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Making Space...

Who amongst us hasn't gazed around their home in dismay and thought, "If only I had more SPACE!"? And who hasn't wished they had the storage to really stock up on the supermarket's Special Offer?The trouble is, more people means more things! More things need more storage, and the wide-open spaces of the interior decor magazines look like an impossible dream. What we need are spaces that work for us, not what the style gurus dictate.

Effective storage is vital for us. Apart from the visual and organisational benefits, there is a very real financial cost involved in not making good use of your living space - see Amy Dacyczyn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette (available from Amazon) if you doubt this. But the chances are that there is already quite a lot of space in your home that isn't being used to the full. Dead spaces, the bits you don't see. Think UNDER, OVER, INSIDE - UNDER beds, shelf units and desks, OVER kitchen units, INSIDE your bath box etc.

Look around your home and see the possibilities. Some of these places may already be in use and just look messy, with piles of lunchboxes, books, magazines and unopened junk mail cluttering up your line of sight. You need to "containerise", and it doesn't have to cost you a penny! Cut down the sides of washing powder cartons to make magazine or schoolbook holders, cover with paper mache to stregthen if needed and paint or cover with wrapping paper. My favourite, most versatile container has to be the supermarket fruit box, (again, covered with paper) which is in use in our home storing tins, shoes, knickers, tights & socks, disks, videos and toys. Some of these have been in constant use for 13 years! They come in several sizes and push under beds, shelving units, desks, and even one of our sofas.

If you are stuck with unsightly piles on open counters or shelves, cover them up! Use screens, blinds, curtains, plaid rugs or even painted trellis & pot plants to distract the eye.

When choosing or "inheriting" furniture, see the possibilities! We were given a large 1970's doubledecker coffee table to use on our allotment; the previous owner could see how it could easily be made into a cold frame. But just now it's in pride of place in our conservatory, covered in a big old second-hand tablecloth, providing toy storage underneath and a drawing, painting, cutting & sticking surface in the best light in the house. At one stage we had our computer on a length of worktop stuck onto two tarted-up kitchen cabinets, one without its door; much more versatile and practical than most "workstations". But eventually we found a corner desk that made even better use of the space available. The kitchen units would have gone on to make a sewing table for me if my darling husband hadn't pinched them for the garage! Speaking of garages - make that space work for you, instead of being the last stop before the tip. Store non-perishable food out there, and fruit & veg bulk-bought that needs to be kept cool - a sack of potatoes is far cheaper than individual bags. Especially make room for a chest freezer if you possibly can; it really will save you lots of money and many mad dashes to the supermarket.

Styles of decor are a minefield - I suspect most of us have realised that "Minimalism" is not for the larger family, "Gustavian" would be hopelessly grubby within days, and "Victorian" just looks appallingly cluttered when you add in a few abandoned shoes and books. But "Country" (homegrown or US-style) works well and is inexpensive, "Mediterranean" is fine and "Exotic", with lots of spice-coloured drapery, is relatively easy to achieve and hides a multitude of sins. Anything that involves smooth pale spotless surfaces probably won't work...

Finally I'd add that if you are lucky enough to have choices, always choose things that will do more than one job, i.e. tables with integral drawers, built-in cupboards rather than units (far less wasted space), benches (with storage underneath) rather than individual chairs - you can fit more children on them! Allow for storage of the things that always seem to make clutter - shoes, schoolbags, sports kit, lunchboxes, trays and chopping boards, spare loo rolls and shampoo bottles - if your bath is boxed in, cut a door. If your washbasin is free-standing, box it in to make a vanity unit; you can always take it off again later. Beware of creating flat surfaces, which tend to act as clutter magnets - I know I should just clear mine off once a day - in an ideal world!

There are some excellent resources out there on the Web to help you plan your space to good effect; there is some cross-over with clutterbusting here, please forgive me for repeating myself - and let me know what's worked best for you!

 

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Copyright: Angela Corbet, 2001.