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By Kathy Ewing
You stand by the cupboard, spinning that lazy Susan, in search of the juicer. You root through that modular drawer organizer, trying to find the lemon zester. You once again pore through that mesh file cabinet, searching out the family's passports. Clutter fills the wall rack system components, natural cotton garment bags, and color-coded handled bins.
You may be overlooking an under-utilized, eminently practical, always accessible storage space in your home. What you must do is re-order your thinking and begin to regard places in your home as storage areas which you heretofore may not have conceived of as storage areas.
1) Floors—A Vast Wasteland.
Think for a minute. What is the most wasted surface area in your home, a vast expanse of unused space?
The floor, of course. And what can be stored on the floor? Virtually anything, perhaps excluding fresh, unwrapped foods such as cheese, meat, or applesauce. Many families, for example, store their newspapers on the floor. They protect the carpeting and provide a comfy bed for the dog. In a large area like the living room, comics or sports sections can be opened up for later perusing. A hardwood or linoleum floor provides a perfect underpinning for completing the crossword puzzle.The floor can also efficiently hold magazines, coats and hats, everyone's shoes, other clothing, books, and videos. Even a very large person needs only a narrow walkway to navigate a room—just make footpaths amid the stuff. Adapt this tip to your own household storage needs.
2) Cushions—Safe, Hidden, and Cozy!
Sometimes, when you want to turn on the TV, do you absent-mindedly look for the remote control on a living room table? Then, with a grin, you smack your forehead and reach into the chair. There, nine times out of ten, is the remote, where a clever child has thoughtfully stored it. (Unless someone has negligently left it on the floor, where it doesn't belong. The living room floor is mainly for newspapers. See above.)
Some people frequently remove the cushions from their upholstered furniture to vacuum and remove all dust and lint underneath. (Mr. Rogers actually demonstrated this once.) Then, these meticulous homemakers replace the cushions on the chair and sofa, covering up the newly-cleaned areas. What was the point of cleaning, though, if you're not going to use all that clean space?
The empty area under the cushions is actually perfect for storage -- great for spare change, pens, dog toys, paper clips, the TV Guide, and snacks such as the idle M&M or Cheerio. (Researching this article just now, I pulled out a whole, wrapped Hershey bar from under a couch cushion.) In the unlikely event you want vacuum these areas, first remove the remote and other stored items, and, after vacuuming, replace them in their spanking clean home, under the cushions.
3) Stairs—Your Home's Bermuda Triangle.
Many homemakers have, when cleaning up clutter, deposited collected items belonging to various family members on the steps leading to bedrooms -- items such as mail, schoolwork, clothing and shoes. After awhile, however, stairs become a domestic Bermuda Triangle: Whatever lies there becomes invisible.
When the children or husband plaintively ask for help them finding the nail clippers, a textbook, a college application whose due date is tomorrow, or a favorite sweater, these items have often been lying on the stairs for weeks or months, enveloped in a murky cloud that obscured them from the family's vision.
Since belongings left on stairs enter a mysterious black hole, why not store things there that you don't want anyone to see, such as birthday and Christmas gifts? Buy gifts months in advance and instead of hiding (and possibly forgetting) them, hide these secret items on the stairs, where no one will ever bother them. You might even store revealing journals, love letters, traffic tickets, and other incriminating and embarrassing materials there. Voila! anything can be kept a secret as long as it's sitting on the stairs!
Forget those self-help books and catalogues with their endless Get Organized! tips. Forget expensive shops with complicated plastic shelves and high-tech hangers to keep all your stuff. You have, right now, unrecognized storage space in your own home right under your feet and under your seat. It's not about changing your house. It's about changing how you think.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I've lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for almost thirty years, in a house my son refers to as "your starter home." I teach Latin at Cleveland State University and a seminar on alternative education at Case Western Reserve University. I grew up in Canton, Ohio, the youngest of three girls. I graduated from Kent State University, with an M.A. in English in 1976. I have taught in preschools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges. My writing has been published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Northern Ohio Live, The Cleveland Edition, Cleveland Magazine, Case Magazine, John Carroll Magazine, Growing Without Schooling, The Bark, and The Book Group Book, among others. I frequently reviews books for the Plain Dealer, and my fiction has appeared at fullofcrow.com and my poetry in The Delinquent #15.