finding storage where there isn't any


The number one question I'm asked regarding living in a small house is where do I put my stuff.  I've had people come over and question whether or not we rent a storage unit, we do not.  Or look around in the back garden for a 2nd house, true.

I like to get creative when it comes to storage.  Those suitcases up on the armoire are not just decorative, they hold pillow covers and magazines I want to keep.  That newly acquired chinoserie tin holds little snacks for my grandkids.  I love using pretty storage solutions because then it is a double win.  I'm not a big fan of underbed or hidden storage.  I tend to forget what's stored in things like that and then there is the dust issue too.  I like most of my stuff front and center so I can enjoy it.

Of course the ultimate storage solution is owning less.  Could you manage with one closet and no garage?  I've forgotten what it's like to have those options!  xo

43 comments

  1. I almost think it is a bigger problem when you have a lot of storage. You then tend to keep hold of things that you really would be better off without. I keep all of my bed linens in under-the-bed rolling containers, actually they are pretty efficient for this type of thing and I can tuck in sachets for fragrance.

    Love your suitcases.

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    1. you think so? idk, i remember our old house with lots of closets and somedays miss that convenience. i love your underbed storage for bedding! great idea. x

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  2. I have been paring down clothes, underused items and such for over 18 months. I've sold a lot on eBay and donated a lot. I still marvel at how much stuff we still seem to have. We live in 1745 sf and we do have a garage, but I feel like even after getting rid of the first and second round of items, there's more. I guess it's a project of phases. Some things I don't think I'm ready to part with end up heading out of the house second time I evaluate what to get rid of. What do you do about photographs? I've gotten brutal on that topic but still have more albums and boxes of photographs.
    I love your house and you've set the bar for me. Just keep reminding us about how little it requires to live.
    :-)
    Karen

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    1. karen isn't it shocking how things multiply! i have about 10 photo albums of when the kids were growing up and they are in the cabinet in L's office. I haven't looked at them in years but will always keep them bc they were a lot of work and care over the years. no one will prob want them either! x

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  3. Such neat and attractive storage ideas, Janet, thank you. I have 30+ years of accumulation around me. And loyalty is a value I, well, value. I am loyal to things as well as people. So you can imagine the angst I go through when trying to declutter. I have little mini splurges of decluttering then panic and put the programme back on hold for months. But what gets me back on course again is not wanting to give others the job of clearing the house when I've gone. A bleak thought but a great motivator!

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    1. so true mary. i hate to think of the work involved in getting an estate in order. i go to many estate sales and the amount of stuff people collect is amazing. i am emotionally attached to a few of my things but not too many. i always think just about anything can be replaced! x

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  4. As a designer I find that the question of storage is often as important as furniture, rugs, etc! I like when my clients ask early in the project--it lets me know they're really considering all the aspects of living in a home. Although I cringe when someone tells me they've got a collection of something I do believe that things are important. What a joy to hold a glass that your grandmother once held, make a pie in one of your aunt's pie tins or stir a cup of tea with a special spoon that was a souvenir from a trip. And that's just the kitchen stuff!

    I come from a mother who is very practical when it comes to eliminating stuff and a father who is a picker (he once saved several years worth of Architectural Digest of mine in the garage that my mom told him to get rid of. Bless him!)

    The Minimalists are great and I applaud their general ideas but THINGS well chosen can give so much comfort and pleasure.

    We have no garage, no of-site storage and our parents are not harbouring boxes of our things. Janet I don't know if I could do as well as you, but constant culling and purging, with your place as my goal is my journey now.

    Dannie

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    1. so happy your father saved your AD's. i lost my magazine collection in a flood of the basement not long after we moved in. now i have about a dozen that i've saved over the recent years. now that everything is online i don't feel the need to collect them like i used to. i'm with you in that the joy of our things are in the using, not the storing. x

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  5. I have utilized clever storage solutions throughout the years; baskets, decorative boxes, trunks, etc. until I realized that my little bungalow was overrun with storage containers. Now, I am trying daily to purge and then eliminate the extra storage. My goal is to have, in this little house, only those items which actually are in use. It requires looking at everything differently. Of course, I will have some storage containers, especially those that are decorative and fit in with the surroundings. But no longer will I shove something in a cute box until I figure out what to do with it. Ruthless! That's what I plan to be.

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    1. i applaud your goals kristien. i do have things that are purely decorative, art, blue and white ceramics and things like that but i no longer have a garage full of that! i'm so much more discerning than i've ever had to be. have fun being ruthless! lol x

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  6. I love how disciplined you are.

    I don't have a storage unit and I hope never to. We have decent storage but I am constantly getting rid of books I have read, clutter I don't want, outgrown toys etc. You really have to stay on top of it.

    Have you read the kon mari books?

    Love your work.

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    1. i don't think i'm as disciplined at you but thanks! yes, this summer i read all about the konmari method on line. i have done my wardrobe but that's about it. do you use the method? x

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    2. Janet, I think your kitchen particularly is very konmari. I always love seeing your clean, spare but beautiful kitchen. I am leaving less and less on the countertops as time goes by.

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    3. thank you vicki. since i don't have much countertop space it has to be pretty free of clutter! xo

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  7. Oh you and I are in the same boat! Your small cottage an our small bungalow.
    We have so little storage...I do have an under bed bin in the guest room and I use baskets too!
    Getting rid of stuff is key and I do not love clutter so that keeps me on track...
    Funny though as my Mother at 89 and sister at 56 still have clothes that they wore 30+ years ago!!!

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    1. oh leslie i bet they have great clothing tho! they sure don't make things like they used to. fabrics and workmanship were so much better! lucky them. x

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  8. Hello Janet!
    can you use your basement for storing things and stuff? In Austria basements - or as we call them cellars - are often humid and books, suitcases and clothes smell badly after a while. New houses are planned without a cellar, because they cost 1/3 - 1/2 of the total construction costs.

    Selfstorage is a growing business in the big cities. To me those high end storage buildings (common in Austria and Germany) mirror our society. I once interviewed a lady who kept a washing machine in a self storage for her daughter's future apartment (the daughter was still living at home). I calculated: the monthly rent for the space the washing machine uses up, times 12, multiplied by 2, 3 years ... the daughter could easily buy a new machine by the time she moves out. The mother who rented the storage space was laughing, she realized that her reasonable move was not reasonable at all.

    I am with most of the readers who commented above: de-cluttering, donating stuff, making room is a good way to deal with limited storage room and the more room you have, the more you accumulate.

    Lets keep those empty areas emtpy, at least for a while. :-)

    greetings,
    Paula

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    1. thanks for sharing paula. self storage is a huge industry here too. our basement does get damp in the winter so we have to be careful too. i wonder if that mother got rid of the washing machine or kept it. storing things for too long leads to degradation also, learned that the hard way! x

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    2. Yes, I've noticed this so much. Books stored too long in improper temps/storage environments become ruined with tanning or sometimes mildew (and the musty smell you don't want to have in the home). Clothes hung too long actually wear at the shoulders with threads which eventually rot or fabric which can begin to change color. I found with my very-elderly parents' home that items sitting on shelves for too many years would sometimes stick to the shelves, and removing them resulted in damage to the item AND the shelves. Paint in paint cans ultimately dries up. Equipment or toys that go into disuse simply freeze and become inoperable. Old cosmetics are downright dangerous.

      It's all so pointless.

      A change I've made, although it still grabs at me because it was something I enjoyed, is that I've 100% stopped going to thrift stores and antique stores. If I see a yard sale or estate sale sign, I turn in the opposite direction. I can't seem to leave without buying something. Then, later, I think to myself, "Why did I buy this?" To buy simply to purge again is just silly. And I think, from everything I've read, at least a lot of us (who maybe started consuming/purchasing in the 70s, 80s, etc. when many new items became affordable as more was produced less expensively overseas and we were building our homes in younger life, having fun decorating) have ENOUGH. More than enough. We don't need so many little dustcatchers/decor items. Or books, DVDs, CDs, souvenir collections, sets of china, Christmas ornaments, etc. We don't need multiples of things! It's a home, not a museum; not a warehouse.

      I'm embarrassed to say, although I've been working on it HARD for the past three years, at times also when my health hasn't been so great, that I still have one offsite storage unit (with a vintage car in it which I will sell by Spring; I have a deadline and potential buyer) and a full garage (of boxes) as I continue to pare down belongings from too many people in my family along with my own stuff. It's a huge job. Costly in umpteen ways (most of all, costly to the spirit; one's wellbeing). I have donated 95% to charity. (I could have made some serious money in garage/yard sales but it slows you down too much in the purging [and where are you going to put it all in the meantime, when storage is already a huge issue{?}; where I live, there's also a limit on the number of yard sales you can have in a year, and the city enforces it]; I finally took this hint from many other helpful bloggers, to not get bogged down in hopes for a lucrative garage sale.) I try diligently to find the right homes for things [with new people or places]...but it's draining; a noose. It's when inheritance is a burden rather than a gift. I tell this to anyone who will listen, especially younger people. My goal is to never leave behind such a task for another person. It's why I often come back here to your blog, Janet, to keep myself in check, look at the serene photos of your home, listen to your wise readers and strive for the order and freedom...FREEDOM...of a lovely, uncluttered house, which I think is a better-appreciated house, and loved in the best way. It's so much about being sensible, and very disciplined.

      One of my best storage solutions is a bench at the dining table which has 'secret' storage under its pull-up seat. Great for stashing placemats, cloth napkins and even an extra tablecloth. I have the same thing in a patio table which is where I store out-of-season gardening stuff. A hassock/ottoman in the living room, which is hollow and again whose seat (hinged lid) lifts up, contains a few magazines I allow myself to keep.

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    3. such wise words my friend. the cost to our well-being is huge and one that is rarely calculated. i go to fewer and fewer estate sales and yard sales. i have enough but always keep my eye out for really cool things. i walk away empty handed 99% of the time. thanks for sharing v. xo

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    4. Vicki, I just told my husband the other day that if any of his parents stuff end up at an estate sale, tell the company to price it to sell quickly. I've been to so many estate sales where the prices are just ridiculous. I walked out of one yesterday after 5 min. thinking "are you high"? :o)

      Linda

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  9. I like tucked away storage. Not under beds because that has to be bad feng shui. But I'm a believer in having an inventory system. I have one on my phone with photos of everything organized in albums like "blue and white china" "flatware" "summer china" "candlesticks", etc. when I take the photos, I write their storage bin number on a dry erase board so I know where they are. This helps when you have 200-2000 ornaments in 27 colors. Wouldn't it be distressing to pull O21 which has sage green when you actually wanted 023 which is grey green? Goodness. Small things like tabletop pieces are fun and easy to swap out season to season. I don't hold onto much furniture though.

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    1. Genius idea, an inventory system, although I suppose my ultimate goal is not to have so much of any one thing that I need to inventory it...but, until...

      There was this great line in the film called Boyhood where the mom looks around at her house and says something along the lines of, "I spent my whole life collecting all this stuff just to reach this age and have to get rid of it."

      I've thought this inventory system idea would be good also for what we Californians call "earthquake stash" (natural disaster supplies) because I forget sometimes what I have (it's out of sight, out of mind, not really supposed to even be INside the house in case your house crashes down around you) and it's important to rotate the foods/meds in terms of expiration dates.

      I also have a plan to eventually catalog all my books. Books I do have a hard time letting go of...but gosh do they take up too much space. If anything, a good inventory system/list is essential/required for insurance purposes. Hopefully most people do that (I'm kinda behind).

      The TV series' on Tiny Houses are always intriguing to me in terms of how inventive they get for maximizing space and storage. Same goes for people who live year'round on boats. You pretty much keep your favorites, but that has to be IT.

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    2. you are a crazy genius saj. i used to keep an inventory of clothing that was packed away in the basement but got tired of it and just donated most of it. i do have a clothing rack down there that mostly holds camping and bulky clothing and ski stuff. and a few things i don't want to part with but rarely wear. i love your system and your gorgeous tablesettings reflect your inventory. thank you for clarifying the 023 situation. xo

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  10. As someone who purged a lot two years ago, I can sadly say "no" I could not survive without a basement (mine is clean and finished), garage, or one closet. Maybe someday we will get there!

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    1. emily your home is gorgeous and does not look one bit cluttered. i think you are doing a fantastic job! xo

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  11. I have five complete sets of dishes. They rotate in use. I am lucky to have a very wide and deep cupboard next to the refrigerator. I have three dozen crystal champagne flutes from the years I lived in Europe and they were "necessary" to entertaining. My biggest problem is cloth storage for the quilting and craft projects I do. Get rid of something and in moments it seems that I need just that item and have to go out and buy new. Which is why I have an extra bedroom.

    I folded and arranged my dishtowels, cloth napkins etc using kondomari. Really ended up taking up so much less space. Now to tackle the underwear drawer.

    Oh--all saved magazines went thru a "page/idea" tear out and then into the recycle bin. Now where to store the tear outs. LOL

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    1. i did that to my magazines too. but then somehow the folder was in the basement when we flooded and i lost that. dang it! i can imagine quilters and crafters have to be pretty organized bc of all the odds and ends needed. thank goodness i'm not crafty! lol xo

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  12. Hello! Just found your blog, so happy I did. I too live in a small home and still adapting. Converted a 21 ft diameter grain bin into a two story home. Just 680 Sg Ft. Still dealing with clutter, giving stuff away, storage issues. Love all your wonderful housekeeping tips. I will so be back!

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    1. oh wow donna, I love that you've recycled a grain bin into an actual home. way cool! thank you for stopping by! xoxo

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  13. If I had just one closet, it would have to be just one very large closet! I do pare down, but I am indecisive and like my decorative arts!

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    1. lol t. i never would have thought i could manage with only 1 v small closet either. don't get me wrong, there have been days that i wish it was bigger! xo

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  14. It would depend on the size of the closet! And no garage? Hahahahahahahahaha no.

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  15. It would be nearly impossible to live in a house in Wisconsin without a garage. Where to stow the mower AND the snowblower? We lived for 11 years in a condo without a garage and spending half an hour shoveling the car out on winter mornings - not fun. Then there are the two sets of clothes - one for those hot, muggy summer days and one for winter clothes. Not to mention one for all the coats, boots, scarves, hats and gloves!!

    We did downsize by half a dozen years ago to 1,500 sq. ft, but I won't go any smaller while I still share space with a husband!! Easily, I could cut down in half again if I lived alone!!

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  16. One closet? Oh my! We are remodeling a 1000 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home with a single car garage. I've decluttered but question where everything will go when we move in.
    Where do you keep seasonal decorations and wow, everything else, Janet?

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    1. betty we have a small basement that measures 6x12ish. my christmas decor is in a single rubbermaid container. it's also where we keep our sporting equipment and camping equipment. everything else is in the house. xo

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  17. I currently live in a 4,000 sq ft house with a 4-car garage. Hubby is a pack rat and I have pack rat tendencies as well. We have lots of STUFF. I want to move to smaller house because kids and animals are all gone and we really only use half the house to live in anyway.

    Yes, I know, 2,000 sq ft is still a lot of space for 2 people but we have "La Contessa" tendencies. One big problem with too much space and too much stuff is that you can't find anything. I like Stephen's Inventory idea but we would probably lose the inventory even if it was on the phone.

    My biggest storage suggestion is roll out drawers. I added those to my kitchen about 10 years ago and life is so much simpler because I can put a lot into a lower cabinet and still find it. I did the same thing for the undersink cabinets in our bath room and it is heaven. No more 5 year old hand lotion or conditioner sitting way back in the bottom of the cabinet with spiders living on it.

    So roll-out drawers are my suggestion. And I do use under the bed storage for things like Christmas wrapping paper and seasonal decorations. Wreaths are wrapped in plastic bags and hung in the garage so I can just whip them out when needed.

    Smiles from Charlotte

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  18. Kudos! Storage is a problem anywhere, so to be able to store stuff in a small home takes great planning and determination.
    Nancy
    wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

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  19. How much stuff does one need anyways? And I find one can fill their home with open shelving that one can use daily, or buying practical pieces in furniture and accessories, these pieces not only beautify our homes, but also adds lots of storage for daily use. I always hear friends or clients say I have a small room, no storage, and bigger pieces won't look good or fit the size of the room. Smaller pieces make a room feel and look smaller, larger pieces fill the space with grandeur and makes the space fill larger. How many times have we heard I would have never thought you could fit pieces like these in such a small space?
    I love how you create Janet, you know exactly what works for the beauty and function of your home. As for the under bed of under sofa storage your so right... with things close at hand they get used, store under the beds and deep in the back of closets only stress our homes over crowed and a lack of breathing space. I love how you love your home, and it loves you right back.
    House wisdom...

    Xx
    Dore

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  20. Little late! Sorry! Catching up last night.

    Janet, love it. I really do like your little quirks and blogs where you share the way you handle/do things. I don't always do it the same, but I like the insight and I read EVERY comment.

    I look at your house and think "crisp" yet relaxed. Really enjoyable to come and look at what you are doing and the little changes you make. You are my afternoon cup of tea of life, I guess. (Such responsibility!! LOL)

    I am downsizing (have been in this process for a few years) and went from big Tudor to smaller current ranch at 1600 sqft, which is now on the market, and now trying to go smaller as it's just me! So, I looked at a beautiful 1 bed, 1 bath condo this weekend with all the amenities. It's too small. Zero storage. It has a large-ish walk-in master closet, a small entry coat closet, and a space about 4 x 4 feet in the front of the 1-car garage. That's it. No basement. Even the mechanicals closet offers no space. I don't need a lot of stuff, I really don't, but you have to have SOME stuff, like Thanksgiving platters and photo albums and extra blankets and pillows for company and empty luggage and your Christmas tree and seasonal decs, don't you? Hmmmmm.....

    So I guess it was a good yardstick for me! I think it would be cluttered chaos, which equals stress, if I tried to pack even 1 person's stuff in a place with zero storage like that. Anyone else look at a situation like this and give it a shot and it actually was easy to do even though you weren't sold on it to start?

    XOXO,
    Lor

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kindness is never out of style.

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