by Kim Tilley
Help! My House Is a Disaster!
Finding Storage Space
Always turn to what you have first to solve your problems. Here are some great uses for common things to help you on your quest to get organized:
Cereal boxes and detergent boxes - you can use these to store magazines, craft patterns and coupons waiting to be clipped. Just cut the corner off of one side of the cereal box and put magazines in it. You can cover with wrapping paper (recycled from carefully unwrapped Christmas presents - admit it!), kids' artwork, or the Sunday funnies
Baskets - you can never have enough baskets! They are pretty, versatile and will help you organize your stuff. They are also very easy to repair and paint after you have found them really cheap at yard sales and thrift stores. Don't overlook the trash too! People throw these out because they cannot see the possibilities of baskets. You can spray paint them, stencil them, line them, or hot glue something to them to make them look nice. You can then use them to hold craft supplies, newspapers, as a trash can, as a message organizer (for pens and paper) by the phone, or to hold all that miscellaneous weird stuff you find around the house (like extra screws and things). You can also use them to hold cleaning supplies, toys, as a table organizer (napkins, salt and pepper), to organize laundry, and anything else you can dream up! There are many ways to use baskets, and they can be really cheap, so keep your eyes open!
Canning jars - I love to find canning jars for cheap or free, wash them and reuse them to hold my baking supplies, craft supplies and beauty supplies. You can save the lids to the 18 oz peanut butter jars and use them for canning jars. Mayonnaise jar lids work fine too. Beans are gorgeous when displayed in canning jars, and so is candy (though we eat it quicker!). So canning jars can actually solve a few problems: organization, storage and decoration. Keep a good stock of them and when the mood hits you to can something, you will be sure to have plenty available!
Cardboard boxes - my favorite for organizing clothing. Yes, to some degree you will always have the "we've just moved" look, but they are so cheap! Be sure to label them clearly and stack them carefully, so there are no "leaning towers of Piza" in your basement that will kill someone. Check below for more info on the clothing system I like to use, from the Tightwad Gazette.
Trash bags - My basement is damp, so there are some things I cannot keep in cardboard boxes or they will get mildewed, so I put them in plastic bags first, then in the boxes.
Old dressers - These are fantastic for holding sewing patterns! They seem to be just the right height for the patterns, and if not, you can still store patterns on their sides with the numbers facing toward you for easy access. I started using dressers to hold my patterns and my fabrics after a sewing store went out of business. I tried to buy some of their old pattern cabinets, but everyone else had beat me to the chase and the cabinets were all spoken for.
Then I thought about it, and the cabinets really were a lot like dresser drawers. For fabric, I clean the fabric and fold it neatly, then "file" it vertically by color, so I can see every type of fabric in the drawer at a glance and do not have to dig. You could also do this in a filing cabinet.
Used file cabinets - These are the best! If you find them cheap, grab them, because the price of new ones is appalling! When Venture closed its doors in my town, I ran over and bought some of their office cabinets. I got two large 4-drawer cabinets and 2 small 2-drawer cabinets for my craftroom. I bought it all for $50. They also came with all of the hanging file folders I could ever want, an old shoe and some other weird stuff! When I looked at the prices of new ones, and found out that just one of the large cabinets can go for $200 or more! I know mine are well made, because they weigh over 50 pound with nothing in them (God help us when we move again!) I use my cabinets to file bills, but I also have a huge idea file for all kinds of things such as recipes, crafts, gardening, you name it. And then there are my craft patterns! I have filed all of my patterns and magazines. Now, for the first time in 9 years, I can find what I am looking for in less than 5 minutes!
Old Kitchen Cabinets - If you are lucky enough to get a hold of some old kitchen cabinets, install them in your craftroom, workshop or kids' play room. Put on a used, old or bargain countertop (or an old tabletop, or plywood) and you have a work area where you can store your stuff and a surface where you can work. This is the ultimate dream for my basement craft room and the kids' playroom - a windfall of old kitchen cabinets!
Crates - if you can get a hold of milk crates or other types of crates, you not only have a great storage solution, you may also have a furniture and decorating solution as well! I knew a gal in high school that had a closet wall full of crates to organize her clothes. They are also great for toys. Christopher Lowell on Interior Motives has shown how to use crates as coffee tables and end tables (while storing stuff in them!)
Old Trunks - Think of these as a great place to store stuff and use as a coffee table or a window seat. They are also charming at the foot of a bed, and so practical! You can store your blankets in these, as well as keepsakes, books, photo albums, and anything else you need to stow away but keep handy.
Shoe boxes and baby wipe boxes - don't forget these! They are the perfect size for so many things. Crayons, markers and pencils, matchbox cars, cards, game pieces, dice, Barbie clothes and baby doll bottles. You can also use them to store photographs before they get filed into photo albums. Be creative, there are thousands of uses for these little gems.
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