Now we would like to suggest a “space hunt.” The results may be surprising. Keep in mind, though, that you cannot count just any empty area as storage space. Space is useless for storage if you cannot get to it or if things cannot be safely stored there.
Does your home have an attic, or space above a lowered ceiling? It may be usable, but, on the other hand, it is not good storage space unless family members can safely get to it. One solution is to install what are called “disappearing” or folding stairs. These are usually metal stairs that fold up into the ceiling and are pulled down when needed, thus making the attic safely accessible.
What about the basement? If it is cool and damp you can count it as premium storage space for wine and such vegetables as potatoes. But if books or clothes are placed in cardboard cartons and then put on a wet basement floor, they often are ruined by mildew. You may want to attempt to seal the walls and floor against moisture with special paint. And you could air it out, possibly using fans and dehumidifiers. If you do use the basement for storage of things that need to be kept dry, consider keeping them off the floor by hanging them on hooks inserted in pegboard or on racks mounted along the wall. If some items are placed on the floor, it might be wise to put them on sheets of plywood or plastic.
You do not have an attic or a basement? Do not give up the hunt. Even in small apartments, new storage areas can be found. Consider these suggestions: Sometimes there is space for shelves under a stairway. Is there space under your bed for flat metal boxes in which you could store blankets? Do you have room for a trunk or a chest in your living room? You could pad the top, making it an attractive bench, and store seldom-used items inside.
Sometimes there is a hallway that dead-ends, going beyond the last door. Might this vacant space be turned into a helpful closet? Also, take a look upward. Is there space above the door of a closet? Some people use this space for a shelf, with a curtain over the front of it for the sake of appearance.
If your need for space is urgent, another good way to create a new storage area is to build a “storage wall.” This can be used to divide a large room or can serve as a partial partition in a smaller room. It can be a permanent wall, or a more versatile mobile unit on wheels or casters. Storage walls can be composed of many variations of drawers, and open or closed shelves. The cabinets in it can even be designed to open from both sides so that the same items can be reached from either side.
Careful use of space or good design, however, will not solve all storage problems. In many countries, moisture, mildew and moths are enemies of successful storage.
We have already discussed some dangers of basement moisture, but in many climates it is a problem throughout the house. What can be done? Operating an airconditioner or a dehumidifier is one answer. Airing out the house—opening drawers, emptying closets—on breezy, sunny days is also helpful.
Why be concerned? Consider just one of moisture’s “children”—mildew. Mildew is fungi that appear as a gray or white fuzzy mold. It can be found on anything, but is particularly destructive to books. A small-wattage light left burning in closets will deter it. Airing out possessions and letting air circulate in the closet will also help.
Moths also can do much damage. They prefer the dark. Here they will lay their eggs on any available wool, fur or feathers. Within a week the wormlike larvae hatch and begin to “lunch” on these costly materials. Sunlight, air and the vacuum cleaner can help to keep the problem in check. Clean regularly in dark areas under furniture and in coat closets. You may find certain chemical crystals and sprays useful. It is also recommended that you dry-clean all woolens at least once a year. If you keep things, it certainly pays to care for them.
Of course, if your family must always have what is “new” while keeping all that is “old,” the problem of home storage will persist. On the other hand, if you combine education (learning what you really need) with invention (finding good ways to store it), you can solve the problem. And with proper storage you will have a much better chance of finding things and so attain the real benefit of ownership—having something when you need it.