No, You Don't Need to Go to the Container Store.

No shade, I love the Container Store. Who doesn’t? All those beautiful boxes and bins and folders and tools, color-matched and uniform. It makes you feel more organized just walking the aisles. But don’t be fooled. Organizing your home is a process, it is work. You can’t shop your way out of it.

I’m a huge proponent of using what you have on hand. Here are a few things I’ve put to work as drawer organizers over the past month: a tea tin, the lid from a box of postcards, small cardboard boxes that once held business cards, small canning jars, ramekins, and the box that housed my new phone, to name just a few. They are not all beautiful (though some are) but they were all free. And available!

Here are a few things I’ve purchased in the past month as part of my grand kitchen reorganization: five (count ‘em, FIVE) lazy Susans, a dozen glass storage boxes, three dozen magnetic spice jars, and two pieces of sheet metal. It’s not that I’m against buying any stuff at all, but I want to know exactly what I need BEFORE shopping.

One of the issues my clients have with clutter is that they don’t want to add to the landfill. Sustainability is important to denizens of the great Northwest. I applaud this! Reusing the stuff that’s kicking around your house is the very epitome of sustainability, while buying stuff just because it looks cool is what got us into this mess in the first place. So do me (and the planet) a favor; look around, see what you can possibly repurpose for your organizing needs, and THEN buy the things you really, really need.

Finally, a word about plastic. I love following professional organizers on Instagram, but heavens there is a lot of plastic in most of those feeds. By now we should all be doing our best to purchase less of that material. (This article in National Geographic tells the story with beautiful photographs for emphasis.) I like reusing things that appear in my house, and I like using items that are made of sustainable materials.

Here are some ideas from my own drawers and cupboards, all made from cardboard, glass, ceramics or metal.

batteries in a ramekin

Batteries in a ramekin. I rarely used this in the kitchen, so this was an easy solution.


This tea tin is perfect for corralling bathroom items that get used frequently. Toothpaste, face lotion, deodorant and hair stuff at the ready, but off the sink.

DIY pencil holder

I use a lot of postcards, since I’m an avid participant in Postcards To Voters. I buy them in these fabulous heavy cardboard boxes with lids - all are ideal for keeping stuff organized, like this collection of pencils.

DIY business cards

I collect a lot of business cards. This combo of postcard box lid and business card containers keeps them all in line.

DIY desk organizer

Small office supplies are easily scattered. Keep ‘em tidy with small jars and boxes.

DIY postcard case

Another postcard box holds photos - there’s little Julia!

brie box organizer

We love cheese! This brie box has a new life as another office supply organizer.

DIY cord collector

What could be more appropriate than using an iPhone box to corral the chargers?

Okay, you see how it’s done. I challenge you to look through the stuff you’re throwing away and see if any of it could help you keep your stuff organized. Free, available and out of the landfill: triple win.