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“Every available inch of space!” I wish I had a quarter for every time I have heard my husband say that phrase. To which I always promptly have a witty comeback, such as, “So what’s your point?” or “You say that like it’s a bad thing”. Sometimes I just cheerfully reply, “Thank you.” What’s wrong with utilizing unusual places as storage? I like to think of it as “Thinking outside of the box.” 
 
I maintain a beautiful home. It is always nicely decorated and attractive. Could I become a hoarder with no room left in my house? Probably, if I let myself. On second thought, make that Absolutely! But as a Virgo, I am too much of a perfectionist to do that. I prefer to think of myself as a collector. Problem is, every collection I ever start winds up getting out of control. My first collection was lighthouses. After I got towels, throw rugs, lotion bottles, pictures, suncatchers, mugs, dishes, cheese spreaders, jewelry, and every possible lighthouse tchotchka known to mankind, not to mention actual lighthouse figurines, I finally said, “Enough, now I am collecting snowmen figures.” Same thing happened with the snowmen, and eventually everything else I decided to collect. Thus began my quest for evermore storage space. So how did I do it, you ask.
 
First of all, I divided everything into seasons. I only display lighthouses in summer and snowmen in winter so my house is not totally overrun with everything I own all at the same time. We have a custom-built breakfast nook that was designed after kitchens on boats, where storage is under and behind the cushions. Think of useful storage spaces when purchasing your next set of furniture. Not ready to remodel? No problem. Still a lot of air space available in your home.
 
Next, throw away all of the original big boxes with the styrophome packaging that are twice the size of the item being stored. Or throw away the styrophome and put several items inside that box. It’s called consolidating. In the same way, when packing away Christmas items, or any seasonal item, don’t forget to put smaller things inside of larger ones. Just wrap some tissue paper or plastic bags around them if they are fragile. For example, put napkin rings inside of a candy dish or salt and pepper shakers inside of a cookie jar.
 
Do you have a lovely teapot sitting on a shelf that nobody ever uses for tea? Consider storing your mini-Easter eggs inside of it. No one will ever know! Just write yourself a note and put it with the egg tree so you don’t forget where they are. I have a cute fishing basket decorating my dining room. Inside of it are all of my candles, tea light holders, and votives:  easy to access, hidden from view, yet attractive in the room. A wicker picnic basket also in the dining room holds my seasonal table runners and napkins. If I ever need it for a picnic (does anybody actually ever picnic anymore?), I can just put those things on the side while I am away.
 
I have found that baskets make beautiful storage for just about anything. I freed up a whole shelf in the kitchen by putting all the vitamins and medicines in an attractive basket atop the refrigerator. (Or try that unused cookie jar or ice bucket that is already up there.)  As an added bonus, it’s easier to find things as well. A basket on my bottom step collects the daily mail. A basket next to my washer holds all of my paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups—easy to grab the whole lot when setting a table with them. Baskets can sit next to the sofa with magazines ready for reading. A basket next to the bed can hold hand cream, foot lotion, lip balm… all of those before bed necessities. Too many baskets? Try a pretty flowerpot or wide-mouthed vase instead. 
 
Look around your house for unutilized items that could become storage organizers. A covered bowl could hold your book matches. A recipe file could hold your supply of coffee sweeteners. Every box you take off your shelf or pantry gives you more room on that shelf or in that pantry. Not using your teabag canister? Put rice in it instead. Use one of those reusable shopping bags hung over a hanger for hats, scarves, and gloves. Or you could hang it on the doorknob for the kids to reach. Or use it to organize your wrapping paper, gift bags, and bows. Hang an old straw or cloth pocketbook from a hook in the pantry and use it to corral your electric eggbeater and knife. Put recipe books in that wooden breadbox that lets the bread get moldy. Look at that empty lighthouse spaghetti holder with new eyes. Give a new life to that (fill in the blank with your own unused item). Leave no space unexplored! Go places no man has ever been before! Go to the thrift shop with complete confidence that you DO have room for just one more treasure!
 
One of my goals since retirement is to empty out my attic. That is not a chore that I plan to leave to my heirs upon my demise. I foresee a big yard sale in my future. Thrift shops get ready for some donations … but … I simply cannot get rid of this cool costume jewelry I’ve loved since the seventies. Oh, let me see … ah, the antique milk bottles with lids that are sitting next to the antique secretary in my dining room. Perfect! My husband will NEVER look in there!

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