hack the cabinet

Have you ever purchased something for a specific purpose that soon becomes obsolete? Me, too. I bought a cherry entertainment cabinet just a couple years before we converted to wide screen. I don’t know why I didn’t see that coming.

Initially, we constrained ourselves to a new unit sized to fit in the old cabinet. We quickly realized our mistake, squinting from the back of the room. Sub par! Eventually, the Hubs insisted on el grande wall-mounted flat screen. Then our good ol’ fashioned TV cabinet became almost useless. Huh.

What a waste! So I began using it almost immediately for other things. As you might imagine, it wasn’t long before it was holding a hodgepodge collection of media, gadgets, cables, and cast-offs. What a mess.

Last fall, inspiration struck: this classy cabinet was perfect for a hidden home office. My end goal was to make good use of every inch of the cabinet, get rid of ugly filing cabinets — stuffed to the rims — plus the pile of files accumulating near by. Finally, inspired by Ikea Hackers, I had a plan!

First, I counted and measured shelving. The good news is these old style cabinets are deep! Then I struck out on a bargain treasure hunt. I was looking for home office storage supplies I could live with a long time. They had to mix well with the few odds and ends I already owned.

At TJ Maxx, I purchased four small gray covered storage boxes in varying depths. I also purchased three sectioned organizers in classy French motif. On a whim, I snagged an open box that matched.

At Office Max, I purchased six self-assemble cardboard filing boxes; five standard size and one for legal-size paperwork. They snap together along the edges and seem pretty sturdy. I also picked up some Manila folders and hanging file folders.

I filled the small storage boxes with common supplies such as business envelopes and stamps, banking materials, small craft tools and such. The sectioned organizers worked great for all of the stuff that usually fills the junk drawer: scissors, tape, rulers, highlighters, erasers, staples, and various doo-dads. The open box was perfect for greeting cards and thank you notes.

Into one filing box fit reams of computer paper, notebook paper, photo paper, and card stock. In another, boxes of stationary and Christmas cards were tucked away. There was room enough for my paper shredder and pencil sharpener, using the handy dandy electrical connection built into the cabinet. That was the easy part.

Several months later, I had enough courage to tackle the hard part…

.. which brings us to July Fourth weekend, 2014. It took me most of three full days to process all the paperwork accumulated through neglect. So many records saved over the years have no value but each had to be reexamined. Thirty-three years of marriage (27 years in this house) raising three children through childhood to college, several major surgeries and a few minor along with a life threatening illness or two… sigh. You get the picture. Most of those records passed through my fingertips this weekend.

It might have been the most boring Independence Day holiday weekend, ever. My back ached and ached. My head spun. The only thing saving my sanity was the movie queue. It seemed like acres of paper and it probably was.

In the end, what filtered out of all of that fit easily in the four empty filing boxes. The result is a refreshingly clean and organized cabinet fulfilling its potential once again. Oh, and two empty filing cabinets in need of a new home. Plus a massive pile of paper to recycle. I have to admit to a sense of pride in finally wrestling this beastie into submission.

I made a few discoveries as well, saving some important tidbits from obscurity and identifying others that deserve no less than a toasty hot hot hot! fire pit. I will surely enjoy watching those burn while sipping on a generous pour of red. Fortnately, I know just the bottle for the occasion!

~ René Morley

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