Take a look around you, and you’ll find familiar items that can easily be put to use organizing your life.
Use Nail Polish to Color-Code Keys
Original Purpose: Giving yourself a well-groomed look from tip to toe.
Aha! Use: Color-coding keys. Lay keys flat and apply a thick coat of a different shade to the top of each key.
Reward: Keys of distinction.
Business Card Holder as Sugar Packet Carrier
Original Purpose: Keeping your credentials presentable.
Aha! Use: Making packets of your favorite sweetener portable.
Reward: Always having coffee your way — without a purse full of powder from broken packets.
Laundry Bag as Dishwasher Item Saver
Original Purpose: Saving delicate unmentionables from getting stretched in the spin cycle.
Aha! Use: Keeping mini Tupperware lids, baby-bottle caps, and other small items from falling through the dishwasher rack.
Reward: No more diving for treasure on the floor of the dishwasher.
Matchbox as Travel Sewing Kit
Original Purpose: Lighting your fire.
Aha! Use: Storing a tiny travel sewing kit. A matchbox is the perfect size for holding the essentials: needles, thread, buttons, and a few safety pins.
Reward: No need to panic when a button emergency strikes during a business trip.
Store Toilet Paper in Tall Vases
Original Purpose: Showing off all those long-stemmed roses from gentleman callers.
Aha! Use: Helping toilet paper hide in plain sight.
Reward: Guests don’t have to root around for a new roll in your not absolutely, positively tidy vanity, and you always know when you’re running low.
Magnetic Clip as Recipe Holder
Original Purpose: Keeping the office phone list within easy reach.
Aha! Use: Holding your recipe at eye level while you’re standing at the stove. Stick the clip to the stove hood and your recipe is exactly where you need it.
Reward: An end to the daily dinner dance from recipe to stove and back.
Bubble Wrap as Travel Jewelry Organizer
Original Purpose: Cushioning breakables before entrusting them to the mailman.
Aha! Use: Taking jewelry on a tangle-free trip. Place chains and earrings on a length of wrap, roll tightly, and tape closed.
Reward: Necklaces that emerge from your suitcase ready to wear, even if the same can’t be said for your clothes.
Beatriz da Costa
Six-Pack Container as Picnic Organizer
Original Purpose: Transporting your brew from refrigerator case to refrigerator shelf.
Aha! Use: Transporting condiments, silverware, napkins, and picnic supplies from kitchen to patio.
Reward: A free tote that makes polishing off the last bottle a little less dispiriting.
Toilet Paper Roll as Cord Holder
Original Purpose: Moving the toilet tissue round and round.
Aha! Use: Storing an extension cord. Coil the cord into a hank about 1 1/2 inches thick, then slide it through the tube for a neat package that won’t come unwound.
Reward: Tangle-free power wherever you need it.
Secure Straps on Hangers with Rubber Bands
Original Purpose: Bundling mail in the postman’s bag.
Aha! Use: Keeping camisoles and sundresses from slipping off their hangers. For this stop-strap measure, wrap a band (or two if you use skinny ones) around each end of a hanger.
Reward: Garments that stay put instead of sliding to the floor.
Tissue Box as Grocery Bag Holder
Original Purpose: Helping you through a weepie movie.
Aha! Use: Storing plastic grocery bags under the kitchen sink. After Terms of Endearment has exhausted your supply of tissues, stuff the bags into the empty box.
Reward: Order is restored in your cabinets, and bags are ready for reuse.
Keep Fabric Wrinkle-Free with Mailing Tubes
Original Purpose: Protecting posters and prints in the post.
Aha! Use: Keeping a scarf or a tablecloth wrinkle-free. Roll the fabric around the tube, then run a length of ribbon through it and tie a bow.
Reward: A smooth transition for your accessories, without blowing off ironing steam.
Store Laundry, Pantry, and Garden Items in a Shower Caddy
Original Purpose: Shelving all your suds, salts, and scrubs.
Aha! Use: Stocking extra supplies in your laundry room, pantry, or garden shed. Use the dead space around the doorknob when the cabinets can’t take anymore.
Reward: No need to tip this caddy to keep your tools handy.
Use a Desk Organizer in the Kitchen
Original Purpose: Keeping files orderly.
Aha! Use: Sorting cookie sheets, cutting boards, and jelly-roll pans in the kitchen.
Reward: No more cymbal-crashing sounds from your overstuffed cupboard.
Store Pills in a Contact-Lens Case
Original Purpose: Storing 20/20 vision overnight.
Aha! Use: Transporting non-prescription pills without all the bottles. Pop it into your handbag and you’ll have a headache remedy handy when the man in seat 7A drones on about his herniated disk.
Reward: More room for that fifth pair of shoes.
Hold Recipe Cards in CD Cases
Original Purpose: Keeping that Van Morrison disc scratch-free.
Aha! Use: Displaying a recipe card during meal prep. Open the case and bend it back as shown, then place the card (after cutting it to fit, if necessary) on top.
Reward: Easy-reading reuse of that easy-listening-album holder.
Label with Return-Address Stickers
Original Purpose: Donation lure from charities; bill-paying time-saver.
Aha! Use: Labels for less. Stick or tape them on anything you don't want to lose books, magazines, umbrellas, Tupperware containers, cell phones, the stapler on your desk at work.
Reward: Many happy returns.
Organize Bills with Napkin Holder
Original Purpose: Keeping napkins at hand.
Aha! Use: Organizing bills. Instead of keeping them in an office file (or a messy pile), try something more attractive. As you open mail, stash the bills in order of their due dates.
Reward: Bills that don’t look businesslike (but still need to be paid).
Pack Boxes with Popcorn
Original Purpose: Additional entertainment during the Bridget Jones sequel.
Aha! Use: Packing supply. Sprinkle plain, air-popped popcorn in a mailing box for cushioning. If you don’t have an air popper, cover the item with a plastic bag first.
Reward: Protect precious cargo; snack on the leftovers.
Tote Money, Keys with Binder Clip
Original Purpose: Securing papers.
Aha! Use: A clip-on key chain/money holder that's ideal for your morning walk. Take a 1 1/4-inch binder clip and pinch one of the wire arms toward the center to release it from its hinge. Slide on your key and refasten. Clamp to your waistband with a few bucks for coffee and a paper.
Gather Toys with Dustpan
Original Purpose: Collecting dust.
Aha! Use: Scooping up small toys — Lego blocks, jacks, Barbie shoes, plastic soldiers.
Reward: Reclaim your living room for grown-ups.