Apartment, Meet Shelf Liner.

Slideshow of our ongoing home improvement process. Click on a picture to see its caption. You can then use the arrow keys to advance the slideshow.

My Twitter/Facebook update on Sunday was, “Today is the day the boy apartment becomes a co-ed apartment. Apartment, I’d like to introduce you to shelf liner and drawer organizers.” It was a big day for the bachelor pad.

I know that in some ways, it would have been ideal if we’d found a brand new place instead of having me move into Darren‘s place. Because it would have been ours from the beginning, we could have avoided my encroaching on his man-tastic lair.

Nonetheless, in most ways it just made sense for me to move into the place he’s had for two years. He’s got a great spot in a four-plex, a big southern house divided into apartments with wood floors and lots of windows. His treesy neighborhood, Belhaven, is known as one of the most beautiful and consistently wins Best of Jackson’s Best Place to Run. Most importantly, right now I just want to have a simple, settled life and am grateful that he has all the basic necessities already in place.

A challenge arises when Darren has survived without certain things for years that I’m stunned he doesn’t have. A set of measuring cups and spoons, for example. A living room floor lamp that provides ambient light. Rubber gloves. Vanilla extract. I also have certain standards that he doesn’t necessarily share, like covering the kitchen garbage can (especially in the land of cockroaches). I don’t want to barge in and tell him that he’s been doing it all wrong until now, but I do want to be able to live the way I’m accustomed to. I want him to have the same privilege.

So. We’ll compromise, or find a win-win solution. I think we both agree that if something is more important to one of us, that person should make the final call. For example, though I joke about it, I don’t really mind that Darren leaves the toilet seat up all the time, and he doesn’t mind if I line the dusty kitchen shelves with colorful Contac paper.

What we both care about is finding a home for everything, mine, his, and ours. As clutterhounds, we both accumulate piles of random junk unless we know where each item belongs. To solve existing problems and prevent future ones, we went to Target in search of storage and organization solutions, and got a lot for our $240 (holiday gift cards covered about 40%, nice).

You can see the fruits of our labor in the slideshow above. I refrained from taking too many chaotic “Before” pictures of the apartment to avoid a high-and-mighty attitude toward Darren’s clutter. In truth, my own space always looks just as disorganized, and he’s never judged me for it, bless his heart.

We’re taking baby steps, knowing that reorganizing will take time and money. We’re still in the process of identifying what improvements we’d like to make to the apartment, and how to do them on a budget. It’s fun most of the time but can be overwhelming. Here are a few of our priorities:

– Modernizing the old dresser by replacing the drawer handles
– Building a table and lowering the height of the stools we have
– Installing a pegboard on which to hang pots and pans
– Figuring out how to organize the kitchen (food, appliances, etc.)
– Making the spare room into a reading/guest room in addition to a screen printing room

I am so thankful that Darren has been so open to new possibilities for the apartment: rearranging, adding furniture, and doing some things differently than he’s done for years. And thank God he’s just as messy as I am. The reason I’m such a big fan of all these organizational tools is that I’m naturally a slob. But the hope buzzing through this country has inspired us, too, to change. We can become more organized. Yes we can!

Your Two Cents: Leave a Comment!

What storage solutions have changed your life?

Any words of wisdom about combining lives with a partner?

Comments (3)

  1. Katie

    In South Carolina, our storage solution was called “cardboard boxes stacked on the screened-in back porch.” Really, it worked for us.

    I think when we first started living together, our main concern was getting rid of half of everything we owned. That was easy to do because neither of us had nice things. Then, we moved on to the smaller stuff. I hate it when the bathroom gets cluttered, so we put in temporary shelving. Josh bought organizers for mail, coupons, magazines, DVDs…anything that could get dumped on a horizontal surface and live there for a month. That honestly is the one thing that changed my life; now I can’t stand it when papers and mail pile up.

    I recommend the Bed, Bath and Beyond plastic organizational shelves. They come in a lot of different sizes and styles. The plastic stacking drawers sold at Target are also good for closets; we use a lot of those here because our bedroom is so small.

    Once we began the adjustment process, I quickly understood why a lot of serious relationships don’t make it. That first year was the hardest. Because we were both accustomed to living alone, we had to learn each other’s habits and modify our own. In our case, he moved into my house, which was hard for me to deal with at times. I wanted him there, but occasionally I caught myself mumbling, “If he changes around my kitchen cabinet organizational system one more time, I swear to God…” Switching my mindset from that of a single person to that of a person in a family unit was tough, especially because we were both relatively young (23) and knew that this was a permanent change.

    We learned to live with it, but moving to Chicago is what really cleared the air for me. The chance to start over together in a completely new place allowed us to truly build from scratch, armed with the knowledge we already had.

  2. Alicia

    The endless challenge to get organized…you inspire me to try to keep improving, Melia! I love the book you gave me (even though I haven’t read it all yet). Hope you and Darren are happily settling in.

  3. Melia

    Katie, I’ve said this before, but it’s so helpful to have your perspective because you’re a few years ahead of me in the process of combining lives — as freelancers, to boot. We’d benefit from a place to put the mail and a spike for receipts (these are things I have in California but didn’t bring).

    We still haven’t found a solution for storing all of our clothes. We’d tried the stackable wood cube shelving and bought fabric drawers to go inside, but the drawers didn’t fit. For the moment, I just want to get everything off of the floor.

    And yes, thinking of ourselves as one unit rather than two separate individuals is a big change. It’s the first time I’ve been willing to do that with someone. Darren and I are both independent oldest children, so I’m glad that we’ve been able to collaborate on the decision making, financially and organizationally.


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