closets, goals, minimalist, Organize, Projects

Integral Tip: How to Organize on a Budget!


Happy July!

Can you believe the year is half over?! One more month and a family vacation to Tahoe then I’ll be headed back to school. It really is pretty exciting. Needless to say, there is so much to get done over the next 31 days.

Yesterday while talking with a good friend who is having me help her purge and organize her clothing asked me a great question.

“Is it going to be expensive to redo my closets and drawers? Do I have to buy a lot of stuff to organize?”

My response was simple.

“No. Not unless you really want to. I am a huge proponent of “use what you have”. 

As an educator, I’m always finding new ways to reuse what I have on hand, recycle what I can, and buy as little as possible when taking on an organizing project. This sense of frugality is born of two factors. One, as an educator I’m not exactly rolling in cash. Two, if I can tackle an organizing project for little to nothing (preferably nothing), then that is a double win! After all, managing one’s budget is an integral part of being organized and productive.

I showed her a few pictures on my phone of a few closets I’m redoing in my own house. I have simply reworked the layout of the closets. I have cut down and relocated the rods I already have. I’ve moved shelves and used a bit of scrap wood from my garage to create extra shelves where needed. I allocated shelving cubes from other areas of the house to the closets where they would be more purposeful.

How much did I spend? Not a penny! It feels so good to purge what is no longer needed, useful, or loved and rework the space for the items left over and beam proudly when my husbands said…. “How much did that cost me?” Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. You can see these in-progress closet project pictures at the end of this post.

As an organizer, I will help you use what you have first before anything is ever purchased for the space we are working in. In fact, the worst thing you could do is run out to your big box retailer and spend money on boxes, cubes, shelving, etc. when you haven’t even purged and inventoried what is left. Wait! I promise you will thank me.

So, this brings me to the point of this post. Here is the process I use (and related costs) in order to keep the organizing cost as low as possible. Before we begin, gather some large trash bags, empty laundry baskets, or large boxes to help with your sorting.

  1. Pull EVERYTHING out of the space you are working on. You need a clean slate. Oh, and yes, I do mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I generally just put it all in the middle of the room on the floor. You could use the bed or even move everything into the hallway.  Cost = $0. 
  2. Start with a Quick Sort. Survey everything. All trash and items that cannot be repaired need to go in a large trash bag. All items you know belong to someone else or in another location should go in a large box to deal with later. The remaining should be all the items that would normally be found in that space need to be evaluated for purge vs. organize. Cost = $0. 
  3. Take the trash out right now. Move the box of items that need to be relocated to another spot. I often put it in my front foyer or in a corner of my living room.      Cost = $0
  4. Now do the Second Sort. Survey all the items that are left. Evaluate every single item and put in three piles (or boxes, baskets, etc).  Cost = $0
    •  In pile #1 put everything that you absolutely have to keep. Make sure it is something you use frequently, absolutely love, serves an important purpose, or brings you great joy.
    • In pile #2 put everything that could be donated or sold.
    • In pile #3 put everything that you aren’t truly sure you want to keep but aren’t quite ready to get rid of either.
  5. Inventory and group everything in Pile #1. Group like things together (“like with like”) and keep items that need to be stored in similar ways near each other. Does is need to be on a hanger? Stored in a lidded box? Stored in an open basket or on a shelf? Folded? Stored in a drawer? Wrapped in some way? Cost = $0
  6. Go on a scavenger hunt! Whether in the current room you are or from other areas of the house (or office) find all your organizing staples. Gather anything you already have on hand such as hangers, empty lidded boxes, baskets (various sizes). Got any shelves, crates, tables, etc. that would work nicely in the space? Bring those too! Get creative in what you can use for storage. You’d be surprised what you can keep from the recycle bin to find new life as an organizing tool. Cost = $0
  7. Put “Like with Like”. Now that everything is purged, sorted, grouped, etc. Put things on hangers, grouped items in boxes, baskets, etc. Basically, it’s time to start prepping your items to be stored. Cost = $0
  8. Location, Location, Location! Now it’s time to place all the organized items in the space in an organized manner. Think logically about how you need to access your stuff. Give your space’s best real estate to what is important and needed most often. Things you need frequently should be CLOSE and easy to get to. Things you need occasionally can be placed high up, farther back, etc. Cost = $0
  9. Step back. Smile and give yourself a high five! You’ve just completed a project for $0! 

See?! Your space is not organized for NO additional cost to you.

It is so much better to try to get the job done without adding more “stuff” to organize your stuff. Always be on the lookout for items that can be used to help you organize. Let friends and family know to reach out to you before they throw out bins, boxes, basket, containers, etc. You just might be the one to give it new life.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cute boxes, color-coded labels, etc. Trust me. I could drain my bank account at Home Depot, Target, and the Container Store. Alas, this is not a reality on a teacher’s salary. Rather, I like to get the job done and enjoy being organized. Over time, I change out ho-hum storage for items that look like they jumped right out of a magazine when I have extra play funds.

Now for pics I promised. These are spaces I’ve been working on that have not required anything I didn’t already have on hand somewhere in my house or garage. Enjoy browsing! Since these are in-progress make-overs, I’ll have to have an updated post on closet makeovers when they are complete.

Until then, happy organizing!


Added 2nd self (top)
Added lower hanging rod
Re-purposed bookcase and lining the walls
Master back wall
Master left side
Master right side









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