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Organize Your Art Supplies: Shop Your Recycling Bin

Written by Cara Terreri .
Organizing your home does not need to be a costly endeavor. Shop your own recycling bin to find useful items that help reduce crayon clutter.
Originally Published: 10/27/09

If left untamed, art supplies (your children's or your own) can take on a life of their own. Even if you have a designated cabinet or closet, they still seem to creep, crawl, scatter, and sprawl all over the place — but, you can get organized and you can do it for FREE! Look no further than your own recycle bin to get started.

For all of the following, check out some alternatives or some ideas for storage:

Paint Pots

single-serve yogurt cups
jar lids
soda bottle caps
mini Play Doh containers
egg cartons

Paint Brush Water Pots

single-serve yogurt cups
large Play Doh containers
tin cans (be sure there are no sharp edges!)

Paint Brushes:

store wet brushes in an altered yogurt tub
store dry brushes in an old silverware tray

Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils

plastic fruit containers (clamshells)
shoe boxes

Coloring Books and Magazines

turn a cereal box into a book and magazine holder


for a paper tray, cut out the front and one end piece of a cereal box
to make a storage tray system, cut off only one end of several cereal boxes and stack them


plastic fruit containers (clamshells)
shoe boxes

Bits and Bobs (Beads, Googley Eyes, etc.)

spice jars (please only use plastic spice jars for younger kids!)
baby food jars (again, only plastic for the kiddos!)
old or unused tool box or tackle box

Finished Artwork

line dry artwork with a hung piece of string and binder clips
create a custom art clip rack
store completed artwork on a clip board
roll up finished art and store it in a cardboard tube (from paper towel or wrapping paper)

To Protect Surfaces

an old shower curtain or curtain liner
a vinyl placemat
newspapers or grocery store circulars
an old t-shirt or men's button down dress shirt works well as a smock

If you're organizing for children, keep in mind not to over-organize. The fewer containers there are to put things away, the easier it is for them to clean up... and therefore, the more likely it is that they will clean up (hopefully).

What have you reused for the sake of art? Share your ideas below!

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  • Susan Z. 1 year ago
    My parents lived through the great depression. They were the best up cyclers I known. My mother used old clothing for rags, made strips from shirts to tied up the tomatoe plants, and she would take my brothers old sock, Put one sock into another sock, ties a knot and pret the process with a total of 4 socks. These was a toy for our Beagle, he love it. We would throw the sock and he chase it then run around the yard like a crazy kid. My father repurposed jars for his screws, nails, nuts and washers. He nail the lids from the jar underneath the shelves above his work benches in the garaged and basement. Then he screw the glass jars filled with his supply back onto it's lid. There it hung until needed for a project. His work bench was an old chested drawers that he mounted ply wood and Formica on top. It's in my blood to recycle, upcycle, repurpose things when possible. I love others suggestions to improve my skills of being a better citizen to our earth.
  • Jean J. 1 year ago
    I use old tee shirts to keep my cleaning rags in . I sew the bottom and arms shut, make a snip in the neck ribbing and thread narrow strings, fabric or anything I have on hand through it to make a drawstring. I like using these for lots of little storage jobs.
    • Kathie B. 1 year ago
      I used a pair of overalls that my children had outgrown. Cut off the legs and sewed the bottom shut! It has been the rag bag that is hanging in the coat closet for years; wonder which I one of my kids will end up with it once I am gone! Lol
  • Jean J. 1 year ago
    I use my old medicine bottles after cleaning well for so many thing, Today I organized my crafting gems in them.
  • Sue C. 1 year ago
    My kids elementary school class used coffee cans with lids as a base for drums. The kids were able to create simplified versions of a dr for a Thanksgiving day crafts project, Each decorated them in their own special way with colored paper and other items from the home. The coffee cans were transformed into basically musical toys.
  • barbara o. 4 years ago
    I use the plastic tops from Milk bottles for "eyes" in art projects.
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