Clear the clutter without spending a fortune

Mastering the Mess for Less

by Shaunna Privratsky

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Do you have a closet, storage area or junk drawer that is begging for organization? Is going into your closet like an expedition into a jungle of tangled hangers, precariously stacked boxes and shoes that seem to want to trip you? Then it is time for some tips to clear out the clutter without spending a fortune.

I grew up in a tiny trailer house where every inch of space was vitally important. My small dresser fit snugly in my closet, along with built-in shelves for my jewelry, shoes and miscellaneous stuff. My room was just big enough for a twin bed and a pint-sized bookshelf. Our bedroom and closet is bigger now, but I still utilize all our space for storage and easy retrieval.

Sure, those matching sets of closet organizers are tempting, but you can do it yourself at a fraction of the cost. The first step is to clear everything out of your problem area. The bigger the job, the longer it will take, but the payoff will be worth it.

Okay, you know the drill. Make three piles. One is for keeping, one is for selling at a garage sale or consignment shop and one is for tossing. If it hasn't fit since 1993, only matches your set of Flashdance leg warmers, or simply looks like it was dragged behind a fast-moving vehicle in the desert, get rid of it.

Remind yourself that letting go is a good thing. You can feel proud of yourself for donating that size 4 skirt that made you look so great back in high school. If it is something you can't bear to part with, put it in a clear storage bin and label it "Memories of College" or "8-track tapes."

Group everything in your remaining pile and decide if you need more shelves, a pants rack or additional shoe storage. Sketch out a rough plan and measure the areas. You can customize your closet with closet rods and brackets at any home-improvement or hardware store for less than $20. Bring measurements and they will cut the sizes you require. Shelves are just as easy, or you can add bricks and a board to an existing shelf if it is sturdy to instantly double your storage.

Not very mechanically minded? Do you hit your thumb instead of the nail every time you pick up a hammer? Look for pre-made shelf kits with brackets or ask a handy friend or neighbor. Offer to return the favor by doing something you are good at.

Does it seem like your shoes are multiplying when the door is closed? Pick up inexpensive shoe racks or low shelves at discount stores. Getting them off the floor lets you actually walk into your walk-in closet.

Do you have unused space near the ceiling? Consider adding shelves or stacking storage bins. Put items that aren't used as often higher up, since you may need a step stool to reach them. Labeling or using clear boxes lets you see at a glance what is inside and saves tons of time when you're trying to locate a receipt from 2001 or that old hat your friend gave you as a gag.

Does your closet double as a laundry hamper? Buy or sew a hanging laundry bag. You can hang it on the back of the door or from a hanger in the middle. When it is full, it will be easy to bring down to the laundry room and lighter than oversized hampers or clothes baskets.

You can add a dresser to your closet for tons of storage options. The drawers are excellent for sweaters, jeans, delicates or anything that's too bulky to hang. Look in consignment, thrift or second hand stores for a sturdy dresser the size you want. Add paint or hardware if you like, or leave as is. It will be in your closet, after all.

For even more storage options, watch for store closings. Not only can you pick up excellent bargains, but also they often sell "to the bare walls" and you can get store fixtures for a steal, such as shelving units, hanging racks and more. It is the closet organizer's paradise.

You can make quick cash from your discard pile. You can sell everything at your garage sale or a consignment shop. Check the classifieds for the "Wanted to Buy" section. People are always searching for the oddest things and your trash may be their treasure.

The benefits of a clean and organized closet, storage area or even a drawer are twofold. First, you'll know exactly what you own so that you don't purchase things needlessly. Secondly, you'll be able to quickly locate the exact item you need, making your life that much easier.

You can organize any closet or space with these tips. All it takes is a bit of time, a plan and the desire to master the mess for less.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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