Many purposes for a magnetic paper-clip dispenser

It’s always fun to discover new uses for everyday objects. I recently stumbled upon one of these ideas in the article “Double-duty household items: reader tips” in the November issue of Real Simple magazine:

magnetic paper-clip dispenser

Original purpose: Controlling desktop clutter.

AHA! use: Corralling bobby pins. Collect stray pins from the bottom of your bathroom drawers and stash them in this handy container.

Reward: A bathroom vanity that’s neat as a pin.

Rosario Sorensen
Salt Lake City, Utah

I really like this idea, and I think that you could use these magnetic dispensers for storing more than bobby pins. Screws, safety pins, nails, washers — anything small and magnetic could easily be contained this way.

What inexpensive and clever solutions have you found in your home or office? Please tell us about them in the comments.

26 Comments for “Many purposes for a magnetic paper-clip dispenser”

  1. posted by Michele on

    I use Mason jars not just for home canning, but also for storing other types of food (beans, loose-leaf tea, etc.), bobby pins, pens and pencils, matchbooks, and twist-ties.

    I don’t use my “good” jars, though, to store the non-food items. Instead, I’ll use a jar that has a nick on the rim, a flaw that isn’t large enough to cut my fingers or anything, but which is probably too large for the jar to form a seal if I tried to use it for canning.

    Also I’ve been using Mason jars as water glasses for years. Classico brand pasta sauce jars are a handy, uniform 15 ounces, and they’re super sturdy. I keep about a dozen on hand and recycle and replace as necessary — never a problem to keep a full “set” in the cabinet.

  2. posted by Beth on

    A mason jar is my spare change collector – it sits on my desk and I dump my spare change in every day. I used to have a large water bottle sitting on my floor but don’t have the space for it in my new home.

    I love Ziploc bags – I use them to stash store coupons in my purse, organize small items in my purse, briefcase or luggage such as lipsticks, q-tips, etc. Plus, they are great for making an emergency kit to stick on your desk drawer – tylenol, toothpaste and toothbrush, feminine accessories, small sewing kit, stain pen.

  3. posted by Maggie on

    I love this idea!!! Now can anyone figure out how to get my 15 year old daughter (the only one who uses the bobby pins) to actually put them BACK in the container???

  4. posted by M.R. on

    OMGoodness! Awesome tip! Will do as soon as I get home. I am SO tired of wrangling the bobbypins. I would love to hear if anyone has ideas for hair ties…

  5. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    that’s actually a really great idea and one I’ve not thought of but could definitely use! I have those bobbie pins lying around all over the place but can never find them when I need them!

  6. posted by Alicia on

    I love this idea. I was using a large empty medicine bottle. The cap got lost and then the bottle got played with by my 3 kids and then lost. As for the hair ties. The ouchless brand comes with a plastic ring that they all fit on. You could also use a large loose leaf ring you can get at any office supply store. Also the little tiny rubber bands you can put in a bead organizer.

  7. posted by adora on

    That’s very similar to what I do. I glue a magnet at the bottom of glass jars. I got the idea from Japanese “Urawaza” shows. I reckon that your idea is a lot easier!

    I also buy magnetic sheets from dollar shops. Cut them up and stick them to the back of stuff so that they can be attached to the side of my filing cabinet. Things like calculator, Dymo, post-it, stapler, scotch tape, stamps… It is very convenient.

    Velcro can be used in the same manner. My father and brothers always lose the remote control. So I bought Velcro tape to attach it to the side of the TV. (I know it looks like motel, but better than the daily commotion!)

  8. posted by AndrewL on

    Strong Magnets []
    Binder clips
    Fridge =

    Best way to organize Paper, tickets, keys, mail, notes on your fridge.

    get the plastic/rubber coated ones to prevent chipping of the magnets, which can be alittle toxic if ingested.

  9. posted by twinky on

    I use the paper clip dispenser to manage straight pins for sewing, and for a dispenser for safety pins

  10. posted by Carrie on

    Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen any reference to Urawaza on Unclutter. That’s kind of surprising! 🙂

  11. posted by STL Mom on

    Twinky –
    Thanks! Even after seeing the picture of bobby pins, I didn’t think about sewing pins until you mentioned them. This would be particularly useful for my daughter’s sewing things, which are always getting lost in her carpet.
    Now I need to google “urawaza”. Is it anything like unami?

  12. posted by Baly on

    Hair ties: I have a magnetic hook that is attached to the back of the door of the medicine chest. Just be sure to position it to not interfere with the shelves when closed.

  13. posted by WL on

    Regarding hair ties/elastics (question from MR):

    I have always had a problem with hair ties for my pony tails, as I keep my hair up to work out, wrangling small kids, etc. They were everywhere and would get dirty, or stray ones would wreak havoc in my vacuum cleaner.

    I try to keep the number of hair ties in circulation to a minimum and the rest in the package. I now collect the ones “in play” and hang them on a doorknob in my bedroom. They are not very noticeable there, even the coloured ones, and it’s very handy because I can grab one and put my hair up as I am leaving the room.

  14. posted by Elaine on

    I keep a clear binder pencil case in my purse to wrangle little things, like cosmetics, that get lost at the bottom of my bag. Some people think it is tacky but I love it. They are cheaper and bigger than cosmetic cases and sturdier than zip baggies and since it is clear, I can see what I want at a glance.

  15. posted by Meg on


    I either wrap my hairties around the bobby pin collector, or I keep them on the end of my hairbrush.

  16. posted by Katie Alender on

    In my sewing room/office, I have magnetic metal strips on the walls. I can use these with magnets to hang stray pattern pieces, etc. I also buy the magnetic spice holders with see-through tops and use them to hold my different types of safety pins (quilters love safety pins)–they stick to the metal strips, so they’re always in reaching distance.

  17. posted by Katie Alender on

    Oh, sorry–the strips themselves aren’t magnetic. They’re just metal. But they come with magnets and magnets stick to them.

  18. posted by Sandy on

    My solution to the endless supply of my daughter’s bobby pins that are on the floor is to throw them away!! Maybe when she’s all out she’ll remember to put them away!

  19. posted by cc on

    ponytail bands get hung on a belt hoop (designed to hang in the close and corral belts) it accompanies all sizes and thicknesses including scrunchies and I can easily remove the one I want

    I don’t have space for an easily accessible trash can by my sewing machine so I have taken a food can with with a plastic pop on lid (corn chips from the dollar store, nuts, and hot chocolate are currently in use) make an X across the lid with the xacto then use scissors to round off the corners- it easily holds small bits, the thread is trapped better than in a traditional trash can, and with scrapbook paper or kid art as the cover it looks like it belongs, not like I eat too much junk food.

  20. posted by NancyV908 on

    Coming late to this post…

    Pony tail holders: A couple of years ago I read a tip in a magazine for using carbiner clips for them. This has worked great in my household–the holders are easy to get on or off the clips, & they stay together in a drawer (I like to keep them out of sight) but don’t get tangled up with anything else.

  21. posted by Mollie on

    Thanks for this tip—I bought a little magnetic paperclip holder yesterday! It’s working out great so far, and for ponytail holders, why not just stretch them around the little jar of bobby pins? Mine fit fine.

  22. posted by gypsy packer on

    Ah, the Mason jar, one of the most recycled objects on earth!
    I love the old blue ones, and use them for iced tea glasses and for spice and herb storage, and for storage of smaller quantities of dry foodstuffs.

    They can even be used as an emergency source of light–I found a kerosene lamp unit that is made to be used on top of a Mason jar. Don’t know if they are still being manufactured, though–Lehman’s or Cumberland Gen’l might have them.

  23. posted by M.E. on

    For a while, a few years ago (late 1990s or early 2000s), it was possible to buy bobby pins in a dispenser box that was essentially the same style as this — wider and flatter, but with a magnetized circular opening.

    I’m not sure that they ever sold this product with curved bobby pins (a.k.a. the only style that holds in my fine hair), but I know I saved the box from what might have been a regular pack. I used it for my next batch or two of bobby pins, until the acrylic started to crack.

  24. posted by SarahC on

    For ponytail holders, I use a banana clip to store them all together. Whenever I need to use one, I just squeeze the banana clip to open. Since I store the banana clip in the medicine cabinet, I always know where to look to put them away or grab another one. Super easy and kind of fun!

  25. posted by Angie Rice on

    Perfect tip! I will pass it on.

  26. posted by Osgood Wellesley on

    Magnetic paper clip dispensers are potentially a great idea but all the ones I have ever found are complete junk. Their magnets are so weak to begin with that they barely serve their intended purpose and, within a year, will completely lose their magnetic strength.

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