Don't spend more on containers to hide your messy stuff than the stuff is worth. Cast a critical eye over old household items or inexpensive discount store buckets and imagine them as neat, capacious bins to collect your unruly stuff in style. Use leftover paint from the kids' room redo, extra fence-top flowerpot holders, too-shabby-to-donate hardbacks and other unlikely bits and pieces to organize your home, practically for free.
Keep your secret stash hidden in plain sight on your bookshelves with a clever bin or two made from open wood boxes and unsalvageable old books. Use a circular saw to cut the spines, along with about an inch of the attached covers and pages, from the books. Clamp the spine end and the open end of each book together before cutting to keep the cut spines even. Glue the cut book pieces, spines out, to the side of a wood box. Line up enough spines so the side of the box looks like a bookshelf with no spaces between the volumes. The book-camouflaged wood bin will hold whatever you don't want on view once it's slipped onto a shelf and flanked by real books.
Those rubber duckies, plastic water pistols and various floating turtles, scrubby toys and terrycloth mitts are the bane of your personal bath time -- but absolutely essential for luring the short people in the family into the tub. Stop tripping over the flotilla. Repurpose hanging flowerpot holders from the garden shed into hanging bins to let tub toys drip-dry while you take a grownup shower in peace -- and relative safety. Install a chrome or brushed aluminum towel bar on the wall over the tub, above the tile. Slip the curved hooks of the rubber-coated wire baskets over the bar. Instead of terra-cotta pots, plop all the wet tub toys in the wire holders, brilliantly transformed into bath toy bins. The bins let the water out and the air in to prevent mold from forming on the rubber frog or the keel of the plastic sailboat.
Got Your Kicks
Random wood crates, collected from here and there, form a unified decorative front on the bedroom or mudroom wall to hold those endless pairs of sneakers, boots, sports shoes and flip-flops. The kicks are all neatly off the floor and easy to find -- you can even assign the worst missing-shoe offenders their own bins to cut down on stressful school or camp mornings or frantic pre-practice searches. Don't be afraid to use scruffy old crates that could almost be candidates for the trash. Just sand any rough spots and paint them in solid bright colors to match your decor. Palest aqua, lavender and sunny yellow will grace the wall of the girls' room. Apple green and cherry red brighten the mudroom. Secure the crates to the wall at the wall studs so they'll safely hold all the shoes tossed into them.
Pool and Pantry Chaos-Busters
Aluminum bins from the hardware or home store will save your pantry from the chaos of snack bags and the pool house from a mess of tumbled towels. Punch two holes in the top rim of each open bin with a hammer and sturdy nail. Mark exactly where you will make each hole with a dot of black marker so both holes are even and the bins will hang straight. Use a carpenter's level and a pencil to position the bins against the wall; check that they're level, and poke the pencil through each hole to mark the wall. Attach the bins to the wall at the marks with aluminum screws in a vertical or horizontal lineup. Roll beach towels and pack them into the bins, or separate snack bags into unopened-hands-off and opened-you-can-eat-this in separate bins.
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