Friday, July 5, 2013

Bricolage -- an update

A year or more ago, I wrote about a new storage system I was trying out.  Best part of that system is, it has a very cool name:
 Bricolage : ":construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand; also :something constructed in this way".
The main ingredient in my own version of the bricolage storage system is printer paper boxes with one (front) edge trimmed.  I chose these cardboard boxes because . . .

  • They're cheap (but of course) -- in fact, I can get them from various offices around campus for free!  
  • They're versatile; we can (and now do) use them all over the house and garage.
  • They're easier than drawers and such (helpful to my son, who has physical difficulties using his right hand).
  • They're easily replaceable (my sons tend to destroy a lot of what they touch).  
  • When they do get destroyed, we can recycle them with other cardboard.
What they are NOT is beautiful.  I had visions of possibly covering/painting them with something.  Hasn't happened.  

But as Aristotle pointed out, every object has both form and function.  Even if the form isn't beautiful, how's the function?  Twenty months after I started this experiment, it's worth checking:  do the boxes actually perform as I'd hoped?

I declare SUCCESS.  To wit, here is an actual candid picture of N-son's bedroom.  Note the relative absence of things on the floor.

It is not actually the case that his organizational skills rise to the high standards set by his (somewhat obsessive) mother.  Note that both the "action figures" box and the "books" box both contain a bunch of books.  Tsk tsk.
But as I said, it isn't like we cleaned up anything for this photo.  It's very easy to get stuff off the floor and into these boxes.  When a real cleaning spree comes, it's easy to see if the boxes contain what they're supposed to.  And to my surprise, the boxes have pretty much held up for a year, with minimal amount of replacement needed.  Go figure!

If we need to relabel a box, it's easy to do that with a piece of folded-over paper and a binder clip (as I did with the "Special Dinners" box in my own storage closet below -- it's hard to see the label in this photo, but it works well in real life).

But speaking of putting them in closets, I've found serendipitously that these boxes fit perfectly into our existing closets.  Here's a box on the top shelf of our linen closet.
This next photo is supposed to convince you that I'm not really an obsessive neat-nik.  (Obsessive, yes; neat-nik, no).   The rest of the closet isn't nearly as tidy or well labeled, and that is just the way it really is.  So there.


  1. It's so nice when a plan works out! Those boxes also fit perfectly on the top shelves of my closet, but I keep the lids on to minimize dust. This makes them harder to pull out, but we're both good at that. (The fact that things can collect dust means maybe I should re-evaluate how much I really want them!)

    And I also have one for lightbulbs, though with no pretty pictures, and I also put the batteries in there.

    1. Hmm . . . we get dust on a lot of things in our house, but not in closets. Or, at least, we're so inured to dust elsewhere that we don't notice the dust in closets.

      Have you thought about handles for pulling? If it were me, I'd try making two small holes in the box and threading a rope through to make a pull handle. I've done that on the wooden chest that holds our train tracks, and I love having something to grab! (Just thinking out loud, here. Of course you know your own situation best). -MM

    2. Your rope handle idea sounds handy--and pretty! (And I'd tie the ends together on the inside rather than hoping overhand knots would work.) But mostly I'm pulling from the bottom, so I won't bother with that.

  2. Good use of boxes. I love to containerize things, and label things, both for my benefit and for the benefit of my less than, how shall I put this kindly, neat and organized, husband and children. Just the other day TopDad asked for batteries, duct tape, sharpie markers and post-it notes! I can easily find things and know how much of anything I have because it is all containerized and labeled. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    1. I am totally impressed that somehow those things don't wander away and you have them at hand when you need them. In our home, the pens and pencils all disappear to goodness-knows-where. Ditto for batteries.

      In fact, partly because of the great AA and AAA turnover in my home, three of my kids temporarily formed a band called "batteries not included". -MM

    2. Heh, "Batteries Not Included." Was the band electric or acoustic?