No hate to The Home Edit, I live for their Netflix show and their aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed. I love the sleek look of their organisation – but the moment when a car door opens to reveal leaning towers of product is where I tap out. I don’t want to spend unholy amounts on clear plastic organisational tools, and I also don’t want to introduce that amount of plastic to a home with two climate anxiety-riddled residents.
Instead, I wanted to find a way to have the same ‘hallelujah’ moment everytime I opened a cupboard, without breaking the bank or the planet. Since I moved out of a tiny studio and into a two bedroom flat with my partner, I have the space to save up materials and actually organise my stuff, instead of throwing everything into vacuum-pack bags for space-saving. Now, in the midst of an impeding second lockdown, seemed like the perfect time to ‘Home Edit’ my kitchen.
Step 1 – Sourcing Alternative Product
The best way to gather product (the Home Edit’s term for storage containers and any other organisational tools that they buy in for their projects) at low-cost and sustainably is to just save whatever containers you have in your home. I’m talking jam jars, cardboard delivery boxes and their lids, cartons, even the innards of cardboard packing. I managed to make a nifty spice and herb stand out of angled cardboard ledges that came in a delivery from Amazon.
Get creative with the materials you have around you and work with jars and containers of different sizes. Skinny olive jars are great for storing pens or scissors for easy access, and I used cardboard box lids to finally sort out my tupperware drawer, after my partner nearly moved out when opening it to a cascade of falling containers.
There are two main benefits to using lots of containers to hold stuff within cupboards and drawers, rather than just throwing things in. The first is that it means everything has a place and you can see that clearly when you open a cupboard. That makes it far easier to keep things organised over time. The second is that it creates easier access. My Tupperware cupboard is a prime example of that. Instead of everything falling out when I open it, I have them organised into different box lids according to size. When I need a medium-sized Tupperware, I know which lid to lift out of the cupboard, without disturbing the rest, and can easily grab what I need. I never again want to hear the ‘rat-ta-ta-ta’ of Tupperware bouncing off each other as I struggle to find the one I need.
Step 2 – Thinking Long-Term
You don’t necessarily need to have everything in neatly organised containers for a smooth look. Sustainable and low-cost organisation happens over time. If you only have, say, ten suitable containers to start off with, think about what you’d like to have on display or use the most first. These should be your priorities to get into containers first, to make the things you use now the most organised. Don’t get too wrapped up in thinking it needs to all be done right away; that’s how you might end up spending more money than you want to, or getting overwhelmed with the project and giving up early. I moved into my flat over six months ago and still have organisation ideas tucked away for a rainy day. It will take time – and that’s okay.
Step 3 – Alternative Label Ideas
There are a bunch of different ways you can label things at low-cost and sustainably. I was lucky to inherit a label maker from my mum, but you can buy your own for relatively low-cost at any homeware store, or shop around on Facebook Martketplace and eBay.
You can also get creative, with pens that write on glass, sticky labels, or making the most of whatever else you have lying around. Head to charity shops and see what they have in their craft section. This is another area where it pays to take your time and see what kind of labelling style will suit you. It’s also another way you can make your organisation your own. You already have a motley collection of containers, which I think looks more fun than everything being the same – (I secretly prefer my salsa jars to my shop-bought mason jars because they have fun, letterbox-red lids). Lean in to what makes your containers different and create a Home Edit look that’s uniquely you.
Step 4 – Finding Easy Access
Once you have enough containers for your stuff (and this might take a few months of slowly using up jars and boxes), it’s time to start putting things in their place. It’s also a great opportunity to reorganise your space to make things work seamlessly for you. Group things together that are commonly used at the same time or in particular places. For example, I made a breakfast station in my kitchen out of an old Amazon book, where I keep tea, coffee, and cereal, my household’s three most commonly-used breakfast items. These are all right next to the kettle and mean that whoever is making breakfast in a sleepy daze has everything they need right in front of them.
I also flipped my baking supplies with extra cooking materials, like olive oil and vinegar, according to how much I use them. It didn’t make sense to have flour and icing sugar within grabbing distance of the hob because what I was actually grabbing in a rush on a daily basis was not baking powder.
Taking the time now to really think about what works where will make your space work for you. If you can make daily tasks easy for yourself, it’s more likely for your space to stay that way. If you organise things in a way that creates obstacles in your daily life, you’ll start to find ways to take shortcuts – and that will probably mean abandoning your carefully-organised plans.
Final Top Tips
My final piece of advice is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Organisation (for me at least) should be fun, or you’re just not going to come back to it. Let things be a work in progress. Get creative and try out a new way of storing something – and don’t feel down if it doesn’t work. We’re all spending more time indoors, so it’s great to get our homes in the way we want it, but it won’t happen overnight. It’s surprsingly time-consuming and energy-draining, so give yourself a break and have fun with your cupboard clearouts.