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The rule growing up was “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
If we needed to look for something, we always knew right where to find it. And if it were something my mom didn’t want to have come up missing (like her favorite gardening shovel), she’d put a piece of masking tape on it with her name printed in bold letters.
That didn’t mean we lived a minimalist lifestyle by any means. We had plenty of stuff. It was just neatly stacked, arranged, or organized in a certain place. Always.
White statuettes lined the ornate shelves on our antique pump organ that an ancestor had brought out West in the 1800s, and each one needed to be carefully wiped and shined and put back in its spot.
Our rolltop desk had cubbies assigned to stamps or envelopes or writing pens or the checkbook.
Holiday dishes were tidily stacked in the china cabinet. Wooden spoons were in a holder on the butcher block, and knives were in the knife block next to the stove where little children couldn’t reach.
Our house was a joy to behold with all of the knickknacks and doodads. Everywhere you looked was a delight for the eyes.
Which made Saturday morning chores a hassle.
We had shelves of neatly arranged ceramic and porcelain bird figurines that had to be dusted, and each bird had to be put back exactly where it had been to maintain the balanced look my mom had so carefully achieved.
Every nook and cranny on that rolltop desk, which I loved and dreamed of writing at, had to be freed from its weekly collection of dust and particles.
I didn’t carry that deeply-instilled weekly dusting habit into adulthood. Admittedly, I may skip dusting things for a weekend here and there or only dust what is most visible to guests if I’m in a hurry.
I do love a clean house, and I adore the look of minimalist interior design. But I’m not willing to give up my stuff to achieve the look.
Which leads me to today’s writing rant: Secret Hiding Places to Stash Your Stuff (or how to achieve a minimalist look without throwing anything away).
What is minimalism?
Let’s start by discussing what minimalism is and what it isn’t. A minimalist lifestyle is characterized by using simple design for maximum impact. It is about living intentionally and purposefully instead of filling your space (and life) with unnecessary mishmash.
By cutting down clutter and providing places for your eyes to rest among neutral colors and clean lines, you can create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.
And did I mention how much easier it is to clean a room with minimalist design? I might even say it again, because that’s what truly got me started researching minimalism in the first place.
Cabinets are the perfect place to store items that you don’t want to display. You can organize to your heart’s content to make the best use of your space and keep everything within easy reach but out of sight.
Not all cabinets have to be disguised. If you have the luxury of designing your kitchen, add plenty of cabinets and make sure they go to the ceiling. You won’t collect dust bunnies on top, and you can use the extra storage space to keep your holiday dishes safe (although you may need a stool to reach them) .
Hidden cabinets can be installed in the unused space under stairs, behind a mirror (use a wood-framed mirror for the cabinet door), or behind a picture frame.
You can turn a column at the end of your kitchen island into a handy hidden cupboard, too, by removing a side panel and reattaching it with concealed hinges and a magentic latch.
If you plan on building hidden cabinets, you’ll need hardware that fits the job. Here are a few of the items you might need:
Concealed hinges and push latches: Use concealed hinges and magnetic push latches, so no hardware is exposed. After all, it isn’t hidden if you can clearly see it.
You’ll need at least two hinges if you’re building a single cabinet. The style of hinges depends on whether you’re using a pre-built cabinet door with inset holes for the hinges or if you’re building the door yourself and need the hinges to attach to a flat surface.
Of course, if you have the right tools, you can drill insets in your home-crafted doors, too, but let’s keep this simple.
If you don’t need a deep cabinet, framed mirrored cabinets (like a medicine cabinet but bigger) serve a dual purpose of hiding smaller (or narrower) items and reflecting light into the room.
You can either cut your wall and inset your 3-inch deep framed mirror so that it is flush with the wall (you’ll need to use a magnetic push latch top to open this kind of mirrored door) or buy a ready-made mirrored cabinet to hang on the wall like this locking jewelry safe.
Consider other creative options for hidden cabinet doors, like pictures and paintings with a hidden hinge (you’ll need one of these to attach the frame to the wall).
When you’re shopping for hidden storage compartments, think outside the box and come up with other uses for an item. Often, you can remove or redesign the inside to fit your purpose.
Small items can be tucked away inside of hidden mini-cabinets. Keys can fit inside the small space a hidden door reveals in a wall coat rack, like this one that’s designed for weapons but could just as easily be used to hide the keys to your recreational vehicles, guest house, or bunker.
Floating shelves with hidden storage look lovely hanging on a wall in your minimalist bedroom or bath, and no one needs to know that’s where you keep your multitude of nail polish colors.
If you want to build your own floating shelf, you’ll need hidden brackets to hang them with. Try these heavy-duty invisible brackets for your next project.
How about building a mantel over your living room fireplace to store your Christmas stockings out of sight? Put hinges on the lower edge inside the front panel, and use a strong magnetic latch to hold it closed. You can push on the top edge to swing the front down and retrieve your holiday decor.
The mantel pictured below could easily be converted into secret storage, and removing a few display items from the top would lighten the load on chore day.
Shelves with baskets
Combine the hanging shelf idea with a row of pretty baskets to store items without completely disguising their whereabouts. All your visitors will see is a uniform design—not the extra washcloths or travel-sized shampoo bottles you keep on hand for guests.
You can go larger by using standing shelves or storage cubes and lining them with baskets or fabric cubes to store toys, craft supplies, your yarn stash, or gadgets and canned goods in the kitchen.
Under the bed
You know those cube organizers I just recommended? We have several sets and even built an under-bed storage system for my daughter by laying the 5-cube organizers on their sides (back to back) and putting her twin-sized box springs and mattress on top. She used the cubes on one side of the bed for storing books and put fabric cubes filled with socks and T-shirts on the other side.
If you don’t want to redesign your bed with cubes, under-bed storage boxes (like these stackable bins with lids) fit beneath a standard bed frame and protect your seasonal clothes, boots, and blankets from dust.
Another option is to build a platform bed with a wood base and drawers that give the room a clean, sleek look.
Put your feet up
Have you seen storage ottomans? Perfect for providing extra seating or giving your feet a place to rest when you settle in for the evening, storage ottomans come in round, square, or rectangular shapes and a variety of fabrics and finishes to match your interior style.
Use ottomans to hide the remote control from toddlers (they’ll probably figure it out anyway) or to store toys or extra throw blankets.
Go big with hidden rooms
Want to go bigger instead of smaller? How about hiding an entire room where you can store large items or a whole pantry?
Of course, to hide a room, you’ll need a hidden door—and to hide a door, you’ll not only need some carpentry skills, but you’ll also need hardware.
You can get Murphy Door hidden hardware here. The hinges pivot so your secret bookcase (a.k.a., door) can swing around to reveal your secret room. Pretty cool, huh?
What about if you don’t have carpentry skills to build a Murphy door? The Murphy Door store has pre-built solutions.
End tables with doors instead of shelves, sofas with hidden storage in the armrest, and china cabinets all hide the miscellaneous stuff that would otherwise be sitting on a table or countertop.
If you have end tables with legs, consider swapping them for ones with doors or at least a drawer and shelf.
Looking for a new coffee table? Get one with a top that lifts off to reveal storage space inside.
And if you really want to keep stuff protected in an end table, take a look at the Longhorn Nightstand by Rhino Metals. Picture it in an industrial farmhouse-style room or a man cave.
Are you thinking about getting a new side chair or redesigning the benches for your dining area? Consider chairs and benches with lifting seats and hidden storage beneath.
As much as I didn’t like cleaning that old rolltop desk, I loved how easy it was to close the top and hide the mess.
If you have a home office—or an area where you sit to pay the bills and use the computer—consider a rolltop desk or a desk with a hutch so you can close it mid-project without exposing your work to prying eyes.
Bookshelves might seem like an obvious place to store your stuff, but most bookshelves have a less-than-minimalist look and provide ample opportunity for dust to collect.
Hide bookshelves by installing sliding barn doors in front of them. You can also use barn doors to hide your television and gaming devices, electronics, or entertainment and stereo system.
Install your new barn door with a soft-closing slider kit to prevent your door from smacking against the stopper.
If you want to achieve a minimalist look with hidden storage, use space to your advantage. Incorporate shelves, cube storage, and cabinetry and hide your treasures behind doors and in baskets to show a minimalist aesthetic without giving away your family heirlooms or giving up your hoard of crafting supplies.
Creating a minimalist home is easy if you have enough hidden storage space.
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