Thursday, July 17, 2014

Live With Inventory, Not For It


Photo courtesy Flickr

Waiting for a cab after a party, I could not resist kidding my hostess about her immaculate living room carpet. She mentioned having reconfigured the house for the crowd and how she inconveniences herself with dozens of beloved, fragile knick-knacks. Several of my fellow guests had been talking about downsizing and tiny houses. On the ride home, I visualized an alternative to life in a china shop that allows one to have one’s inventory, eat it as well, and enjoy flexible space that's easy to maintain. The usual middle-class house is a petty version of the Victorian pile that ran on cheap labor and itself copied the single-function rooms of the stately home.

Here’s the deal: buy dozens of medium-sized stationer’s stick-on green dots. Also buy dozens of medium-sized red and yellow dots. Wander around the house posting color-coded dots on discards, dead storage keepers, and rotating storage keepers. Acquire disposal cartons and flap-lid plastic bins and bubble wrap. Get a massive oversupply. Also buy stick-on labels and a bold marker.

Decide which room in the house is going to be the storage area. One on each floor is convenient. Acquire a Metropolitan high-tech wire storage rack on industrial castors. You may want two or three of these things. They’re a labor cost that will double the size of your usable space. Conceal a rack with a flyweight shoji screen (the double-sided model is good value) or by lashing a covering in place with zip ties. I use English rustic wicker garden fencing, but fabric with grommets from a cheap hardware store kit would be good.

Since making decisions about inventory is the hard work, enlist help. It would not be unreasonable to ask a moving company to send a crew. Pack inventory, sans dots, and stow it in its new location. Use archival packing material rather than cheap acidic paper and consider using one size of flap-lid storage bin. Post a bold sign on the wall directing the crew. One of the destinations may be the trunk of the car or the rear of a thrift chain’s truck. Put donations in transparent bags to prevent tragic errors. Label and date everything with stationer’s stickers and a bold marker. When the rooms are clear, dispose of surplus furniture, if any. Use the storage area for redundant furniture that may be wanted a few times a year. Furnish for the number of persons in residence.

Clean, or have someone clean. This kind of rearrangement is like turning over domestic rocks. Define one limited space for display, and set out current favorites. In Japan, the formal display space is called a tokonoma. A traditional Japanese paper house had a fireproof outbuilding called a kura that was used to secure domestic treasures from fire and theft. The kura had nail-studded doors and mud walls that were three feet thick.

The traditional Japanese house was essentially a theater. A Western house has been a museum. Neither theater nor museum exhibits everything all the time. Display behind glass reduces maintenance and the risk of breakage. A full wall of display shelves is one way to give knick-knacks their head-secure with earthquake sticky wax. Open shelves in a room with HEPA filtered air need dusting less often. One simple, elegant, and traditional way to display a small treasure is on the dining table.

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