9 Organizing Essentials Designers Always Look for at Thrift Stores

published Jan 16, 2024
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Credit: Minette Hand

Whether you’re redecorating in the new year or getting a head-start on your spring cleaning, decluttering and organizing can be just what you need to make your home feel refreshed. But after clearing out unwanted items and potentially donating them to your local thrift store, consider heading inside to see what they have stocked on their shelves. As it turns out, thrift stores are filled with decorative pieces that moonlight as organizers to help you stay tidy in style, and now’s the time to embrace some of these pieces for staying on top of clutter all year long. 

From the obvious items like baskets (which are so much cheaper secondhand) to more unconventional pieces like wine bottle racks, I’m sharing the best organizers to look for at thrift stores, according to designers. 


You can almost always find cheap baskets at thrift stores like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. “Baskets are a great way to organize things and add texture to your living space,” says Tayah Mawer, an interior designer in Vancouver, Canada. “Because the contents of a basket are not visible, you can store and hide a lot of things inside.” Mawer recommends looking for square or rectangular styles, as these will likely fit better into shelves or closet units to truly max out your storage space. “Additionally, make sure you have the measurements of the space where you plan to put the baskets to ensure they fit properly,” she adds.  

Jars and Canisters 

There’s usually an abundance of jars and canisters at local thrift shops as well. According to Mawer, these work well for storing a variety of items, including laundry supplies, crafting tools, dry foods, and even decorations. “One of the great things about using these is that they come in different sizes, so you can choose the ones that suit your needs,” she explains, noting that they’re usually marked at more affordable price points in thrift shops — especially when compared to buying new ones. 

Desk Organizers 

Secondhand desk organizers and office supplies not only come in handy for decorating and organizing your workspace, but they’re also clutch in a pantry, cupboards, and even closet spaces. “Desk organizers and magazine files can help keep your paperwork tidy,” notes Mawer. These sorters are great for repurposing, too. “With a magazine holder, you can use its storage compartments to hold other items like water bottles,” she adds. 


Thrift stores often have a variety of shelving options, including wall units, furniture with built-in shelving, and, occasionally, some floating shelf styles, too. “I always look for pieces with multiple shelves or tiers so that they can be used for storage and display,” says Alex Bass, interior designer, art curator, and the founder of Salon 21. “Also, look for pieces that are multipurpose for organization and other functions — especially when you have a small space,” she adds. This could include a double-duty side table with built-in shelving, or a wall cabinet with racks or hooks for hanging items. 


Thrifted decorative trays and small serving dishes work well as stylish tabletop organizers for corralling a multitude of things. “Trays can serve a dual purpose of not only adding character to a space, but also keeping items together in a more decorative way,” Mawer notes. These pretty pieces can be used as entryway catchalls, vanity jewelry displays, or anchors for skincare and perfume bottles in your bathroom. Bass recommends keeping an eye out for decorative bowls, too, which “help keep the clutter clear while still being aesthetic,” she adds. Because they’re deeper, they’re great for stacking smaller items or keeping a little collection of things together, like matchbooks, for example. 

Bottle Racks 

Don’t pass up old bottle racks while browsing thrift shops, as Mawer says these are excellent organizers for more than just wine. “They can be used to store rolled towels so that they are easily accessible to guests,” she notes. Or, depending on their size, try turning a bottle rack into a small storage unit for reusable water bottles, extra scarves, or even yarn skeins for crochet and knitting projects. Look for racks made of metal or wood for durability — and if you don’t love the color or finish, you can always stain or paint them. 

Jewelry Boxes and Lidded Containers

“Jewelry is one of the hardest things to keep organized, especially when you’re constantly changing out pieces for events and day-to-day wear,” says Brooke Spreckman, the founder and principal designer of Design Hutch. With this in mind, Spreckman says to look for small jewelry dishes, jewelry boxes with lids, or even containers with lids to keep jewelry “somewhat on display and organized.” 

Clear Bins 

Bins are an organizational must-have, and you can often score some budget-friendly versions at thrift stores. “Clear bins are amazing to help see what is inside,” says Spreckman, adding that these pieces have so many organizational uses throughout your home. You can store (and see!) your purse collection in your closet, wrapping supplies for the holidays, and even extra sheets and linens. These work well for memory and keepsake boxes, craft tools, and cleaning supplies, too.  

Decorative Dishes 

If you want to take a more decorative approach to organizing with something a little unconventional, Spreckman says to pick up any decorative dishes that catch your eye. “I love a nice dish that can sit on my coffee table to store my TV remote and a lighter,” she notes. “It’s important to recognize the impact in keeping everyday items in a display dish as a form of organization — it helps you keep things in place.” In addition to your coffee table, Spreckman says pretty dishes can also be used to corral things like earbuds, perfume bottles, keys, and more.