Friday, July 16, 2010


Photo courtesy Flickr

An old friend told me that her house is chaotic. She’s having work done on the walls and all is disorder. A faint tone of distress came through the Email.

One day in the early Seventies, my hippie friend Don poured me a cup of coffee, and we sat at his kitchen table watching a hamster set things right after the cage had been cleaned. Don observed that Hamster hated having his quarters disrupted and would work without rest until things were back to his liking. By the time the coffee was gone, Hamster had turned several paper tissues into comfortable fluff and was pushing it around like a short person making a bed with a big quilt. Hamster means “storer” in German, and it makes a good verb.

Tossing a space makes the function of the various furnishings obvious, or the disfunction.

I grew up listening to my female elders voice the Fifties’ view of Victorian architecture. One of the recurring comments was about “wasted space” in generous halls.

That wasted space worked. It was social space, and when a room was being cleaned, no small feat before electricity, furniture was placed there so that the draperies, carpets, woodwork, and windows could be made fresh and sanitary. When the work was finished, all was put back into place. I find that doing this now and then leaves me keenly aware of the contribution each thing makes to the function and comfort of a room. When I first started keeping house this way, often there were items I simply left in the hall on their way to one or another category of solid waste.

Centralizing storage on each floor makes emptying a space easy. The odds and ends of life live in flap-lid plastic storage bins on “EZ Shelf” wire racks with wheels. I can empty the room that has the most things in it in the least time simply by shifting the racks into the hall.

I use the smallest, ugliest, and/or darkest space on each floor for storage and reserve the closets for things in active rotation. A closet’s a good spot for small pieces of furniture that are used now and then in a space.

The old garage on the back of the property is a week-end hangout and a tiny one-room dwelling. There are two rolling racks in it that store and work as room dividers: I lashed rustic fencing to three sides of each one using zip ties of a color that disappeared against the stock. Those racks are the hardest-working furniture I have.


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