Take Advantage of Vertical Space

A wall closet in a residential house in the Un...

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At the time of this writing, the apartment I live in consists of four rooms, including the bathroom, and a tiny, funky-shaped closet with no door.  (We live in a basement apartment, so it’s one of those situations where the builders didn’t want to waste the space underneath the stairs going up to the main house.) Needless to say, I frequently feel like there’s nowhere for my things to go because, well, there isn’t.  So trying to clean and organize the place has become a study in creating storage space from nothing, rather than organizing the existing storage space.

As I reach further and further into the recesses of my creative tool box, the solutions to my storage problems that I’m generating are getting equally obscure.  I quickly gave up on trying to find more floor space because, being in the basement, I already feel like I’m in a deep, dark, closet-sized dungeon, and I don’t want to clutter the place any more than is absolutely necessary.  So I’m resisting making stacks of things or creating islands of bookcases or shelving or butcher’s blocks, simply because I want to preserve as much open space as possible.

So, more floor units are out of the question.  What now?

I was pondering that very question the other night while staring at the blank stretch of wall over my child’s bed, and had the thought I’ve had so many times:  This place seems so much bigger when you don’t look at the floor.  We seem to have all this space–so where is it when I try to organize things?

And then it hit me–that’s exactly my problem.  I keep looking at the floor.

I’m finding that the spaces most ignored/unused are the backs of doors, and the wall space above hip-height, particularly the 24-36″ below the ceiling.  Perfect.  Plenty of space for shelves, without the bother of having to baby-proof them!

Back of the Door

Hanging shoe racks are a big favorite, but when I used them for shoes, the only ones that ended up there were the ones I never wore.  So, if you’re looking to get rid of things, that works well–put everything in there, wait six months, then get rid of the ones that are still in there, or at least, in their original spots.  What works better though, is to use them for small-item containment, like office supplies; hair and skin care products or other cosmetics; cleaning supplies; toys and other kids’ room staples like spare diapers and wipes; seasonal items like scarves, gloves, and hats; and the random items that collect in that one drawer in the kitchen that don’t really have another home but have to go somewhere, like matches, extension cords, batteries and flashlights.

One more thing to note:  If you hang your towel rods and/or full-length mirror on the back of the door, that frees up the walls inside your bathroom, for free-standing or wall-mounted shelves or hooks, photos or little soap-dish catch-alls, or just clean, simple, un-cluttered blank wall.  (I’m fond of that last one, but my bathrooms are not big enough to accommodate empty wall-space.  We have too much stuff that needs storing and not enough space to store it all, never mind the luxury of blank walls.)


For those of you willing to make holes in your walls, there is always the hanging-shelf option.  But having had a bad experience involving improperly-hung pre-made shelves, too much weight and a large cloud of dust and shredded drywall, I generally favor free-standing bookcases.  But as I said before, I’m not willing to give up any more of my floor space.  So, the solution:  SHELFTRACK.

It’s amazing. The idea is that you buy the track in 4-, 5-, or 6-foot increments (or thereabouts, they probably have longer and shorter options as well) and screw it into the stud.  (Okay, you can do it into drywall and concrete too, but why really?  We already covered the problem with hanging on drywall, and I can’t imagine drilling into concrete is very easy.)  Then, you purchase brackets and shelves in the length of your choice, then insert the brackets and shelves at the height and spacing of whatever it is you’re storing.  The ultimate in adaptable, customizable, wall-mounted shelving.

So far, these are the best options I’ve found for “floating” storage.  I’ll post an update if/when I find more solutions that work for me–I’d love to hear if anyone knows of another, more cost-effective, prettier, or just plain better solution!

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