Here is the dresser that sits in the corner of our front room.
I love this dresser. It cost me about £60 on ebay (and, ahem, about £140 to physically get it here. But let’s gloss over that). I know that dark wood has been a bit unfashionable. But I love it. It’s not an antique. But it’s old, and it’s solid, and it has a faintly respectable look about it. I knew it was ‘meant to be’ when I measured the alcove at the side of the chimney breast and realised it would fit in perfectly, with just a few centimetres spare on each side. It made a huge difference to our front room, lending at once a certain air of grown-up glamour, and simultaneously some much-needed storage and display space. Note, if you like, the cups and saucers from my grandmother’s tea set, the mirrored star, the ‘crystal ball’ and the by-now traditional empty photoframe…
But here is the problem. Let me introduce you to the inside of the cupboard.
Look at that. This is the place where the girls’ drawing stuff resides. We had previously tried putting it in a basket in the Expedit unit. That was spectacularly un-useful, since all the paper kept getting scrumpled up whenever either of them leant into it to retrieve something. Besides, after the offical toy-explosion of Christmas, we needed an empty basket to put more plastic into. Craft stuff lives in the kitchen, in plastic lidded boxes, which (whilst they don’t delight me) certainly do the job. Drawing stuff I wanted to be more accessible.
Hence the problem. Nothing about this cupboard is currently working. And up until recently, not being able to think of a solution for it was throbbing away on my conscience, bugging me. Let’s draw a little closer, shall we? – just to recap on the things that are going wrong here.
Take a look at that top shelf. Hands up if you can imagine the tin of crayons, the flashcards, and the pencil case coming crashing out any time that either Rosa or India decide they want to use the Megasketcher? Yup. There is a basic principle here, which is that stuff in piles definitely doesn’t work for the under 4s. Let’s be honest, it may not work for older children, either. I’ll report back. For the moment, though, I can definitely confirm that the law of piles dictates that whatever is at the bottom of the pile, no matter how studiously it’s previously been ignored, will suddenly take on a new aura of attractiveness, and will be grabbed and yanked.
And there’s the bottom shelf. Note the hotchpotch of paper (crumpled), colouring books, a just-seen box of crayons peeking out on the right hand side, a barely visible corner of a Gruffalo pencil case on the left. Given how chaotic and unappealing all this stuff is, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the girls aren’t keener on drawing.
In summary, then. This cupboard is not functioning for me (it creates mess) or for the girls (who just trash it periodically, in bored way, then move on). It is, in the immortal words of William Morris, neither beautiful nor useful. So it has to change.
But I have a plan! Oh yes. It all started when I saw a picture online of a muffin tray with cups in, to store arty materials for children. I pinned it onto Pinterest, naturally (that’s just the kind of rock ‘n’ roll life I lead) and I pondered it. And it occurred to me that if stacking was part of the problem, storing stuff in such a way that the girls could retrieve things easily might be part of the solution.Then I wondered: what about office-style filing trays for drawing paper? And then it hit me that I’d seen another useful solution for cupboards, and pinned that, too, here.
It was around this time that I started rubbing my hands together in the manner of a cartoon villain. Ok. Not really. But I thought that I might have a way forward.
So my mental list of supplies to get looked something like this:
- muffin tray
“Do you know the muffin man?…” And, more pertinently, do you think I could spray paint a muffin tray? There is a fine line here between making something look beautiful, and insanity, I fear.
- self-adhesive magnetic sheet
I prayed that this wouldn’t end up being one of those strange craft materials common in the US but unknown over here, and the great gods of ebay answered my prayers, and it was so.
Ah, IKEA. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. And ah, the wonder of ebay meaning that for only a small premium you can find the cups you were after and pay someone to post them to you rather than having to drive to Edmonton.
- shoe holder
(I started to read the instructions for making your own… but I found they made me feel a little weary. I know the author stresses how easy it is, and how she rushed her holder out whilst her child was napping. But I find sometimes reading words like ‘sew bias tape along the top edges’ makes me want to sit down for a while. So I thought I’d buy a cheap one here and see if I could chop it up and sew it back together to make it fit. Turns out I was right. More on that in a later post.)
- command hooks
to hang up shoe holder. I am not drilling holes in my lovely dresser. That is the end.
- letter trays
This was a little bit harder than I’d thought. My criteria were ‘must be jolly’ (a surprisingly useful life-rule), and ‘must stack together by themselves and not have little metal risers that could be knocked under the sofa and annoy me’. But I got there.
So now all of these things are currently either sitting in my house awaiting deployment, or are winging their way to me. I am really quite dis-proportionately excited.
But here’s the thing. It’s just so much effort trying to get everything sorted and looking nice. This is literally one half of one small cupboard, and it seems to have turned into a military operation / entire project in itself. And whilst I hope that the end result of this thinking and purchasing will be useful and pleasing, the fact remains that once the cupboard is closed, it will be completely invisible *weep*. So these people who do up their entire home in a few weeks: HOW DO THEY DO IT? Do they not have any stuff? Or are the insides of their cupboards piled up like a secret Monica-closet-of-shame in Friends?
Answers on a postcard please.
(An ‘after’ post on the offending cupboard is on its way as soon as the supplies arrive…)