Organize Your Office for Under $50 at the Dollar Store

dollar store organizing
My dollar-store organization journey begins.
I don’t know if the correct word to describe me is frugal or cheap. Thrifty? Let's go with "selective.” There are things I spend money on with no problem, and then there are things that I would rather dumpster dive than pay for. Office and organizational supplies fall into that category.

Until I found the Dollar Store (and all its glorious variations). And the dollar section of Target. And heaven help me, Oriental Trading Company -- which, while a great resource is just as hit-or-miss as any of the dollar stores.

What you get out of your visit to the dollar store all depends on what your organization needs are. I make a lot of art, for instance, so I need lots of storage for my supplies. I also need the normal office-y stuff: file folders, a cork board, dry erase board, etc. Everything that is currently in my office was either a free hand-me-down or came from the dollar store.

Here’s how I did it.


Paper Organization

I have a lot of magazines and art materials, as well as business documents, bills -- the standard office fare. I don’t have a file cabinet, so I needed a way to get all these papers up off the floor and out of their piles -- where things were constantly getting lost. I buy extra magazine holders and use those to hold my files as well as my booklets and catalogues.

Cruising the dollar bin at Target, I found both file folders and magazine holders -- and they were cute, bright colors, to boot (though I'm not above painting foldersor covering something to make it pretty)! I scooped up a bunch that day, and though they aren’t always there, check when you go because they often are -- or they have an alternative elsewhere in the store.

On the other hand, I can always find both folders and magazine holders at least one of the dollar stores in the area. They aren’t as heavy-duty as what you might find through an office supply store -- but at 12 folders for a dollar, I’m not complaining!

Totes and Containers

The dollar store is a dream come true for little containers and totes -- and they aren’t always ugly! Many of my art supplies are stored in the lidded shoebox-style totes, but I also found these collapsible containers that are perfect both for desktop and shelf storage.

drawer organizersLook for drawer organizers -- they are perfect for a desk drawer, or even for use inside one of the other totes, depending on what you need to store. Be sure to look in both the office/school supply section as well as the craft section; I’ve seen them in both places.

votiveYou may also be able to find round tins for holding pushpins, rubber bands, and paper clips -- but again, you may have to look in odd places. I’ve found great tins in the wedding section, holding ugly sequins; I just dump the sequins and use the tin! And if you can’t find a tin, think about candle holders -- a 4” glass votive holder easily serves double duty as storage. Bonus: you can paint them or otherwise decorate them to match the look of your office.

General Supplies

Have we talked about how much I love the office supply aisle of the dollar store? Pens, Sharpies, sticky notes, pushpins, paper clips, dry erase supplies, and a hundred different kinds of tape? Welcome to my shopping basket!

Dry erase boards and cork boards are often available in at least one of the dollar stores, though, oddly, they are sometimes in the stationery section. Back to school season is prime time to stock up on these items -- I’ve found several of both in the dollar bins at Target. If you don’t immediately spot the board you have in mind, look more closely -- often dollar stores simply sell dry erase panels, and it’s up to you to “frame” it however you like.

Paper, labels, and note cards are always in supply at just about any dollar store. I’ve found legal pads, sketch pads, designer computer paper, and even photo paper for inkjet printers (granted, this is not darkroom-quality stuff, but it works for crafty purposes).

Their mailing supplies are also a life-saver for me. I used a combination of totes and drawer organizers to create a little mailing station for myself, and now everything is always in one place: stamps, address labels, envelopes, tape, markers, and stickers.

Get Creative

Frames or framed mirrors with at least one flat edge, and the same width can be glued together to create a desk tray. You could use more than 2 frames to create a tray with natural compartments -- for instance, if you use 4 sets of 5" x 7” frames, you would have a desk tray with four segments. If you don’t want clear glass as the bottom, consider painting it or covering it with paper -- you could even use one of your kids’ drawings!

Picture Frames Part 2 ...

Did you know that dry erase markers lift off glass and acrylic every bit as easily as dry erase material? It’s true. Grab a frame for a dollar and put it to use -- with some paint it will match your office. You can attach hooks to hold markers, and you can even print a calendar to sit behind the glass for writing on.

gift boxesPhoto or square-ish gift boxes can be decorated (you know, in case you have to buy a weird “seasonal” one to get the right shape) and turned into electronics charging stations. Create holes in the back of the box for each cable, and position it near a power strip (which you can also conveniently get at the dollar store). Now your iPod, BlackBerry, camera battery, and other rechargeable devices can be contained, along with their messy cords.

Lazy Susan ...

... sitting around doing nothing?  If you’ve got one, or can find one at the dollar store (a rare score, but I’ve heard the legends), put it to use as part of your office organization. Using containers from the dollar store such as the votive holders -- or whatever else you stumble across -- you can arrange the supplies you use most often on the lazy susan and place it within easy reach of the desk. Then paperclips, extra staples, your favorite pins ... they’re all just a spin away! Oh, and don’t be afraid to paint that lazy susan -- a bright coat of spray paint or some creative finger-painting by your kids can add much-needed color.


Images (top to bottom) via: Megan Van Schaick/Silver & Chalk,

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