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It doesn’t have to be expensive to be organized! I enjoy looking through books and magazines for clever and practical organizing ideas. However, I hardly ever go with the most expensive option. Seeing those pictures helps me to visualize  new possibilities. Then I challenge myself to create a similar effect with a thrifty alternative.

My all-time favorite book of ideas is Country Living’s The Little Book of Big Decorating Ideas: 287 Clever Tips, Tricks, and Solutions. Each page is a full color photo of simple ideas that make a big difference! I even managed to find a used copy of the book after I had checked it out of the library multiple times. 

Some of their great ideas include:

#16—skateboards used as wall shelves

#33—old ladder used as a towel rack

#47—metal tray used as a message board

#51—stepstool used as a side table

#62—stack of vintage suitcases used for storage

#85—fruit crates used as wall shelves

#264—shadowbox filled with prize ribbons

Sometimes I simply notice what items are available at less expensive stores. It gives me the opportunity to try out an organizing solution without making a major investment. Sometimes I upgrade to a better version, but often the cheaper item solves the problem.

Here are just a few of the useful (and inexpensive!) items I have discovered:



drawer dividers; plastic dish pans; cubical bins


clear shoe, sweater, or file boxes; decorated storage boxes


wreath storage box; wire baskets; 10 drawer file cart


12 pocket vertical organizer; 24 pocket door shoe organizer; cubical shelves; free standing clothing racks


wooden turn table; plastic trash bag holder


I do enjoy browsing at The Container Store when I visit Nashville! It would be quite easy to spend a lot there. However, I can say without hesitation that my favorite lower priced items are their crystal clear drawer dividers. They instantly upgrade any drawer to fabulous and add a simple touch of luxury. I have used them in my kitchen for utensils and in my vanity for jewelry.

I was helping my brother organize a small bedroom closet a few weeks ago. The closet rod was simply too high and rather awkward to use. We found a free-standing clothing rack at Wal-Mart that was perfect. It even included 4 shelves on the side and a shelf across the top. The bonus was the note on the box that mentioned no tools required for assembly! And less than $40! It truly transformed his closet. He can enjoy this simple solution every single day. As he put it,

“I actually like using this!”


Don’t rush out to get the most expensive “must have” organizing item. Take time to reuse or recycle items you already have. Be willing to try a different solution. Enjoy the challenge of thrifty organizing!


Olive Wagar

Author Olive Wagar

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Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Monique says:

    I completely 100% agree with this! I am all about upcycling and making use of what I already have, the less money I have to spend the better! I feel like people get intimated by places like the container store and IKEA. Feeling like they have to spend hundreds, even thousands on furniture and bins of sorts to get organized. Olive, you made a wonderful point, use those displays and photos in catalogs as inspiration! Organizing is unique for each individual and each individual needs their own system!

    • Olive says:

      I’m so glad you joined the conversation, Monique! I truly enjoy the challenge of upcycling and repurposing items in my home! And it certainly adds a touch of personality!! It makes for a unique way to tell our story.

  • Melanie Roseberry says:

    I love the decorative boxes from Dollar General. I have a stack of different designs and different sizes at least 4 feet tall! Great storage for crafts, pictures, cards, etc. I have a post it note on the back of the top one with a list of what is in each one!

    • Olive says:

      Very clever, Melanie, to add the note on the top box!! I really think they have a great assortment of boxes. I also have several in my home. Recently I gave one filled with fresh fruit as a gift to a grieving family. I enclosed a note for them to use it as a memory box for cards and other special items in memory of their loved one.

  • Kathy McEwan says:

    Great tips Olive. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love the idea of using an old ladder for a towel rack – it would work especially well in an old house with a small bathroom, where it would enhance the house’s charm!

  • Olive says:

    Yes, I like that idea too, Janet! And I probably would never have imagined doing that unless I had seen it in that delightful book!! Such little details really make a difference.

  • sue west says:

    So creative! I love how you use the pictures to generate creativity, to open up to new “possibilities.” It takes a creative mind to think about using a product in very different ways.

  • Olive says:

    I had to go to 3 Aldi stores to find that 10 drawer cart in stock, but it was $20 well worth it!! It now sits right beside my work desk. The spiral notebooks for various topics/websites/organizations each now have their own little drawer, thus eliminating piles on my desk!! Yahoo!!

  • As a military spouse, I move OFTEN! So being able to get creative and re-purpose items throughout the years has really saved our family a lot of money! I need to find that book! Love looking at new ideas 🙂

    • Olive Wagar says:

      Thank you, Melissa, for the sacrifice your family makes as your husband serves in the military. You will love all the photos in this book. It helps you think of even more ideas. And they are all practical, yet very clever and creative.

  • Great tips! I find that the more cheap and creative way I find to organize a space, the more satisfying it is. If you are a creative person, making it unique for you using your creativity will help you stay organized longer.

    • Olive Wagar says:

      Yes, Sabrina, I agree! It adds a measure of fun to the process to let your creativity kick in!! And it makes you smile when you use it, too. I can remember being quite pleased with myself for thinking to use coke & pepsi crates to decorate my college dorm room, Nice to see that idea included in the book!

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