Frugal Scholar, still one of my favorite bloggers after all these many months, reflects on decluttering and the challenge of living in a historic house with little storage space. LOL! I do recall that the beautiful cottages in Phoenix’s Encanto district could be heavy on charm and light on closet and cabinet space.
FS describes some of the things we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of for sentimental reasons. That led me to google Steiff animals—I have a whole trunkful of them, my mother’s Christmas presents bestowed each year throughout my childhood—which led to this amazing site. Is this or is it not a hoot? And OMG, I have one of these! Who would think anyone would pay that for an old stuffed animal?
So, given the fact that we are not about to give up our 50-year-old stuffed toys or the faded midcentury tablecloth we acquired as a young bride, what to do about storage space?
In this house, I’ve managed to contend by
• adding or widening shelving;
• rededicating clothing closets to other kinds of storage;
• building new closet and cabinet space; and
• using furniture creatively for storage.
One of Satan and Proserpine‘s DIY renovation projects was to pull out all the early 1970s kitchen cabinets and replace them with handsome new Kitchenmaid cabinets. This made the kitchen look very attractive. However, it had a few drawbacks.
Those old Mediterranean-brown cabinets were very spacious, even without adustable shelving. Moving in, I discovered that my dishes, which are Heathware and sized the way dinner plates were sized in the 1970s, wouldn’t fit in the wall cabinets! They ended up in one of the deep under-counter drawers Satan had installed for the pots and pans, leaving that much less storage for cookware.
And the house originally had a generous set of cabinets hung from the ceiling over the counter that held the sink. This was where I had kept two sets of dishes and all my glassware in the old house, built by the same contractor. Satan and Proserpine had removed these by way of opening up the space between the family room and the kitchen. This did indeed look very nice…but it meant the kitchen had just enough storage space for dishes and cookware used every day, assuming you were the type who thinks “cooking” means “warming in a microwave.”
Well, I do cook. And I have a number of items that I don’t use every day but when I need them, I need them. Easily, without having to climb into the attic to get at them.
When I first moved in, I set up some bricks and boards in the garage to hold things that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen, along with various yard care and cleaning items. This worked OK, but the problem with open shelving, especially outdoors, is dirt. The garage door doesn’t fit tightly, and so dust would seep in through the cracks all the time. Whenever Gerardo and his Home Depot Parking Lot Caballeros would show up with their blowers, they’d blow dirt and leaves in through the cracks; same would happen all summer long while the monsoons held forth. Any kitchen items had to be washed thoroughly before use.
Eventually I installed inexpensive garage cabinets. For about a thousand bucks (as I recall—may have been more like $800), I lined both sides of the two-car garage with melamine-coated particleboard cabinetry. Because only one car is parked in there, one of the cabinets could be extra-deep. It leaves plenty of room for two smallish cars. On occasion, SDXB has parked his Toyota truck in there next to my van—that’s a tight fit, but it can be done.
These cabinets hold a ton of stuff. They allow me to stash lifetime supplies of Costco’s finest paper goods and cleaning supplies and still cling to my precious collection of old someday-(surely!)-it-could-come-in-handy glass bottles.
I moved the bricks and boards indoors and set them up inside the closet in the bedroom that is my office. This provided ample space for work supplies, useless old scraps of computer hardware, books that won’t fit in the small bookcase in here, and a great deal of worthless junk. Removing the closet rod created extra room between shelves. There actually is room in there to install another board shelf above the one that came with the house, but I’ve never gotten around to that project.
Notice that bricks & boards lend themselves to constructing extra-wide shelving. The two bottom shelves are two boards wide, effectively doubling their available storage space.
The guest room had no closet. For reasons unknown, some previous owner had removed the closet from this bedroom. Low on linen closet space, I hired a handyman to build a new closet and install closet doors like those in the other secondary bedrooms. He did this for surprisingly little cost—I don’t recall how much, but it was nothing like what I expected. If you know how to frame out a wall and can tape and plaster wallboard, you could do the job yourself. Just because a room has one closet doesn’t mean it can’t have two closets. You could easily add a second closet to a spare room that’s rarely used.
The new closet, too, was furnished with bricks and boards. The handyman offered to install a set of built-in shelves, but since future buyers would be looking for clothes closets in the bedrooms, I decided to keep the shelving mobile.
All but the top shelf in this construction are two boards wide.
Widening shelves that don’t span the depth of a closet can add a surprising amount of storage space. In this hall closet, for example, the original shelf was only half as deep as the closet itself. Simply setting another board atop supports nailed to the drywall more than doubled the size of the shelf.
That flange toward the back is a metal coathanger thing nailed along the front edge of the old shelf, installed when the house was built. So, all the space in front of it is new shelf space. The extra board not only gave me room to store lightbulbs, vacuum cleaner supplies, and miscellaneous junk, it even provided a space for one of those battery-powered closet lights.
In the master bedroom closet, Satan had already added an extra shelf by spanning the width of the back end of the walk-in closet between existing shelves that ran along the left and right walls. It’s not much extra space, but every little bit helps.
The left side of that closet was designed with two shelves accommodating those strange coathanger things (which substituted for traditional clothes rods—SDXB replaced one of them with a regular rod), providing twice as much closet space for short items. Very nice, but the lower shelf was quite narrow. Here, too, I simply added another board. Years ago I got in the habit of storing shoes out of dog’s reach, since the German shepherd was given to eating shoes and the greyhound liked to furnish his nest with them.
Beneath the shelf, there’s a small bookcase, which also holds shoes and boots.
You realize, of course, that armoires were originally intended to store linens and clothing, not televisions. I was reminded of this when visiting my sister-in-sin’s beautiful old Seattle house, where she had placed an armoire on the second-floor landing and filled it with bedding and towels. So, when I bought a new lightweight feather “blanket” for summer and couldn’t figure out where to stash the winter comforter, I thought…why not?
This would annoy me if I watched TV very much. But I don’t. Eventually, I’ll probably hang the television set on a wall and fill the armoire with linens and things. It came with an extra shelf, which is stored inside the piece. With three deep shelves and a large drawer, it offers a lot of extra storage space.
So it goes: cobbled together—some of it jerry-rigged—but it works.