life in a (less) tiny apartment.

November 23, 2020

Tip #201: Box it up.

I just finished my morning shift of semi-present first-grade oversight and have since locked myself in the office to finish writing about organizing. When everything feels topsy-turvy, I seek comfort in organizing bedsheets. (This is not a joke, though perhaps it should be.) I’m hoping writing about it will be as meditative.

When we moved into this new apartment in September and started to unpack, we gained so much space generally, but lost most of our shelving. Specifically, we lost a closet of shelves where I’d previously kept tidy piles of linens and cloth diapers and also, apparently, a portion of my sanity.

The linen closet was a loss that we’d been more than happy to overlook (slash not something I’d even thought about), while hunting for a place to call our own*, but when we moved in and began to unpack, the missing shelves were quickly apparent. I did what any harried person might in the middle of a move and stuffed our sheets and towels into a clean laundry bag, shoved the whole mess into the bottom of a shelf-less closet, and moved along to more pressing concerns like building a desk for the office and instructing my children not to climb onto windowsills for sport.

Alas, if a neat linen closet can serve as a metaphor for my state of mind, the heaving bag of increasingly unfolded linens at the bottom of the closet started to serve as another. Enter upgraded banker’s boxes and drop-cloth satchels for a temporary storage solution that might just turn permanent.

I organized sheets and pillowcases into uniform cloth satchels (I’ve got Rose Pearlman to thank for these and the full instructions to give tomorrow) and stacked them into collapsible banker’s boxes with lids. Unlike crates, bankers boxes with lids can be stacked one on top of the next. This way we could take advantage of vertical space in a closet without needing to rush into a more permanent shelving solution.

The boxes themselves were gifts from Uashmama—makers of the same bags that we use to keep the kids’ clothes organized in their wardrobe. They’re made of a 100% cotton fiber derived from a part of the cotton fiber typically regarded as waste. They’re also collapsible, which means that they can be broken down and stored flat should the occasion arise. Right now they’re stacked in our closet, but they can also slide under the bed and would look just fine tucked neatly into a corner or on a shelf without a door. Right? Right.

* PS. For anyone who’s curious, there’s a story about our recent move in the New York Times today!

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  • Reply Ineke November 23, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    This is exactly what I needed as an inspiration today. A little project that will give me great joy when finished tonight. It’s time those linens are not just sitting on a chair anymore…

  • Reply marion November 23, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Erin, lovely idea!
    I was thinking that the other day (or some weeks ago, I lost track of time) you showed on your instagram some of your kitchen utilities (pans etc). Maybe would be nice to make a post about it. I am myself trying to upgrade some of my kitchen basics to more efficient and healthy materials and I would love to hear your thoughts about what could be a good invest in a long term.

  • Reply Judith A Ross November 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    My sheets will never be this organized, plus so many are torn and I don’t know what to do with them. The upside? Seeing you and your family in the NYT this morning. The perfect way to distract myself from the continuing election sabotage.

    • Reply k November 23, 2020 at 10:50 pm

      See if an animal shelter near you will accept a donation of clean but ripped sheets! Many do.

  • Reply Jenna November 23, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    I love using organizers like this! I have minimalized my closet enough that I can fit my foldable clothes in organizers instead of needing a dresser. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
    Jenna ♥

  • Reply Michele November 24, 2020 at 3:12 am

    Oh Erin, Finally getting to see each room beautiful photographed (well besides bathroom) Has made me SO happy for you and your family! It’s like being real grown-ups, having a home that fits and works for every aspect of your lives!! Like a forever home which is sooo important to live life to the fullest, being content and really happy!!
    A proper congrats and Enjoy Every moment of organising etc. It is more than just a hobby for you it is the Real YOU!!
    Ps. Have been following since the teeny teeny tiny apartment, pre kids.
    Pps. My fingers are just itching to paint those kitchen cabinets white!!!!!

  • Reply Sue November 24, 2020 at 5:28 am

    What a good idea for storage, whether it is short term or long term it is practical and beautiful too. Love the NYT article, what beautiful photos of you and the family and the apartment.

  • Reply Turtle November 27, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Hi Erin! I loved the NYT article yesterday. Odd times these, when you see someone you know only via the internet in the paper and feel like one of your friends has made the news. But, that’s exactly what it felt like. Oh, and the boxes for linens are lovely. I think little things like that make the ordinary messes of life feel so much more manageable. My mom taught me a linen storage trick a long time ago- tuck all the folded linens for one bed into one of the pillowcases from that set. Fold the top over neatly, and stack the complete sets wherever you store your linens. I’m still doing that all these years later and still thanking her every single time I put the sheets away. Also, thanks for taking the time to inspire all of your friends out here in the interland.

    • Reply Mo December 17, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      That sounds like what I do. Well, my everyday linen and towels get washed, dried and replaced in the span of a day, but my guest/spare linen are folded with sheets and pillow covers tucked in the folds of the duvet covers into one neat package. I do the same with my spare towel sets, it makes it so easy to have guests in my small apartment, just grab a linen pack and a towel pack and your guests will have everything they need even if they show up uninvited at 2 am. (True story!)

  • Reply Julia December 13, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    I enjoyed the NYT article. I struggle with being content living in a small studio condo. Reading your blog helps!

  • Reply Lane March 24, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    Love this blog and this post!! Apologies if this is out of left field but I’m desperately seeking advice. I want to upgrade my own ~tiny apt~ by finally investing in a headboard. My bed is positioned in front of my window (only way it would fit) so I’m looking for a low budget or DIY headboard idea that will elevate the space without entirely blocking the window ledge that has unfortunately become my nightstand & without sacrificing too much sunlight. Open to any and all ideas!

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