Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Battling Clutter by Chris Ferrara


Ever sigh with relief and revel in proud accomplishment when you tidy up your work and creative space? I know a lot of my blogger and collector friends find this a necessary, albeit challenging step in being able to continue to set up scenes and play with their collections. For me, it’s an ongoing process.

A couple of years ago I cleared out a corner of our basement for my houses and related possessions. I could not believe how much stuff I had accumulated - it was less than one year since my husband gave me my first dollhouse, the Villa Sibi, for Christmas. I think he regrets that decision every day! :)



Four homes had been living upstairs and three then made their home in the new (old) room. One had to stay upstairs for the time being. I also had a workroom where the houses in active rehab lived.



I started organizing furniture and other items in a large shelving unit that we were using for assorted tools, wires, paint, you name it. Do others store their stuff like this? Usually mine is literally one on top of the other, but I am now trying to sort them so things are easier to find. My tiny items were still in little drawers or in bowls awaiting sorting.

I cleared off a shelf in my workroom for my growing collection of 1:144 and railroad houses, so I feel they are a bit safer than crammed in a box.




The next major organizing in my doll house room came when we bought a lovely wood dresser from a Crate and Barrel outlet - it was marked down from $799 to $59 (!!), so I figured why not. The catch was one drawer was missing and there were no drawer pulls. I purchased some drawer pulls and filled the two drawers with Reac chairs and some plastic organizers.



I also got some smaller boxes that came in a pack of four ... the colors were so similar to the Kaleidoscope House, I had to get them.



I was able to re-package and sort by volume and chair all of my Reac, so they are better protected and inventoried. I also filled the organizers (mostly Re-ment) according to some logic. Now I feel I have a better handle on what I have, and it is easier for me to put scenes together.



18 months later, another purchase from Crate & Barrel of some shelves and brackets (purchased for a song at the outlet near me), got most of my doll houses aloft in the room! I also organized a bunch of furnishings in my (not so) spare time on the shelves and reworked the perimeter storage.




Better, right?



As well as furniture and accessories, I have also accumulated a great deal of fabric and paper and I couldn't use them effectively because I couldn't FIND them! They were buried under each other and entwined in a mess of pattern and texture (and not in a good way). Also, because this mess had propagated throughout my work surfaces, I had no place to craft, cut, etc., and had to migrate to our dining room table, an impractical solution.

With the excuse of my birthday being a few days away, I decided to kick my childish habits and get organized in a smart way. I reused an old kitchen table and covered it in a durable, silver ironing board cover material for a multi-use surface. I actually wanted to find some neat oilcloth, but the Marimekko ones were a bit too pricey (for now). After cleaning up some clutter in our laundry room, I decided to fit my table in and have that be my fabric/work space:



Artwork by my daughter inspires me



Given this is in our laundry room, I am trying to convince myself that the environment is industrial chic, but I think I need to try a bit harder.


With my work table set up, I then organized all my scrapbook papers, longer sheets of more delicate papers, and wallpaper rolls in my work room, home to my houses in "rehab": the Citadel and my VERO.




I felt much more organized.



This year, I thought if I started with a blogpost on updates on two of my doll houses in "rehab," I might set myself up for a year of progress on projects that have long been dormant. In order to make progress, though, there was some intensive cleaning and organizing in order. As with many organizing moments in our house, it's all a domino effect. In order for me to bring two of my "rehab" houses in from our garage, where they have been patiently gathering dust on a work table, I had to clean out other nooks and crannies in our basement to make room for them near my work table.

The two houses in question are my Betsy McCall House and the Artply by Highland. Both are huge and I needed to figure out where to put them. I bought two saw horses and had a piece of heavy duty plywood custom-cut at Lowes for a table top. I had a huge remnant of Marimekko fabric, bought for $8.00 at my beloved Crate & Barrel outlet last year, and it worked perfectly as a covering. Here's the result:



The houses came in from the chilly garage and the McCall went on the new table with my VERO and the Artply now lives in the back work room with the Citadel.

Right now, though, my houses and collection are in complete disarray again, and I really need to buckle down and clean it all up into some semblance of organization. I asked on my blog for any good tips to get me started, as I felt I needed some new ideas to motivate me.

Two readers  shared the wonderful idea of starting small: "Start with one thing. Just one" and "Start with one shelf- clear that off completely - toss what you know you won't use into a donate bag/box, and the rest in a "keep" box. That empty space somehow lets you reorganize then."

Others recommended stimulants - caffeine, alcohol or music! I agree about music - it really keeps the momentum going and I like getting caught up in just listening and doing without really thinking about it. 

Wish me luck as I conquer the mess!