Monday, January 17, 2011

Organizing the Stuff: Reclaiming Lost Space

As I was gifted with a ton of quilting stuff, I realized that my plastic shoe box was not going to be sufficient to store everything, not anymore. I set out to get organized.

I had a plan. A plan that would have been really simple in the US. In the US, I would have marched myself to Target or Wal-Mart, bought a few of those handy 3-drawer storage units (the plastic, desk-high kind), and easily sorted everything into those nice, clear drawers and called it done.

If I had a bit larger budget, or wanted a bit nicer look, I'd have gone to Target and checked out what options there were in the furniture section, and probably come up with something really cool, for not much money, that would keep me organized and classy looking. In either case, an hour at the store (at most), and an hour setting up at home (at most), and $100 or less (way less, most likely) and I'd have been done.

Of course, I'm not in the US, so it wasn't that simple, or that cheap.

I thought I'd found a good deal -- a few weeks ago at our big box store (Carrefour), I did see some inexpensive 3-drawer units, just like I remember from back home. Only R$30 (~$17 US)! Perfect! Except....

Yes, of course there's an "except...".  In this case, it's the fact that these wonderful drawer units weren't desk-high like the ones back home; these were half that height. Eighteen inches tall. Fifteen inches wide and fifteen inches deep. Desktop sized, not sit beside the desk size. Not so cheap after all, nor so functional.

I kind of flipped out. I'd gone with The Chemist to do our usual Saturday morning date time (aka, grocery shopping), with every intention of coming home with drawers and organizing my stuff! No poorly stocked, over-priced Brazilian grocery store was going to rob me of that, thankyouverymuch!! I kind of ranted at The Chemist, begging to ditch the groceries (who needs food when there's rearranging to be done?!) and go to the hardware/home improvement store instead, where surely, surely! we'd find something that would work.

As The Chemist does not share my obsessive need to make things neat and pretty (well, he does, but not in this case...), and as he's a bit more practical than I am (at least when it comes to realizing that children have to be fed....), he didn't take me to Leroy Merlin just then. He did make a very convincing promise that it would be done that day, though. Which calmed me just enough to finish the grocery shopping, stop nagging him, and enjoy our date. I mean, really, an hour in a crowded grocery store? Picking through fruit that has gnats (aka, fruit flies) swarming around so that I can find the eight tomatoes that are worth taking home? What could be better, right???  (yes, this is what constitutes a date in my life, thanks for asking....)

Finally, later that afternoon, children fed, groceries put away, fruit scrubbed, naps taken -- we were ready to head to the even more crowded hardware store. Away we went, determined to come home with something that worked. I refused to accept failure. Not an option.

Luckily, I had The Chemist with me, and even if he doesn't share my obsessive need to organize the quilting things, he does love me and did realize this was crucial to me. And, luckily, he's well practiced in thinking outside the box, which is what finally solved my problem. If it weren't for him, I'd still be standing in the aisles at Leroy Merlin, blinking in a trance-like state, awash in bad choices and trying to make one of them, any of them, work for what I wanted and needed. Seriously.

The Chemist rescued me, though. He found a shelf for The Artist's bedroom. See, The Artist sleeps on the top bunk, in with The Adventurer (who, for obvious reasons, has the bottom bunk). The fan, set on the floor and tilted towards the ceiling, does not reach The Artist. At all. And so he swelters in the summer heat in his room.

The Chemist solved that problem by finding a shelf -- a nice, rounded, corner shelf, tall enough that we could set the fan on the top shelf, aim it right at The Artist, and he never has to be hot again. This shelf replaced a stack of decorative cubes, taken from my room but originally paired with the computer desk, that I'd moved in for bookshelf space for The Artist and The Adventurer.

So now I had three free white cubes available to me.  Which is what started The Chemist in thinking in the right direction, towards a bookshelf for our room. To replace the three brown cubes which were originally paired with the white cubes which all went with the computer desk.

Leroy Merlin had tons of bookshelves. Tons. Not so many drawer units, which is what I thought I needed. But tons of bookshelves. So after finding the one for The Artist, and after I'd wandered back and forth for thirty minutes, measuring and mumbling, trying to force something to work in the space I had available (next to the computer desk), The Chemist suggested his plan to free up all the cubes. Could I use the cubes, the brown ones from our room, the white ones from the boys' room, and make something that would work?

**a blink, as I slowly find my way to the surface and out of the trance-like state in which I was then wandering the store**

"Could I.....? Would the cubes....? (blink, blink).....ummm, Yeah. Yeah! That could work! Oh, what a good idea!!"

And so that's what we did. I am so glad The Chemist figured out how to solve this problem. We won't discuss that it took 2 hours in two stores, and R$260 or so for the two new shelves (about $150 US), thus making it more complicated and more expensive than in the US. I might mention, later, the fact that "you build it" shelves here are much higher quality (shock!!) than in the US.....almost making them worth the price.

the cubes in my room; before

New, organized area. Quilt stuff in the bottom boxes,
school workbooks in the top left; Adventurer's math stuff top right box.
On top - my calendar and the wipe-off boards/markers.
Oh, and The Adventurer's cape. Of course. 

new bookshelf in my room. After. 

New Shelf in the Boys' room (ignore the messy beds)
Fan at head height, organized books, and more space for the bean bag. Perfect!
Doesn't it look great?? Don't you just love organizing spaces??? So much more useful now, all of those areas.

What organizing have you been up to lately?? 


  1. That all does look great!

    As far as my own organization, does organizing my candy stash count?! ha!

  2. As excited as you are about the cubes, it would be the fan pointed at the sweaty boy that would thrill me.

  3. Wahoo! What a nice thing to get done. Looks great!

    Organizing? I did a cabinet in my kitchen that was a disaster. Much better now. And I've decided to hold myself to the standard I'm holding my kids to in keeping bedrooms. Will NOT be an easy task for any of us. Don't know if that counts as organizing, but it sure feels like it. ;-)

  4. Wow! This is all fabulous!! Yippee for The Chemist's great ideas and loving help. :) I just love the tall shelf for the top bunk fan. Cute, too!!

  5. you have solved your problem but I will mention anyway just incase next time...
    we have close to us a man that makes furniture. real wood, made to order sizes. he came and messured, built what I wanted, we bought the wheels and the glass and the hardware. he brought back what we wanted in correctly cut pieces, screwed it all together. now if I wanted to I could have disassembled and boxed and take it all home with me - IF I were to ever want to - go home that is.

  6. if you ask I would send you photos.
    not that it was 'cheap' but definitly worth what we paid.
    under my platform bed I have a wooden tray on wheels with little compartments. would make a great fabric/project storage.

  7. I've been organizing - well bits anyway. Started with the kitchen, then got busy with Christmas, life, remembering P, getting ill etc.

    Going to go back - but still like the bits I got done.