I would like to consider myself a minimalist. I have a philosophical desire to live simply and I think I could name every piece of clothing that I own. But in reality, I have a lot of stuff. The reasons are as numbered as my belongings: I love to host parties and weekend guests; I have pets who require accessories (such as food); and I have several past times—from woodworking to painting—each of which comes with its own kit of parts.
I'm lucky enough to have a storage space in the hallway of my San Francisco apartment, shared with my next-door neighbor and accessible from each of our apartments. The space is oddly (and narrowly) shaped, and my neighbor and I have each claimed our estimated halves.
I've made use of my side, but woefully underutilized its potential. The wood shelves I added were too shallow to hold much of anything, and so I was always moving boxes and bottles from here to there, trying to get at the thing I wanted. I found myself constantly wondering while reaching for an esoteric tool, "Why is my lightbox/leather punch/hacksaw all the way back there? I use it all the time." I feel that way about most of my belongings. Finally, I injected a system of organization and created a setup that keeps just about everything within reach.
Photography by Liesa Johannssen.
Above: I installed two Edsal Steel Commercial Shelving Units; $69.97 each at The Home Depot. At dimensions of 36" wide, 72" tall, and 18" deep, they take advantage of the closet's available depth while leaving enough room for me to manuever in front of them. I now have enough storage space that I can shift things around easily; removing one thing doesn't mean that the rest of the system comes tumbling down.
Original photography shot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital SLR. The filmmaker’s camera.
Above: I set soaps and cleaning supplies (things that are oily or sudsy and might leak) on metal trays, and keep them on the eye-level shelf, within easy sight and reach.
Above: The guest toiletries that I kept buried away are now collected in an at-the-ready bin. The Home Depot carries a similar Metal Pail; $10.44 for a pack of three.
Above: I trimmed a Hardwood Dowel using a Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool Kit, suspended it through the shelving, and secured it with a Hex Nut on each end. It's a practical storage space for tapered candles with connected wicks—and also a pretty one.
Above: On the opposite side of the shelf, I hung a dowel with several kinds of twine and string. Scissors live on a magnet nearby.
Above: Tucked away but within easy reach are Everbilt Wood Clothespins ($2.35 for a pack of 50 at The Home Depot); 8-Inch Homeowner Pine Shims ($1.57 per bundle at The Home Depot); and a Martha Stewart Artist Brush Set ($5.97 at The Home Depot).
Above: There is nothing minimal about the number of paint brushes and sponges I own.
Above: I'm thrilled not to have to go searching for small miscellaneous supplies like Terra Cotta Pots, gardening tools, extra votive candles, and detail brushes.
Above: There's no hope for me if I don't label things. So everything that's kept in boxes and baskets gets tagged.
Above: Storing extras in attractive bins adds visual order to the system. (I also find that if everything is kept in its store-bought packaging, it's hard for me to quickly spot what I'm looking for.) A stack of towels on the top shelf is easy for guests to find.
Above: All of us at Remodelista keep a pile of canvas Drop Cloths handy for painting projects as well as slipcovers, bedspreads, and tablecloths. See 5 Quick Fixes: Drop Clothes as Instant Decor and DIY: Hibiscus-Dyed Drop Cloth.
Above: Hung on the wall, a dustpan and brush, yard stick, and T-square look like objets d'art. (I find the T-square solution especially satisfying; it's one of my most annoying belongings to store.)
Above: By far the best addition to my storage space? The Husky 27-inch 5 Drawer Cabinet; $129. Before, I didn't have a space large enough for all of my tools and hardware, so I relied on a vague mental map that was constantly failing me. (If you have room and a sturdy work surface would be useful for you, the Husky 46-inch 9 Drawer Mobile Workbench with Solid Wood Top is a heftier option; $279.)
Above: I hear Handel's Hallelujah chorus when I open the top drawer of my new cabinet. Nails, screws, pins, and bolts of all shapes and sizes are each contained in their own little vessels, all visible at a glance. The biggest and most often-used nails are in open bowls for easy grabbing.
Above: I painted the chipped and dirty 1970s blue floor white to brighten up the space. Behr Premium Plus Ultra Pure White Satin Interior Paint is $33.98 for a gallon at The Home Depot.
Above: A look at my storage setup before I reorganized it. My dinky shelves didn't take advantage of the available depth.
Above: A tough scrubbing wouldn't clean the dirty, aging blue floor.
Above: For the last 10 years, this is how I kept nails, hooks, shims, ties, and all other hardware: in shoeboxes. I was constantly overturning every box in search of that one thing I knew I had, somewhere. Now, everything has its place.