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Organize Your Home on a Budget

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Sooner or later, everyone needs to organize their home, but it doesn’t always line up with that lottery win or a sudden influx of cash. The good news is you don’t need a professional organizer (or a lot of money) to pull your space together on a budget. 

Declutter First.

As always, the first step is decluttering because you can’t organize clutter. If you feel stressed out by your stuff and don’t have a place to put it, you might have too much stuff.  Less stuff has to be part of the answer. 

a room with about 15 boxes piled in the corner. declutter first as a way to organize on a budget

Paper clutter is a demon we should talk about because it doesn’t neatly fall into categories, like duplicate items or unused items. Consider going digital where you can (bank statements, utility bills) and scanning paperwork that you want to keep but don’t require a hard copy of. (Do keep hard copies of vital documents like name changes, marriage/divorce certificates, etc.)

Try not to punish yourself for previous purchases. We all do the best we can at the time, and when we know better, we’ll do it differently. (Next time, I’ll decline the anti-aging lotion sample that was free with purchase and waited for months unused in my bathroom.)

If you need more help with how to declutter, read this.

Once you’ve finished decluttering and feel comfortable with how much you have to manage and how much is in your space, you can move on to organizing.

Then Organize.

an organized 4 shelves

1. Set limits.

Organizing your home is about creating a comfortable and functional place where stress is low and your brain can focus on the positive, important things. Here are some helpful tips to create a framework for doing that. 

Work within your space limits. You only have so much space, and if you overfill it, it will look crowded instead of organized. That includes furniture. If your spaces are still crowded, you may find it necessary to go back and declutter more.

Limit your shopping to items on your list. Keeping a list (or lists) of things you need or want will help stem the tide of new things entering your home. If you keep buying more shirts, eventually, your laundry room and closet will be overwhelmed! (Besides, that list will help you wait for washi tape to go on sale at the craft store!)

Make sure temporary is temporary.  Some things enter our home, and we know they aren’t staying. Greeting cards are wonderful but don’t need to be displayed in your living room forever. When you know it’s not important enough to be permanent and put away, decide how long you are willing to keep it. That’s how you prevent clutter hot spots!

If you are decorating, stick to a set number of colours in your décor. It will give you a more cohesive look if you don’t have a lot of competing colours. It’s a simple trick to make it look more organized and pulled together. Similarly, stick to one font for labels for the same continuity. 

Give yourself a set period to get your house organized. This specific goal will make it feel like a project, not a never-ending chore on your to-do list. Maybe you want to finish in two months or six months. Pick a date to aim for and see how much you can get done. You can always adjust it later if you have to.

a shelf with canisters of flour and sugar, bowls. organizing on a budget can be done with what you already have

2. Designate a home so everything can be put away.

It sounds simple, but it’s a great way to keep all family members on the same page. It reduces those “Mom, I can’t find…” complaints. When you designate a spot for everything, especially those smaller items, you will be more aware of those homeless household items that are left on the coffee table or tossed on the kitchen counter. 

Group like things. This helps you keep track of what you have and what you need. It also ensures you aren’t overbuying and crowding your home with more inventory than you can manage. For those who have finished decluttering, this is a helpful tool in maintaining a clutter-free home. 

Define the purpose of your rooms. When you understand how you use a room, it’s easier to remove the things that don’t belong and set it up for optimal function. You need to organize your home according to how you use it. 

3. Be Mindful of Visual Clutter.

Some things will make your house look disorganized, no matter how many organization products you use or how tidy your home is. 

Remove anything that doesn’t need to be in your entryway. (If there is a perfect place to lean into minimalism, this is it.) It can be as little as a storage bench that only the current season’s shoes fit underneath or a small basket to hold hats, umbrellas, and whatever other small items routinely are dropped here for easy access on the way out. 

In your kitchen clear off your kitchen counters as much as possible. This will make your kitchen feel ready to be used!  Remove all magnets and papers from the front of your fridge. Use one side of your fridge if you have papers or a schedule you consult often. 

If putting things away makes you forget about them and need them out, consider functional décor. Corral keys, coins and other small items in pretty baskets by the door instead of letting them take over the surface. Put your oil and vinegar on a tray on the counter instead of loose to make it look like a set. Try to keep some designated space in each room cleared even as you do that. 

someone organizing their piles of clothing

4. Find storage solutions.

You don’t need to run to the container store and spend much money on organization products. Not only can that be expensive, but it takes extra time, and you might settle for something similar but not quite right instead of waiting and looking more for what you want.

Here are some alternate options:

Ask friends and family. Let them know what you are looking for. When your empty nester neighbour downsizes to a smaller place, maybe they aren’t keeping that storage ottoman you’ve been looking for to hold blankets in your living room. Your sister might be ready to let go of the plastic bins she used for baby clothes.

Facebook Marketplace, the Freecycle Network, Spend Nothing groups and other online groups. Your community offers plenty of options where people sell or give away their unwanted things for free. Look on social media to find the ones closest to you. 

Thrift Stores, flea markets, and garage sales. You won’t find the same selection here as in a specialty store, but sometimes, you can find what you want in good condition if you are in the right place at the right time. 

Use what you already have in your own home. Get creative with repurposing! The Lazy Susan you replaced with a tiered spice rack can make a great holder for nail polish in your bathroom cabinet. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy your sentimental things instead of hiding them in storage. That tea saucer of Grandma’s (the one that doesn’t have a matching cup) might make a great jewellery tray to hold your necklace and rings when you take them off at night.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. While this environmental slogan is usually about minimizing garbage, it is also crucial in reducing spending while you organize. It’s about thinking of your things differently. The old tension rods from the laundry room curtains you took down can be used in the cupboard under your sink to hang cleaning supplies in spray bottles. That candle jar is a pretty container for cotton balls or make-up wipes. 

Use the sales calendar if you must buy new.  There are best times in the year to buy particular items. The two best windows for buying storage containers are post-Christmas to mid-January when people are resetting with the new year, and July to early September for back-to-school sales. 

an american dollar bill with some coins

Can it really be that easy to organize on a budget? 

Yes, you can do this. Let’s look at a few of the obstacles that might crop up and see how you can shift your mindset.

I’m not an organized person. That’s okay. Maybe you were disorganized because you had too much stuff, you didn’t have storage systems to organize your home or didn’t have places to put things away. You can develop new habits and get improve your organization skills.

I fell in love with an organizing system I can’t afford. Think of those photos you have saved as inspiration. What you love? If it’s everything organized in pretty boxes with labels, you can use wrapping paper, contact paper or paint to make cardboard boxes match. A wire magazine rack can be painted to look high end and used in the pantry, garage or bathroom to sort items.

I don’t have time to organize my home. Make room in your time budget. What can you spend? Do you have ten or five minutes a day in the morning and again at night? Commit to tackling one or two small areas at a time.

It’s too complicated. It doesn’t have to be. Maybe you need fewer containers and bigger categories. The best ways are not the same for everyone so it might take some trial and error. You don’t have to find the perfect way. You just need to find what works for you. Try it in one spot!

I have decluttered as much as I can, but I still need to keep some things, and it’s still hard to organize. Don’t limit your organization to floor space. Use over-the-door organizers (like the clear shoe organizer) to take advantage of doors in your pantry, bathroom, or closets. Make good use of wall space and go up with hooks or wall-mounted shelving. (Garage walls are a good place for wall organization.)

It is impossible to stay organized with small kids. I get it. Who hasn’t stepped on Lego that spreads everywhere instead of staying in the kids’ room?! They can use simple storage bins of various sizes. Let them decorate with stickers to make it theirs. The key is in grouping similar items. They can learn to use storage space.

That all sounds good, but I’m overwhelmed. It happens to all of us sometimes, but that doesn’t have to be a permanent state. Pick one small space you regularly look at, like one kitchen cupboard or drawer in your bathroom. It could be as simple as using glass jars or clear containers from your local dollar store to tidy everything on your vanity counter.  

Home organization is for everyone. The best thing about organizing on a budget is that if one system doesn’t work for you and your family, you can change it and not spend a lot of money. Sometimes, you will try a few things before finding a better way. You deserve to live in an organized home where you can find what you need, so go get it!

someone working on their budget on a laptop with a purple book

If you are downsizing, here’s a great article on how to declutter as you downsize

and 77 tips to help you declutter & organize your home!

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