By Glen Warren Peloso and Kendall Williams

Making space for the things we want – but don’t have room for – is a problem. Difficult problems call for innovative solutions.Sometimes we use our outside voice, a la Homer Simpson, when we really mean to use our inside voice. In a recent client meeting, Ms. Jones, we shall call her, said with some sense of exasperation that her family had a storage problem in the condo, what with the kids and all —

We both thought it, but only one of us said it, “Lady, you don’t have a storage problem; you have a stuff problem.” The fact is, had we worked for six weeks, cramming storage into every nook and cranny in her space, in six weeks, the problem would have been as bad as ever.

Even as spaces are getting smaller, at least in downtown areas, Canadians are accumulating more. Something has to give.

The solutions to stuff overload are as varied as the problem itself. But from an aesthetic point of view, you want the space to feel as uncluttered as possible. It is not that cleanliness is next to Godliness (although our mothers would argue differently). It’s that a lack of clutter makes you feel better, more serene, less pressured because you are not looking at all the things that still have to be done before you rest.

When we work with clients, before we deal with the storage issue, we have to deal with the purge issue. The rule of thumb we use with clients is that if it doesn’t have sentimental value and it hasn’t been used in the last 18 months, then let it go. This is often the most difficult with older clients like our parents, who are always on the lookout for the next Depression and want to be armed a large ball of elastics.

If you are serious about getting a handle on your clutter, start with the purge. Then, take time to assess the space you have and decide how to achieve the maximum storage out of a minimum of space.

A good place to start is the bedroom closet. Most builders provide a hanging bar and perhaps a shelf. Think about closet organizers. They are designed to use all of the cubic space in a closet. Why have 15 unused inches under the hanging area of the clothes? What about the space at the top of the closet where you stuff your sweaters. Can a shelf be added up there to store luggage you need only once in a while?

Elsewhere in your condo, think about the unused spaces or the dead corners. Sometimes something as simple as stackable decorative boxes can provide a great deal of storage for smaller items and be an aesthetically pleasing accent in the room.

Built-in storage is a great solution to a lot of problems. You can maintain the lines of a room and lose as little as one foot of space out from the wall.

Think vertically. Go straight up, and find space for shelves to hold all the things that you want to keep around you. Sometimes having doors on these shelves is the nicest way to keep clutter hidden and makes a great place to stash stuff quickly when unexpected guests turn up.

Built-in bookshelves create an area to display treasures. Not every level of every shelf has to be taken up with books or knick knacks. Adding a collection of attractive wicker baskets or design boxes cleans the space up while allowing you to turn what used to be the junk drawer into a junk box.

In your condo, make that “second bedroom” (which is often a euphemism for walk-in closet, or suitable only if your guests don’t mind sleeping on a foot stool) work double duty as both a den or office and a guest room.

Murphy beds, especially with storage on either side, are expensive until you think how much per square foot your unit costs. Instead of seeing valuable floor space wasted on a guest room used only occasionally, a second room can be made into an everyday space to read, or watch TV or set up the computer.

Walk around the space and think “tetris.” At a recent furniture show we found a company out of Quebec that makes platform beds with a hydraulic hinge so that all of the space under the mattress becomes closed storage. Our homes are generally made up of a series of squares, putting our ‘stuff’ into squares (boxes, baskets, files, folders, shelves, drawers) and then looking for that unused square, will help you deal with the endless desire to consume.

As you stand at the check-out with your debit card in hand, ask yourself those three important questions before you buy: Who will dust it, where will we put it, and what do we get rid of when I bring this home? Because really, while built in storage is fantastic for the things you need to have, does it make sense to have a carpenter build a cabinet into your home in order to store that great “thing” that you had to buy because it was on sale!!?
Glen Warren Peloso and Kendall Williams, Warren Williams Interiors
Tel: 416-363-9914