Frugal Order: A Tightwad's Guide To Getting Organized

get organized and save money

Watch for freebie finds and recycling candidates

Tightwad organizers know that organizing solutions are everywhere. They keep their eyes out for free sources of organizing materials, and don't hesitate to make creative use of found or surplus items.

Warehouse stores--where packing materials are recycled to hold purchases--are a frugal organizer's bowl of cherries. If you have to store it, so do retail stores. Warehouse stores give the goodies away, free, each time you shop. To pick the cherries, eyeball the box pile and make your selections before you begin shopping.

Reinforced cardboard magazine holders masquerade in the guise of office supply display boxes. Boxes designed to hold cold cuts serve to stack cleaning towels in the utility closet.

Two-part produce boxes hold stored clothing in the attic. Recycled wine cases (with dividers!) organize the wine cellar at home just as well as they did in the warehouse store--and do double duty storing delicate Christmas ornaments or surplus glassware.

Don't like seeing the hotdog label each time you open the utility closet? Paint the boxes or cover them with surplus fabric. The price is right!

Recycled packaging can give organizational efforts a frugal boost. Mothers of young children recycle baby wipes packages to hold toys-of-a-thousand-pieces.

Thinking about family preparedness? Empty bleach bottles store water and purify it at the same time, as long as you don't rinse the empty container first.

Boxes that first hold bottled water moonlight as containers for newspaper recycling, and are themselves flattened and recycled on trips to the recycling center. It's a win-win!

Use creativity, not cash

Frugal organizers think past the label and outside the box. Even when they must purchase an item to complete an organization project, they make creative--if unintended--use of common products.

Why buy a pricey "thread organizer" from the crafts store, when you can store tall spools of thread in a lipstick holder from the Dollar Center?

Ever notice that the same item, say, a plastic box with dividers and a lid, can have three different prices when labeled as (1) a box for fishing tackle, (2) a box for small hardware items, and (3) a box to hold cross-stitch thread? 

Is there a cheaper alternative? Tightwad organizers cross-check before they shell out.

Frugal organizers aren't shy about adapting ideas, either. Our frugal friend admired a cross-stitch pattern organizer she'd seen at the crafts store. Each pattern leaflet was threaded onto a plastic bar with three holes. The whole unit could be stored in a large three-ring binder.

At home, the frugal organizer realized that the expensive plastic holders weren't necessary, if she simply used a three-hole punch on the pattern leaflet itself.

Hit the yard sale circuit

Organizer products are like curtains--they go with the house. The nifty wall-hung mop-and-broom rack that worked so well in one home gives way to a smaller
version after moving to another state. 

Shelf racks that worked wonders in an apartment closet are too narrow for the pantry in a new, more spacious house.

The hanging shower organizer that was just right in one bathroom slips right off the shower head in the next.

Result? A whole set of homeless organizing products.

Between moving house and unplanned, impulse purchases, organizing products are a yard sale staple. If you know what you need, you're likely to find it at a yard sale sooner or later.

Don't be put off by dust and stains; plastic products clean up nicely in the dishwasher.

Make your list and hit some yard sales. You'll get organized . . . for less!