Good Will Organizing

Frugality is one of my passions. That is, not austerity, but finding creative ways to save money and still live the way I want to. One of the reasons I don’t mind bringing the occasional bag or box of donations to Goodwill for my clients is that it gives me a great excuse to go hunting there. The spot I’m talking about specifically is the basement of the Goodwill on Elm Street in Davis Square, Somerville. It always amazes me when people don’t realize it has a basement; that’s where all the cool stuff is! (I do shop for clothes there, too, but that’s more of a time investment.) So, the other day, I saw a ton of organizing supplies there, and it got me thinking how many supplies (standard and creative) I’ve gotten from there. So I thought I’d list the types of organizing supplies that you can often find at thrift shops. This won’t work if you need all your fileboxes or trays to match, of course. But things can always be painted.

Disclaimer: Beware the tendency to increase your clutter because the stuff there is so cheap. Be choosy! I think the thrill of the hunt is the fun part, anyway. Sometimes I leave with nothing; often just one or two items. There will always be new things next time.

Baskets – There are always tons of baskets at thrift shops, I guess because they come with gifts inside, or are used for Easter and then tossed. Wicker baskets aren’t good for storage that sees a lot of use, because they’re not very tough; but they are inexpensive and lightweight.

Books on organizing – Well, thrift shops have lots of books, period. But I bet if the organizing book works, it’ll end up in the donate pile. 😉

Picture frames – Get your art onto the walls; then it becomes ex-clutter. Not all frames lend themselves to replacing the picture inside; check the back to see if it’s got the metal doohickeys that you can pry up. Also fun for kids’ art.

Three-Ring Binders – I am not a big fan of binders, because I find that most people (myself included) don’t want to go to the trouble of punching holes in papers they want to corral, and I often encourage people to get as much information into digital form as possible. BUT, if you do want to use a binder for organizing papers, maybe some kind of collection that’s not going to change much, they can be had at thrift shops for cheap, cheap, cheap.

Bags – Purses, briefcases, tote bags, and suitcases can all be found here. Lately I have discovered the fabulous purse-organizing technique of putting one type of item – like cosmetics – inside a smaller bag, to go inside the purse. I’d been dependent on purse pockets before, and they weren’t always plentiful enough. Small bags are also great for travel toiletries or jewelry. I don’t generally recommend bags for storage, though, because you’ll forget what’s in them, and if you need to use them, then you have to figure out where to put their contents or just dump them in some random spot, which is bad.

Metal tins – Opaque containers can be a problem if you’re the “out of sight, out of mind” type, but if you are okay with it or you’re good about labeling, you can get tins of all sizes for cheap. Use them for loose change, office supplies, sewing supplies, craft supplies, jewelry, whatever! And you don’t have to keep the lids on. And they can be painted if they’re ugly (which they often are).

Tackle boxes – A standard frugal organizing item, for craft supplies, cosmetics, or jewelry. Just check for fish smell first!

Jewelry boxes

Coat racks or pegs

Furniture – Not all thrift shops have furniture, but you can find bookcases, desks, dressers, tables, file cabinets, etc. I sometimes also see the kinds of shelves you affix to the wall.

Mugs – Use them for change or pens.

Plastic bins and drawers – These things are pretty cheap anyway, when you get them at Target, but what the hell.

CD racks – Use them for music or computer programs. But I’m more of a “copy to computer, then archive in the basement” kind of person.

Drawer organizers – You’ll find ones meant for flatware, but you can also use them for your desk supplies.

Desk organizing stuff – Plastic or metal stacking thingies for paper organization, drawer organizers, wall folder thingies (I really need to work on my professional terminology), file boxes, and lap desks.

Kitchen organizing stuff – Lazy susans, “staircase” can organizers, flour-type canisters, cookie jars, bread boxes, vertical shelf expanders (the kind that people often use for plates), and trays.

That’s all that I’ve brainstormed in about 45 minutes; I’m sure I haven’t covered it all. Also, think outside the box to find unusual uses for things! And remember, things can always be painted if they’re ugly. I just wouldn’t buy anything that’s going to touch food unless it looks pristine – bacteria can get into scuffs and scratches.

I’ll be posting some of my thoughts on organizing for/with kids next time, as requested!

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