Organizing with Reused Jars

Organizing with reused jars

Have you ever watched Monk? No? You should, it’s one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s a smart mix of the classic whodunit, a lot of subtle humor and the great acting of He of the “Fabulous Perm”, Tony Shalhoub. What makes Monk different than most of the other brilliant fictional detectives is not his mental illness, most brilliant fictional detectives are, erm… “special”. What makes Monk stand out is that he’s the first with a raging OCD. But what does Monk have to do with anything? Well, I am a lot like Monk. Except without the genius. Or the fabulous hair. Or the raging OCD…

Well, not a lot, just a bit obsessed with order and balance. Combine the fact that I care about the environment, and that I am a very cheap frugal person, and it’s natural that I’ve come to keep most of the jars we buy, and use them as organizing tools. If you believe that reused jars are, or have to be any uglier than the ones you buy at the store, think again.

This is several years worth of tomato sauce that I have been saving. We try to buy most of our food fresh, so we don’t come across that many jars.

I have used them to organize some of our dry food (soy “bacon bits”, legumes, cracked corn, sesame seed, “soy meat”, etc.) It protects them from bugs, keep them fresh longer, they take less space in the cupboards and they certainly look better than a bunch of plastic bags.

Organizing with reused jars: the trick to using jars for storage, and not make them look like you are a pack rat, is repetition. It makes it look

These jars come with mixed nuts. We eat a lot of nuts (“You are what you eat”. Hmm…), so I have a lot of them. They are excellent to keep  bigger items (like pasta), and things that need measuring, as I can get the measuring cup through the opening.

I keep pasta, sugar, oatmeal and other foods in them. They are made of a very sturdy, clear plastic, and stack very well.

You’ve seen some of these already. These are the jars in my sewing room. Let’s see what I have in them.

These are salsa and dip jars, several years worth of them (I have a few empty ones for when I have more buttons), and I used some to make lanterns. To cover the ugly lid I used scraps of fabric and tiny rickrack.

Organizing with reused jars: the trick to using jars for storage, and not make them look like you are a pack rat, is repetition. It makes it look

And these are some more nut jars, which also got the ribbon treatment. I use them for storing some of my handbag-making hardware. They are perfect for the job. Some of the same jars (the ones on the first picture) are used to keep my mismatched collection of reused beads.

The trick to using jars for storage, and not make them look like you are a pack rat, is repetition. It makes it look “intentional”. An open shelf with colorful foods in glass jars are a fantastic way to decorate, add color and storage all at once, and only for the cost of what comes inside the jar. How’s that for frugal?

Do you have any jars you use for storage? What do you store in them?

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17 Comments

  1. I see that the costco nuts and snack containers are recycling no 1 so they are a onetime use only container because of chemical leaching at certain temperatures. Do you know what temperature is the threshold?

    1. Lana Mango says:

      We don’t have Costco here, so I am not familiar with their containers. If you feel like this is a concern (it should), just reuse glass jars.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I save almost all of my glass jars too, but don't have a problem with the odor lingering. I wash them out thoroughly as soon as possible and then let them dry with the lids off for several days before using. Make sure to clean the lid really well. If that isn't enough, you can always soak vinegar in them with the lids on for 24 hours or so and then wash and dry thoroughly (drying completely being the most important part I've found)Disclosure: I only buy off-brands of pasta sauce (store brands), never Ragu. No idea if that makes a difference or not.Hope that helps

    1. susie L powell says:

      I too bought the off brand spaghetti sauce.But one day i noticed that the Classico spaghetti sauce was in a mason jar.so I saved several of them. They are good to put various things in. i have some in the bathroom for qtips cotton balls and bandaids. They look really nice.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi, just curious, I've been keeping my pasta sauce jars but they still have the pasta sauce smell, even after a couple of years. Will that affect the quality of legumes/soy/oatmeal and whatever else stored inside? Do you come across the same problem?

    1. susie L powell says:

      I had the same problem. if you will rinse them with 1 cup water and 1 tbsp salt it will take the smell out. I also do the same thing with the International Creamer containers.

  4. I tried a few pasta sauce jars for this and the leftover smell about drove me batty. I tried everything I could think of to get rid of the smell, but no go. Do you have any great tips?

    1. susie L powell says:

      yes 1 cup water and 1 tbsp salt.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Label maker + empty jars = fabulous office organizers! Individual big jars for scissors, pencils, pens, Sharpies. The baby food jars for thumbtacks, staples, rubber bands. Coffee cans hold tape and glue. They look chic and minimalistic and I can find everything quickly.

  6. Lana Mango says:

    Don't worry Karin, if I had been living in SD when Ikea opened I would have been on a first name basis with the staff within a week.

  7. I just found your blog through your cooking blog and I love it! Such great ideas. This one has especially inspired me to take the extra time to soak and peel off the labels of jars of things I buy again and again and end up in my recycle bin. Thanks for sharing! AND, I love your house. I lived in Santo Domingo for 2 years and even though Ikea opened while we were there our house always looked like yours in my head, but not so much in real life. (The fact that the woman at the coffee and pastry counter at Ikea in SD knew me says how excited and slightly obessessed I was when it opened, but that's another story!)

  8. I too am ocd. I actually designed/drew/diagramed up small labels for the kitchen cabinets so everything can be put away properly. Ben, my hubby love, laughed and said, "You never let anyone do anything in your kitchen. Are you worried you'll forget?" …I knew I need help when I replied, "No…it's in case I die everything will be put away right." YEaaaaah…..Lets say things are much better now and I even let the children do dishes despite the fact I have to restrain myself.To the point! I wanted to share I use glass jars too! I love them and have found that I don't like the fabric and rickrack as it's harder to clean BUT!!! spray paint the lid and voila! cleanable, neat, matches the decor and no need for labels as you can see inside. (Yes, I use to label glass jars….in case they empty you know what goes back inside them! I had an issue with the mixing of stuff…even if it's washed. So! Spray paint, growth, glass jars and a patient family that finds halarity in the anal-ness that is their mother and wife makes for a beautiful eco friendly kitchen storage idea.Check out freecycle and craigslist for jars and spray paint for an even cheaper, earth friendly option for your storage.

  9. Just found your site earlier today- I love it 🙂 Monk is so awesome, such a great show (except it's on at strange times here in the UK but series record solves that!) and jars are awesome too!! Thanks so much for the inspiration- I use a lot of mini jam jars too for little craft bits, my grandma kindly keeps any she finds for me. Love the idea of decorating the edge of the lid with ribbon- why didn't I think of that?!

  10. My kids think I'm crazy for saving all of our jars. Why throw them away? Wasteful, IMO. Plus, have you seen the price of glass jars in stores? yikes.I for one, cannot stand anything in a bag in the pantry. If it's in a bag, it's going into a jar.

  11. Lana Mango says:

    I need a big jar for the clothespins. I haven't found a proper one yet.

  12. I do. In our laundry, one for detergent, one for napisan, one for pegs. I love the idea of ribbon though, very smart!

  13. Little Treasures says:

    What a lovely display of jars!I also keep my pasta stored like that,and seedy things, like maize and corn, lentils and rice and that's pretty much it; then from the sewing stuff: buttons and ribbons, while my husband has nuts jars for himself!

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