Versatile Uses for 6 Essential Storage Items

Repurpose these six iconic products and you’ll be thinking outside the box, for less.

Hanging Shoe Bag
Depending on construction, a 24-pocket shoe bag costs from $9 at to $19.49 plus shipping at

Bathroom: Hang over a door and fill with combs, brushes, hair spray, antiseptic spray, and bandages.

Car: Place over the front seat and stow toys, games, pens, and snacks.

Entry closet: Store gloves, mittens, scarves, and hats in winter; in summer, stuff with flip-flops, sunscreen, and bug spray.

Utility closet: Use to stash vacuum attachments, extension cords, cleaning supplies, and dust rags.

Nursery: Fill with clothes, diapers, shoes, and infant-care supplies.

Basement/garage: Stow spray-paint cans, tubes of caulk, paintbrushes, rollers, and pints of paint.

Closet: Round up phones, iPods, cameras, cords, and chargers.

Bedroom: Free up a drawer. Use the hanging bag for socks and underwear.

Hold N Storage Natural Canvas Over The Door Organizer with Mirror, Available at Linens ‘n Things

Clear plastic boxes: These handy boxes—some with adjustable dividers—have up to 24 compartments. sells the largest size in lots of five for $31.50 plus shipping.

Office: Stash paper clips, rubber bands, and adhesive notes.

Child’s room: Stow Barbie’s accessories in one place.

Crafts: Buttons, beads, glue sticks, needles, thread, and other supplies stay handy and portable.

Rubbermaid/Sterilite bins
I use these to store cleats, baseball bats and mitts, and lacrosse and hockey sticks. Home Depot, Target, and Lowe’s charge from $4 to $10.

Office: Professional organizer Donna Smallin likes these for stowing tax returns—records you must keep but don’t access often.

Recycling: These bins make a trip to the recycling center even easier.

Moving: Many moving companies get several dollars for a cardboard box—and that’s not counting the tape or time it takes to construct one. The bins are sturdier and can survive a flood in the basement.

Clear plastic shoe boxes
My friend Sharon Danzger, a personal organizer, buys these by the case (of 20) at The Container Store, so the price for the ladies’ shoe box drops from $1.79 each to $1.49.

Bedroom: Stow rolled-up belts and your scarves, panty hose, and socks.

Office: Donna Smallin files all her incoming bills in one, along with a calculator, her checkbook, a pen,
envelopes, and stamps.

Medicine cabinet: Georgene Lockwood, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organizing Your Life,
assembles a “cold kit,” with everything needed to treat a cold or flu.

Refrigerator: Organize bottles and jars on fridge shelves.

Tubtrugs: These sturdy, flexible carriers—built to tote garden tools and lug weeds—come in four- to 20-gallon sizes and various colors at and

Front door: Keep one by the door for library books.

Living room: Use one to carry in your firewood from the woodpile.

Closet: The medium-size carrier corrals cleaning supplies and lets you cart them from room to room.

Ziploc bags : After using these for years in the kitchen, I found the large (three gallons), extra-large (ten gallons), and extra-extra-large (20 gallons) sizes, with handles and zippers (about $6 to $10 for five large, four extra-large, or three extra-extra-large).

Gym: Keep sweaty clothes separate from other items in your gym bag.

Garage: Put beach towels and toys in an extra-large bag now, and you’ll know where to find them next June.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest