Getting Organized on a Teeny Budget


An Instagram follower requested this topic: "How to Organize on a Small Budget." She mentioned organizing and downsizing in her request. We think you can do both conservatively, but for the sake of brevity we'll focus on general organization projects in this post. We can downsizing later if you're interested - just let us know down in the comments below. 

You can do this. Even with your teeny, tiny budget.

You can organize on a small budget. Will your house look like a Pinterest photo when you're done? Maybe. Maybe not. But there are ways to do it affordably.

work with what you have

Instead of wishing for what you don't have or letting it stand in your way, accept that you do not have the funds to completely renovate your kitchen, master closet, and master bath. Most of us are not that fortunate. But you can work within what you do have and make it functional (and hopefully, beautiful) on your limited budget. 

organizing doesn't have to cost anything. Well, It may cost you some trash bags and fuel to get to Goodwill.

It's true. Don't let the idea of not having the perfect bins stand in your way of your project. Bins should be the LAST item on the organization project agenda (see "How to Organize" below). Now, you may have to use your creativity and do a little more work than if you had unlimited funds, but working your brain and body are both beneficial to you, so take on this project with some enthusiasm. Get. Into. It. Remember: EVERYONE, regardless of budget, can get organized. 

How To Organize

First, let's go over the basic organizing process 'cause not everyone knows. It's really quite a simple 4-step process: Sort, Edit (aka Purge), Organize, Contain. (Important note: I do not recommend buying bins before you've completed steps 1, 2, & 3. You will end up wasting time and money on containers that won't work. You needto know what you have left to contain and what your systems are before you buy containers and system solutions).

  1. Sort: When I organize, I like to pull everything out (yep, this gets messier before it gets better. Trust me). We sort the items we have by type (i.e. when organizing the kitchen, sort by appliances, cooking tools, baking tools, plates, cups, lids, straws, silverware, bakeware, etc.) This allows you to see what ALL of what you have by category and ideally, what you can edit - aka, get rid of.
  2. Edit (aka Purge): I like the word edit better than purge, don't you? This is the step where you decide what you can live without. I always advise people to be ruthless. This is your home, where you deserve to feel your best. If an item is not serving that purpose (making your feel your best), let it go.  Be ruthless. Organizing guru Marie Kondo says you should focus on what choosing what you want to keep (i.e. what "sparks joy"), not on what you want to get rid of. But I personally feel lighter when I think of how much I got rid of after a good decluttering sessions.
  3. Organize: Create systems that work for you in your space. Where should items live? Is it smart to make a place in the kitchen where your purse lands when you come home, or do you habitually put it in one place - that needs to be considered. Don't fight ALL your natural tendencies at one time. If your purse and keys always tend to land in one place - make that your place! Leave a dish to catch your keys, and leave space for your purse. You'll know where to go to find it and there will always be space for it there. 
  4. Contain: Now is the part when you get to buy bins. This is the least important part to some, but the most important to others. Pick your choice: do you focus on form or function? The ideal for me is a mix of both. But some don't care what it looks like as long as it's functional. To be honest, those people will probably have an easier time managing on a small budget, but there are some  options for the rest of us - which we'll get to. 

"but i told you...i don't have money for bins and totes. i can't get organized"

It's fine if you don't have bins. Use the next best option. You may not need a bin at all as long as you're through the "Organize" step. You may have decluttered the items you thought you needed bins for. And as I mentioned before, work with what you do have and flex your creative muscles to think of solutions.

"but i think i still need bins"

Invest in yourself. If clutter and disorganization are standing in your way (and it is a mental block for so many of us), you can find a way to "create" money for this project. No, I don't think money grows on trees. But I do think you just declutterred your space and have some things on hand that will be valuable to someone. And remember the old saying: one man's trash is another man's treasure. Make every effort to sell the items you're parting with (garage sale, ebay, Craigslist, Poshmark, sell to a neighbor) to give yourself a budget for containers. Having an organized home has so many benefits for your physical and mental health (another blog topic, for sure) that you can consider it making an investment in your health and wellbeing. 

you have a small budget for bins. now what? 

Now we can look at some affordable options. Of course, the definition of affordable varies to so many, but for the purposes of this post, we'll look at three categories: under $5, under $10, and under $20.

under $5

There are so many great bins under $5, but perhaps my favorite and I think, most versatile, are the clear boxes available at The Container Store. 

There are multiple sizes under $5 to contain a wide variety of items, They're simple and clear, allowing you to use them all over your house in a variety of spaces. It's pretty sturdy, lidded, and stackable. Labels look beautiful on these, and being able to see what's in them has its bonuses. I've used all of these options in a variety of projects. 

Don't discount Dollar Tree for fun and effective storage. Check out these options, which I think would work beautifully in a playroom or kid's room. (They have other colors -- orange, tealy blue, and green -- I just like the pink best). And the cost - $1 each. Can't beat that. 

Dollar Tree is also a great option for drawer dividers. Here are a couple of options belows. Again, $1. Now that's affordable. 

Target has a great option under $5. The 11" fabric cube bin comes in a variety of colors. This is great for many areas of the house and fits well in their cube storage furniture.  But don't worry, it'll look just as good on your shelf as well. 

Cathryn Linn