If you have small children, and a house full of stuff, then I am going to share with you the kind of blindingly obvious storage solution that could change your life.
Hooks. Lovely, useful, cheap, wonderful hooks. I never met a door that I didn’t want to hang hooks on the back of. The lack of hooks on the back of the doors of cheap hotels and bed and breakfasts is a major bugbear of mine. Where are you supposed to hang your dressing gown (your hat, your coat, and your carrier bag of stuff) if there isn’t a hook on the back of the door? That is not a rhetorical question. I mean it. Where?!
So it’s not surprising to find that many, if not in fact all of the doors in our house have hooks lovingly screwed into the back of them. Hooks on our bedroom door for – obviously – dressing gowns, and scarves and the like. Hooks on the back of the study door for Rosa’s bike helmet, the camera, the bag of ‘car toys’ etc. Hooks on the back of the girls’ door for their dressing gowns, and other sundries. Hooks on the back of the kitchen door for the carrier bag holder, the girls’ aprons, umbrellas, and a bag of bibs.
But. But but but. There was something a little dis-satisfying about all this hookery. And the dis-satisfyingness was twofold. It started in the kitchen. Not only were the hooks on the back of the door so full of stuff that it was hard to squeeze through the door (especially in the latter half of last year, if you were pregnant and the size of a small planet. Ahem.) But it was also really deeply irritating that the girls couldn’t reach their dressing gowns in their bedroom. In fact, the fact that they couldn’t reach them at all, and didn’t have a hope of reaching them, made the row of hooks look rather foolish. Decorative. Hopelessly unfunctional.
It was then that I realised the answer to all this was staring me in the face. Or, perhaps more literally, the answer was staring me in the waist.
Remember the post rack in the hall? We’re still very much in love. But below said lovely post rack is one of my proudest innovations. The half-height coat hooks.
They are a set of multi-coloured ‘ball’ style hooks from GLTC, and I think they have much to commend them. They take some of the coat ‘load’ off our adult hooks. They look pretty damn cute. And it means that the girls can hang up and retrieve their own coats, under their own steam.
I put up a small row of pictures above them, which are just framed greetings cards from the Museum of Childhood, when they had their Judith Kerr exhibition. Mog and the Tiger who came to tea are perennial favourites over here, and if someone were asked, on pain of death, whether the under 5s or me get more pleasure out of those pictures… well, it would be a pretty close run thing.
So: of course. I kicked myself for being so foolishly slow, even as I congratulated myself on solving another small house dilemma. Half height hooks. Why not have more of them? A quick trip to Homebase was all it took.
The girls’ room was first on my list. Try to ignore, if you can, the glaring orange of the knotty pine of their door, and instead note that there is now a set of hooks at the top of the door, and also halfway down it, where their dressing gowns reside. This means that if, say, it’s a bit nippy, and I’m feeding Persephone, Rosa can run upstairs and get her own dressing gown, and sometimes even be prevailed upon to fetch her sister’s, too. This is what I call a result. Maternal laziness combined with some vague notion of ‘fostering independence.’
The kitchen was next on my list. This time you have to ignore both the garish wood, and also the bare plasterwork on the left hand wall. Once you get past that, the hooks are pleasing, aren’t they? This time they’ve got the girls’ cooking aprons on them, their umbrellas, and their Little Life backpacks. Perfect.
So there you have it. Half height hooks. Blindingly, stupidly obvious, but nonetheless new to me. Doubling the storage space that the back of your door offers, and making it accessible to littlies, to boot. In a very uninformed way, I have these kind of hooks in my head as being ‘a little bit Montessori’, too. I have no real basis for this, save that when I read this blog entry about a Montessori teacher’s room for her (then unborn) baby boy, I was so blown away by the whole thing, and so torn between wanting to deride her and wanting to BE HER, that the only thing I really took away from it was how striking it was that everything in the room was so low-level. It had genuinely been put together with a small person in mind.
While we are on hooks, I may step on my soap box for a moment to share my view that it is pointless investing money in really expensive hooks. There are some lovely ones out there, but it’s really not worth it. Just get a good quality, sturdy set. For a start, any hooks you do get may well be hidden on the back of your door. But also, they will be largely hidden by whatever you hang on them. My gorgeous GLTC hooks I make an honourable exception for, since their brightly coloured loveliness sometimes pokes through the mountains of coats, and brightens things up a bit. I also think that the rainbow-ness of them nicely compliments the jolly, bright colours that dominate my children’s coats. But for elsewhere, well, it’s all very well magazine articles showing us a beautiful set of designer hooks fashioned from driftwood and vintage porcelain,with a hand-knitted woollen cream scarf draped on one hook, and a slate-blue velvet fitted jacket on a padded hanger swinging wistfully from another…
That is not what hooks will look like in a real house. They will be covered in mounds of coats, jackets, bags, rainwear, scarves, and more. They will be almost invisible. But they will still be brilliantly, wonderfully useful.