Live Green and Earn Points


Green Up Your Storage

By Jen Uscher |
If you're looking to get organized and conquer the clutter in your home, you don't need to invest in pricey plastic containers. Here's how to repurpose items you already own — including things from your recycling bin — into handy storage solutions.
UPDATED: 04/08/11 | Originally Published: 01/04/10

When you feel like clutter is taking over your home, it's temping to run out and buy plastic bins and storage systems for your organizing projects. Unfortunately, these products are often made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource), may not be recyclable, and can be pricey. Instead, why not try using the containers you already have on hand, or getting new ones made from recycled materials? Look for the following items — some might even be in your recycling bin — to store everything from makeup to computer cables:

  • Egg cartons or old ice cube trays are ideal for storing earrings, buttons, paper clips, thumbtacks, nails, or stamps inside a drawer. Baby food jars or metal mint tins can also hold knickknacks like AA batteries, safety pins, hairpins, rubber bands, or matches.

  • Glass jars or small drinking glasses are perfect for sorting q-tips, cotton balls, makeup brushes, lipsticks, or emery boards in a medicine cabinet. Vintage bowls and saucers make great holders for soaps.

  • An old metal wine rack or wooden wine crates can also be repurposed for bathroom storage and used to hold rolled up towels, shampoo bottles, and other supplies.

  • Stash greeting cards, photos, computer games, DVDs, or CDs in shoeboxes. Shoeboxes also make good drawer dividers.

  • Old ceramic flowerpots make decorative holders for hairbrushes, kitchen utensils, pens and pencils, loose change, or craft supplies like rulers and scissors.

  • An over-the-door hanging shoe organizer can be used to store computer cables, power adapters, and other gizmos in your home office, art supplies in your craft room, or hats and gloves in your hall closet.

  • Baskets of all sizes are amazingly versatile — use them to hold toys, mail, remote controls, cleaning supplies, or as even recycling bins.

  • Drawers salvaged from an old dresser can be painted and converted into a customized modular storage unit.

  • Americans spent $7.2 billion on home organization products in 2008, according to a study by The Freedonia Group, a business research firm.

  • When you are shopping for new containers, look for ones made from recycled materials. There are many baskets made from unique materials — keep an eye out for baskets made from (for example) repurposed newspaper, discarded plastic food wrappers, reclaimed wine barrels, and even the scrap foam rubber from flip-flop factories. They all make stylish catch-alls, and some are big enough to even hold newspapers or firewood. However you use them, they will definitely give new life to materials that would otherwise be trash.

  • Best of all are organizing products that can be easily recycled, like magazine files and storage boxes made from 100% post-consumer recycled fiberboard, which can eventually be recycled right along with your household paper.

Can you recommend ways to repurpose containers you already own or storage products made from recycled materials? Share them with us by commenting below.

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  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    great ideas.
  • Gregory B. 6 years ago
    Glass jars for screws, nut, bolts, and other hardware items. We've used gift boxes as storage boxes on our shelves. Tiffany's or others usually look pretty and are very functional. Hanging shelves (made of canvas and the like) we buy new for our clothes and when they wear out they move down the chain to the shoe closet, the basement and the garage. Glass jars also work great for other pantry items like seeds and grains, flours and sugars, dried fruits, etc. and if they look nice, they can even work as vases or decorative candle holders.
  • Margaret D. 6 years ago
    I buy lots of applesauce. I am now using the jars as canisters. I have meal and dried beans in them. Most applesauce brands I have seen recently have that easy grip side sort of like Folger's coffee cans. You can get huge jars of applesauce at Sam's Club. We bought a 50s rancher and I think the jars for canisters is more in keeping with the 50s character of the house.
    I made myself a car cup for water when I lived in Houston. Old people need ice water at the ready for at least 10 months of the year. I took a plastic mayo jar, had my hubby drill 2 holes in the lid, stuck in a bendy soda straw and VOILA! Cheap unbreakable car cup.
  • 6 years ago
    I saved a bunch of the Mini Wheat cereal boxes,the larger size ones as a file folder. Taped up the opening. Turned it side ways recut the opening there. Taped down the opening. Used another box cut it up tp make my tabs & taped them on the box!! This one works great for a normal size mail & paper work bills you want to keep. Plus when you need a certain one easy to get out & put back.. Each drawer holds quite a few.The legal size file cabinet will hold 2 extra on the sides. I've 2, 4-drawer file cabinets & its so so easy to find things, now that all is switched over to the boxes. Looks cleaner easy to see what your after.
  • 6 years ago
    I use the large plastic jars of mayo/peanut butter containers to store extra macorni,sunflower seeds, rice or the little extra what evers..When a larger container is to big!! The lids from the coffee cans make great spoon rest when cooking.I reuse them till they have to be tossed in recycl!e
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