Choosing your organizing products

Once the uncluttering is done and you’re deciding how to store the keepers, you may find you need some products to help you create an organized space. You might need bookshelves, file folders, a scanner, an inbox, some good hangers for the closet — any number of things.

How do you select your products? Most importantly, you want something functional, something that really meets your needs. Price is obviously a consideration, too. But what criteria do you use beyond that? The following are five recommendations for how to acquire the right organizing products for your needs:

Use something you already own

This saves money and it’s a green way to go. It can also result in some very personalized storage solutions. Many people have excess coffee mugs that could be used as pencil cups. I’ve taken a cat bed that my cats disdained and turned it into an inbox in my office. The pretty box pictured below? A friend used it to package a gift for me and now I use it to store my flossers.

Get something second-hand

Buy something at a thrift store or join your local freecycle community or other similar groups and get something there. Garage sales can be sources of incoming clutter, but, if you’re a wise shopper, they can also be sources of organizing product treasures.

I recently freecycled these drawers. I’ve also given away wooden hangers and lots of filing supplies. People in your local group may also be giving away organizing products.

Buy from stores that easily accept returns and exchanges

Even if you check the dimensions of your space, you may still find the item you’ve purchased doesn’t quite work for you. If you’re concerned this may happen, you’ll want to buy from a store where returns and exchanges aren’t a hassle.

Honor your personal values

Based on your ideologies, this may mean you buy from local stores or independent stores or individual artists. It may mean you buy from stores that are known for treating their employees well. Maybe you look for products manufactured in your own country, rather than abroad. Or maybe you look for products that aren’t over-packaged and are made from sustainable materials. Depending on how you feel about the research on plastic food storage containers, you may want to avoid plastics for anything going into the microwave.

Or maybe none of these things matter to you, and that’s fine, too.

Acquire things that delight you

Sometimes all you need is a basic plastic bin, but other times you may want something with more flair. In those situations, look for products that delight you with their design, their color, their silliness, etc.

Most of my bookends are just simple and sturdy, but I do love this rhino, and it helps me to get books back on the shelf after I reference them because I like looking at it.

This oversized mug is what I use to store my kitchen utensils. I bought it at a local craft fair about 20 years ago. It still makes me smile every time I look at it.

12 Comments for “Choosing your organizing products”

  1. posted by Joe on

    All those photos and not one of the cat bed/inbox?! Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. posted by Steve on

    I find the uncluttering is only half of the battle. The other half is finding a place for the things that we keep. Thanks for these good tips on how to organize what we keep in a cost and environmentally effective way.

  3. posted by John on

    Another criterion is to buy things that are unlikely to get discontinued, if you’d like to buy more matching products a couple years down the line. This is an advantage that something like the basic sweater boxes from Container Store have over, say, the shiny, trendy equivalent at IKEA.

  4. posted by adora on

    When buying new organization products, I suggest buying from Ikea or consider known brands such as Rubbermaid. These companies will keep producing the same item for years to come. It’s a lot easier to get more or to get replacement pieces for your future need.

    Another great thing about Ikea is that when you use their system, a lot of their other accessories are also made to fit those dimensions. This is a primary reason I go against custom-made furniture unless you are super rich. You can make a shelf to fit however you like, but you can’t made plastic bins to fit perfectly.

  5. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Joe, the cat bed isn’t sold any more, but I found a picture of it here:

    I used it for years, until I had my home office repainted and the colors just didn’t go. So then I freecycled it; someone else’s cat is enjoying it now.

  6. posted by Doris Russell on

    I wish I had read this earlier. I don’t know if I could have found the things I got at a garage sale. However I just bought and spent a little too much at Office max. I didn’t buy any of the storage bins I think I can get a pretty white cardboard box for that.

    Sometimes I get pretty boxes in the mail that I use for storage.

  7. posted by IRC IRC on


    Thank you for this wonderful article! I particularly liked the ‘Gandhi’ mug!

  8. posted by lafou on

    That utensil holder brought a smile to my face, too.

  9. posted by Gypsy packer on

    May I recommend the child’s pencil box? Its size makes it easy to stack or to store in a bookshelf. If you unclutter one item, you can use it for a second or lend it out. They’re a dollar at the dollar stores or half that at thrifts; occasionally they can be found at garage sales for as little as a dime. I’ve used them to store prescriptions in the crisper drawer, curry mix bags in the pantry, single-serve drink mix packets, thread spools.

    Freecycle Gandhi to this address?

  10. posted by WilliamB on

    “Buy from stores that easily accept returns and exchanges”

    One of the many reasons I’m such a Container Store fan: they’re very return-friendly. If I need something that fits a very specific or odd space I’ll buy 3-5 solutions, try them out, then return the 2-4 I don’t like. Works wonders for undersink spaces, for example.

    The first time I did this, the clerk told me “The biggest returners are usually our best customers. Just like you.”

  11. posted by Dawn on

    I have had this site written down in my notebook for awhile now and today I finally went back into that old notebook and decided to see why I wrote down some sites now I know why.

    I loved this article I sometimes buy used plastic Storage Bins from my local goodwill when ever I see them.

  12. posted by Kim on

    These are all great suggestions, as usual, thank you! I really love your rhino bookend, can you let us know where you got him, I’d love to see if they have more like him, he’s adorable!

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