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Repurpose to Reorder

One of the most creative tricks to organizing a home is to find unique ways to use existing furniture and storage. It is not always the way the manufacturer intended, but allowing for flexibility of use and thinking “outside the nightstand” can save money, reduce waste and neatly put the last piece of the project into place, much like a jigsaw puzzle.

A bookcase does not always have to be a bookcase. At a recent job, we reduced a client’s book collection and ended up with an empty book shelf. Earlier in the session we had talked about storage for her shoes. The narrow bookshelf fit neatly into the end of her closet and all of her shoes found a new home up off the floor. Bookshelves can also be used for towel storage in a bathroom, extra kitchen item storage, folded T-shirt and sweater storage.

Nightstands with cupboards and drawers are one of my favorite items to repurpose. They are ideal in an office, for all kinds of paper and other office supplies. They are low enough to set a printer on top. Nightstands tend to be common in thrift shops and can be repainted or otherwise refurbished for very little money.

Armoires and buffets make wonderful, attractive office storage. If you are lucky enough to have one of these pieces of furniture stashed in the garage, barn or basement, consider dusting it off and using it in an office. It’s especially nice for those of us without much built-in closet and cupboard space.

Recently I had a client in Santa Barbara who had used her bedroom armoire for clothing storage. The clothing in it belonged to her deceased husband. When she was ready to let the clothing go, we repurposed the armoire for memorabilia. We even lined the inside of the doors with cork so that she could pin up her favorite photographs. Every time she opens the armoire, she gets to see some of her favorite things. Being able to close the doors gives her a clutter-free environment.

A rolling chefs cart or bar cart can also be repurposed for the office. Last week in San Miguel de Allende, a client found a dozen plastic mini-laundry baskets for a dollar each. We lined them up on a chefs cart and labeled them to store various office supplies. She can roll the cart over to her desk when she is working and store it in a corner at the end of the day. The colored baskets make it fun as well as tidy and the look is muy Mexicana, which suits her home.

Chef and bar carts can also be attractive in a bathroom that is low on cupboard space. You can put your make-up and other necessities into containers on the cart, roll it into the bathroom when you’re getting ready, and roll it into a corner or hall closet when you’re finished. Bar carts can be found at furniture consignment stores and vintage furniture stores; they’re not as easy to find or as cheap as a nightstand, but they’re handy and usually attractive.

For a client who needed a large work surface, we turned two-drawer file cabinets into “legs” and put a large hollow-core door on top. It was a very inexpensive way for the client to have a solid, large desk until she is able to afford a real work table.

While you are organizing, don’t be quick to donate or give away pieces of storage furniture and miscellaneous storage containers until the job is completely finished. Treat your space like a puzzle to be solved and be open to using your old things in new ways. It’s an immensely satisfying way to bring order to the home.