Simple Storage Solutions

One of the many things I love about my house is how it isn’t all cluttered up with space sucking things like closets.  And linen cupboards.  And closets.  And any storage areas in general.  Yup.

That’s what you get when you purchase a 170 year old house.  A lot of centipedes and nowhere for them to hide.  I mean, unless you count the rubble walls in the basement.  But that’s really more of a party atmosphere for them, rather than a place to hide.

So when you have a house that was only intended to store a bonnet, a pair of lace up boots and some smelling salts,  you have to get creative with storage solutions.

Conversely if you buy a brand new condo, storage is also at a premium.  Basically unless your house was built between the era of Bewitched and Dynasty, chances are you’re out of luck in terms of closet space.

These are a few of the storage ideas I’ve used for the past few years that would work for pretty much anyone, anywhere.




Luggage.  Whether it’s nice vintage luggage like this stacked up in a corner, or your actual luggage in your closet, fill it up.  The top case is my sewing kit, the middle is my secret hiding place for small presents (which I suppose I’ll have to change now), and the lower, big case is for extra sheets and blankets.  I owned these suitcases for 5 years before it dawned on me I could use them for storage.  Because sometimes I’m dumb, and sometimes I’m brilliant.  All depends on the year I guess.




Bookcases were something I brought in when I did my house over a few years ago.  I got them for the sole purpose of storing the ridiculous amount of books I have.  This is one of 3 large units I now own.   BUT … the real storage solution here isn’t the bookcases themselves, but rather …




… all the bins on the bottom shelves.  Each of these wood Ikea boxes holds a ridiculous amount of ugly stuff that would look like a mess out in the open.  Things like tax receipts, craft supplies and a few sentimental items.  Some of the boxes even have smaller boxes from the Dollar store on top (like this one) to keep smaller things like seed packets separated and easy to access.



Moose eh

Slip away the upper seed tray, and underneath are the craft supplies.  5 of these boxes in a bookcase hold a LOT of crap, but keep everything looking neat and organized.




I love these jugs.  They’re among my most favourite things in the house.  They’re just inexpensive enamel jugs from Ikea, but the Scandinavian Modern farmhouse design is perfect.  I don’t have a lot of kitchen cupboards and drawers.  These utensils alone used to take up an entire drawer.  So one day I took every single kitchen utensil I use on a regular basis and put them in the jugs so they’re right at my fingertips beside the stove and freed up an entire drawer at the same time.   (which I’ve since filled with more kitchen utensils and a questionable amount of Tupperware)

This is how the purchase of these jugs went by the way.  (I’m so mortified by this story I’m going to tell it in the third person in an attempt to distance myself from it)

Karen goes to Ikea to buy all 3 jugs.  She decides she’s too cheap so she buys one jug.  The middle sized.  She gets it home and loves it.  At which point she goes back to Ikea to buy the little jug.  It’s so cute, she just has to have it.  Karen returns home with the little jug. A week goes by.  Karen can’t stop thinking about the biggest (and most expensive) jug.  Karen gets in her car and goes back to Ikea to buy the large jug. With each trip to Ikea, Karen buys more than just the jugs of course.   Each time she picks up candles, maybe some lightbulbs, a cute basket, and a kitchen throw rug.  She finds an orchid, laundry baskets, small ferns and modern black candleholders.   Each and every time Karen returns to Ikea she also purchases and eats a hotdog.  If Karen went to Ikea 10 times a day she would have to purchase and eat a hotdog upon leaving.  It’s a rule.  The moral of this story?  Don’t ever go to Ikea.  No.  Just kidding.   If you love it and you know you love it, just buy it.  It’ll be cheaper in the long run.



My house is still the same size.  I still only have enough closet space for a Ricketts cane and a buggy whip … but with a little bit of ingenuity I’ve managed to find space for all of my modern conveniences.  You know … like books.  And wooden spoons.  Heh.

If you’re interested in EXACTLY how to make an Ikea Hot Dog at home … click on my post about it here.


  1. magali says:

    I like the moral of this story. I am going to read the story to my boyfriend, who shivers with fear every time I say I need to go to IKEA.

  2. ev says:

    Spent some time in California, where they speak IKea. Not so much in Ohio, where I live forever now. Boo Hoo!

  3. Kasia says:

    I also noticed the “Gangs and their Tattoos”…. hmmm…. is The Fella in a gang??!?


  4. HaHaHa…the hotdog rule is so true! I usually get the frozen yogourt and those thin ginger cookies.Hubby gets the hot dog! So funny!I swear its their way of saying…”It’s okay, don’t worry about how much stuff you just bought!” Eat and be happy!!! Maybe I’ll see you sometime in the line up at Ikea. If I do , I’m gonna video you on my phone eating your hotdog,lol.


  5. debra b says:

    I already use these ideas as my house is 161 years old. I have a ton of suitcases, I can slide 6 large ones under each bed, so great for storage. I use those expandable wooden wine racks turned on their side attached to the wall in the bathroom to hold hand towels and TP, those wonderful old wooden orange crates are scattered around my house as they make great shelving units, old wooden bed rails make fabulous shelves, towel racks will hold a bunch of spray bottles, or install them on the ceiling to use to hang stuff off of with hangers or hooks. I use steamer trunks to hold bedding and blankets. I like the hat box suggestion, will have to keep an eye out at the yard sales

  6. Anna says:

    I will be moving into a kitchen that has 3, yes 3 drawers, so I am getting used to the utensils on the counter idea. I was just at IKEA this past weekend, purchasing blinds, curtains, etc… The hot dogs never interest me much, but the cinnamon buns call to me like sirens… I used lazy susans in my skinny little pantry closet to maximize space, as well as glass jars — all from IKEA. LOVE it.

  7. sera says:

    I also have had antique suitcases as storage for many years. My problem is that I never remember what’s in them so I open them one day and think, “oh yeah, I do have a yoga block.” and then can’t find the other thing I was looking for, close it up and forget that I have a yoga block. There is still a pile of crap on the floor and the table, but mainly because our house is under construction so I don’t have my bookshelves up. sigh.

  8. Spokangela says:

    So happy to see you are a shameless fan of the gnarly dog :) That’s what my sister and I call them.

    I love your storage solutions. I have two vintage crocs storing my utensils and a fab hat box from the 50s storing my kids’ wii stuff in the family room :)

    I LOVE IKEA!! Our nearest one is 4 hours away… waaahh!

  9. KarenH says:

    I love Ikea and I love their meatballs, their chocolate and their hotdogs. BUT…I am sad to say…they raised the price on the hotdogs!!!!!! 75 cents now! (at least here in Ontario)

  10. Cora says:

    When I got to Ikea I have to get everything I love. Because Ikea is an 8 hour drive away. There is no going back for one little jug.

    I have a similar Ikea jug but it is ceramic. I adore it but those three enamel ones make me want to take an 8 hour drive and go … uh… check on something.

  11. Shauna says:

    p.s., I’ve been eating healthy lately and now I’m craving an Ikea hotdog. They’re so cheap, er, I mean frugally friendly, how could anyone resist?

  12. Shauna says:

    Yep, we also live in an old house, although not quite as old as yours. Craftsman homes, however, were notorious for awesome built-ins and nooks and crannys for hiding all our crap. We have built-in benches in the dining room and breakfast nook. However, we still need more room for our stuff (we refuse to get a storage space). So, we purchase dual purpose furniture, like a sofa with space underneath to store blankets and an ottoman that can hold kid toys. We also use the baskets in bookshelves. I have an entire ‘craft room’ bookshelf that looks so nice & neat now due to baskets and painted peg board.

  13. Anemone says:

    Wow…love all the storage ideas. Ah…the hiding of crap drawer bins…that’s so great. I love the Secret storage sexy looking suitcases too. Is that log growing. jk. I love that fern.

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I keep my cooking utensils on the counter in containers also..I use vintage hatboxes in my bedroom to store things..Love the Karen at Ikea story..Your suitcase looks very happy!!

  15. Barbie says:

    I was just complaining the other day “WHY don’t we have an IKEA herre”!?! No one could answer me!

  16. Nicole2 says:

    My question is: when you buy an Ikea hot dog, do you have to assemble it yourself and do they give you a little allen key?

  17. Beth says:

    LOVE IKEA!!!!! Willing to travel the 2 hrs to go feed my addiction!!!! So I limit myself to only a couple visits per year!!!! Besides – I’m in the “Getting rid of stuff” mode, so I’m not allowed to buy anything else (much less shelves to store the stuff I already have), until I get rid of more stuff!!! But I love those jugs!! I have 2 round containers doing the same job, one is dark marble ($1 at a yard sale) the other is cobalt blue from Pampered Chef (but bought on ebay for 1/4 the price) and both stuffed beyond reason with utensils – but still have 2 drawers in my tiny kitchen that only has 6 full size drawers anyway! Time to get rid of stuff – again! Thanks for posting your ideas – helps prompt me to change my ways!!!

  18. Clare says:

    I am enjoying the juxtapositions of the books.

    Dogs of Canada next to Gangs and Their Tattoos. Chocolate next to Naked next to David Sedaris (love his writing BTW).

    Apologies, I am an artist, we are trained to read meaning from images …

    Love your bookcases, too. We have 12 bookcases in our house, most of them are double-stacked.

    And whoever built our house clearly didnt read the ‘between Bewitched and Dynasty’ part. Yes we do have closets in the bedrooms, but the linen cupboard is ridiculous. So skinny, you can just fit the pillowcases on the shelves. To fit sheets you have to fold them a bazillion times and then stuff them in. By the time you have done that you can fit one on a shelf, maybe. At least we have an attic and two (yes two) basements.

  19. Kate S. says:

    I’ve always been a “clear counters” kind of girl. I thought I would hate having my utensils out in a little crock on the counter, but then we bought a house with no accessible drawers near the cooking area and I was forced to do it. I can’t believe how much I love it. It is SO much easier to just grab something from the crock than open a drawer and dig around.

  20. Karena says:

    PSS Do you HAVE any gang tattoos?

    Art by Karena

  21. Karena says:

    I so wish for an IKEA here in Kansas City! I promise I will (try to) go only once a week…

    PS I was holding my head sideways trying to read the titles of your books!

    Art by Karena

  22. In Arizona there are no attics (too hot) or any basements (the soil is rock hard). So I appreciate great storage ideas. I think I need the large Ikea jug to hold my Easter tree branches. I better bring some extra cash for the meatballs. The meatballs~ sigh.

    One last thought, it is said you can really tell a alot about a person by reading their book titles.
    “Gangs and Their Tattoo’s” Hmmmm. I like it.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Laura, I had *no* idea so many people would be checking out the books. I guess it is pretty interesting. :) ~ karen

  23. Meagan says:

    Thanks for this post Karen! The concept of storing things out in the open is one that I am having to get used to in my tiny home devoid of storage space. Using lovely things to create visually appealing and unique storage options is a must!

  24. LoriD says:

    I love your Sockerart vases and will probably pick some up this week. I go to Ikea almost every week; it’s too close to where I meet some friends for a run. Because of the run (which happens after the Ikea visit), I forego the hot dog, but always gaze at the food concession longingly the whole time I’m in line.

    I also love your tiled countertop – it looks so homey and inviting (you know, from the corner I can see). I want to replace my yucky laminate with something else and I would like something that is not granite/ marble/ stone. My first choice is wood (Ikea butcher block?), but I think tile could work too. Do you like it?

    • Karen says:

      LoriD – Other than the grout which is difficult to keep clean, I LOVE the tile. You can put hot pots on it, spill stuff on it etc. etc. For someone who actually *uses* their kitchen it’s a great choice. ~ karen

  25. J9 says:

    Shoot, J9 needs to go to Ikea ASAP…

  26. marilyn says:

    i have that magnetic knife thingy from ikea..its mounted on the back of our pantry door aka the “phone booth” . i call it my scare cupboard..if the peeps are pissing you off just whip the door open to display a row of wicked looking knives! they usually back off

  27. Ikea is my best friend. Hot dogs are the AWESOME icing on the cake. Those hot dogs are one of those ‘treats’ that I just know is soooo bad for me, but it is my way of living on the edge. haha.
    I am heading out to the woods today for twigs ( aka curtain rods in the house) …cheap cheap way to make a curtain rod , btw’s ….and MOSS to hot glue on styrofoam balls (from the dollar store). Ohhhh, you would love it here today !
    Happy Spring!!
    Lynne xx

  28. Stefanie says:

    Since I can’t possibly compete with your craftiness, here’s my ikea hotdog story. Long story short: couldn’t fit everything we bought plus infant car seat + pregnant me in the car. So- hubby drove 45 min (each way) to take whatever we brought home while my baby girl & I waited in the cafe. I should mention I hate hotdogs, to a very pregnant me, though they were crack & I had to stop myself at 4. Never been pregnant at Ikea since.

  29. Kim Merry says:

    Your bottom suitcase is smiling at me.

  30. DonnaBoo says:

    Black fronts would be cute painted with blackboard paint. Could doodle pictures of contents with chalk!

  31. Karol says:

    Dang! Someday Karol will make it to Ikea. The nearest one is 2 hours away, an she have never been. Poor Karol.

  32. [email protected] Salt and Wine says:

    Sorry, I can’t get past that kick-ass metal table in the second pic – it’s gorgeous!

  33. Kerri says:

    Not only do I live in an old home with no closets (oh wait.. I think there’s a 1/4 closet type thing in my bedroom.. it fits a pair of shoes and you can hang a shirt or two.. on a slant so the door can close. I’m going to put glass in the door and turn it into a bookcase. ANYWAY.. not only do I live in one of those homes.. I also live in a city apparently not swarming with people enough to put in an Ikea and I’m too lazy to trek it to Ottawa. So yeah, I’m that much richer I guess. Seriously can’t believe I didn’t think of the luggage thing. It’s already on display not doing anything! Ugh

  34. calliek says:

    Even your bookshelves look like art! I wish I could hire you to come be creative in our place. Our apt is of the early 1900’s era and we have exactly one closet -in the livingroom. It’s about 2 ft wide by 10 inches deep- coat hangers must be hung on an angle in order to close the door. Speaking of angles, can I mention the building itself is built on an angle to the road therefore we don’t have a single right corner anywhere in the place?

  35. Melissa says:

    Karen, did you build the bookshelves, or are they from IKEA, too? My friend swears by the Expedit system and since you are both so clever, you might be in the same furniture organizing camp.

    • Karen says:

      Melissa – They’re a bunch of Ikea “Billy” bookcases pushed together and attached to the wall. I prefer them to the Expedit (have those too) because they’re not as deep so take up less space. ~ karen

  36. Deborah says:

    Excellent storage tips! I have found I need to be creative at our 540 sqft cottage, every inch of space needs to be carved out creatively…our house on the other hand…egads…we have a 20′ x 20′ crawlspace (sans centipedes thankfully)…and I have been in PURGING mode the last few months donating the kids Barbies, My Little Ponies, Ghostbusters & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (SHH! do NOT tell the kids!), children’s books, etc…just SO MUCH STUFF! I HATE STUFF! but at least it is someone else’ stuff now and it is out of my house. Downsizing is like dissecting a frog back in Grade 9, having to forcefully remove yourself from the sentimental side of yourself that feels sorry for the poor froggy only to give in to the ‘what’s this do?’ on the inside of it…

  37. Great storage ideas Karen. I actually have a photo of my Ikea bookcases on my blog today. AND I planned a stop at Ikea, which is across the street from my gym. DANGEROUS!! I can leave without a hot dog or cinnamon roll but it is the ginger cookies I’m hooked on.
    Have a good day.

  38. cruella says:

    That’s how IKEA makes money of course. Very clever. And even when you sussed it all, resistance is futile. (There may be something in those hot dogs.)

  39. KiwiKat says:

    Ikea meatballs mmmmm….and we don’t even HAVE Ikea in NZ!!!!

  40. mel says:

    haha! great.. all my IKEA visits are going down like this. i have to admit you can find me there very often. my parents are totaly confused if there calling ma at saturday afternoon and i am not at IKEA. :)
    oh. and its always at least two hot dogs..

    something i am dying to know: are they selling ridiculously small hot dog buns (less than half the size of the sausage) all over the world? or just here in swizterland?

  41. Shelly says:

    “Gangs and Their Tattoos”??? Couldn’t help but notice your book titles in the close up pic. There’s gotta be a story there. ;) I live in an old house too… Thanks for the great storage tips!

  42. Michelle says:

    God its so true – I’m always a tight arse and buy the smallest or half the set and then regret it when I get home! Thanks for the tips :)

  43. Lucy says:

    Where do you keep your bustle — or did you not have enough room for it? I don’t think it would fit in one of the bins.

  44. Gayla T says:

    Oh, good. I’ve always wanted the recipe for the Ikea hot dogs too. Where is it posted? Great storage ideas. My living room and dining rooms are each 25 X 13 yet they couldn’t figure out where to put a coat closet. The entry area has a bench seat that lifts but you really can’t open that tomb and throw someone’s coat in it. I have some over the door hooks on the door to my sewing room to hang coats on but that is always full of mine. I just can’t think of a decent solution to it and I’ve been here a year last week. No hall or linen closet either. Very strange people, those architects 120 years ago. I wasn’t worried about that stuff when I moved in. I was signing my name to the contract the minute I saw the original stained glass windows in the dining room. I was a Realtor and know better but I’m a woman and didn’t care if it even had toilets at that point. Thankfully it came with one in each bathroom. Wasn’t I lucky?

    • Karen says:

      Gayla – Just click on the “here” where I say “just click here”. Takes you to the recipe. If you can call it that. ~ karen

  45. Maureen says:

    My house is 200 yrs. old and I buy furniture that has storage in it. With dirt floor, teeny basement and no garage it’s a struggle to find some place to even paint something. I have 2 closets. How cool am I?
    ps – centipedes are gross!

  46. Diane says:

    I use some of these great storage ideas at my place too. The real issue is what to do when you have a LITTLE apartment with little to no storage area….

  47. Lisa says:

    I truly LOVE your bookcases. In all honesty though, your bodyless boots kind of freak me out. I fully intend to have replica Art of Doing Stuff bookcases in my house when it is rebuilt. And good geez I wish there was an Ikea less than 8 hours from my home! I need a good hot dog.

  48. Marti says:

    Love those bins! Black: the answer to all my longings. Mmmm! What are you storing in those boots?

  49. Kate says:

    I have utensil holders, too. Mine are just big jars wrapped in nice paper. They make everything easier. I also really liked the magnetic knife rack that I had in an old apartment. I didn’t really have anyplace to put it in my new house, but then I realised that if you take the back off, you can just stick it straight to your fridge. Some you might have to buy two and attach them back to back, but mine only needed the back panel removed. Saves SO much drawer space, and knives are always to hand.

    • Karen says:

      Kate – We have of those at the cottage. They’re great. I slip my knives in between a tiny space between my oven and fridge. Works great too if you happen to have a small space between your oven and counter or fridge. So basically if you have a reallyyyy poorly designed kitchen with holes and wiggles in it like mine, this solution could work. :) ~ karen

      • missnicoleo says:

        Best idea ever! I have a kitchen with one drawer that fits a box of saran wrap, and a box of Tin foil. The end

      • Shannon says:

        Great idea! I never thought about hanging one on the fridge. I already hung my knife rack on the (one small piece of not-tiled) wall, but now I know where to hang my spice rack! Seriously, who tiles *every* wall in a kitchen?

  50. Jen A says:

    When Jen A goes to Ikea, she always has to get a hot dog too. She usually (perhaps even always) finishes it before opening the car door. She never regrets the purchase.

    • Karen says:

      Jen A – Karen has been known to eat the hotdog by the time she gets to the car. She has also been known on at least one occasion to turn right around, go in through the back doors of Ikea and get another hotdog. In Karen’s defence that was so she could spy on Ikea and get their hot dog “recipe”. ~ karen

      • sera says:

        sera only buys the frozen yogurt cone but also gets ice cream headaches too easily so she does make it back to the car with the cone still in hand, but only so that she can avoid having other people see the mess of napkins she’s needed to use.

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