Cabinet Secrets: Uses for Useless Things

Little Birthday Card CabinetMost people inevitably own an innumerable rank of items which are both frequently and infrequently necessary. These miscellaneous items are often all too visible in the form of clutter and frustratingly invisible when they are wanted. The obvious solution is to place things near the location where they are most likely to be wanted and keep them out of sight. This can be done with an assortment of cabinets and containers which can be placed and hung anywhere.

Some objects do not need any modification to take on the new role of cabinet. For example, I have for many years used a faux antique birdcage to store attractive books. I also have an attractive wire puppy crate that is no longer in use which could store and display childhood stuffed animals. Other things can be become cabinets with simple additions and changes. Wooden boxes can have lids attached with hinges or wire. An unused aquarium can be polished or painted with glass paint and given an improvised lid. I have often contemplated the potential of spiral bindings from old notebooks to serve as hinges and have yet to try it.

Because looking expensive is not our first priority, my sister and I have a hobby of making cabinets from pine boards, scraps of plywood, and found items. These handcrafted cabinets can be used alone, stacked, mounted to a wall or placed on shelves and furniture. They add whimsy to our rooms and are ideal places to stash things which would otherwise accumulate on horizontal surfaces. Please allow me to introduce a few of our favorite cabinets.

  • The blue and white cabinet which we call “Little Paisley” is decorated with 2 pretty note cards received in the mail, framed with lace and varnished. The handle is twisted wire. It holds rolls of paper for drawing.
  • The yellow cabinet has a glass door made with a picture frame from a thrift shop and decorated with a scrap of velvet and fringe. It currently resides near the piano and contains songbooks.
  • The white cabinet with star appliqués holds bags of polyester fill and sewing supplies. It also has a twisted wire handle.
  • The “Kennel” cabinet with wire doors contains infrequently read books and 3 miniature dogs which my real dog used to steal off my shelf. I meant to buy wire for the doors but decided to use some more of the big coil of wire we already had. Instead of hinges, I hammered dowels into drilled holes. I don’t mind the slight crookedness.
  • The littlest cabinet with the pink interior has a birthday card glued and varnished to the door. This one keeps my bedroom closet pretty by holding odd items such as lotion and rubbing alcohol. My bedroom closet is actually my personal library (my sister and I keep our clothes in the master bedroom) so this cabinet also serves as a bookend.

We are very fond of our cabinets for their flaws and individuality. They are versatile and easily change location or purpose as needed. Those who like projects of this sort should assign drawers or containers (or cabinets) for the purpose of tidily accumulating materials. Potentially useful items are:

  • Greeting cards people have sent you. These are often rather expensive and should be given a permanent use.
  • Any paper with tasteful patterns or artwork for decoupage. Old calenders can be recycled here.
  • Attractive things that are inherently useless, fallen or broken off other items: silk or plastic flowers, miniature and doll house items, buttons, charms, rope, ribbon, pebbles, puzzle pieces, playing cards, party favors, old hair accessories, non-genuine jewelry, etc. Just about anything you fancy that can be affixed by glue will do.
  • Things that can serve as door knobs or handles: large beads, teacup or mug handles, ceramic figurines, chess pieces, golf balls, small thread spools, interesting caps from perfume or cosmetic bottles, anything that is easy to grab and pull. Handles can be entirely decorative or absent if you wish.
  • Potentially interesting doors are: old picture frames, wire shelving from small refrigerators and ovens, actual doors apparently fallen off other furniture or houses, art on canvas or in frames, book covers abducted from large old books (make sure the book is truly badly conceived, badly written, and in bad condition before harming it!), anything relatively flat and attachable. If you find a great door, make a cabinet to fit it.

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