'Pack Rat' Space Planning

by Jenny Lutes


Growing up in a small town with a 'pack-rat' family taught me to use space wisely. Here are a few hints that I learned:

  1. Use all available space, such as under beds, in closets, in cabinets, in drawers, above cabinets, etc.

  2. Live like the Shakers and hang things on the wall, on peg racks, or on bookshelves.

  3. Choose decorative items and furniture that have a space to store things. Shaker boxes, baskets, wooden boxes, etc. make great places to store little things. For furniture, choose a captain's bed that has drawers underneath, or my dad makes a great deacon's bench in which the top of the bench seat lifts up for a 3' X 12" storage area. It works great for kitchen linens.

  4. Get rid of "stuff." Less is definitely best. Throw away old papers, newspapers, sell/give away old magazines, have a yard sale. The key to clothes is if you haven't worn it in a year (or if it doesn't fit), get rid of it, unless it's your wedding dress!

  5. Living in a trailer, space is very limited. Usually cabinets are too tall with few shelves. Install 'L' brackets (from any hardware/department store) and lay a board on top of it. Tah dah! A new shelf!

  6. Keep shoes, purses, coats, etc. in a closet if possible instead of in the living room. Less clutter on the floor or around doorways makes the room look roomier and cleaner.

  7. You can always "rent-a-space" from a business that has small metal units for rent; however, being frugal, I don't care for that idea.

  8. Only keep what you use. If you have a family of less than five and there are five dozen glasses in your kitchen cabinet, do you need all of them?

  9. If you have to buy a stove, buy one with a drawer underneath to store pots and pans.

  10. Look at a 'Lillian Vernon' catalog. There are great storage items in their catalog for closets and cabinets. Prices on these items are about average; however, if you sew or do woodworking, you may be able to make these items cheaper than buy them.

  11. A lot of space is taken up by clutter. Don't allow it. Get rid of piles of this, piles of that, by setting up a filing system. Buy a used filing cabinet and some folders, and start filing. My (alphabetic) filing cabinet has such things included as bills, articles I want to keep, craft patterns, church & Sunday School info, college papers, etc. When it gets full, I go through it and get rid of older items that I no longer need.

  12. Don't let your kids have a million toys. If they're broken or no longer played with, get rid of them. (Yardsale, friends, or charity) If your children receive lots of toys as gifts, encourage family members, etc. to give other gifts that are needed. Children go through clothes really fast and they make wonderful gifts every year. They grow so fast! Or try giving school supplies that are needed.

  13. Who has room for an ironing board? There are now models that are light weight and hang over a door. Or there are some models that come attached to a small table that will hold your iron, starch, etc. and the ironing board just folds down.

  14. I just keep one clothes basket. I can't carry more than one at a time, so why have move? You can place a large nail on the wall above your washer and dryer and hang your clothes basket on it.

  15. Painting a room a lighter color will make it look roomier.

  16. If you have a garage, keep it cleaned out. Don't store junk in it, or things that are worth something but that you no longer use. Get rid of them.

  17. If you're thinking of building a house, include storage areas such as a bookcase that is enclosed in a wall. Or put a closet under a stairway. Put a linen closet upstairs and downstairs (this can be in any room).

  18. Put a few shelves above your washer & dryer for detergent, bleach, fabric softener sheets, etc. You can also store items that are useful, but not ones that you use ever day, such as a variety of flower vases, extra cleaning & paper supplies, or pet supplies. Watch out for pet food, though, steam rises from the machines and may cause food to mold. Shampoo, leashes, etc. are okay.

  19. For even more room, don't have a washer and dryer. Go to the laundry mat. I would rather have the convenience of washing & drying at home; but not everyone feels that way.

  20. Borrow things that you can instead of accumulating them yourself. You won't have as much to store; let someone else store it. Items along this line are: power tools, wheelbarrows, sleeping bags, tents, etc.

Here are a few things to keep in mind all of the time. Don't let yourself get too many 'sentimental' items, and get rid of stuff. Remember, if it's there, you have to dust it. I hope this has helped a little bit!


Jenny grew up in IL and KY as a Baptist preacher's daughter, currently married and practicing frugality in KY. Working as a secretary at a college and taking a few college classes (the college pays for 2 each semester). Some of my hobbies are crafts, reading, watching good family movies, being with family, and attending church.

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