It’s nearly impossible to get seriously organized without a little capital outlay. Beyond the absolutely necessary, like manila file folders, an in-basket and a trash receptacle, here are 10 items that I constantly reach for when organizing a client’s home.

— The label maker

The difference between handwritten labels and labels printed by a label maker is remarkable. Something about the clean, easy readability of these labels makes everything feel more organized. I like the mid-sized Brother P-Touch that uses half-inch tape, and I use only black type on white tape for the best readability unless there is an aesthetic reason to use another color.

I’ve tried buying a larger model of the machine because it had a plug-in option (as opposed to just battery operated), but I found I never plugged it in— I am always moving around with my labeler and not usually just seated at a desk. Also, there were way too many features on the larger labeler that I never ever used. At the other extreme, the smallest Brother labeler holds only quarter-inch label tape, and I find that too small to be functional in a variety of uses. Once you see your bright and uniform file labels, you’ll never go back.

— Six and 16-quart plastic containers

Containerizing is a huge part of organizing. It never fails to amaze me how simply putting a category of items into a container and labeling it makes such a tremendous difference in the level of order in a space. In a pantry, you might have several small bags of nuts and snacks neatly lined up, but put them in a rectangular basket or six-quart (shoe box size) plastic container and the tidiness factor goes up exponentially.

In over a dozen years of organizing, I have had few jobs that I didn’t use six- and 16-quart plastic containers. For some reason, there are so many categories of items that are perfect for these sizes. In the closet, garage, kitchen, bathroom, garden shed — they are stackable, easy to label and look orderly on a shelf. I like only clear plastic, with white lids if possible. Sterlite, available in many office supply stores, is my favorite brand.

— Binder clips

If you need to corral a sheaf of scratch paper, a stack of business cards, close a potato chip or cat food bag, clip some cash together in a drawer, binder clips are awesome. I go for black in sizes from half inch to jumbo three inchers, but colored and patterned ones are available and fun; if it makes you enjoy organizing more, by all means bring color into it.

— Resealable tiny plastic bags

These tiny plastic bags from the drug store are usually used for medicines, and I do love to divide up my vitamins for vacation and use them that way (rather than use those Monday through Sunday plastic cases). But my favorite use for these is earring storage — each mini bag is the perfect size for earrings.

— Packing “Cubes”

Eagle Creek makes my favorite black mesh packing bags. I use them to separate clothing and other items in my suitcase for travel. The type with some rigidity are my favorites, but the soft ones are good if you tend to travel with a lot of clothes and need to overstuff them. Unpacking is a breeze when you have your socks, underwear, pajamas, toiletries, and other items already separated into categories in these bags. I also like to use the larger ones to pack an outfit in each if I am going on a city trip that necessitates a lot of outfit planning for parties and other events.

— Bamboo flatware containers

Though meant to separate spoons, forks and knives, I love bamboo flatware containers for the top drawer in a bathroom. They are perfect to organize toothbrush and paste, make up brushes, various tubes, vials and potions.

— Drawer dividers

A junk drawer becomes picture-perfect with the addition of these shallow containers in a variety of sizes. Hardware stores usually carry them in an interlocking style made of white plastic or a clear acrylic type that do not lock but if you put down some rubbery drawer liner, they won’t slip around. They’re great to separate the spare change, paper clips, pens and Post-Its in a junk drawer.

— A good file cabinet

A filing cabinet is the foundation of any organized office — fill it with manila folders and army green hanging files, label them with your nifty labeler and go crazy! I love the heavy-duty, built for a lifetime models from HON.

— Metro shelving

Available at the Container Store, Metro shelving is expensive, but lasts virtually forever and is attractive, as far as shelving for the garage or basement goes. It would look great in an industrial-style kitchen as well. The chrome-coated steel shelves are easy to put together and come in a variety of heights and shelf lengths.

A less expensive version, called InterMetro, is fine for indoor use. I have one large unit in my storage area for bins of Christmas decorations, costumes, and archived files and another in the garage to hold luggage and sports equipment. Each shelf can hold 300 pounds and I have them on casters for easy maneuvering. And even less expensive but equally good, the Costco version.

— Velcro

There are myriad uses for Velcro. My favorite is to hold those junk drawer organizers in place. I also like to put them on the back of remote control devices and have one on my treadmill and one on my stationary bike, so that I don’t drop the remote when I’m working out and want to listen to music or watch TV.

There are so many great tools for getting organized that it’s hard to just choose 10. Do you have a favorite organizing tool or supply item? Email me at