You’ll be happy to know that not all organizing projects require purchasing new items for containment and storage. You can often find wonderful supplies to purchase secondhand. You see, people tend to buy items like that with good intentions and then find that they aren’t the right fit for their situation. So, they get saved for a while then end up in second-hand and thrift stores in really great condition. In fact, our team often ends up taking "saved" containers, bins, and organizing products to be donated as we help clients downsize, declutter, and simplify their lives.
The point is, whether you’re shopping thrift and second-hand shops, or yard and estate sales, it’s pretty easy to find something you can use for your project.
A Word of Caution About Shopping the “Deals”
I have to say, I'm a little hesitant to tell my readers to go shopping at a thrift store. I know you all have goals of getting organized and living with less clutter, and there’s a lot of temptation in bargain hunting. You have to be very conscious about what you bring into your spaces, so you don't end up with unnecessary items that work against your goals.
Just because something is useful and inexpensive doesn't mean it's a good idea to take it home.
If you go shopping for second-hand organizing supplies, have a clear vision of what you are looking for. Imagine the quality, size, and style you want before going to see what is available. If the items you find don't meet your requirements and needs, they are not the right fit. Leave them for someone else.
I love thrift shopping for many reasons, including the following:
I'm frugal. I love to save money, and I love getting perfectly good items from the thrift store at a huge discount compared to retail stores.
I want to make sustainable choices. Shopping second-hand is a great way to give perfectly good items another life, diverting them from the landfill, as well as reducing the demand for new products to be produced with raw materials.
It's entertaining! It's like a treasure hunt, and you can find the most interesting things.
Second-hand items can have so much character. Items in thrift stores come from a variety of sources. I often find that these items have more character, design, and quality than what I can find in big box stores.
Here are some organizing supplies to look for in your local thrift shop.
Drawer Organizers - Silverware trays, desk drawer trays, and small boxes are a great way to organize your drawers, and these items are easy to find in thrift shops. By the way, ice cube trays make great drawer organizers for small jewelry!
Shoe Boxes - I've been at the thrift store many times and come across stacks and stacks of shoe-sized plastic boxes with lids in fantastic condition. We all know situations change and a system (like clear shoe boxes) may work in one closet but then when you move or reconfigure, an over-the-door shoe pocket organizer might be better. All those perfectly usable boxes end up (hopefully) where someone else can get them at a bargain and repurpose them.
Large-Lidded Totes and Plastic Drawers - These items are fantastic for storing out-of-season items like holiday decor and clothing, camping gear, and sentimental memory items.
Shelves and Storage - Many larger thrift stores, second-hand shops, estate sales, and yard sales have furniture offerings including wonderful storage pieces. If you need a shelf or closed storage like an armoire or freestanding wardrobe, check your local second-hand shops and estate sales. You can often get sturdy, high-quality items at a fraction of the price of buying them new. I've also seen many foot lockers and trunks that make great storage at the end of a bed or the bottom of a closet.
Baskets - Beautiful baskets are great for organizing items you want easy access to or to display, such as magazines, toiletries in a guest bath, or fresh fruit on a breakfast table. You can use large baskets for laundry, stuffed animals, or storing extra blankets. But the high-quality ones can be pricey if you buy brand new. The thrift stores always have a great selection of baskets.
Psst… The next time you are giving a gift, consider arranging the items in a reusable gift container like a basket. It's a lovely way to avoid gift wrap and gift bags that typically just end up in the trash or are saved for far too long for an imagined reuse that never comes.
Trays - Trays are a lovely way to organize a horizontal surface. Items on bathroom countertops, dresser tops, side tables, and buffets can feel more organized when we give them a tray to "anchor" them and corral them to their home. Trays of all types and materials can be found in thrift shops.
Jars - Jars of all shapes and sizes are readily available second hand and these are wonderful for decanting food, storing little bits and bobs, and holding art supplies.
Steps Stools - Sometimes you need just a little more height to access that top shelf. Or maybe you have little ones and want to empower them with more independence to reach their clothes, the sink, or the silverware drawer. A thrift store is a great place to find a variety of step stools.
Clocks - "Wait.... What? Ginger, why are you listing clocks? A clock isn’t an organizing tool," you say. Ah, but they are! When it comes to organizing your time and attention (also known as productivity, the sister skill to organizing), a clock, specifically a big, clearly visible, easy-to-read analog wall clock, is a wonderful tool.
I could go into more detail about the psychology behind using an analog clock; but basically, when we see the time ticking by, it registers differently in our brains than looking at a digital clock or phone. It makes us take the passing of time more seriously. Anyway, you can find lovely clocks secondhand. Just try to test them to make sure they still function before purchasing.
Kitchen Timers - Along the same lines as clocks are kitchen timers. These handy little timers are not just for boiling your eggs to perfection. Find one at the thrift store and use it to keep yourself on schedule, try the Pomodoro Technique, or foster the habit of tidying your space for just 10-15 minutes each day. Small habits like this make a huge difference, and a little timer can be just the right helper.
Bulletin Boards and Dry-Erase Boards - Wow! These are a real steal secondhand. You can collect a few small cork boards and dry-erase boards for your home where you post calendars, reminders, grocery lists, and more. Hang your wall clock nearby and you have yourself a home command center!
Sticky Notes, List Pads, Labels, and Stationary - I always check the office supply aisle. You can find brand-new stationery that can help you get organized and productive.
Office and Filing Supplies - Do you have a big paper organizing project? Before you go to the office supply store, check the thrift store. You can often find boxes of file folders, hanging folders, index cards, paper trays, clipboards, and banker boxes.
Photo Albums and Frames - If you are organizing your photos, consider the thrift store for lovely large photo albums, photo boxes, and frames.
Books and Magazines on Organizing - You can get really fantastic reading material for a fraction of the retail price at the thrift store including books on organizing and productivity, as well as home décor. Remember to check the kids’ sections for titles to get your kiddos on board with your organizing goals. Contact us if you would like my recommendations!
This list may have been exhausting to read through, but it’s far from exhaustive. There are so many things that can not only save you money when bought secondhand, but they can inspire you! And who doesn’t need a little inspiration from time to time?
Now, I’m curious. What useful items have YOU found in the thrift shop or at a yard sale?