Round Peg In a Square Hole-crafts

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cubic Closest Packing, as Applied to Storage Units

I keep threatening to show pix of my storage unit, to brag about how efficiently I've used the space. Well, today is the day!

My main interest was to pack as much stuff into the 5' by 10' space as humanly possible while still having everything remain accessible. Clearly, those are diametrically opposed ideas, but I fancy that I have found a good compromise. Also, I have both costume pieces (including hats and props) and fabric (cut and uncut, and some on bolts) as well as trim, patterns, and shoes and other accessories to store all together, which made things more difficult.

After much heartburn and lots of puzzling, I set up 5 shelving units in the space: two 18" by 4' on the left, as you walk in, and three 16" by 3' foot on the right. This left a corridor about 2 ft wide down the center, and a 18"space between the two long shelf units on the left. (I know that the math would indicate a similar, smaller gap on the right; however, in actual fact, I had to work to get all three shelving units in. Either the storage unit is smaller than advertised, or the shelf unit is larger than the box said, or both. Sadly, I always forget to take a measuring tape with me.....) It also allowed me to somewhat standardize my storage by using empty copier paper boxes to store stuff in. These boxes have the advantage of being sturdy and having good tops, allowing them to be stacked. In fact, I stacked them in the space between the shelf units on the left, all the way to the top of the racks. The bottom ones aren't as accessible as those on the shelves, but nothing's perfect, and I couldn't see that space go to waste. There is enough room between the tops of these boxes and the bottoms of the shelves above so that I can slide shoe boxes in on top, maximizing the space usage. I also put a small galvanized steel trash can all the way at the back of the unit, to store rolls of fabric, as well as parasols, swords, etc. Then, lastly, I put two rolling garment racks into the corridor, which are easily rolled out into the hallway when I need to access the shelves.

One thing I hadn't counted on, but was just a very useful accident, was that the shelves are sturdy and very close together, allowing me to use them as a ladder, to more easily reach the top shelves, and the boxes stacked three high up there. Not easy to do when I'm in a narrow skirt and heels, if I stop off before or after work, but definitely doable, and readily so when in jeans and tennies.

So, now you have some idea of the layout, let's get to the pictures. This is the sight that greets you when you open the door:

first rack. You'll note, there is a little space available, right in the front, say an 18" square footprint. I do have plans for this space: I'm looking for a tall, narrow chest of drawers, the kind you usually see sold for bedrooms, Goddess only knows why. If I put that on a small dolly, I'll be able to keep the stuff I use most often in it: corsets, gloves, purses, fans, snoods, shawls and scarves, those sorts of things. Those things currently live in boxes on the shelves, so that would free up the space there for some of the stuff that is still back at the house.

Moving the first garment rack out, you see this:

second rack

Moving that rack out, you can now see the back of the unit, with the trash can:
from the door You begin to get a feel for just how claustrophobic it can be, with those 6 ft tall shelf units on either side, and the top shelf of each stacked to the roof of the unit:
top shelf, back lefthat boxes BTW, that pink blob near the top of the second picture is the fanny of a stuffed pink standard-size poodle, which has wheels on it's feet so that it can be pushed along on a stiff leash. This was made to go with my rendition of an Erte drawing, Symphony in Black. Me, being me, had to add my own twist to it, so I made it all in pink, and the pink seemed to demand a poodle, rather than the racing hound of the original. The enormous muff that goes with it is just visible in the third picture, a little above and to the left of the black and white striped hat box. (Don't know why I thought you needed to know that, especially since I don't have a pic of the poodle or the muff.....)

The view from the back of the unit gives you a different perspective:

from the back but any way you look at it, there ain't much space left. There are times when I pull a box off the shelves and have to back out with the box in the same orientation, as there is insufficient room to rotate the box in the isle. However, I am able to get at nearly everything fairly quickly; only those things on the bottom of a 3-tier of boxes on the top shelf, or far down in the one stack between the two left units requires a lot of work. And, I will admit, since I have several non-standard boxes, there are a few where I need to take a middle box out when I want an end box, because the end box is trapped by the L-shaped corner post of the shelf unit. Fortunately, this is somewhat self-correcting: less-frequently-used boxes tend to be sorted into the less-accessible spots. So, all in all, I'm pleased with the result and find it pretty workable. Obviously not nearly as good as having it all stored at home, but an acceptable compromise.