Cheap Storage Solutions From The Non-Consumer Advocate

by Katy on February 26, 2016 · 18 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

If there’s anything I love more than my husband and kids, it’s attractively stored stuff. Matching containers holding easy to find and logically corralled tidbits? Katy like!

And before you get all “that chick be crazy,” let me defend my thesis, as I know I’m not alone.

Attractive storage is huge business, whether it’s for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, cars or offices. The Container Store holds such a draw for me that I have deliberately never step foot on the premises, even though the Portland location sits just a few short blocks away from my favorite Goodwill. Why? Because I know I would posses pretty much zero self discipline once I passed their threshold. (I just spent a few minutes looking through their website, and literally felt an endorphin release that tingled the tips of my toes.) It’s better I just stay away from their wallet emptying and cleverly designed products.

Luckily, I’m still able to get my organizational rocks off while shopping from lowly thrift shops and free piles. The key is to keep a consistent storage aesthetic that is also functional. In other words, not a plastic bin next to a wicker basket next to a metal tin.

My medicine cabinet recently underwent an organizational makeover due to someone’s Goodwill donation of a sh¶tload of sugar packet containers. I already owned one from a free pile awhile back, so I knew they fit perfectly in my medicine cabinet, while also providing perfect storage for odds and ends like Q-tips, alcohol wipes and such. (Note that I keep Bandaids in vintage tins, which I consider to be the height of sophistication!)

Cost of this upgrade? $2.97.

The Non-Consumer Advocate: Medicine cabinet

The recent makeover for my 17-year-old son’s desk also included a few storage solutions, including a standing paper organizer. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but it’s Isaac Mizrahi for Target. Of course for me, it was Isaac Mizrahi for Goodwill. 

Cost? $1.99

The Non-Consumer Advocate: Desk storage

Art supplies: My house = Godzilla: Tokyo. So when I spied this drawered organizer on someone’s curb, I screeched to a halt killing a family of squirrels who were crossing the street without harming anyone. The drawers were labeled with a Sharpie, but a minute or two with alcohol wipes erased all memory that the top drawer was for “Pokemon cards.”

Cost? Free!

The Non-Consumer Advocate: Organizer drawers

My now high school sons’ elementary school lunches were organized using some awesome Korean-made containers that I picked up during a 2005 trip to New York City. I fell in love with their perfect and adjustable food cubbies! Unfortunately my sons both lost their lids within a few years, which pretty much made them useless for their intended purpose. Luckily, I am an alternate use ninja, (real thing, I promise!) so I now utilize the lower halves for my kitchen junk drawer. They work so perfectly for this purpose, you’d think it was their original design.

Cost: Free! (Otherwise would have been garbage.)

The Non-Consumer Advocate: Junk drawer storage

The last organizational porn item I’ll share today is familiar to many of you, although I love it so much you can’t stop me from sharing it over and over again. Yes, it’s my Mod-Podged fabric drawer organizer.  (Made from cereal boxes, leftover Goodwill/Ikea fabric and Mod-Podge.) It’s still hard at work keeping my desk drawer organized with love and logic.

Cost? The price of the Mod-Podge. Maybe 75¢?

The Non-Consumer Advocate: Drawer organizer

So if you’re like me and get overly excited about a well organized home, please know that it can be accomplished using thrift shops, other people’s discards, stuff you already own and a dab of creativity.

And I will still continue to stay out of The Container Store, as I know it would be my Kryptonite.


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariana February 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Same here. I love Container Store; it is a ‘toy land’ for me.
The one in Manhattan in Chelsea is amazing. I sometimes walk in just to look around and enjoy myself. [which is what most of my girlfriend are doing by going to Nordstrom or Bergdorf Goodman Store. Ha]


Mary February 26, 2016 at 1:31 pm

There’s a Goodwill blocks away from the Container Store that’s at Bridgeport Village?


Another Jennifer February 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Great ideas! I shop around my home when I need to find a storage solution. I use just whatever is around. Cardboard boxes and mason jars come to mind. My husband and I run a business so we have boxes of every size. I have just lately been collecting various size jars that food comes in for things that need a home. Like those cute skinny jars olives come in are my new home for random small nails, kids hairbands, etc. My solutions are not aesthetically pleasing as Katy’s but it gets the job done. I’m in love with the vintage bandage tins!


K D February 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I have a large Nutella jar that holds my smaller bag clips. We use empty jars to hold toothbrushes. The shelves in my cabinet pantries have shipping boxes re-purposed for holding like items together. I have a shoe box that holds envelopes.

I love to organize using what we already have. I have never been in the Container Store but many years ago ordered large glass jars from them. I use them to store sugars and flours and love them.


Betty Winslow February 26, 2016 at 3:31 pm

You could do what I do in bead stores and Hobby Lobby sometimes: lock my purse, with all my money, credit cards, etc., in the trunk before going in. If you get the urge to buy something, you have the trek to the car to reconsider. Or you could even leave it at home….. LOL


Ruby February 26, 2016 at 4:04 pm

I did break down and buy a dozen special containers — designed to be easy to open for arthritic hands — for baking ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, etc.) to organize the baking cupboard last year. I was so tired of the cupboard being a jumbled mess and it’s hard for me to unscrew large jar lids. We’ve been pretty happy with things since the change.

Otherwise, though, I’m a wizard with a stray cardboard box, glue, scissors and maybe a little leftover Con-Tact paper if we’re getting fancy. 🙂


Ann leach February 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm

I have 2, count them 2, 6-pack beer bottle carriers on my desk for organizing desk supplies — pens, pencils, highlighters, permanent markers, wipe-off markers, scissors, etc. One is covered with brown paper, the other not.

And a year or so, while at the recyclers, I snagged 6 popcorn tins from the tin can bin and now use them in my pantry for flour, sugar, pasta, etc.


Katy February 27, 2016 at 9:54 am

Nice score on the popcorn tins!


Canadian Girl February 26, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I love the look of the glass sugar storage containers to store your medicine cabinet items!! I would have walked right by a find like that good for you Katy for thinking outside the box 🙂


Teri February 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Following the advice of Marie Kondo I use shoe boxes in most of my drawers now to vertically “stack” and neatly store items. I’m all about free origanizational/storage items- especially when no one but me sees them!


Marilyn February 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I also love getting things organized. I have relied a lot on baskets, various types and sizes, which I find at yard sales for 25-50 cents each.


Elizabeth February 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Total sugar packet container envy! Great mini storage bins! And the tin bandaid containers. Wishing I’d saved some of those from years past! Just awesome! 🙂


Heather February 26, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Watch dumpster dive videos on you tube!! Free is best!!


LisaC February 27, 2016 at 5:09 am

I love this post! I stay out of the organizing section of stores too, only because I can’t help myself when I see the pretty bins.
I organized my closet with matching baskets sold when a store was closing. They match and are a pretty tan wicker.

I’m a sucker for glass jars, so here’s what I did:

I organize my bathroom counter with cleaned out Yankee candle jars. They look very pretty, I think, holding my cotton balls, QTips, hair accessories, and cough drops. Most of the candles were gifts.

My pantry has Ball glass jars full of barley, lentils, and dried beans. The Ball jars are from pickles that my sister gave me.

My counter holds some nice tall glass candy jars that were inherited, and I put popcorn, flax seed, and rice in them. I think the textures look beautiful.

I have a few glass bowls full of seashells or sea glass sitting out. (I live near the ocean).

I still pause at glass jars in stores and Goodwill. Some make it home, some don’t.


Marcia February 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

My DD is a great enthusiast for containers, while I like FREE things–cardboard boxes, in particular!! I do have a few large bins for fabric storage but I try to draw the line there. I was recently thinking, however, that the junk drawer needs some additional organization. I think I recall an old silverware storage container, if I can just remember where I saw it! Shoe boxes I keep just because…wrapped DD’s birthday gift in one a couple days ago—it was cash, along with a bag of chocolates to make the box weigh a little more. I hate giving money for gifts, but she goes shopping right before her birthday–what else could I do?


Susan February 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I needed some storage in our office for odds and ends, looked around the house and found a Japanese tea set that was a wedding present! Our paper clips, rubber bands, and charged batteries look very posh in them. I also started using a cookie jar my grandmother gave me to hold sewing items and ribbon. No longer am I going to just display my tchotzkis, I’m going to put them to work as lovely storage. 🙂


Vickie February 27, 2016 at 6:46 pm

I should be thankful we don’t have one in our area, as I went a bit crazy collecting organizing containers from the Goodwill a few years ago. I finally realized I was buying containers faster than I was getting organized, thus creating more clutter. LOL!!
I finally stopped and have yet to fill all those containers. I’m still trying to get more organized. Sigh.


Betty Winslow March 3, 2016 at 5:41 pm

I’ve been cleaning and decluttering, but instead of getting rid of containers as I empty them, I’m sticking them in the spare room. Glad I did – several I thought I’d throw away ended up being used in other places, so now I will wait until all the reorganizing is done before I get rid of any that are still useable. I’m a sucker for baskets – love their style, the work that went into them, their texture…. but I don’t need any more. I did buy a mini picnic basket at a school rummage sale beofre Xmas, only to discover when I got it home that it wasa Longaberger! May try selling it – I think I paid a quarter for it and it’s in fine shape.


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