Finding the best low-cost organizers

Step into an organizing store and the promise of a place for everything can seem so appealing — until big-time sticker shock sets in.
But is it really necessary to spend that much money just to store stuff? ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, recently shared advice on how to tame trouble spots around the house with low or even no-cost items.
“No one should have to spend $20 for a shoe-box bin or $30 for a linen-lined basket to keep their house in order,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, the editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Many solutions to clutter can often be found among items you already have around the house.”
Shopsmart budget-friendly organizing tips
ShopSmart offers advice for parting with the items we all tend to accumulate and nowing which organizing tools to avoid purchasing:
— Shoe boxes. Makeover old shoe boxes with wrapping paper, contact paper, fabric or leftover wallpaper to hold office and craft supplies, remotes and travel-size toiletries. Cost: free.
— Acrylic cubbies. These see-through compartments come in a variety of boxy shapes and can give a vanity or desk a fast makeover. They hold items like makeup, jewelry and office supplies, and the flush edges allow for close placement and can be added on to as needs grow. Cost: $15 to $25, depending on the size.
— Over-the-door shoe bags. Great for more than just shoes, they make things easy to reach and hold lots of items. Rein in closet clutter by storing gloves, hats and scarves, or use it in the bathroom for blow-dryers, curling irons and toiletries. Cost: about $10 to $15.
— Plastic linen bags. Stash items like non-wool sweaters and out-of-season clothes in these sturdy and see-through bags whenever buying a new set of sheets or a comforter — and avoid the need to buy expensive sweater bags. Cost: free.
— Lazy Susans. They are one of the most versatile organizing tools around as they are great in the laundry room for detergents, under the sink for cleaning supplies and on the crafts table for art supplies. Cost: from $5 for the small plastic ones up to $20 to $40 for fancier types with stainless-steel or bamboo finishes.
— Baskets. Small square baskets make nice desk organizers, and big baskets can house rolled towels in the bathroom, magazines or wood in the living room. They also make a great temporary storage area at the top or bottom of a staircase. Cost: free for those who have them; at a store, they cost $10 to $40.
— Trays. Trays give things a specific spot to land and define a specific area. Put items in a tray, and they will look neater. Use them to corral vitamins in the kitchen, hold perfumes on a pretty vintage tray, or place a sturdy one in the mudroom for shoes. Cost: free for those who have them; melamine ones cost $20, and mirrored ones run about $30.
— Hooks. Place hooks where people tend to drop their things, in a mudroom or entryway. Use staggered hooks on the inside of a closet for handbags. In the garage, mount hooks and suspend mesh bags for sports equipment in place of expensive shelving units. Cost: a couple of dollars and up.
— Metal tins. Old tins that housed tea, candy or cookies can be turned into organizers. Unlike baskets or shoe boxes, tins will keep items dry, making them ideal for first-aid items and power-outage supplies such as batteries, candles and flashlights. Cost: free.
— Plastic wastebaskets. Sturdy, roomy and generally cheaper than bins, use small ones for kids’ and pets’ toys. Rolled items like blueprints, wrapping papers and drawings fit nicely, as do baseball bats and hockey sticks. Spray-paint a bunch to look like a set. Cost: less than $10 and up.

Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.

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