Smart Solutions: Looking at your space with a thoughtful eye

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News
A corner unit can stretch your surface space to group like items together.

If a picture has the power to convey a thousand words, then the photo I found in my storage room must tell a compelling story about the state of my home. Still, it wasn’t until a friend came to see some accessories I wanted to sell that I remembered it was there. While giving her a personal tour of the areas that are typically off limits on the lower level of my house, she asked who the person was in the picture.

When I told her I had no idea, but that it was definitely not a family member, my friend could not stop laughing. I have to admit it was a funny revelation.

The fact that I still had this item in my home made me think that the mystery image should serve as a symbol for the random objects that remain in my possession despite my best editing efforts. So, I plan to display it on my fridge as a reminder that every piece should be here for a reason or exit the premises.

On the flip side, my friend really appreciated the images that were familiar to me like an assortment of old family photos in their original vintage frames that should be arranged on a gallery wall. Now I’m feeling motivated to gather them together and find the right place for them.

Seeing your belongings from another person’s perspective can lead to valuable lessons about the objects that we choose to keep and what we do with them.

Since I’m always looking for a new way to solve an old dilemma, I often feel tempted to buy more organizing products like the perfect-sized storage container to corral the seasonal items that seemed to be multiplying in our coat closet. But I had to stop myself in the store when I remembered the half-empty ones I already have at home that could work just as well.

For now, I try to limit myself to considering functional finds I don’t already own like the corner shelving units sold at the Home Depot that can expand standard shelves in a garage or any other area that might benefit from vertical storage.

Whatever you perceive to be your organizational weaknesses, can also look different through someone else’s eyes, like our storage room that my friend said was the neatest one she’s ever seen. To me, it’s one big mess that I have yet to address with a few exceptions.

In addition to the number of shelves that line the walls, there are boxes and totes and other bits and pieces like the mysterious image of a boy I cannot identify that inspired this column. But, getting a gentle reminder of the excess that bothers me makes me want to be more productive on a regular basis than the occasional projects I’ve accomplished so far.  

Though I still vacillate between the desire to be more of a minimalist and the natural maximalist I have always been; with a little more organization, I might find a happy medium.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at