Can't Afford to Get Organized!

by Karen Jogerst


Clear plastic boxes, $1-$20 each. Day planners, $10-$75. Modular kitchenware, $2-$24 each piece. File cabinets, $20-$100. Shelving units, $20-$200. Home computer and budgeting software, $1000-plus, and add $1.79 for a bottle of extra strength pain reliever. Ouch! If I could just afford to get organized!

When pilers and filers make up their minds to get organized the first of many hurdles we have to climb over is the sticker shock associated with organizing tools. Here are seven tips for finding inexpensive tools to manage your home!

  1. A New Attitude: Organizing tools are not luxuries, they are necessities. Whether you prefer to manage your life in piles or files you will still need good tools to do the job well. Imagine taking your car to a mechanic who specializes in changing your tires by removing the lug nuts with his fingers. As homemakers, likewise, we need to give ourselves permission to own the kinds of tools which give us the ability to fluidly and functionally manage our homes-- clear plastic containers, bulletin boards, wallet organizers, sturdy shelving units, etc. The trick is finding these tools without blowing the family budget.

  2. Shop the Sales: Organizing tools sales tend to follow the typical school year calendar. Look for them to be on sale when school starts, just after Christmas, over Spring vacation and at the end of the school year. Also, watch for end-of-the-season clearance sales. For example, every year 4-6 weeks after Christmas you can pick up plastic containers with red and green lids for 50-75% off, simply because of the color. Likewise, watch for containers with orange lids to be closed out after Halloween and shop for organizing baskets after Easter. Back to school clearance sales, 3-4 weeks after the kiddos are back in school, are an organizing orchard just waiting to be picked. Buy your calendar at the end of January on clearance and save up to 95%. If you do this year after year, the January sheet you don't use this year can be renumbered and used next year while waiting for calendars to go on clearance.

  3. Shop Outside the Box: Think of alternative ways to organize your problem pile. A sewing box, fishing tackle box and cosmetics box are all essentially the same thing, however, the cosmetics box tends to be the least expensive of the three. Or, look for an organizing wallet, about $5 in the purse department, instead of a name brand day planner in the office supply department for $35. Organizing products in the kitchen department maybe cheaper than the office supply department, but often these items are similar.

  4. Make Wise Choices: Most of the containers I use to manage my home cost less than a greeting card, a package of gift wrap, a fast food meal, a dozen donuts, 2 gallons of gas, a package of hamburger, and the monthly charge for call-waiting. Try making your own greeting cards, make one less trip to town, eat one vegetarian meal per week, and let people call you back when they hear a busy signal. Also, most generic brands of organizing products work just as well as the name brands and you can save anywhere from 20-50%. It's amazing how many small choices can add up to affording several containers per month.

  5. Make Your Own Organizing Containers: Make your own day planner out of a secondhand binder and a package of notebook paper for next to nothing. Refresh an old bulletin board or make your own by affixing adhesive backed fabric to a piece of recycled pressboard ceiling tile. Make several dry-erase boards out of a sheet of 4x8 masonite shower board for about $12, less than the cost of a single standard sized one. Never underestimate the lowly pine pallet or the scrap heap at the lumber yard or plastics manufacturing yard. The recycled wood or plastic boards can be used to make crate-like containers or shelves. Shop salvage yards for great deals on secondhand doors, waterbed frames, cupboards and more, and make even more shelves for next to nothing.

  6. Use Recycled Materials: Plastic milk jugs make great modular pantry organizers for grains and legumes. Likewise, gallon sized plastic or glass jars are available from restaurants, usually free for the asking. Ask you meat cutter what he does with the shipping containers for shrimp and prawns. They are shoe box sized plastic containers which are often free for the asking. Shortening buckets, available for free from your favorite donut shop or fast food restaurant, make great bulk food storage containers. They can also be turned on their sides and fastened together with nuts and bolts to make modular organizing units for organizing hats, mittens, children's toys, sports equipment, etc. A cardboard box which holds 2 gallons of milk makes a nice container for hanging file folders. Cereal boxes can be cut down and used to organize magazines and music, or to make standard file folders. Re-use cardboard boxes, coffee cans, dairy tubs, clear plastic spice and garlic canisters, frosting containers, pickle jars, ice cream buckets, etc. Look for containers, baskets, canisters, ring binders, file folders and other organizing tools in thrift stores and at yard sales. Look for shelving, office products and swivel hangers for pennies on the dollar at going-out-of-business sales.

  7. Declutter and Have a Yardsale: The proceeds of selling off stuff I did not use generated more than enough funds to purchase all of the organizing tools I've ever needed to manage my home. Somebody will pay $5 for that ugly lamp you have stashed in the basement because Aunt Gertrude thought you loved avocado green. That lamp easily equals a nice, sturdy, alligator lidded container for all of your extra computer parts and pieces. Somebody will pay $3 for that extra crock pot you have lying around. Find freedom by trading it in for a plastic sweater box for Junior's building set or all of those plastic lids falling out of your cupboard and licking the floor.

Is getting organized affordable? Absolutely! All it takes is one small container of creativity coupled with the permission you give yourself to manage your home in a way that makes sense to you! Besides, getting organized is always cheaper than having to get one of Junior's Legos surgically removed from the bottom of his father's foot!


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