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Out-of-the-box organizing ideas

Tulips in Bloom
Tulips in BloomCatherine Al-Meten

Thinking outside the box refers to thinking about using something outside the conventional or original purpose something was created or designed for. An example is using the kitchen oven for storage instead of for cooking, or using a fireplace as an art object rather than for its intended purpose. A couple of my favorite out-of-the-box ideas include using an old window as a piece of art or using an old door for a table. What are some ways you might think out of the box with your home organization?

Choosing Rooms for Bedrooms.
This morning I was reading an article on how to keep a bedroom clutter free. Evidently, this is one of the hardest rooms to keep organized and tidy. Why isn’t this a problem for me, I wondered, until I thought about the fact that I chose one of the smallest rooms in the house for my bedroom. It has nothing in it but the bed (queen-sized), a night stand, and a small secretary. No bookshelves, television, large pieces of furniture, or even a closet. My bedroom is a cozy place with the best view in the house, and also one of the quietest spaces. The bedroom is a hideaway, and is not used for a second office, storage, or electronic media of any kind.

In one small home I had (a converted carriage house), my bedroom was in the main room, while in another one-bedroom apartment, I placed the bed in the living room so I could use the bedroom for my office and studio. Bedrooms do not have to be in the largest room, in fact sometimes it works best that they are not.

Other spaces that can be used differently include dining and kitchen areas, closets, hallways, and enclosed porches. One of my favorite ‘bedrooms’ was a sun porch in a childhood home. One place a recall as a child was sleeping on the sun porch at my Grandfather’s home in Missouri. We also dragged the mattresses downstair to sleep on the parlor floor during the hot, humid summers. A little nook that looked out across the island of Catalina to the ocean, was my favorite place to sleep and nap as a child, and until today I look for opportunities to recreate that same sense of peacefulness.

Closet Space Ideas. My bedroom was actually designed in the space the size of a walk-in closet. My walk-in closet, however, holds more supplies for my studio and office and provides additional work space, than it does hold clothing. Since I no longer need an extensive formal wardrobe, the few suits, dresses, jackets, and skirts now hang in a very small portion of the closet. Most of my clothes are stored in a bureau, in seasonal chests, and in clear boxes arranged on one shelf in the closet. Shoes are in a basket on the mud porch or by the door, as we do not wear our shoes indoors. Closets can be used for office space and can even provide space for a small, compact kitchen. In one of my first apartments in Monterey, my garage apartment had a small kitchen, hidden by a folding door. There was a sink, refrigerator, stove top, microwave oven, drawers, and storage space. Another favorite space was an apartment that had been built as a granny apartment in 1/4 of an old house. That kitchen was built with all the cabinets, doors and shelves for a woman who was 5’3” tall. Never before or since, have I had such a handy little kitchen where I could reach even the top-most shelfs without standing on my toes or climbing up on a step stool. That kitchen too, took up just one length of wall, about 7’ in length, and had everything necessary for cooking healthy and appetizing meals.

Currently, I have a small kitchen with lots of storage room, most of which I cannot reach. My current year’s project is to figure out what to store in the unreachable cupboards, or how to use them more effectively. Also planning on getting a step stool, but wouldn’t it be great if we could have our kitchens designed to our height? Whoever designed that house was a genius.

Closets make great places to set up desks, or to build in a working space. Doors can be left on to close up shop at the end of the work day, or can be removed to make the closet feel more open.

Using Furniture as Dividers. Sometimes we have lots of space which serves multiple purposes. I have a very large office and studio, and use a portion of the space for a guest and exercise space. To divide the room without cutting off views, use a low, bureau as a room divider. Use books shelves, or screens to provide privacy or keep spaces separate. Organize furniture in such a way as to set of space and direct the flow of energy. Tapestries and hangings can be used to take the place of doors in areas where we need more space (the door needs space to open and close; curtains/hangings do not).

New Purposes for Objects and Space. Consider using both objects and spaces for purposes other than what they were designed for. Doors of all kinds make great tables or divider. Door knobs can be used for multiple purposes, including hangers for coats or robes. What are some of the ways you repurpose objects and space in your home? Remove the lower bunk from a bunk bed, and create a space for a desk, or a play house. Set up a blanket teepee in the living room, and create a special space for a toddler to go to sleep. Sometimes, the fight is not worth it. I recall having trouble getting my little one to go to sleep in her room. One night, after weeks of trauma for both of us, I just let her sit beside me in the living room. She was asleep within minutes. Teepees just make it more fun. A neighbor shared how she changed a broom closet that held one broom and a dust pan, into a well-organized and well-stocked panty. By installing some simple shelves, the space was converted into something much more functional. Look at the spaces in your home that are not being utilized well, and consider how objects can serve other purposes, and begin thinking out of the box.

Using rooms for different purposes
Using rooms for different purposes Catherine Al-Meten

Using rooms for different purposes


This morning I was reading an article on how to keep a bedroom clutter free.  Evidently, this is one of the hardest rooms to keep organized and tidy. Why isn’t this a problem for me, I wondered, until I thought about the fact that I chose one of the smallest rooms in the house for my bedroom. It has nothing in it but the bed (queen-sized), a night stand, and a small secretary.  No bookshelves, television, large pieces of furniture, or even a closet.  My bedroom is a cozy place with the best view in the house, and also one of the quietest spaces. The bedroom is a hideaway, and is not used for a second office, storage, or electronic media of any kind.

Other spaces that can be used differently include dining and kitchen areas, closets, hallways, and enclosed porches. One of my favorite ‘bedrooms’ was a sun porch in a childhood home. One place a recall as a child was sleeping on the sun porch at my Grandfather’s home in Missouri.  We also dragged the mattresses downstair to sleep on the parlor floor during the hot, humid summers. A little nook that looked out across the island of Catalina to the ocean, was my favorite place to sleep and nap as a child, and until today I look for opportunities to recreate that same sense of peacefulness.

Closet Versatility
Closet Versatility Catherine Al-Meten

Closet Versatility

Using Closets. My bedroom was actually designed in the space the size of a walk-in closet. My walk-in closet, however, holds more supplies for my studio and office and provides additional work space, than it does hold clothing. Since I no longer need an extensive formal wardrobe, the few suits, dresses, jackets, and skirts now hang in a very small portion of the closet. Most of my clothes are stored in a bureau, in seasonal chests, and in clear boxes arranged on one shelf in the closet. Shoes are in a basket on the mud porch or by the door, as we do not wear our shoes indoors. Closets can be used for office space and can even provide space for a small, compact kitchen. In one of my first apartments in Monterey, my garage apartment had a small kitchen, hidden by a folding door. There was a sink, refrigerator, stove top, microwave oven, drawers, and storage space. Another favorite space was an apartment that had been built as a granny apartment in 1/4 of an old house. That kitchen was built with all the cabinets, doors and shelves for a woman who was 5’3” tall. Never before or since, have I had such a handy little kitchen where I could reach even the top-most shelfs without standing on my toes or climbing up on a step stool. That kitchen too, took up just one length of wall, about 7’ in length, and had everything necessary for cooking healthy and appetizing meals.

Currently, I have a small kitchen with lots of storage room, most of which I cannot reach. My current year’s project is to figure out what to store in the unreachable cupboards, or how to use them more effectively. Also planning on getting a step stool, but wouldn’t it be great if we could have our kitchens designed to our height? Whoever designed that house was a genius.

Closets make great places to set up desks, or to build in a working space. Doors can be left on to close up shop at the end of the work day, or can be removed to make the closet feel more open.

Divide and Create Space
Divide and Create Space Catherine Al-Meten

Divide and Create Space

Using Furniture as Dividers. Sometimes we have lots of space which serves multiple purposes.  I have a very large office and studio, and use a portion of the space for a guest and exercise space.  To divide the room without cutting off views, I have used a low, bureau as a room divider. You may want to use books shelves, or screens to provide privacy or keep spaces separate.

Kitchens are another area where there is often wasted space. See if you can use space more efficiently, by either removing objects that are not used (doors on some cabinets or built-ins that are never used). Consider using vertical space for open shelving, or putting small shelves along window frames for keeping an indoor herb garden. Extend counter space by adding a butcher block table on rollers. If you have space, it can be rolled away when not in use. I have an old television cabinet that is useful for storage, and serves as a buther block table. It rolls under a counter, out of sight, when not in use. 

New Uses for Space and Objects
New Uses for Space and Objects Catherine Al-Meten

New Uses for Space and Objects

New Purposes for  Objects and Space.  Consider using both objects and spaces for purposes other than what they were designed for. Doors of all kinds make great tables or divider. Door knobs can be used for multiple purposes, including hangers for coats or robes. What are some of the ways you repurpose objects and space in your home? Remove the lower bunk from a bunk bed, and create a space for a desk, or a play house.  Set up a blanket teepee in the living room, and create a special space for a toddler to go to sleep. Sometimes, the fight is not worth it. I recall having trouble getting my little one to go to sleep in her room. One night, after weeks of trauma for both of us, I just let her sit beside me in the living room. She was asleep within minutes. Teepees just make it more fun. A neighbor shared how she changed a broom closet that held one broom and a dust pan, into a well-organized and well-stocked panty. By installing some simple shelves, the space was converted into something much more functional. Look at the spaces in your home that are not being utilized well, and consider how objects can serve other purposes, and begin thinking out of the box.