Mary Hunt is the award-winning and best-selling author of 23 books. She writes the Everyday Cheapskate column that appears in The Daily Journal.

“Sorry my place is such a mess!”

If you have to pull out that one every time you welcome friends or family into your house, it might be time to get organized. Marla Cilley, also known as the FlyLady, calls that CHAOS: Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.

Organization is an important aspect of any home. We’re quite familiar with the rule: a place for everything and everything in its place. Right? The challenge is finding that place and then actually following through.

What follows is a random selection of tips and tricks I’ve received during the years from my dear readers. Undoubtedly, some will have a ring of familiarity, and others will have you smacking palm to forehead wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Reading all the way to the end just might give you an uncontrollable urge to get started. You might come up with your own organization and storage tips and tricks, which we hope you’ll share.


Computer cords and charging cables make homes and offices unsightly. Camouflage the cords by threading them through a length of a 1/2-inch PVC pipe you’ve attached to the wall.


Take a forgotten dish drainer that’s most likely stashed under your kitchen sink, and give it a new life in the office. Use it for organizing paper, pencils, pads, cards and envelopes. It works great and will save you a few bucks from buying a desk organizer.


Clearly, there is no single way to accomplish the matter of keeping earrings organized and not hopelessly orphaned. Here’s one more:

Are you always rummaging through your jewelry box in the morning to find a matching pair of earrings? Purchase a 28-day pill organizer from a dollar store to organize your earrings. The box is clear plastic, so you easily can see all of your earrings at a glance.


Once you have your kitchen cabinets organized, take photos of every item that goes into each of your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Then, print them in thumbnail view, one page per cabinet. Tape each handy reference guide to the inside of the cabinet door, and now your family is perfectly clear about what goes where. It’s a quick guide to finding what you have stored in deep or low cabinets as well.


An old golf bag makes a great caddy for all of those long-handled tools in your garage or garden storage shed. It looks cool, too.


For things you would hate to lose in a fire or tornado but won’t fit into a safety deposit box, do this: Put them in freezer bags, and store them in the freezer. Chances are they will survive a disaster quite nicely.


If your storage space is limited, and you have to stack several boxes on top of one another, make a diagram on an index card, and keep it in a handy place. When you look for something, you will know exactly where it is. Store items you’re more likely to use often toward the front, with less frequently used items at the back.


Tangled, unorganized cords quickly can clutter your space. Use empty paper towel and tissue rolls to store appliance cords. It keeps them neat, and you can write on the roll the appliance or item it belongs to.


To keep your possessions from overtaking your life and your space, declare a new personal dictum: For every new thing that comes in, something old must go out. You must obey The Law. It will work. In fact, there will be times you will really want to bring home something new, but the thought of getting rid of something of equal size or value will help you distinguish between a true need and a passing desire.


Use a terra-cotta flowerpot (super inexpensive in the garden department) to hold all your kitchen-cleaning tools under the sink. The terra cotta absorbs moisture, which will help to keep your tools dry and rust-free.


Buy milk from Costco, and recycle the box it comes in, which is perfect for storing 8-inch-by-11-inch-sized documents and magazines. These sturdy boxes are easy to manage because they are smaller and hold less than typical storage boxes.

Mary invites you to go to, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”