DIY: 10 cheap tips to organize your belongings

Chaos and clutter are monumental issues for some homeowners. Reality television shows exposing colossal household disorganization are popular and in many cases, those at a complete loss turn to professionals to help bring order where this is none. Still, there are measures you can take yourself to help make sense of messiness. We’ve asked Monica Ricci,  a Certified Professional Organizer, speaker, trainer and author, to give us 10 affordable DIY tips on organizing your home.

Here are Ricci’s suggestions:

1. To corral toys inexpensively, purchase white bankers boxes at an office supply store, and with a blade, cut a large “notch” in the front to make the contents easily visible for kids to store and retrieve their things.Approximate cost: $3 each.

2. Instead of drawer dividers, save the boxes your checks and shoes come in and use them to separate different categories of items inside drawers. Approximate cost: Free

3. Organize and store jewelry, beading and small crafting supplies in empty egg cartons. Approximate cost: Free

4. Store leftover food in Ziploc containers. They’re inexpensive and you can send food home with friends without worrying about getting the container back. Approximate cost: $1 each.

5. Add milk crate-style file boxes to the top shelf of your closet to create compartmentalized storage spaces for off-season items and accessories. Also, stack the crates on their sides on the floor of the closet create vertical storage for shoes, sweaters, or bags. Approximate cost: $7 each.

6. Quickly add up to 56 square feet of storage space under your bed simply by raising it up on cinder blocks. Approximate cost: $2 each.

7. Organize garden tools inexpensively by attaching threaded hooks to a furring strip, nail the strip to the garage wall and hang garden tools on the hooks. Approximate cost: $15

8. Use an empty tissue box as a dispenser for plastic grocery bags. Approximate cost: Free

9.  Save glass jars from pickles, peanut butter and mayonnaise and use them to organize small parts and hardware. Approximate cost: Free

10. The best way to save money organizing is to not spend it in the first place. Be aware of your shopping habits, rein in impulse spending, and resist shopping out of boredom or for entertainment.

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11 comments Add your comment


September 30th, 2009
10:11 am

To keep earrings and necklaces from getting tangled, I keep them in the tiny Ziploc bags that extra buttons come in. They’re great because you can easily see what your looking for and I don’t have to waste time looking for the matching earring! I use old cigar boxes and small, plain gift boxes to store them all in – they keep everything organized and look great on a shelf.


September 30th, 2009
10:14 am

Wow! I love these ideas/tips. They’re great and really simple to implement. I’m reading “Organizing for Dummies” right now and think this will be a great supplement too.


September 30th, 2009
10:44 am

The best suggestion I ever heard for organizing clutter was to get rid of it. Something like if you hadn’t spent all that $ on all that stuff, you might find that could could afford a bigger place. Don’t live beyond the space you have until you can afford more space.


September 30th, 2009
10:50 am

EXCELLENT TIPS!!! Love the egg carton for jewerly….being a 3 time victim of home burglary, I won’t ever own another jewerly box for them to steal, nor will I ever store my jewerly in obvious places again (bedroom, master closet, etc.)…Will definitely use the jar idea to store some of my screwdrivers,nails, etc. – all these are good tips, thanks so much for the article.

dixie pixie

September 30th, 2009
11:09 am

the Tightwad Gazette is full of recycling/organization ideas.


September 30th, 2009
11:45 am

dixie pixie – is the Tightwad Gazette a book or online newsletter? Thanks.

Rana Cash

September 30th, 2009
11:50 am

Glad you liked the tips. I actually learned a few things myself.

dixie pixie

September 30th, 2009
11:59 am

It is actually three books, but I think you can now buy them as one large book.

I would NOT suggest, however, storing anything under your bed. You would only be creating nesting places for rats and roaches. Most people who stick stuff under their beds forget it is there, very rarely use the items again, and don’t move them to vacuum or clean. I personally don’t like the idea of rodents and insects sharing my bedroom!

I use toilet tisse rolls to start my seedlings for tomatoes, squash, cucmbers, etc. Then, I share the seedlings with others. The good theing is you can plant the whole thing rather than throwing away more plastic.

I have tons of organizing ideas! :) If you need help with organizing your own home, just email me at, and I’ll do my best to help!


September 30th, 2009
12:29 pm

To number 4 above – instead of buying Ziploc containers, recycle the ones that come with some sandwhich meats. If you buy the meat on sale and use a coupon, your lunch is super cheap and the leftover container is free.


September 30th, 2009
12:33 pm

What exactly are bankers boxes? Are these cardboard file boxes? I really need help with kid toys around my house.

Monica Ricci

September 30th, 2009
1:11 pm

Wow, such great comments and thanks to you all for your kind words.

jacqtat: Do you find that your necklaces get knotted up being stored in those little baggies? I HATE untangling chains so I keep mine hanging on a wall organizer.

lovelyliz, agreed! I think you’ll find that’s what I’ve said in the last line of the post. Not getting clutter in the first place is the very best way to stay clutter-free! :o )

TinyTam: So glad I could help you out!

Theresa, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been burgled three times! Ow. Yes, the master bedroom is the place where “they” come for valuables. I have a deadbolt on my bedroom door and it’s only unlocked when I’m at home and awake.

dixie pixie: As to underbed storage, we’ve been doing it for years with no issues with rodents or insects. It is essential storage for infrequently used items, because our home is small. Your point is well taken however, for those who have had problems with vermin — if they’re already in your house, yes, they will likely hide there so be careful with it.

Kari: Good tip on the lunchmeat containers. Any sturdy container (such as coffee containers or Pringles cans) may be re-used for storage so long as it gets cleaned well first.

Jodi: Bankers boxes are those white boxes that you can store files in, yes. You typically buy them flat at an office supply store and build them yourself. They are inexpensive and pretty sturdy, plus if you’re creative or your kids like art, you can decorate them with contact paper, paint, stickers, etc.

Thanks for all your feedback folks, glad you enjoyed the piece. You can find more information on organization, time management, simplicity and related topics on my website at or my blog at — have a great week!

~Monica :o )