DIY storage ideas - 10 things professional organisers always keep to reuse for storage

Discover the household staples you should be hanging on to

Green panelled wall with wooden cabinet
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Most of us know that hard-working storage solutions are an essential part of a well-organised, clutter-free home, but what most of us don’t realise is that we likely already have a lot of DIY storage ideas in the house already, we just haven’t gotten around to repurposing them yet. 

Before you run out to invest in kitchen storage ideas, take a look around your own home. ‘There’s an abundance of organisational and storage products on the market, but you have so much at home that you could repurpose. Not only will it save you money, but it’s by far the more sustainable choice. And you’re less likely to wind up with clutter too,' says Vlatka Lake, storage specialist at Space Station

So, before you start spending a fortune on the latest bathroom storage ideas or bedroom storage ideas, take some time to familiarise yourself with the everyday items that professional organisers always keep to reuse for storage – some of them may well surprise you! 

DIY storage ideas

Before we begin, it’s worth bearing in mind that while our list is fairly comprehensive, it’s certainly not exclusive. According to home organisation expert Anna Elkington, founder of Melody Maison, you can repurpose pretty much anything for storage if you put your mind to it. ‘The key is to think outside the box,' she explains. 

‘Don’t feel constrained by an item’s original purpose, adapt it to suit your personal storage needs. A cutlery holder may be great for holding knives and forks, but why stop there? I use mine for cosmetics; the sections are great for categorising, and I can carry everything over to the mirror in one go, which saves me going back and forth.'

1. Get creative with cardboard boxes

Green panelled wall with wooden cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC / Dominic Blackmore)

Whether it’s an Amazon delivery or a new pair of shoes, don’t recycle the boxes they arrive in, they can be put to work in so many different ways around the house and they’re just as efficient as any store-bought basket, box or container.

‘I like to use boxes in a variety of sizes as drawer inserts for keeping my clothing in order. Socks and underwear can go straight in, but it’s a good idea to fold t-shirts and stack them vertically, so you can see them at a glance. Consider using a favourite wrapping paper as a lining for a decorative touch,' says professional organiser Amy Goodwin, founder of Decide to Declutter. 

If it’s home office storage ideas you’re after, try making a homemade stationery holder from a cardboard box by glueing toilet roll holders vertically inside. Children love taking ownership of mini projects like this, and they can decorate them afterwards, too,' she adds. 

2. Give Gu pots a tasty twist

gu pots turned into storage on drinks cart

(Image credit: Future / Rebecca Knight)

The beauty of Gu’s is not just their chocolaty goodness, but the little pots you’re left with afterwards. ‘They’re great for containing hair clips and ties, especially for kids’, says Kate Yiannacou, APDO member and founder of Tidy Happy Calm. 

‘Another pro tip – the lids from Pringle tubes fit them perfectly, so keep a hold of these too if you want to keep items contained. You can also use those little pots to gift homemade sweets; fudge or chocolate truffles are always a winner.'

'I use my old Gu pots as containers to store garnishes on my drinks trolley,' says Rebecca Knight, Ideal Homes Deputy Digital Editor. 'I painted the Pringle lid in Frenchic Paint to elevate it a little bit.'

3. Sort craft supplies into egg cartons

Turquoise trolley

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

The crafters amongst you (and those with little ones) will know that dealing with a mess of tangled ribbons, loose buttons, safety pins and sequins can take the fun out of any project. The answer? An empty egg carton, of course. They’re ideal for categorising and storing smaller items like these in drawers, as are silicone muffin trays and ice trays, if you’ve got any spare. 

‘You can use egg boxes for storing jewellery as well’, says Anna Elkington. ‘Each section can be used to separate bracelets, earrings, rings and so on, while the lid acts as a barrier against dust, keeping your beloved jewellery pieces in top condition.'

4. Jazz up jam jars

Kitchen shelves with storage jars

(Image credit: Future PLC / Georgia Burns)

Jam jars, mason jars, in fact any kind of jar, can be repurposed for use in just about any room – cotton wool buds in your bathroom, paperclips in your home office, a versatile kitchen storage idea for pantry staples… you get the idea. They have the benefit of looking super-stylish, too, making them the perfect choice for open shelving, or any on-display storage solutions. 

‘With something as versatile as jars, it can be tempting to keep every single one for potential storage, but there is a risk you’ll end up with too many – they just seem to breed! Instead, be realistic about how many you’re going to repurpose, then either donate to a charity shop or give to someone else to reuse,' advises Kate Yiannacou. 

5. Enjoy leftover takeaway (boxes)

They may not be the most attractive things in the world, but plastic takeaway boxes are incredibly useful, particularly the clear ones. They’re usually stackable too, which allows you to utilise vertical space to best effect – handy if you’re struggling for storage space in general. 

Use them to corral and categorise smaller items, such as tools and hardware (no one will see them in the garage anyway) or hide them inside cupboards and cabinets. 

6. Contain cables in loo roll holders

You don’t need to spend a fortune on plastic clips and ties to keep cable clutter under control; according to Kate Yiannacou, APDO member and founder of Tidy Happy Calm, an empty loo roll holder does the job just as well, and without the negative eco-impact. 

‘Loop or wind them up before popping inside – try to avoid squashing them in as you risk damaging the connectors. Don’t forget to write on the outside of the tube what each cable is for, too,’ she says. 

7. Rethink kitchen crockery

green loaf tin and tray in hallway

 Loaf Tin £31 and Small Tray £15 from Falcon Enamelware

(Image credit: Falcon Enamelware x The Hambledon / Amy Brooker)

From post and pens, to keys and spare change, hallway console tables tend to be a bit of a clutter hotspot. It’s easily solved though, a quick rummage through your kitchen cabinets will likely unearth an abundance of pretty trays, ramekins and dishes that are perfect for keeping items like these contained. 

Not only do streamlined hallway storage ideas like these look neater, but having a designated spot for everyday essentials will see your morning routine run a lot smoother, that’s for sure! 

8. Use socks to stowe fragile items

Whether they’re old, damaged or missing their mate, don’t be too quick to discard unwanted socks, you’d be amazed at what you can do with them around the home. As well as cleaning rags, polishing cloths, whiteboard erasers and sock puppets (of course), they’re great for keeping smaller items protected, particularly pieces you’re storing longer term. 

Excess wine glasses, wedding crockery and baubles are all great examples; wrap each one in a sock and pack them tightly in cardboard boxes to keep breakages to a minimum.  

9.Transform wooden crates into stylish storage units

hallway with wooden sideboard and crate

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Why buy new storage units when you could create your own vintage-inspired versions using old wooden crates? Don’t worry if they’re a little battered from their previous life, it adds character. Alternatively, sand and paint if you’re after a sleeker finish. 

‘Simply stack them on top of each other using a few screws from your local hardware shop until you’re happy with the height. Depending on where it’s going, you could fit them side by side, or even mount them onto the wall, instead. The finish is wonderfully rustic; use it to store overflow ingredients in your kitchen, books in your living room, or use as side tables for a stylish bedside table idea,' says Vlatka Lake. 

If you’re wondering how to organise a hallway cupboard without buying anything new, this could be your answer to savvy shoe storage ideas – line the top with cardboard boxes to contain hats, gloves and smaller items. 

10. Hang jewellery in old picture frames

Necklaces hung in frames

(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

You may not think so, but old picture frames are perfect for organising jewellery; a few tweaks and tangled necklaces will quickly become a thing of the past. It doubles up as a beautiful bespoke bedroom wall decor idea, too.  

It’s so easy to do; simply choose a favourite frame and line the top with hooks to hang longer, more chunky pieces. For dangly earrings, string a piece of wire across a slightly smaller frame, and mount horizontally on the wall. You don’t have to, but stapling a piece of fabric behind can make for a stylish finishing touch, and will protect your jewellery (and the wall behind it) from scratches. 

‘You can also use a cork board to create a similar effect, or repurpose other items; ice cube trays, egg cartons and pill boxes all work well as jewellery organisers,' says Jessica Flinn-Allen, CEO of Jessica Flinn Fine Jewellery. 

If you’d rather not have your treasured items on show, consider pegging up postcards, prints or children’s artwork for an equally eye-catching display. 


Can you make repurposed items look pretty as storage?

It really depends on what the item is. While some are probably best kept behind closed doors (think plastic takeaway containers, egg cartons and battered boxes), there’s plenty of items that, with a few tweaks here and there, can be made to look perfectly pretty, well deserving of an on-show living room storage idea, or a bathroom storage idea, at the very least! 

Wrapping hessian, fabric or even just a ribbon around jars and tin cans is usually enough to do the job. Similarly, cardboard boxes can be wrapped in nice paper to make them a bit more pleasing to the eye. However, don’t feel like you have to give everything an update; certain items, such as photo frames or milk crates are meant to be a little on the ‘rustic’ side – a few scrapes here and there only adds to their vintage vibe. 

What household items would a professional organiser never repurpose?

According to the experts, it’s not so much the items themselves, but more the condition the items are in that dictates whether they can be repurposed successfully or not. 

‘Avoid using any items that are broken – plastic containers with cracks, or cardboard boxes with rips, for example. They’ll only deteriorate and become more hassle than they’re worth. Similarly, any items that haven’t or can’t be cleaned thoroughly, particularly those that contained food in their previous life,' advises Anna Elkington.