Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Storage is My Love Language

It's true. I love organizing and storage. I love closet systems, and bins, and accordion files. I love to fold, and file, and alphabetize. It soothes my soul. My constant goal is to have every single space in my world, perfectly tidy. Not that it happens, but a girl can dream.

I have always lived in small spaces. What's more, I have often lived in older houses, with oddly configured rooms, and almost no closet space. The last several years I have lived in doublewides, which seem to have certain universal characteristics. Yes, every bedroom has a closet. It is frequently small, with one shelf/hanging bar, and door(s) that make it impossible to access the entire closet. The bathrooms have cupboards that are huge expanses of undivided, deep and wide space. Cut up by pipes and invaded by mice. Base kitchen cabinets are the same...just one big open space. There are no coat closets, anywhere. There is no basement. There is no attic. There's room for a humongous "garden tub", but not usable storage space.

I have learned to make every inch count. Cavernous cabinets need to be divided up. You cannot just pile stuff inside and expect it to stay neat or accessible. Plastic milk crates have worked well for me, especially in the kitchen. It creates cubicles for things to live in, plus multiple levels that act like shelves. I can also create slim spaces along side walls, where I tuck longer flat things, like cookie sheets and baking racks. The same is true of drawers. Dividers help things stay where you put them. There are cheap little plastic ones you can buy, or you can just cut cardboard boxes to fit.

Closets are sacred places, and every inch should be revered. As cheap as I am, I will spend money on closet systems, to maximize every bit of space. Take the time to really think about it and plan. If you stink at this, find someone to help you. Graph paper is your friend. My current closet is a narrow rectangle, accessed by a slim door, dead center. Which means that you can only see, and easily access that which is directly in front of the door. Everything else is effectively buried. I planned this closet with this in mind, and still it aggravates me. I need to live with this, and I'll tell you how I do it. How about a list?
  1. Maximize the amount of shelves, hanging bars, and storage baskets. In this closet it means using even little short shelves about one foot long, stacked into the corners.
  2. Put the things we use constantly, front and center. Put the things we use sometimes, slightly off center. Put the things we use infrequently, furthest in. It minimizes the inconvenience of having to swim to the deepest part of the closet.
  3. Get rid of anything that isn't earning its keep. Everything is eating up real estate, and some things work harder than others. Be ruthless.
  4. Don't over stuff. Like, if a hanging bar will neatly hold a dozen shirts, don't jam thirty onto it. It will be hard to get stuff in and out, and your shelves may fall off the wall. True story.
  5. Have a place for everything, and everything in its place. Really. Organize it just the way you want it, and always put it back that way. I can close my eyes and envision almost every drawer, cupboard, and closet in my house, and tell you what is on each shelf, next to what, etc. This is not because I am compulsive. It's because I am sick of losing things.
  6. Smaller storage spaces means you have to think hard. Fitting things in does not mean jamming and stuffing. Think of it like the proverbial over stuffed suitcase. You can jam the stuff in and sit on it to close it... or you can neatly roll everything and figure out how to put it all in like a jigsaw puzzle. True, it takes more time and work initially, but it works better. It would be lovely to have spacious closets where things could be spread out, and you could just pluck things out as you need them. Not my reality. So I jigsaw puzzle things, and faithfully put them away in their spot. Yes, it's extra work, but it causes less stress in the long run.
You see, that's how it works. It's a lot of work, and some stress up front, to buy yourself less aggravation over the long haul. For me it does more than soothe my soul. It saves me money. When I can see what I have, I only buy what I really need. When I can see that I have what I need, I am less likely to become discontent and impulse buy. Our belongings get cared for better, and last longer. It also saves me time, because I can tidy up quickly, and move onto things I enjoy more. The same is true for the children. Which makes me less cranky with them, and they appreciate that. Truth is, I nag less when we're organized and neat.

So look hard at your storage spaces, and imagine ways to expand them. Then look hard at unused nooks and crannies, and see how you might use them as well. I built a free floating closet system behind my sons' bedroom door. It was about fifteen inches deep dead space. Their room had no closet, and now it does. I use bins under beds and other furniture. I add shelves and baskets wherever they work. I hang things up, on walls and from ceilings. It will take time, and energy, but in the end it will save you far more. And remember to always be tweaking. If something isn't working, change it up. If your children outgrow your current system, rework it. And know that whatever you do, you get better with practice, until sometimes you hardly notice that you are trying.

1 comment:

kateraide said...

I love this! I, too, am geeky for storage systems and closet organizers. I window shop (online) for these types of things. I go to Pottery Barn and look at their overpriced versions and see if I can come up with a cheaper version of what I like. Like this thing. I am no professional organizer, but I like to practice a lot. Little kids causing messes, both accidental and otherwise, and needing discipline means I don't have a whole lot of undivided attention to spend. But I do what I can in 20-minute spurts!

We have a lot more cabinets now at this apartment, but this was one of my major complaints at our old place. Milk crates! I wish I'd thought of that. I'll have to hang onto that juicy nugget, in case we run into the same problem elsewhere. Love these posts!