Knowing how to utilize the space you have in your home (or office or car) is key to an organized, clutter free, stress free life! I am here to tell you that just because you have a pantry, linen closet, coat closet, and even dishwasher, doesn't mean you have to use them in the way they were intended. What?!? Did she just say DISHWASHER? Yes, I did, but I'll get back to that one.
Many of us do not have lots of storage space to house all of our belongings. I live in Los Angeles now and lived in New York as a newly wed, both of which have tons of people practically living on top of each other. That means when you find a space to call home, you work with what you are given.
When my husband and I moved to New York in 2008, we hit the jackpot with this beautiful building on 50th and 8th on the West Side (of Central Park). We even scored the penthouse, which meant a cute little upstairs rooftop patio all to ourselves with a great view of the Hudson River!
Sounds like a dream, right? Well let me tell you...it was a CRACKERJACK BOX! Yep, one itty bitty bedroom that barely fit our CA King size bed. Did I mention my husband is 6'6" tall and we also had a French Bulldog puppy that was potty training on a pee pad (or the hardwood floor or elevator, whichever was most convenient for her)!? We needed clever storage solutions!
We had the tiniest closet in our bedroom, a hallway closet with one rack, a tall and skinny pantry across from our minuscule kitchen that had an open view to the combination living and dining room space. Even saying living room and dining room space is a stretch because there was only space for a couch, coffee table and breakfast sized table and chairs. I knew if we were going to live there for two years, I'd have to organize the heck out of our stuff and get very creative with our storage space! I was up for the challenge!!
I bought two smaller couches with a large ottoman (at Living Spaces, which has amazing prices and delivers the same day!!) and used the ottoman as extra seating. When it was just the two of us, I pushed it against a wall and added throw pillows to suggest a third couch. When guests came over and we sat, I scooted it up to the small side of the coffee table for a cozy configuration for socializing (aka many Bookclub meetings and drinks before heading out to an event or restaurant).
Here is that tiny kitchen with the open window to the living room. That's also the ottoman we used for seating, propping up our feet, and extending the couch to a bed, when we needed an extra space for guests to sleep. Our puppy, Delilah, could be found most days lounging on that ottoman.
Next, I purchased a coffee table with a top that lifted up to create a higher table. This pulled double duty as a dining room table for two or three and a desktop for writing or working on a laptop. We still have this table because it's a genius design! This clever coffee table allowed me to eliminate a dining room table altogether and create a cute little dog corner for Delilah instead. This West Elm coffee table looks similar to the one we got at Living Spaces. Storage inside, and raises up for eating and working...brilliant!
Now that our living space was complete, how would I EVER fit all of our clothes, shoes and necessary gigantic coats for the brutal NY winters in our tight storage areas? Simple, I made my space work for us!
I didn't need a pantry, because we often ate at restaurants and when I cooked a big meal for more than just the two of us, I'd purchase what I needed that day and wouldn't need to store all those ingredients. Instead, I turned that pantry into our closet for folded shirts, shorts, and pants.
Next, I bought a three drawer storage bin on wheels from Target to house our undies and socks, and rolled it into our skinny bedroom closet. The coat closet held my long dresses, our coats and Donny's suits. Below his suits I purchased stackable shoe shelves from the Container Store. And because I had put all of our folded clothes on the shelves in our pantry, that freed up space in our bedroom, where we'd normally have a dresser. I wish I had photographed this!
In our LA home, the addition of two delightful kiddos meant getting creative with our space again. I love a storage challenge!! For example, our downstairs coat closet also houses my husbands' tools and a board game area on the top shelf.
Instead of towels, our linen closet in our master bathroom holds all of our heavy folded sweaters, that would take up too much room hanging in our closet and make drawers in our dresser too full. I also keep my folded pants/jeans there, and my cozy pjs and nice bags have found a home on the bottom shelf for easy access when I'm getting ready.
Our linen closet in the upstairs hallway pulls double duty too, keeping my husband's fishing and camping gear, the miscellaneous potty topper, kids' floaty, paint supplies, and extra pillows in one convenient place. I'll speak more about how I have chosen storage bins and bathroom shelving to help my Littles stay organized in their spaces in future posts. Those clever tips deserve their own article!
I hope you can see that just because you have a space that is typically labeled one thing, doesn't meant it can't be transformed into exactly what you need to Style Your Space so it works for YOU!
Even your dishwasher counts! Yes, Ms. Tara, I'll never forget coming to your house as a child and watching you pull out bags of chips from your dishwasher, when Rachel and I needed a snack. When a lady handwashes her dishes, why not use that dishwasher for a pantry? You were the innovator who inspired me to think outside the Typical Storage Box!