Solving the Problem of Home Storage
DO YOU have difficulty finding a place for all the items you wish to have in your home or apartment? You are not alone. Home storage is a growing problem. Why is this so?
One reason is that, in many countries, families now own more clothing and furnishings. Also, more and more families are living in cities or communities instead of on roomy farms. And many of such city dwellers live in small apartments where space is extremely limited.
Of course, the advantages of proper storage are obvious. It allows for the best use of space and also makes a home look better—less cluttered, less crowded. The ideal, as one home economics authority states, is to “store everything so that it is easy to see, easy to reach, and easy to grasp.”
But how can a person work toward this ideal? How can you save space and at the same time store things so that they will stay in good condition?
First, you will probably have to “make” space. That is, not just utilize present empty space in your home, but ask yourself, ‘What items can I dispense with to leave me more room?’ One expert urges those who have had a home or apartment for many years: ‘Start out by going through all your drawers, shelves and closets and throw away all the things you no longer use.’
‘I can’t afford to throw all those things away!’ some might object. But actually there may be some things that you cannot afford to keep. Why? Simply because, even if you own your home, the space in it is not free. If you heat that space, light it, insure it, or simply pay taxes on it, it costs you money. If seldom-used items fill the space, other things that might be more beneficial cannot be put there.
For example, in his garage a man may have a lawn mower and a canoe. It is true that he may use his lawn mower only during the summer, but he uses it a great deal then. However, what about that canoe? It may not have been used for years. If he really needs storage space, it could prove to be more practical and economical to sell the canoe. This will give him needed space, and on that rare occasion when he might use a canoe he can rent one. Owning things is not always the cheapest way of benefiting from them.
You might also take a fresh look at your clothing. If you never wear a certain garment, then why keep it in your closet? Why not make some changes in it so you will want to wear it, or give it to someone who will use it? Unused clothing simply takes up closet space and delays you in finding clothes you really want to wear. One housewife put it this way: “If during the past year I have not worn the garment at least once, then out it goes.” She also mentioned another factor to consider, adding: “I have found that clothes hang better if they can ‘breathe’—if there is a little air space around them.”
However, while it may please you to see what a difference “cleaning house” makes, discarding or selling unused articles may not solve all your home storage problems. You may need to consider making better use of existing storage areas or even building new ones.
Your Closets, Drawers, Shelves
Rearranging your closets (or, wardrobe cabinets) can make a big difference, both in gaining space and in easing the frustration of finding items.
For example, you can move the horizontal rod for clothes hangers high enough to allow for use of the floor space underneath. You might hang all your long garments at one end of the rod. Shorter garments, such as shirts, suits and blouses, could go at the other end. Underneath the short garments you now have considerable free space. One young married couple found this an excellent place to put a chest of drawers.
As for closet shelves, shallow ones hung on the back of a closet door (or, cupboard door) may prove to be practical. They allow for things to be out where you can easily find them. Similarly, a shoe rack on the back of the closet door can help to eliminate the crawl-around-the-closet-floor search for them. And you may find that narrow shelves around the walls of closets are more useful than deep shelves, as you can see things and get to them more easily.
Special consideration may be needed for your small child’s closet. If you put the clothes bar down low, he can hang up his own clothes. You may also find it practical to give him a colorful wooden box on wheels or casters, perhaps painted as a house or a garage—a “home” for his toys. Your little one can then be encouraged to pull it out, fill it and push it back into the closet.
It is good to make full use of any drawers you have or can add. They are usually better than shelves. In drawers, things are kept cleaner and usually you can more easily see and grasp the item you want. Sometimes deep shelves can be given “drawer convenience” by storing items in racks or trays that you can pull out. Also, if your shelves are deep, strive to put similar items behind one another. They will be easier to find. That is, try to place cans of beans behind cans of beans or the same kind of drinking glasses or cups behind one another.
Finding New Storage Areas
Now we would like to suggest a “space hunt.” The results may be surprising. Keep in mind, though, that you cannot count just any empty area as storage space. Space is useless for storage if you cannot get to it or if things cannot be safely stored there.
Does your home have an attic, or space above a lowered ceiling? It may be usable, but, on the other hand, it is not good storage space unless family members can safely get to it. One solution is to install what are called “disappearing” or folding stairs. These are usually metal stairs that fold up into the ceiling and are pulled down when needed, thus making the attic safely accessible.
What about the basement? If it is cool and damp you can count it as premium storage space for wine and such vegetables as potatoes. But if books or clothes are placed in cardboard cartons and then put on a wet basement floor, they often are ruined by mildew. You may want to attempt to seal the walls and floor against moisture with special paint. And you could air it out, possibly using fans and dehumidifiers. If you do use the basement for storage of things that need to be kept dry, consider keeping them off the floor by hanging them on hooks inserted in pegboard or on racks mounted along the wall. If some items are placed on the floor, it might be wise to put them on sheets of plywood or plastic.
You do not have an attic or a basement? Do not give up the hunt. Even in small apartments, new storage areas can be found. Consider these suggestions: Sometimes there is space for shelves under a stairway. Is there space under your bed for flat metal boxes in which you could store blankets? Do you have room for a trunk or a chest in your living room? You could pad the top, making it an attractive bench, and store seldom-used items inside.
Sometimes there is a hallway that dead-ends, going beyond the last door. Might this vacant space be turned into a helpful closet? Also, take a look upward. Is there space above the door of a closet? Some people use this space for a shelf, with a curtain over the front of it for the sake of appearance.
If your need for space is urgent, another good way to create a new storage area is to build a “storage wall.” This can be used to divide a large room or can serve as a partial partition in a smaller room. It can be a permanent wall, or a more versatile mobile unit on wheels or casters. Storage walls can be composed of many variations of drawers, and open or closed shelves. The cabinets in it can even be designed to open from both sides so that the same items can be reached from either side.
Careful use of space or good design, however, will not solve all storage problems. In many countries, moisture, mildew and moths are enemies of successful storage.
We have already discussed some dangers of basement moisture, but in many climates it is a problem throughout the house. What can be done? Operating an airconditioner or a dehumidifier is one answer. Airing out the house—opening drawers, emptying closets—on breezy, sunny days is also helpful.
Why be concerned? Consider just one of moisture’s “children”—mildew. Mildew is fungi that appear as a gray or white fuzzy mold. It can be found on anything, but is particularly destructive to books. A small-wattage light left burning in closets will deter it. Airing out possessions and letting air circulate in the closet will also help.
Moths also can do much damage. They prefer the dark. Here they will lay their eggs on any available wool, fur or feathers. Within a week the wormlike larvae hatch and begin to “lunch” on these costly materials. Sunlight, air and the vacuum cleaner can help to keep the problem in check. Clean regularly in dark areas under furniture and in coat closets. You may find certain chemical crystals and sprays useful. It is also recommended that you dry-clean all woolens at least once a year. If you keep things, it certainly pays to care for them.
Of course, if your family must always have what is “new” while keeping all that is “old,” the problem of home storage will persist. On the other hand, if you combine education (learning what you really need) with invention (finding good ways to store it), you can solve the problem. And with proper storage you will have a much better chance of finding things and so attain the real benefit of ownership—having something when you need it.