life in a tiny apartment.

January 29, 2019

Tip #179: Hide it in plain sight.

What’s a thing in your home that you use regularly but that doesn’t have a home of its own—a special spot to return to? A laptop? Your phone? A bag or backpack? Whatever it is, consider hiding it in plain sight. Today. Designate a particular place that’s easy to access and that you’re going to return that item to whenever you’re finished using it.

It’s tidying season and so I’m getting lots of questions about the hows and wheres of everyday tidying around our apartment. Last week, a bunch of folks noticed my laptop out on our dining table, which prompted people to ask where I store my computer and other everyday work essentials that I need handy, but don’t want to look at, or don’t want getting in the way of other things like eating dinner, or preparing a meal, or sleeping.

The key for me is finding a storage spot that’s out of the way, but still accessible enough that I actually use it. If putting my laptop away required too many steps, it might stay on the couch, or halfway under the bed, or on the kitchen counter.

At the risk of repeating myself (see also: Chapter Two of Simple Matters), I know that for me, the key to staying sane in a small space is to have a place for everything and to keep everything in its place. Sometimes those places are more or less in plain sight.

In a world of Pinterest-perfect images, it’s no wonder that folks feel confused about what to do with the less photogenic objects in our homes—the phone chargers, and cables, and cords that keep things working. Is that stuff just tucked under the bed for photos or are there actual plausible solutions for stowing it neatly?

My apartment isn’t perfectly tidy every single second of the day. I’m sitting here right this minute with an empty lunch bowl beside my computer. There’s a small stack of books on the table. My camera card reader is still plugged into my laptop and blinking away at me. I have a mug and a water glass and a bowl of grapes all on the table next to me. Not everything can be camera ready at all times, but my home can still be mostly neat most of the time.

In our apartment, I have a few key spots for keeping necessary tech that I use for work. For me, nine times out of ten, figuring out a spot for this kind of thing doesn’t mean buying anything new or special, it just means designating a home and sticking to it.

My laptop? It slides on top of the wooden box where I keep stationery and art supplies. My camera card reader and external hard drives? They’re in an open-top wooden box next to that. Our ancient iPad that’s somehow still humming and helpful for family movie nights, I slide on top of the cardboard box where we store hard copies of photographs. These storage spots aren’t revolutionary or groundbreaking, but they are super easy to return my stuff to.

As for my phone? Look no further than the garlic basket.

What about you guys? What do you think is the biggest impediment to keeping things organized around your house? The best solution? Do you hide things in plain sight, too?

For the curious:

I keep my laptop and our iPad safe in felt cases from Byrd & Belle.

The grey stationery box is an old liquor box I painted with Farrow & Ball Plummet. Here are a few more thoughts on painting everyday objects.

The lamp on the dresser is from Schoolhouse Electric.

James’s sunhat is from Brookes Boswell.

Here’s more about our vintage drying rack. (Cropped from this image, a pair of tiny drying undies.)

The tiny ceramic pitcher is by Eric Bonnin.

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  • Reply Alexandra January 29, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    I’m sure this sounds very bizarre to others, but we keep our laptops behind the sofa cushions on our sofa. They always, always live there, and the charger stays tucked behind the sofa and ready to be utilized at any moment. We’ve done this for years, and it is the perfect place for something slim and delicate (if you have removable cushions, of course).

  • Reply GerriAnn Constantino January 29, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Erin — what type of hook do you use for your straw hat in the closet? A 3M hook that doesn’t damage the walls?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 29, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Just a tiny nail!

  • Reply Di January 29, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Fall, winter and spring, I am in need of some kleenex, so I have a box of kleenex (which are always packaged so unattractively) *hiding* in plain sight on my kitchen counter….. inside a vintage cake loaf tin pan that I inherited from my parents. People often comment on the unique looking ‘box’ and are surprised how nicely it hides the kleenex!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 29, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Love that!

  • Reply Melanie January 29, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Love your behind the scenes on Instagram lately 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 29, 2019 at 4:43 pm


  • Reply Maya January 30, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Erin, Thanks so much for this timely post! A few related questions on photos. How do you organize photos? Do you have albums or? I have a few muji ones I love because most are so bulky and not very uhm beautiful. And how do you organize/backup your digital photos? Both my husband and I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do on that front ending up in a dizzying internet rabbit hole every single time. @.@ Thank you!

  • Reply Lindy January 30, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Never underestimate the effect you ha d had with yr book.. when I need to breathe and yr blog tips.. You have influenced me to become much more intentional about finding homes for things and placement for accessibility. Hiding in plain sight in my entrance on living room table is a hat and scarf for my husband in a silver dish.Otherwise he forgets.. And mine all due to you are in a cream white bag hanging at door against cream white wall.. Thank you Erin! And I use white out!

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