’ll never be able to get them back together again in the correct sequence. Use an old plastic ice cube tray to help keep the small parts in the right order until you get around to reassembling it. If you really want to be organized, mark the sequence by putting a number on a piece of masking tape in each compartment. The bottom half of an egg carton will also work.  See more uses for Ice Cube Trays.

Jar Lids

  • Corral those paper clips and other small office items that clutter up your desk, by putting them in jar lids with deep rims. Works great to hold loose change or earrings on your dresser or bureau too. A quick coat of matte spray paint and an acrylic sealant will make them more attractive and water-resistant.  See more uses for Jar Lids.

Jars

  • When you’re boating or camping, keeping things like matches and paper money dry can be a challenge. Store items that you don’t want to get wet in clear jars with screw tops that can’t pop off. Even if you’re backpacking, plastic peanut butter jars are light enough not to weigh you down, plus they provide more protection for crushable items than a resealable plastic bag.
  • Don’t let workshop hardware get mixed up. Keep all your nails, screws, nuts, and bolts organized by screwing jar lids to the underside of a wooden or melamine shelf. (Make sure the screw won’t poke through the top of the shelf.) Then put each type of hardware in its own jar, and screw each jar onto its lid. You’ll keep everything off the counters, and by using clear jars, you can find what you need at a glance. Works great for storing seeds in the potting shed too!
  • Dry cereal can be a nutritious snack for your baby. No need to bring the whole box when you leave the house; pack individual servings in clean, dry baby-food jars. If they get spilled, the mess is minimal.  See more uses for Jars.

Margarine Tubs

  • Lightweight, disposable margarine tubs make the perfect pet food containers and double as food and water bowls. And those valuable dog cookies won’t get crushed if you put them in a plastic tub. If your pet is vacationing at a friend’s house, make things a little easier for the caregiver by putting one serving in each container, to be used and discarded as needed.
  • Need to bring your home cooking for baby on the road? Use a disposable margarine tub for a container that won’t break in your baby bag. It’s also a handy food bowl, and you won’t have to wrap it up and bring it home for cleaning.
  • Reuse your clean, sturdy margarine and other plastic containers for freezing measured portions of soups and stocks, and to break up leftovers into single servings. A 2-pound (1 kilogram) container, for example, stores the perfect amount of sauce for 1 pound (.5 kilogram) of pasta. Hint: Before freezing, let the food cool just enough to reduce condensation.
  • As a break from the usual sandwich, put some fruit salad, rice mix, or other interesting fare in one or two recycled margarine tubs for your child’s lunch. The tubs are easy to open and will keep the food from getting crushed.
  • Want to touch up the little spots here and there in the living room, but don’t want to lug around a gallon of paint? Pour a little paint into a margarine tub to carry as you make your inspection. Hold it in a nest of paper towels to catch any possible drips. The tubs with lids are also perfect for storing that little bit of leftover paint for future touch-ups.
  • Loose thumbtacks in every room? Odd bolts and nails in a broken cup? Stray superball under the couch? These are just some of the items waiting to be organized into your extra plastic margarine tubs. Get your board game going faster and easier by storing the loose pieces in a tub until the next time. You’ve sorted out all the sky pieces for a puzzle, so keep them separate and safe in their own tub. With or without their lids, a few clean margarine tubs can do wonders for a junk drawer in need of organization.  See more uses for Margarine Tubs.

Plastic Bags

  • Shopping at the warehouse grocer, you picked up a jumbo box of baby wipes at a great price. You’ve got enough wipes to last for several months, as long as they don’t dry out before you can use them. To protect your good investment, keep the opened carton of wipes in a plastic bag sealed with a twist tie.
  • If you’re constantly setting aside clothes to give to charity, but then find them back in your closet or drawers, try this solution: Hang a large garbage bag in your closet. That way, the next time you find something you want to give, you just toss it in the bag. Once it’s full, you can take it to the local donation center. Don’t forget to hang a new bag in the closet.
  • You’d like to protect that seersucker suit for next season. Grab a large, unused garbage bag. Slit a hole in the top and push the hanger through for an instant dustcover.
  • If you find you have an overstuffed closet but plenty of room to spare in your dresser, conduct a clothes transfer. Roll up your skirts and place them each in a plastic bag. That will help them stay wrinkle-free until you’re ready to wear one.
  • Your weed-whacker spindle just gave out and you have to replace it. But how? Stash all your outdoor equipment’s warranties and owner’s manuals in a plastic bag and hang it in your garage. You’ll know exactly where to look for help.
  • You’re halfway through painting the living room, and it’s time to break for lunch. No need to clean the paintbrush. Just stick it in a plastic bag and it will remain wet and ready to use when you return. Going to finish next weekend, you say? Stick the bag-covered brush in the freezer. Defrost next Saturday and you are ready to go.  See more uses for Plastic Bags.

Sandwich and Freezer BagsShoe Bags

  • There’s a precious family heirloom, a statue, a vase, or a trinket that needs some extra padding when storing. Here’s what to do: Place it gently in a self-closing bag, close the bag most of the way, blow it up with air, then seal it. The air forms a protective cushion around the memento.
  • You’re about to put away that pile of winter sweaters for the season. Don’t just throw them in a box without protection. Place each sweater in a sealable plastic bag and seal. They’ll be clean and moth-free when the cold weather rolls around again. Save the bags for next spring when the sweaters need to be stored again.
  • If your drawers are starting to smell musty, a sealable bag can be your dresser’s best friend. Fill the bag with potpourri — for example, flower petals along with a few crushed fragrant leaves and a couple of drops of aromatic oil. Punch a bunch of small holes in the bag. Then place in the drawer. Your drawers will smell fresh again soon.
  • Cedar closets smell great, and, more important, they repel moths. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a cedar closet, you can easily create the next best thing. Fill a sealable bag with cedar chips — the kind you buy at a pet store for the hamster cage. Zip it closed, then punch several small holes in it. Hang the bag in your closet (a pants hanger is handy for this) and let the cedar smell do its work.
  • Do the kids have trouble keeping track of their school pencils, pens, and rulers? Puncture three holes along the bottom edge of a sealable freezer bag so it will fit in a three-ring binder. Now the young scholars can zip their supplies in and out of the bag.
  • Here’s a quick cleanup solution: Guests are coming over and the bathroom is strewn with Hubby’s razor, shave cream, and more. Quickly gather up all the supplies in one clear sealable bag. That way, he will know where his shaving supplies are and you don’t have to deal with them. Now, if we could just do something about the whiskers in the sink!
  • Many of us have scads of makeup. Pats of ill-advised eye shadow and samples of powder and blush from department stores fill our makeup cases. Problem is, there are only a few cosmetics we really use every single day. Stash those favorites in a sealable plastic bag so you don’t have to hunt around for them every morning.
  • Toilet training a child? Need to be ready for meal mishaps? Put a change of clothes for your son or daughter in a sealable plastic bag, and keep it in the trunk of your car. You won’t have to think twice the next time you have an “accident.”
  • Whoops! You tipped the canoe and got dunked. No biggie, until that sinking feeling hits — your car keys and cell phone are at the bottom of the lake. Avoid this disaster by putting your valuables in a resealable bag. Blow air into it before you seal the bag so it will float. A resealable bag is perfect for keeping valuables dry at the water park or beach too.  See more uses for Sandwich and Freezer Bags.

Shoe Bag

A hanging shoe bag is a great organizer in the utility closet. Use its pockets to store sponges, scrub brushes, and other cleaning utensils — and even some bottles of cleaning products. It’s also good for separating your clean, lemon-oil, and lint-free rags so you’ll always have the right one for the job.

  • Free up some valuable drawer space in your office with an over-the-door shoe holder. Its pockets can store lots of supplies that you need to keep handy, like scissors, staples, and markers. You can use the pockets to organize bills and other “to do” items as well.
  • A shoe bag can keep lots of everyday bathroom items handy and neat. Brushes, shampoo, hand towels, hair spray — almost everything can be stored at your fingertips instead of cluttering the shower or counter.
  • A shoe bag hung over their bedroom door is a great way to help your kids organize their small toys. Whether your child likes dolls, dinosaurs, or different-colored blocks, a shoe bag puts the toys on display and kids can keep them sorted themselves.
  • Cut a shoe bag to fit the back of your car seat, and let your children make their own choices for back seat entertainment.
  • Instead of lifting a hanger to get a belt, or rummaging through your drawer for a scarf, try organizing your clothing accessories with an over-the-door shoe bag. The pockets can be used in the bedroom for keeping socks, gloves, and much more than shoes handy.  See more uses for Shoe Bags.

Shoe Boxes

  • You will thank yourself each time you look for ribbon to wrap a present, if you use a shoe box to make this handy ribbon dispenser. Take a used broom handle or piece of a bamboo garden stake — anything you can use as a small dowel — and cut it a little longer than the length of the shoe box. Cut two holes for the dowel, one in each short end of the box, at a height where a spool of ribbon slipped onto the dowel would spin freely. Slip your ribbon spools onto the dowel as you poke it from one end of the shoe box through to the other. Once the dowel is in place, you can duct tape it at either short end to keep it from slipping out. You could also cut holes along one long side of the shoe box for each spool of ribbon, and pull a little bit of each ribbon through the hole. Now you’re ready to wrap!
  • There are lots of ways shoe boxes can help you get organized besides collecting old photos and receipts. Label the boxes and use them to store keepsakes, canceled checks, bills to be paid, and other items you want to keep track of. For a neater appearance, cover the boxes with contact paper or any other decorative self-adhesive paper.See more uses for Shoe Boxes.

Rubber Bands
Snap a couple of rubber bands around the sun visors of your car. Now you have a handy spot to slip directions or your favorite CDs.
See more uses for Rubber Bands.