Thrift Store Secrets: Get Organized for Less Than $5


I love to hunt for treasures. Garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets. Nothing beats the thrill of unearthing a diamond in the rough. It’s my tamer version of skydiving.

My home is filled with secondhand finds that just needed a little TLC. A repainted, thrift store china cabinet. Rehabbed chairs from Craigslist. Vintage bottles that shined right up after a thorough scrubbing.

I don’t know what appeals to me more–saving money, accomplishing a fun project, or owning items with storied histories that predate my own. I love it all!

I know this “junking” hobby seems to go against my strong, anti-clutter values, but I’m very choosy about my purchases. I don’t drag home every little thing that catches my fancy. I must really love it. And you know what? That actually makes the endeavor all the more thrilling. Think of it this way: Would you be more excited to find an egg among hundreds scattered in an open field…or THE only egg in a hunt?

Anyway, when I have time to spare, I’ll often wander the aisles of a thrift store in search of buried treasure. And I’ve noticed something interesting…there are lots of organizing solutions hidden on those shelves! Some may require rehabbing, creativity, or just a bit of cleaning, but if you keep an open mind, you’ll discover all sorts of fabulous organizers for incredible prices.

Organizing doesn’t have to be boring or expensive. Look at it as a challenge of ingenuity and frugality. Think outside the box, and see how far you can stretch your dollar. (Hmm…How many clichés can I use in this post?) Allow me to enlighten you…

Last week, I took a trip to my local Goodwill and browsed its wares for potential organizers. Lucky for you, I documented my excursion. Here’s what I found:


Use these types of baskets to store smaller items in closets, pantries, or even on bookshelves.
A lidded basket can dress up a coffee table and hide remote controls.

You’ll find baskets all over my house: in the bathroom for toiletries, in the playroom for dress-up, in the bedroom for books. I even have one on my stairs to collect items that belong on the second floor. As I head upstairs, I simply gather the contents and return them to their proper places.

This woven beauty is one of my many thrift store scores.

Baskets can be quite pricey when purchased new. I often discover beautiful, well-made baskets at thrift stores for just a few dollars. Big baskets, small baskets, square baskets, round baskets. Isn’t this a line from a Dr. Seuss book? No? Well, he should have gone to a thrift store.

Thrifting Hint: Carefully inspect the basket before purchase. Watch out for broken handles, damaged lid hinges, or unraveling fibers. Set the basket on a flat surface to make sure it isn’t warped.

Assorted Containers

These containers could be used to corral art supplies.
These bins (99¢ for all three!) can be stacked and would be ideal for toy storage.
Wouldn’t these make cute pen holders on a desk?! (Also only 99¢)

Plastic, metal, and glass containers abound at thrift stores, and most require nothing more than a good bath. These types of containers are perfect for playroom (except, of course, the glass ones), kitchen, or office organization.

Thrifting Hint: Check the plastic containers for any scuffs or rough areas. Magic eraser can remove most scuff marks, but only if the damage isn’t deeper than the surface. Make sure the glassware doesn’t have any hairline cracks, and inspect any metal pieces for rust. Also, I don’t recommend using secondhand containers for food storage (i.e. pouring a food directly into the container). With many thrifted items, you can’t be certain if the plastic/metal/glass is food safe.

Closet Organizers

A two-pack of an identical tie/belt/scarf hanger retails at Target for $13.99. This one? $1.99.
This shoe rack would be a boon for anyone with a small closet. Similar products retail for $29.99. Goodwill’s price: $2.99
This versatile, vinyl tote could store purses, shoes, or out-of-season items. It could even hold extra wipes/diapers in a nursery closet. Priced at $3.99.
This old-school, accordion hanger ($1.99!) just needs a fresh coat of paint (I’m thinking something bright). Mount it to the back of a door or a closet wall for added storage, perhaps for jewelry.

Potential closet organizers range from hooks and hangers to lidded boxes and baskets. This is one category that truly affords creative opportunities. Try to look past an item’s intended use. Transform shower curtain rings into purse hangers. Stretch several lengths of thick wire across a backless picture frame and drape scarves or belts over it. Use a kitchen lid rack to store clutches. The sky’s the limit! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist at least one more cliché).

Thrifting Hint: Sometimes the cluttered shelves at thrift stores can be overwhelming. It’s often difficult to see past the chaos, much less think outside the box. You might consider narrowing your search to a few specific items. Before hitting the thrift stores, check out Pinterest or your second favorite blog ( 🙂 ) for ideas on creative, unconventional organizers. If you shop with a plan, your mission will be that much easier.

Kitchen Organizers

Check out this clever storage solution for spices! The SpiceStack retails for $29.99; Goodwill is asking $2.99.
I came so close to buying this double decker Lazy Susan for $2.99. Just imagine the possibilities…spices, baking supplies, a rotating coffee bar. It would even be handy in an office or craft room.
Cutlery organizers are a kitchen essential. Though the bamboo ones are prettier, the plastic options can be popped in the dishwasher for an easy clean.

Kitchen organizers are a common sight at thrift stores. Most shops have a kitchen wares aisle, but don’t limit your hunt to that area. Some places have a section for plastics, which is where these organizers tend to land.

Thrifting Hint: Don’t buy the first kitchen organizer you spot…unless of course, you absolutely love it. Since these items are quite common at thrift stores, you can afford to shop around a bit. Also, don’t let the cheap prices prompt you to drag home a bunch of junk. I call it the Coupon Effect…a coupon/clearance rack/blowout sale can often lead us to buy items we don’t even need (or really want). That’s not really saving money, is it? Bottom line: If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Refuse to settle.

Office Organizers

This chocolate brown organizer would fancy up any desk. No one would ever guess you paid a whopping $2.99.
This brass letter sorter was so cute, I was willing to look past its missing rubber foot.
Files, pens, paper clips, rubber bands. This desk caddy can store it all for $2.99.
Keep magazines or documents sorted with this 99¢ fiberboard magazine file.

Office organizers are one of my weaknesses. I think it has something to do with all the cute, little compartments that allow me to sort down to the smallest level. Even the paperclips have a cozy home.

However, be judicious in buying items to place on a desk. Too many desktop organizers and pen holders become visual clutter. Try to focus on drawer organizers or containers that can be stored on a shelf.

Thrifting Hint: Inspect any fiberboard products for creases or tears, especially in the corners. Also, browse the kitchen section for potential office organizers. For example, a drawer utensil holder could also hold office supplies in a desk.

So, there’s my thrifting two cents. (Hah! I knew I could squeeze in one more cliché.) And post photos of your own secondhand treasures in the comments below. I’d love to see them!


3 thoughts on “Thrift Store Secrets: Get Organized for Less Than $5

Add yours

  1. Will you come to Knoxville after I get my house built and go thrifting with me!?! I’m determined to make this new house organized, and I definitely need to do it on a budget! Love your blog and love you!


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