Archives for category: Organisation

When big changes occur, it’s necessary to take stock, and sometimes make amendments which affect the running of an organisation. In politics… and in my home.

Some new lodgers came to live with us recently, and we needed to free up some room for them in the kitchen. So, I have been doing some tidying.

Those who know me well will find that a surprising comment, witness my working space:

I know what's in there and I like it like that. My side of the desk....

DON’T TOUCH THIS! I know what’s in that pile and I like it like that. My side of the desk….

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Kitchen re-ordering, on the other hand, is quite satisfying — it’s all about recognising how the room flows and the best way to maximise the (reduced) space. We do have quite a lot of storage built into this kitchen, so the streamlining process wasn’t too much of a trial, but I remembered how important it is that everything has its place. I have even written a strapline about it (see above for details).

When I am helping clients design their kitchen, I always recommend that they do an ‘audit’ of the items they have, how accessible they would like them to be, and which ones they use the most. Although that seems rather specific, it’s actually quite a quick process, because generally they already have pots, pans and plates in some sort of storage. So, it just means going through, cupboard by cupboard, and listing the items. Then, defining problem points — ie, our pans are all stacked in a dark cupboard, and the one I want is ALWAYS at the back — and finding a solution — let’s put your pans in deep drawers instead.

Even if you are not designing a new kitchen, it’s still possible to rearrange things to work better for you. So take a look around my kitchen storage, and I’ll suggest some helpful tips as we go:

Firstly, put the things you use the most in the easiest places to get to. I find deep drawers really easy to use because you can see the entire contents at a glance, and access everything with not too much fuss.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

I don’t bother with drawer dividers (apart from those for cutlery) or plate stackers, as they tend to use up more space and make things less flexible. You may disagree!

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

The pans are just as easy to access: you can still stack them but the option to select from above, rather than crouching and grubbing around and removing others to get to the back, is infinitely preferable.

It's a spacious argument...

It’s a spacious argument…

Luxury lodgings

Wok luxury lodgings you have…

This plan is not half-baked

This plan is not half-baked.

These items were already happily homed and worked well for me, but there was one amendment to be made. Whilst the drawers are amazing and accessible, it’s not possible to make use of all the kitchen space in this way. If you imagine any kitchen, there is a lot of potential storage space up the walls as well as that in the floor based cabinets. Any cupboard above eye-level can’t have drawers, for obvious reasons. So the shelves have to suffice. My recommendation is that you find the items you use less regularly to put in these places. Unwisely, I put all our enormous salad bowls and serving plates in one of these high cupboards when I first filled the kitchen, and have been teetering on the edge of dropping them all on my head ever since.

I decided to reposition them in a drawer for easier access.

Hefty items need to be down low.

Hefty items need to be down low

I had used one of the deep drawers for the kids’ various plastic-ware, mainly so they could get to drinking cups and plates when needed. But we don’t use these baby bowls very much any more, and so I found a new home for them — in the corner cupboard.

We really only use the cups now....

No corner too deep…

Now the boys only really need to access the cups on a daily basis, so these are still easily reached by simply opening the cupboard door. These corner cupboards go very deep, but thanks to the pull-out trays, can hold a multitude of stuff.

There’s a picnic and lunchbox theme for the lower tray:

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified.

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified

Opposite, I have a satisfyingly organised tray for tupperware (never underestimate the calm of a well-sorted tupperware collection):

Stack the lids; stack the pots.

Stack the lids; stack the pots

And below, a tray for all the baking gadgets, jugs and other techie cookware:

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

The slim top drawers I use for cutlery and tools:

Drawer dividers rule here

Drawer dividers rule here

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

And I also have this useful drawer for flat things:

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils... and chopsticks!

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils… and chopsticks!

Under the sink I have put useful cleaning stuff (and the food bin):

It's all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear.

It’s all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear

And below that the cleaning cloths and towels:

Not forgetting our fire safety....

Not forgetting our fire safety….

We prefer to keep our worktops pretty clear, but I also know that if you put appliances away in cupboards, you’ll rarely use them. So we found a compromise with this sliding cupboard to keep the microwave, toaster and food mixer in:

Now you see 'em...

Now you see ’em…

...now you don't.

…now you don’t.

The coffee machine gets to stay out. Priorities….

The high cupboards are great for smaller items or kits that only come out now and then.

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they're not sitting underneath other things)

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they’re not sitting underneath other things)

Mugs, jugs and tea....

Mugs, jugs and tea….

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

The cupboard clearance meant that I had to redistribute food into different locations – I opted for the lower shelves in the tall cupboards, because they’re pretty much eye level:

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

You’ll see I’ve used little baskets in here. I find that if you have small items strewn over a shelf it’s very difficult to locate them. However it is very easy to lift down a box and rummage through that. I did the same with the crisp packets in the cupboard next door:

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below.

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below

I simply can't do another thing. I'll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

I simply can’t do another thing. I’ll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

In the interests of keeping everything behind closed doors, we customised our wine rack to fit inside a cupboard:

Wine not? Modified wine rack

Wine not? Modified wine rack

The lower parts of the tall cabinets are larders. I have sectioned food groups in the following way:

Top shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice.

Top (slim) shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice

Baking supplies.

Baking supplies

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections -- whole spices, ground and herbs.

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections — whole spices, ground and herbs

Some people like to have a wall-hung spice rack for all the little jars, but I normally have quite a few outsize or quirky-shaped containers with interesting mixes. So a drawer like this seems to be the best option. To improve it further, I’m thinking of getting a battery operated cupboard light to stick onto the base of the drawer above. The only issue with these big pull-out cupboards is that they’re not very well lit.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and finally, crucially, treats.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and at the top, crucially, treats

Never underestimate the uncouth bulkiness of your cereal packets – they are tall and ripped and always dribble grains. In our house, we get through cereal like locusts, and a quantity such as you see displayed above can be decimated in the space of a week.

There are no rules to planning out your kitchen storage, but as you can see, it is possible to get things neatly stowed in places that work well for you. My recent shift around has caused a few wrong turns (in fact, I omitted to tell the smallest two members of the family, who purportedly went ‘without a drink’ for two days before being redirected to the plastic cups’ new home (don’t worry, they didn’t really, they’re just exaggerating)) but overall increased efficiency in our home environment.

It honestly didn’t take me very long, either, maybe an hour? So why not give it a try? And if you’re planning a new kitchen, definitely draw up that list. You’ll be grateful you did.

That was most exhausting. And I don't know where the Cat Treats are any more.

That was most exhausting. And I don’t know where the Cat Treats are any more.

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I know, it’s been so long since I last mentioned our poor old music room. It has been languishing in dusty chaos like the Dorian Gray of our house renovation. Way before we moved in, the inspired wall shelving (constructed from layered units from Ikea) was assembled and the plantation shutters were installed… and there we stopped. At the end of last year we hauled all the old boxes of CDs and books up from the cellar so that we “wouldn’t forget about them,” and then promptly forgot about them.

You might remember some dalliance with wallpaper which I had before Christmas. In the end (despite how much fun it was to consider all the options) we didn’t go ahead because we hadn’t really got a picture of the rest of the room yet. However somehow, in the meantime, we have, and it is all finally coming together.

A spurt of organisation this weekend has meant that I have built in some natty drawers and doors to the bottom rung of shelves. We were motivated by the news that Ikea had decided to phase out its storage system called Expedit. This cube-inspired shelving icon has had an illustrious life, as likely to be found nestled amongst the reclaimed furniture of hipster apartments and practically attired family homes: lauded for its boxy good looks and functional design. The cubby holes are the exact right shape to file away your old-school vinyl, display flowers, pack full of books or even put a colourful storage box to stow away those less sightly items.

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

So we heard this ‘end of line’ news with a small twinge of horror, having covered one entire wall of the music room with Expedit, in the manner of (but much cheaper to execute than) a full sweep of bespoke shelving. Despite the wonderful resource of a whole website of helpful Ikea hacks it took quite an involved session of planning to find the right combination of given units to arrange against our wall. We had meddled around with the 4×4; 5×5; 4×2; 5×1 and 2×2 configurations before plumping for four horizontal 5×1 units stacked two-high, topped with a couple of mammoth 5x5s.

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

A smattering of LED lighting in odd shelves makes a nice random effect, and a few bulbs point up to the ceiling above the unit, illuminating the plaster mouldings.

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

For environmental reasons Ikea have decided to introduce a less chunky replacement to Expedit, called Kallax. This will apparently be slimmer around the frame (thereby using less wood) but otherwise sport the same dimensions.

Check out my broad frame

Check out my broad frame

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

The associated boxes, drawers and doors sold in the same range will supposedly be interchangeable with, and still fit, both Expedit and Kallax units. Be that as it may, we didn’t want to get stuck with a wall full of shelving which we couldn’t accessorise, just in case there were slight variations. I sped out to buy up the stock we needed, and came back with boxes, doors and drawers.

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

In our house, the past few months have seen a flurry of (frankly previously inconceivable) CDs sales activity, that has resulted in a very reasonable remnant of a collection. In previous properties we have had to consider the vast CD population as part of the overall design: a great swathe of custom shelving and substantial square metre-age in storage taken up with the 80s pop bands, the rave mixes and dance compilations and Best Ofs. I think we now agree that the new streamlined stock is much easier to accommodate, after the cull/massacre/clear-out since Christmas (appropriate noun to be selected depending on your point of view).

The lower echelons

The lower echelons

We were hoping to house the survivors in the drawers, and they do fit, but sadly not so that you can actually read what they are. So they get a reprieve, and their very own line on display.

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

We also executed a quality control exercise with the fiction paperbacks, donating those we weren’t too fussed about and creating a happy rainbow of favourite novels with the ones which we kept. Colour grouping is a smart way to arrange books, as long as you are not too fussy about knowing where any one individual volume might be. In this form they seem to provide just as much of a decoration in the room as if we’d gone at it with a paintbrush, only with quite considerably less effort.

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

The reference titles are coralled by subject matter on the upper shelves; photo albums occupy the top flight. There is even a two-cubicle section in the gods where the LPs live. The 7″s are still lurking on the floor at the moment, awaiting their fate.

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Only a few empty spaces remain, and we’re nearly there with the sorting, only a few homeless items still to place, and for the first time in a while we can actually see most of the floor.

A small pile of work still to do

A small pile of work still to do

I have spent the winter months huddled at my computer whilst the files and scrapbooks have slumped in cosy privilege against the radiator. Now we can reach the shutters to let the sunlight in, and the space is starting to feel bright and ordered.

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Shutters filter in the daylight

Shutters filter in the daylight

Next on the list are lamp shade, rug and that wall covering. I’ll bring you news on that soon, once we’ve fine tuned the shelves….

In the meantime, how do you store your stuff? Do you like acres of display, or do you prefer to shut it all away? In strict order or mix and match?

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s 8.45 on a school day morning. I turn the corner out of the kitchen wielding lunch boxes, clump up the three stairs into the hallway and holler the “Shoes ohnnnnnnn!!!” command up the stairs.

Nothing.

Three more steps up the main staircase (the smart orange line one). “SHOES TIME! It’s time to put on your shoes!” The cat rounds the corner from the kitchen and meows helpfully in response. She reaches the front door and starts sharpening her claws on the mat. There is no other sound.

I sprint up the first flight of stairs. Silence. Up another. Jonas’s room: empty. If I listen very hard I can just hear discussions, but muffled. More flights of stairs, check an empty Malachy’s room, and I am finally at the top. It is most definitely time to get shoes on by now. But no-one is in Caspar’s room, and the voices are still muted. This is when I open the cupboard doors….

Bespoke board games hideaway

Bespoke board games hideaway

Despite the fact that I put an awful lot of thought into Caspar’s cupboard, I had no idea it would prove quite so popular. For this is in fact a small boy equivalent of a clandestine poker den, minus the whisky and high stakes, although come to think of it, Monopoly is normally the game of choice. Like the world at the back of the wardrobe, Caspar’s cupboard takes you out of the general run of things. You can’t hear the “Shoes on!” shout, the lighting is dim, the shelves around you are full of enticing toys and Lego.

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

As I mentioned last time, I had harboured plans to make use of the eaves spaces for storage in the attic bedroom. I had heard friends tell of amazing designs by loft conversion firms and well-known wardrobe makers. I started by chatting with a carpenter I knew about commissioning something that incorporated all the storage needs for the room into that one area. I listed the elements I wanted in there: drawers or shelves for clothes, hanging space, book shelves, significant amounts of toy storage. I also wanted to use as much of the area as possible, despite the fact that the back wall followed the line of the sloping roof, and there were structural beams straddling the front that shouldn’t be removed. However reading up about costs for these sorts of designs, and then getting the jaw-dropping bespoke quote, I realised very quickly that this work commanded a luxury budget that certainly wouldn’t fit in with our modest plans.   So I decided to design it myself, using as basic methods as I could, and see what was possible. The joiner on our team of builders was Si, who just promised me, “You design it, I’ll build it.” Bearing in mind his time was my money, I went back to my wish list and tried to pare it all back to its simplest form.

For clothes storage I really wanted a chest of drawers, but drawers are, as you can imagine, a complex and time-consuming thing to make from scratch. I realised that it would be perfectly possible to insert an existing chest of drawers into a space and build around them. Finding them was my first task: made so much easier by the Ikea website, which lists the dimensions of all its furniture. From the comfort of my desk, I found the largest chest of drawers to fit the space between beams on the left (also Malm, satisfyingly, so matching the bed). This then left another strut to fit around, which I felt could delineate the hanging wardrobe space. Then, the remaining, largest gap could be for the toy storage cupboard.

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

The cupboard doors were going to be fitted with handles for opening, but then we noticed that the Malm chest of drawers had a sloping diagonal finger grip at the top instead. We designed the doors in the same way, and it keeps the storage wall flush and neat.

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Since the space went back so far into the eaves, I also made use of the area behind the chest of drawers to made a bookcase accessed from next to the bed. I modelled the design on some shelves we already had: with varying depths and heights for each shelf. They look very sweet, nestled into the wall, and fit all the different sized books that a child tends to have, as well.

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

The toy storage cupboard takes up most of the rest of the depth of the eaves. I think I ended up sectioning off about 80 sq cm of floor space right around the back, which couldn’t realistically be accessed from any point. But the rest of it is completely functional.

For the shelving inside the toy cupboard, I measured various storage boxes which we keep our toys in, as well as running a quick survey of the dimensions of Ikea’s line of containers. There seemed to be a general link at around 30 cm: some were this length, others longer but still at a 30 cm depth. So I decided 35 cm would be a useful depth for the shelves.

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Then I checked on the heights of various boxes, and designed the height of the shelves accordingly. It was a bit painstaking, but worth it, as the shelves are now perfectly set up for pretty much anything we want to put on them. We use them for chunky items of clothing, as well. Of course, as Caspar grows older, there will doubtless be many changes of use. But I think the design can take it. I asked for the corners all to be rounded, so that crawling into the cupboard wouldn’t cause unnecessary injury. It’s all made of painted MDF, a far cry from the tulip wood and walnut we could have commissioned, but actually affordable, and fit for purpose, even smart in its own way.

Multi-function storage

Multi-function storage (and it won’t have your eye out)

We fixed in a wardrobe lighting set, so that you can see what you’re doing. It clearly provides exactly the right ambience for a few undercover games meetings. Sadly these are sometimes interrupted by a Real World representative on a raiding party (shouting “Shoes on!”), but the school day is not that long, and normal service can be resumed by 4 pm. In any case, as everyone knows, a game of Monopoly was never finished in a day.

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