When most of us want to store things away, we look for the good old favourites. We put clothes in the wardrobe, towels and sheets in the linen cupboard, medicines in the bathroom cupboard and everything else in cupboards and drawers. Cleaning the cupboards is necessary before you put your clothes in there. If we don’t live in a house that has plenty of cupboard space – it’s often hard to get past storage cubicles (or even the humble and rather tatty cardboard box).
Cardboard boxes are all very well if you’re in a flat having just left home. But in a permanent house with people who matter (i.e. your family), your storage solutions should be a bit more elegant. Yes, you should make use of the traditional methods. But if you need more storage space or if you are trying to get yourself organised so your life isn’t one big chaotic clutter, you can always think beyond the assemble-and-install-it-yourself set of cupboards.
Small items lying all higgledy-piggledy over a dressing table or around the bathroom sink look very messy and disorganised. These items can still be stored here -after all, it makes sense to store things where you use them. But they look a lot neater and more organised if you “corral” them. Storing toothbrushes in a mug is a fairly time-honoured method, but don’t just use that battered old enamel mug. Get a nice one – or even use a short vase. If you get a wide enough mug (or other container), the toothpaste can fit into it as well. For items like cotton buds or even makeup (if you put it on in the bathroom), consider one of those stationery containers that consist of a set of cylinders stuck together. You can separate things so the cotton buds don’t brush up against the mascara, but still keep them together. On a bedside cabinet, consider using the sort of flat container that is designed for cutlery to hold makeup and the like.
One of the best things I have seen for storing shampoo, soap and the like in the bathroom (and made things very handy in the bath) was a removable rack or tray that fitted over the top of the bath. This could hold shampoo, conditioner, soap, sponges, flannels and razors – and was also very handy if I wanted to read in the bath. A slatted or wire mesh one (mine wasn’t) would allow flannels and loofahs to drip-dry, and would also stop soap turning into goo.
We should all keep a store of tinned goods and the like in case of civil defence emergencies. Instead of giving kitchen cupboard space to this emergency stock, consider keeping them (with a tin-opener, torch and batteries) in a stout storage container under the bed. This makes good use of the space under the bed – one the largest neglected storage areas – and you won’t be tempted to touch emergency supplies as you would be if they were in the pantry. And if an emergency does strike in the middle of the night, you will have it all there ready to grab. Naturally, your emergency supplies should not be kept there indefinitely. My mother’s thinking on emergencies is that if you have to evacuate, it’s bad enough without having awful food, so instead of storing baked beans and spam, she stores tinned delicacies (tropical fruits, salmon…) as emergency supplies, then has a once-a-year “we haven’t had an emergency” party to use up these little luxuries and replace them with new ones.
Some people buy plastic strings of fake chillies, garlic and onions to make their kitchen look decorative. Don’t bother with the fake ones – store real ones this way. Tie strings around the papery tops of alliums (onions and garlic) or around the stems of the chillies. Just use a simple single granny knot and tie them as close together as you can. Keep enough string free to make a loop (one at each end, if you like) so you can hang them up. If you grow your own onions or garlic, try drying them for a few days with the long leaves still on, then braid them into a long string. This is as easy as braiding hair, if not easier. Bunches of dried herbs can also be hung in a long string, keeping one type of herb per bunch, but store these out of sunlight or else they will lose some of their flavour and goodness. Check everything for cobwebs before using in food!
Pumpkins, squash, marrows and onions can be kept in a hammock slung in the garage (or some other dark, airy space). This keeps the air circulating around them so they don’t turn mouldy.
Use a wooden chest with a flat top as a coffee table instead of the conventional four legs and a top type of table. It’s best not to store magazines in here – this will only encourage you to keep old magazines that you are never going to read – but instead keep things like board games (which will be used on top of the coffee table) in here, or maybe the “best” flatware, glasses and china that are kept specially for guests. Alternatively, store your Christmas decorations in here.