Thinking Outside of Boxes: Creative and Attractive Storage Solutions

Canvas shoe organizers keep gloves in pairs and at eye level.
Canvas shoe organizers keep gloves in pairs and at eye level.

Most of us are familiar with the old rule of thumb that tells us if we go through our closets and storage spaces and find items that have not been used in two or more yearly cycles, that these are things that need to go. This is certainly useful advice for many things, but we all know that there are things with which we simply cannot part. Things like memorabilia t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers; adorable sweaters, collars or toys from dearly departed pets and gifts from loved ones that we never really liked, but could never throw or give away. There are also those homeowners who, although they now find themselves empty-nesters, cannot get out of the "big family" frame of mind. These are the folks that continue to hold onto dozens of towels, sheets, blankets and even never-used kitchen appliances because you "just never know" when one of the children will need something (or, in some cases, move back home). When it comes to dealing with these type of items, it is important to be realistic both in terms of what to part with – and what to keep. No one can really guide a person on what items of sentimental value should be discarded, but here are a few helpful hints on how to manage what you eventually decide to keep forever.

Create a Scrap Book or Framed Collage
Deciding to create a scrap book or framed collage is not only a great way to turn a pile of ticket stubs, play bills and bumper stickers into an artful, attractive piece for your home, it really can help you determine what it is you really want. If you find yourself coming across something that will not bring you happiness looking at it everyday (especially in the case of framed art), chances are, you won’t really miss it in the big picture. Pile everything that could feasibly be framed or scrapbooked and put it in one big box. Go through it all and create interesting designs using the different shapes and colors of the memorabilia. And, in order to streamline your design, cut out the most important part of the piece. If you have a brochure or booklet from a particular vacation, for example, you may not need to keep the whole thing in order to retain the memory. Cut out the part of it that best reminds you of that moment in time, whether it be the photo on the front, the name of the establishment or the address. It is rather surprising how much clutter can be reduced when the inessentials are stripped away. Your new scrap books sitting atop your coffee table or a uniquely framed collage on a living room wall can be conversation pieces that will help you share your life with others, and allow them to get to know you better. This is not possible when things are stuffed away in a box in the bottom of a closet.

Create a Quilt
Even if you do not fancy yourself a seamstress, quilt-making is perhaps the easiest of all sewing projects out there. If you can sew in a straight line – you can make a beautiful quilt. Go through all of your textiles leftover from family, pets and other loved ones, cut them into squares (the easiest way to go) and create a beautiful, meaningful quilt that can be used in a spare room. If you do not have enough fabric to create a large quilt, make a baby blanket for the next generation, or a pet blanket for your new four-legged friend. If you find that you still do not have enough for even a small blanket, you can make potholders or pieces that can be framed and hung on the wall. Quilting can be very therapeutic and there is nothing quite like taking things that have been sitting around collecting dust and turning them into something useful and beautiful.

An old sea chest makes handy storage for out-of-season Christmas decorations.
An old sea chest makes handy storage for out-of-season Christmas decorations.

Consider Functional or Decorative Storage
For larger items like bedding, tablecloths, towels or appliances that you never use but with which you cannot part, it is important to first remove them from the spaces that are better used for things you use on a regular basis. There is nothing quite as stressful (whether you realize it or not) as fumbling over items that have no purpose to get to the things you really need. Instead of stuffing them in the tops of the kitchen cabinets or the bottom of hallway closest, try and purchase storage containers that double as functional pieces.There are now many things on the market – mostly cushioned ottomans and benches- that double as storage, and these are great ways to reduce clutter while adding to your decor and living space. Take a look at pieces of furniture you currently have and see if they can be replaced with ones that include storage. If there is nothing you are willing or able to trade out, look to see if there is an empty area where a beautiful wicker trunk could be set. Perhaps there is a window sill that your cat particularly likes? Why not give him or her some extra stretching room by placing a decorative trunk that allows kitty more room and a purrrfect view?

There are so many decorative items that can double as storage for hard-to-part-with pieces. Things like vintage hat boxes, pieces of hard-shell luggage and even copper fireplace ash buckets are fabulous ways to put things in their proper place and add character to your home decor. And, since most of these things can be found at thrift stores and rummage sales, you’re not breaking your budget while getting organized.

De-cluttering your home while retaining the memories and creating new, personalized decor can help reduce stress in so many ways. It may take a little effort and more than a little creativity, but if you take your time and focus on the end result, you will find it well worth it. Happy scrapping!