Monday, November 30, 2009

Year-end Possession Purge Contest

Entering a new year is a good time to take stock; that's why many of us make New Year's resolutions. If yours includes clearing up your clutter I have a quote to guide you. Adopted from a speech by Plato, I found it in A Grateful Heart edited by M. J. Ryan.

"O beloved Pan, and all the other deities of this place, grant that I may become beautiful in my soul within, and that all my external possessions may be in harmony with my inner self."

I have a challenge for you. Clear out possessions that are not in harmony with your inner self and send me "before" and "after" photos by tax day, April 15, 2010.  I'll post your inspirational photos on this blog and the person with the most impressive possession purge wins an embroidered rePURPOSE: What to Trash, What to Treasure apron. Its pouch pockets, waist ties and adjustable neck strap make it a perfect to wear when you clean or possession purge. Email photos to

Ready to release excess possessions? Imagine how good you'll feel when you're done.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

RePURPOSING Spaces: A San Diego Cottage

Lisa lives in a darling two-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-story cottage with a bedroom and bath upstairs and a bed and bath downstairs. The small bedroom upstairs was her “home office” but, filled with boxes, it was really was more storage than office. The large downstairs room was her bedroom with a double closet, a wide hallway, a bathroom with a tub and French doors opening to the backyard.

When her partner moved it created an opportunity to evaluate how space in this house was used. Much like our house, their rooms did not fully match their functions so they decided to switch the bedroom with the office.

Here is the downstairs mid-move:

Switching rooms made sense for a number of reasons:
·      Sleeping upstairs eliminated the trek up to the shower every morning and back down to the closet to get dressed.
·      The smaller upstairs room was just the right size for the bed and its smaller closet was just the right size for their clothes.
·      The larger room downstairs had space for the desk and they could add bookshelves to hold what was in the storage boxes.
·      Its double closet was large enough for both off-season clothes and some office storage.
·      Floor space was opened up for practicing yoga.
·      And they got a big bonus - a view of the backyard during the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

RePURPOSING Spaces: Our Bedroom

Living in a small house has been a large lesson in seeing ways to use space beyond the obvious.

Here is a photo of the first time we saw the Front Bedroom as potential home-buyers:

It is exactly the same size as the Back Bedroom and the bathroom is directly between the two but this one must have been designated the "Master Bedroom" because it had the largest closet. So, influenced by the home staging and without questioning the room functions, we moved in and set up our bed.

The house had minimal closet space so we added IKEA wardrobes and used the Back Bedroom as a home office.

Then one day it hit me. Why were we sleeping in the sunniest room in the house and spending waking hours in the darkest room? Wouldn’t it make sense to switch? But we'd have a lot less closet space because the sunny room had a picture window and, therefore, less wall space for the wardrobes. They would have to go. Could we live with less clothes?

Like most people, we wore 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. After deciding we’d rather have a sunny spot to work rather than clothes we rarely wore, we whittled down our wardrobes. Most of my husband’s everyday clothes were folded and put in a dresser. He selected his favorite shirts, sports jackets, ties and belts to hang in his 29" Back Bedroom closet.

I did the same in the Front Bedroom closet with mine. To save space, we stored seasonal clothes in protective bags under our bed.

Without the wardrobes we had space for a guest sofa bed in the Front Bedroom. So now we have a bright, sunny place to read, do projects or use the computer and our guests have some privacy.

Plus we sleep much better in the darker Back Bedroom, our romantically cozy "new" Master Bedroom.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

rePURPOSING Things: Grandmother’s Dresser

Inventing new uses for old objects can be really fun. After our storage clean-out I had a few items from my family that I absolutely could not part with but for which I had absolutely no use. So here is the first of my personal examples to inspire you to rePURPOSE your own problem possessions.

Grandmother’s Dresser

According to my mother, this poor dresser had seen more than its fair share of abuse. Family lore is that it came on a ship from Ireland in the 1890’s along with my immigrant Grandmother. It supposedly had an attached mirror and gingerbread decorations but when it came into my hands in 1969 it was a plain pine dresser with sticking drawers. I was a hippie, so I painted it red, white and blue.

When my hippie phase passed and I decided to clean up my act, the dresser became my first furniture-refinishing project and was transformed into an attractive honey color. Over the years our family used it as a dresser, a baby changing station, a dining sideboard and it even had a brief stint holding the microwave in a temporary kitchen.

Then we moved into a small casita. We had a nice dresser and no room for a sideboard. So it went into storage.

Cleaning out the storage I had an idea. We had a window in the living room that could use a table in front of it. But the dresser was too tall; it would block the view. So, I cut it in half... length-wise. The formerly four-drawer dresser was now a two-drawer side table…and a perfect perch for out cat!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our Storage, or Physician Heal Thyself

When we moved into our 888 square foot house five years ago we had bigger things to concern ourselves with other than the efficiency of the one tiny storage closet near the carport. It had prefab shelving in that held our 66-gallon storage boxes so we shoved them in and basically forgot about it except at the holidays when we retrieved our decorations…

…until we decided that the time had come for us to practice what I preach: clean out the off-site storage unit we got when we moved and stop paying to store things we rarely use.

The first step was to evaluate the storages unit’s contents, which was mostly my husband’s art supplies, camping gear & CDs and various family items I inherited and couldn’t bear to part with.

The art supplies went to his art studio and he ingested the CDs into iTunes and sold the discs to a record store. I rePURPOSED a few family items (more on this later) and we were left with the camping gear and a few framed pieces of family art. Surely this would fit in our storage closet?

Here I go again with no “before” photo. You’ll have to take my word that I made some clever changes to this closet.

When I measured the closet I realized how much room the prefab shelves took up. If we installed plywood ones we could gain an additional shelf plus a slot for vertical storage for family paintings. So we did.

I hired a carpenter to build shelves the same height and depth as my storage boxes. I measured the new shelving to accommodate a footlocker that had been stashed under my desk in the house (which is why my chair never went fully under the desk). Then I corralled items that were not already in storage boxes into additional ones I bought, which I labeled. This arrangement left plenty of room to hang the camping backpack on the inside of the door and beach chairs on the side walls. Perfect!  Everything is findable, accessible and it will only take five months of not paying the storage fee to cover the carpenter’s cost. From then on, free storage!