New Uses for Things in Your Office

Repurpose items from your office; on the flip side, organize your office with everyday household items.

Rubber band used as sandwich ID
Photo: Levi Brown

Most home offices are full of surplus office supplies, productivity-focused knick-knacks, and spillover clutter from the rest of the house. All these extra things can do more than just take up space, though. With a few creative upcycling ideas, old things and everyday things can have some new uses and even offer cost-free storage solutions.

Repurposing items (like, say, wall-hanging file folders) can turn home office clutter into functioning organizers. The space will feel fresh and streamlined, and it may not even cost a penny. Old kitchen tools can serve as organizers for office supplies; old office supplies can double as cleaners. Really, almost anything can have a productive second life. After all, who doesn't love a multitasker in the office?

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Pitcher as Office Supply Holder

Pitcher as Office Supply Holder
James Wojcik

Corral office tools like scissors, letter openers, and rulers in a pretty pitcher on your desk.

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Magnetic Knife Strip as Note, Key Holder

hanging keys
Jim Franco

Use the knife strip you already have in the kitchen to hold tonight's recipe. Hang another as a sleek, streamlined memo board under a kitchen cabinet or in another small space. A strip by the door or the garage can hold reminders or stash keys where you can actually find them. It's a sharp way to keep track of your to-do list.

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Xylophone as Message Board

Xylophone as message board
Levi Brown

Technically, the metal (as opposed to wooden) keys make this instrument a glockenspiel, but no matter. Hang it on a wall and use magnets to display invitations, photos, art, and more.

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Twist Tie as Wire Gatherer

Twist ties used to tidy cords
Antonis Achilleos

Streamline tangled cords. Shorten a too-long one by looping the center and wrapping with a tie, or secure several cords together.

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Gift Tags as File Label

New use: holiday tag as file label
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Kristine Trevino

Use leftover, adhesive gift tags to label file folders. Holly leaves = medical records, Santa = bills (obviously—you owe him for the bike, the LEGOS, the dollhouse…).

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Cupcake Liner as Mason Jar Lining

New use: cupcake liner as mason jar lid
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Kristine Trevino

Secure a cupcake liner over the top of a jar with a rubber band. It can be a temporary fix if you've lost the lid, a pretty solution to keep flies out of the lemonade, or a cute topper for a gift-in-a-jar.

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Rubber Bands as Sandwich Labels

Rubber band used as sandwich ID
Levi Brown

Distinguishing chicken salad from tuna is no picnic. Next time you're packing sandwiches, stretch a thick rubber band around each one and label it with a permanent marker. Divvying up lunch will be a snap.

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Clothespin as Cord Holder

Clothespin as Cord Holder
Erica McCartney; Styling: Linden Elstran

Keep a retractable cord from rewinding too soon. Just clip the cord near the opening to prevent the cord from being sucked back in too quickly.

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Binder Clip as Sponge Stand

Sponge being held by a binder clip
Levi Brown

To prevent a smelly, waterlogged sponge, air-dry it in a binder clip away from the sink.

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Sponge as Envelope Sealer

Sponge as Envelope Sealer
Erica McCartney; Styling: Linden Elstran

Safeguard your taste buds during holiday card season. Replace a dried out ink pad with a damp sponge and use it to seal envelopes and attach stamps—no licking required.

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Poker Caddy as Pencil Organizer

Poker caddy
James Wojcik

Dialed back on late nights? Corral some clutter with that poker caddy. Glue a poker chip to the bottom of each slot, then close the gaps on the sides with playing cards to create compartments for stray pens and pencils.

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Picture Frame as Dry-Erase Board

Picture frame as dry-erase board
James Wojcik

Let's see—you need milk, eggs…and something to replace the stark white memo board that's sucking all the style from your otherwise charming kitchen. Frame a pretty piece of fabric or paper, then write temporary to-dos on the glass with a dry-erase marker.

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Accordion Folder as a Glove Compartment Organizer

Accordion file folder with car keys
Aya Brackett

Store your car insurance, registration, manuals, and maps in a neatly bound holder to avoid an avalanche of papers every time you reach in for your sunglasses. It's the first step to getting your car chaos under control.

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Baking Sheet as a Memo Board

Baking sheet used as a magnetic bulletin board
Monica Buck

Set the baking sheet inside a 16-inch plate hanger mounted to the wall. Make sure the sheet is magnetic—so good ideas will stick.

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Business Card Organizer as Gift Card Holder

Gift cards organized in a Rolodex
Mark Lund

Reduce handbag clutter by cataloging the family's club cards and gift cards according to store name. Your back will thank you for toting a lighter wallet around.

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Cupcake Carrier as Knickknack Organizer

Cupcake carrier as knickknack organizer
James Wojcik

For the 359 days of the year when you're not hauling cupcakes, use the cups to store jewelry or craft supplies.

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Cereal Box as Drawer Organizer

Cereal box drawer organizer
Levi Brown

If you're the flaky type, cereal boxes (including the single-serving minis) can corral desk-drawer chaos. Slice off the tops and the bottoms and fill them with loose odds and ends.

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Earrings as Pushpins

Earrings as pushpins on a bulletin board
John Lawton

Face it: That long-lost earring is probably gallivanting with a wayward sock in Ye Olde Land of Misplaced Items. (What a stud!) Let its lonely, abandoned mate rebound as a pretty thumbtack on a bulletin board.

Courtesy of reader Bailey Mulholland of Appleton, Wisconsin

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Clipboard as Place-Mat Holder

Clipboard as place-mat holder
James Wojcik

Hang a clipboard on the wall (or inside a cabinet) to clamp down on place mats—and that old "I can't find them!" excuse from the person setting the table.

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Binder Clip as Picture Frame

Binder clip used to display photos
Mark Lund

Use this office supply staple to create an easy-to-update photo display. Stand clips on their flat ends and place pics between the two arms.

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Business Card Organizer as Photo Album

Business card organizer used to hold photos
Monica Buck

Showcase favorite wallet-size photographs, or make a timeline of school portraits by stashing them in a business card file on your desk.

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Checkbook as Ruler

Checkbook used as ruler

Size up a piece of fleamarket furniture. Checkbooks are roughly six inches long, making them ideal on-the-go measuring devices.

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Pencil as Key Lubricant

Pencil as key lubricant
James Wojcik

If a key is sticking in the lock, scribble on its edges with a trusty number two. Graphite in the lead helps the key glide and turn more easily (so it also makes your day go more smoothly).

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Cotton Swab as Computer Detailer

Cotton swab computer detailer
Antonis Achilleos

With the machine turned off, disconnect the keyboard and trace between the keys with a cotton swab lightly dipped in isopropyl alcohol. If your mouse is the kind that rolls on a ball, unscrew the bottom and go over the ball and the interior with a cotton swab, too.

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Cutting Board as Placemat

Cutting board used as place mat
James Wojick

Use a non-skid chopping board as child's placemat or deskside placemat.

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Dryer Sheet as Book Deodorizer

Dryer sheet used as book deodorizer
James Baigrie

Prevent your beloved volumes from acquiring a musty smell by inserting a fabric-softener sheet between the pages.

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Duct Tape as Light Bulb Loosener

Bob Hiemstra

Safely loosen a hard-to-remove lightbulb. Press the center of a footlong strip of tape to the middle of the bulb. Fold each loose end in half so it sticks to itself. Gripping each end between a thumb and index finger, give a counter clockwise twist to loosen the bulb.

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Egg Carton as Paint Palette

Egg carton used as paint palette

Create a custom paint palette for an afternoon art session.

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Emery Board as Eraser Saver

Emery board used to revitalise an eraser
Antonis Achilleos

To revive a dried-out eraser or clean a smudged one, lightly rub it over an emery board. The board's fine grain will shave off the eraser's old top layer, leaving you with a good-as-new mistake-removing surface.

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File Folder Labels as Cord Identification

File folder labels used as cord labelers
Antonis Achilleos

Attach adhesive file-folder labels with the names of the cords' owners (for example, phone, computer, fax, and lamp; or TV, DVD, VCR, and phone) near the plugs. This way, you can quickly ID which cord belongs to which machine—and you won't unplug the wrong one.

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Film Canister as Stamp Dispenser

Film canister holds spool of stamps
Mark Lund

Unspool stamps by cutting a slit in the side of a film canister and threading the end of the roll throught it.

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Jar as Knicknack Organizer

Jar lid used to clear off a desktop
James Baigrie

Superglue the lid to the underside of a cabinet and gather bits and pieces—thumbtacks, say, or nails—into the jar itself. Then screw the jar into the lid to whisk clutter up, up, and away.

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Jewelry Box as Drawer Organizer

Jewelry box used to organize a drawer
Antonis Achilleos

Those little boxes are so sturdy and tidy that you hate to throw them out, so don't. Instead, clip them together to create a neat divided storage area for pens and pencils, lipsticks, plastic flatware—whatever it is that clutters your drawer.

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Knitting Needle as Letter Opener

Knitting needle used to open an envelope
James Wojick

Neatly open an envelope by slipping the tip under the flap.

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Nail Polish Remover as Cap Loosener

Nail polish remover used to loosen glue lid
Anna Williams

To loosen stubborn glue lids, dip a cotton swab into nail polish remover and rub around the bottom of the cap.

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Name Tags as Address Labels

Name tags used as mailing lables

Set your correspondence apart and use a "Hello My Name Is" tag as a mailing label.

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Nonskid Rug Pad as Drawer Liner

Nonskid rug pad used to line drawer
Burcu Avsar

Stop pens and paper clips from rolling to the back of a desk drawer with a layer of liner.

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Paper Clip as Phone Book Marker

Paper clip used to mark phonebook
James Baigrie

Find the number for your favorite restaurant faster by clipping its page in the phone book.

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Paper Towel Holder as Ribbon Organizer

Paper towel stand ribbon organizer
Antonis Achilleos

For easy access when you're wrapping, slide spools of ribbon with at least a 1-inch diameter opening onto the towel stand's post. Stack the spools from largest to smallest, bottom to top, and tape the ribbon ends to their spools when you're not using them.

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Paper Towel Tube as Cord Organizer

Paper towel tube used to corral cables
James Wojick

Corral unruly comptuer cables by running them through a spare tube.

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Pasta Maker as Paper Shredder

Pasta maker paper shredder
Andrew McCaul

Run junk mail and private documents through the device and turn the crank.

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Photo Album as Business Card File

Photo album used to file business cards
Monica Buck

File frequently used business cards in a brag book (two will fit in each slot) for a purse-ready Rolodex.

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Place Mat as Mouse Pad

Place mat used as mouse pad
Annie Schlechter

Surf smarter. Employ a plastic mat as a mouse pad.

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Seam Ripper as DVD Opener

Seam ripper used to open CDs and DVDs
Anson Smart

Tear into plastic-wrapped CDs and DVDs without wrecking your nails.

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Shoe Box as File Storage

Shoe box used store old bills
Antonis Achilleos

Give unattractive filing cabinets the boot and store all bills and documents inside shoe boxes covered in decorative paper.

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Spice Containers as Office Supply Storage

Spice containers used to hold office supplies
David Prince

Use these squat, clear-topped jars (sold at kitchen supply stores) to keep all those loose bits cluttering your desk drawer—stamps and Post-It notes, thumbtacks and rubber bands, safety pins and stickers—under control.

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Spring as Desktop Organizer

Spring used to file bills
Anita Calero

Neatly file bills, mail, and invitations between the coils on your desk.

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Tape as Keyboard Cleaner

Transparent tape used to clean keyboard
Burcu Avsar

Make cleaning your computer keys simple: Slide a 2½-inch strip of tape between the rows of your keyboard. The adhesive side will remove dust and crumbs.

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Velcro as Pen Minder

Velcro used to secure pen to desk
James Baigrie

Place a small piece of Velcro next to a desk calendar and on a pen so you'll never have to search for one again.

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Wine Rack as Magazine File

Wine rack used to file magazines
James Wojick

Roll up the most recent issues and slide into the spots usually reserved for your favorite reserves.

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Zippered Plastic Bag as Packing Material

Zippered plastic bag used to cushion boxed items
Rick Lew

Cushion precious cargo in a box. Before closing it all the way, slide a straw into the top, and inflate. Then remove the straw and completely seal the protective bubble.

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Coffee Filter as Screen Cleaner

Coffee filter TV screen cleaner
Antonis Achilleos

For lint-free viewing, grab a coffee filter to wipe down dusty and staticky computer monitors and TV screens regularly.

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Funnel as Twine Dispenser

Funnel used to dispense yarn
James Wojick

Dispense yarn or twine at a craft station by placing the spool inside the funnel and pulling the end through the hole.

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Knobs as File Pulls

Knobs as file pulls
John Lawton

Make hard-to-maneuver files easier to remove from high shelves with the help of pretty knobs (available at home stores). Punch a small hole in the file with the tip of a pair of sharp scissors, push in the knob, then secure it from the inside with a small screw and nut.

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Ladder as Newspaper Holder

Ladder as a magazine rack
Mikkel Vang

Keep your papers in check—and mimic the look of the wooden racks in library reading rooms—with a painted ladder propped against the wall. Drape newspapers over the rungs and let them hang until you're ready to toss them into the recycling bin.

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Lightbulb Carton as Photo Protector

Lightbulb container holding photos
Formula Z/S

Protect photographs when you send them via snail mail. Flatten the corrugated cardboard box, then slide photos of loved ones (the true lights of your life) inside. Grandma will appreciate the wrinkle-free snapshots.

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Nail Polish as Envelope Sealant

Clear nail polish and an envelope
Amy Wilson

When the flap of your letter won't stay stuck, find closure with a coat of clear polish.

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Napkin Holder as Bill Organizer

Bills organized in a napkin holder
Mark Lund

Instead of keeping bills in an office file (or a messy pile), try organizing them with something more attractive. As you open mail, stash the bills in order of their due dates.

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Nutcracker as Cap Remover

Kate Sears

Clamp the nutcracker around the top of a glue, nail-polish, or beverage bottle to give you extra gripping power. Your reward: Tight caps no longer drive you nuts.

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Sheet Pan as Stationery Caddy

Stationery in a sheet pan
Monica Buck

Let them eat cake…then use the covered sheet pan to store stationery or other items that might get crumpled in a drawer.

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Slinky as a Desk Organizer

Slinky office organizer
Aimee Herring

Hold pens, pencils, invitations, and business cards on a desk (either yours or your child's) by simply linking the ends. That way you'll have an office organizer that can turn back into a toy at a moment's notice.

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Toothpick as Tape Saver

Cellophane tape
Beatriz da Costa

Mark the end of a roll of clear packing tape by sticking a toothpick under the flap. No more wasting half the roll just to seal one box.

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Trouser Sock as Cord Organizer

Trouser sock used as a cord holder
Amy Wilson

Contain computer or television cords inside a stretchy trouser sock with the toe cut off.

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Wallpaper as Drawer Liners

Drawer lined with wallpaper
Ditte Isager

For a flash of style with every pull, line the inside of a drawer with wallpaper cut to fit. Attach with double-stick tape or removable mounting squares so the lining won't shift when you're rummaging for a sock's mate in a pre-coffee morning daze.

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Ice Cube Tray as Office Supply Organizer

Ice Cube Tray as Office Supply Organizer
James Wojcik

Organize desk supplies like thumbtacks and paper clips, or corral small sewing notions such as buttons, beads, thimbles, and thread.

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Sticky Note as Keyboard Cleaner

Sticky Note as Keyboard Cleaner
James Wojcik

To make your QWERTY cleaner, slide the adhesive strip of a sticky note through the crevices to collect and lift out dust and debris.

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Sock as Mason Jar Cover

Sock as Mason Jar Cover
James Wojcik

Want an instant desk upgrade? Place a Mason jar into a pretty patterned sock, then tuck excess fabric inside the jar. Fill with supplies.

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Rubber Band as Jar Opener

New use: rubberband as jar opener
Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Kristine Trevino

Get a grip on a tricky top; wrap a rubber band around a slippery or sticky lid to give yourself some extra oomph.

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