When an old house has no closets

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

When you first fall in love with an old house, it can be easy to overlook the inconvenient things. After all, the house is old -- it was built during a time when the rooms were smaller, of course it has been painted so many times that the windows stick, and the kitchen hasn't been updated since the Nixon administration. But over time those little inconveniences can begin to grate on your nerves, especially when you can't really find a good solution to make up for them.

My friend Amanda is an excellent example of that.

Amanda fell in love with a classy Queen Anne, the kind of house that makes even those who are not old-house enthusiasts stop and stare. It had angles and flourishes and all the fine woodwork that you might expect from a house that was built to impress. Inside the house, attention to detail was in full force. The fireplaces were quaint, the master bedroom featured a bay window, and even the spindles winding their way along the staircase were impossibly beautiful.

With such a lovely house tugging at her heartstrings, is it any wonder that Amanda didn't worry about the fact that the house had no closets?

Figuring out storage when there isn't room for storage

I have lived in homes that had miniscule or non-existent closets, but most of those rooms were blessed with an abundance of space, making armoires an easy solution. Not so the case with Amanda's old house. Not only were her rooms devoid of any dedicated storage areas, they were also small -- so small that a big armoire might mean little to no room for a bed of suitable size, much less any other furniture.

What's a woman in love with such a house to do?

Fortunately, Amanda wasn't the type who had trunks full of clothing for every season, so the issue was simplified somewhat. She simplified it even further by becoming ruthless about her wardrobe, and donating things that she hadn't worn in more than a year. Once the clothing was pared down, then came the biggest issue -- figuring out a storage plan that didn't involve taking up all the precious floor space.

She started by using the space under the bed -- the perfect haven of storage. Drawer units designed to fit underneath the bed worked wonders for much of her clothing, and she used the same trick in the guest rooms. Then she looked upward, to areas where she could install handsome shelving. On these shelves went pretty baskets and boxes, which hid everything from sweaters to unmentionables.

But that still wasn't enough. Though she might have found space for most of the clothing, rolled and stuck into every nook and cranny she could create, that left things like sheets, pillowcases, quilts and more, sitting in a forlorn pile on the floor. Where would those go?

I wish I could tell you that she found a surprise closet hidden in the attic, or that there was a false wall that opened up in the hallway to reveal yet another hallway, this one lined with shelves. Alas, an old house is not a fairytale. After much worry and angst, Amanda finally decided that it wasn't worth the energy, and bought a quaint little storage house. It looks just like a tiny cabin, complete with two pretty windows. Inside are all the clothes that won't fit into the house, rotated out for the seasons, as well as sealed, dust-free bins for the sheets, curtains, and anything else that can't find a home in the small rooms of her house.

When you fall in love with an old house, you just have to work with those inconveniences that come along with all the wonderful things. And if that means investing in a small cabin in the backyard to hold all those things that your house just doesn't have room to handle, so be it!