Updated on 6/15/16 from an article originally published on 2/25/13.
Conquering clutter is a lot easier when money is no object. There are hundreds of products you can install (or have installed for you) that will help you sort, organize and stash your stuff. But what if you’re operating on limited funds or have absolutely no money to spend on storage solutions?
With a bit of creativity and the will to succeed, you can declutter your home on a shoestring budget.
1. Purge as Much as You Can
Unless you accidentally toss out a valuable heirloom or a forgotten Van Gogh – both highly unlikely – the cheapest organizing tip ever is to simply get rid of stuff. Proceed in small increments – one room, one closet, or one drawer at a time.
Before long you’ll have purged your home of everything that’s broken, unwanted, unworn and otherwise useless. Throw it in the trash, sell it or donate it. There, it’s gone, and it didn’t cost you anything!
If you sell some of your discards or take the charitable tax deduction for donations, you’ll actually make a little money. As a bonus, you’ll have less stuff left to organize.
2. Use What You’ve Got
Don’t buy a single storage or organizing solution until you’ve done an inventory of what you already own. Consider repurposing items you already have and making your own DIY storage containers.
Take an inventory of your cleaned-out margarine tubs, coffee cans, plastic bins, storage bags and laundry baskets. Duffle bags, backpacks and even out-of-style purses are perfect for stashing the stuff you want to keep out of sight.
Denise Schipani, writing for Woman’s Day, supports the reuse/recycle philosophy, too. “Don’t toss shoeboxes,” she says. “Use them in children’s dresser drawers to help them organize socks and undies.” Schipani also advises you to hang onto those sturdy boxes that mail-order items come in. The smaller ones are great for craft supplies.
3. Buy What You Need Secondhand
There’s a national chain of stores that sells containers and high-end storage solutions. Their products are top quality. They’re also very expensive, even on sale.
Here’s a better plan: buy somebody else’s used stuff. “Having an organized home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money,” says author and columnist Joy Uyeno, “if you’re willing to put in the legwork of coming up with creative solutions and digging for bargains.”
Some of her suggestions are as follows:
- Search online message boards and auction sites for deals on shelving and storage.
- Post on your local swap websites; request the items you need and trade them for your discards.
- Shop the “as is” section of your local furniture and hardware stores for deep discounts on scratched or dented items.
- Don’t overlook your local thrift stores and neighborhood yard sales, either. Just be careful to stay focused on the task at hand. You’re aiming to eliminate clutter, not add to it.
4. Reevaluate Your Space
Strapped for storage space? Even the smallest apartment has hidden nooks and crannies where you can store things, according to professional organizer and Clutter Coach Claire Tompkins. “Sometimes extra storage space is right under your nose, but you don’t see it,” Tompkins says. “Get creative!”
For example, if you don’t travel much, she recommends using your suitcases for storing off-season clothing.
John Riha, the author of seven books on home improvement and executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens, advises making the most of the space you have. “Every square foot of your home is valuable. Just for fun, we did some back-of-the-napkin calculations based on the average price per square foot of a U.S. home ($81)—so we could attach a theoretical value to the bonus space.”
For example, overhead areas are perfect for installing floating shelves, Riha says, and could gain you up to 2.5 square feet of space worth $203.
With very little cash and some imagination, you can find quick and easy solutions to declutter your home on a budget.