hg: The Cupboard Under the Stairs

Saturday morning and I feel restless. The cupboard under the stairs has been troubling me.

You see, we don’t have much storage in our flat, so the cupboard under the stairs is our main repository for stuff. Those random things that don’t belong anywhere else in the house, like umbrellas and spare rolls of sellotape, they all live in the cupboard under the stairs.

This poses a problem. To get at the suitcases, for example, one must first grapple with a gawky hoover. The spare dining chair is hidden behind a thick canopy of coats. Our guest bedding hasn’t been seen in months. And everything else is jumbled together in a row of haphazard piles. The situation has become untenable.

Naomi is meeting a friend this morning, which gives me the perfect chance to empty the cupboard under the stairs into the living room, and then put it all back in a more pleasing manner. At least, that’s the plan.

I drag everything out and stand in the kitchen doorway to admire my handiwork. I can’t help but notice the living room has disappeared under piles of stuff. It’s a wonder this all fits in that pokey cupboard, I think to myself.

The minutes tick by and I continue to stand motionless, paralysed by the scale of the task. I fetch a glass of water and sip it nervously. I transfer to the desk, hoping a new angle will spark inspiration, but nothing happens. A feeling of dread begins to bubble up in my stomach. I don’t know what to do.

I suddenly hear a set of keys jangle in the hallway, making me leap from my chair. She’s back, and the living room is in turmoil. Footsteps approach and a key rummages in the lock. I try to adopt a casual stance, peering thoughtfully at the mess, as if to say “Huh, I wonder how this got here.” Naomi bustles through the door and stops short. The smile and imminent greeting drain from her face. “What the…”

I’ve often suspected that sharing a home with me must be an erratic, if not exotic experience, and it’s moments like this that remove any doubt. Everything was calm when Naomi left two hours ago. There was no hint of trouble, no warning of such upheaval.

“What happened?” she asks, in a terrifyingly reasonable voice.

“Well,” I begin. “I wasn’t entirely happy with the arrangement of the cupboard under the stairs. You know, with trying to get things out and it being a bit annoying because you always have to move something else.”

I laugh weakly, hoping Naomi will agree and praise my initiative. She remains silent, expectant.

“So I emptied everything out,” I finish hurriedly.

She nods at this meager explanation and tiptoes between a bag of pillows and some bike tools to reach the sofa. She sits down and takes out her phone. I go back to staring at the piles of stuff.

My hope had been that much of it could be ditched and the remains would fit easily into the cupboard again. But there doesn’t seem to be anything to get rid of. We need it all, unfortunately. Apart from the Christmas wreath, I think to myself. That can go.

“How about this?” Naomi asks abruptly, and she turns her phone screen towards me.

I navigate around some scented candles and a roll of bubble wrap to take her phone. It displays a picture of some storage shelves. The KALLAX shelving unit, it says. They’re undoubtedly IKEA, pleasingly minimalist with endless realms of customisation.

“They might be good for the cupboard,” she suggests.

I study the screen. “Yeah, they might just do the trick.”

Smiling gratefully as I hand back the phone, I then manage to trip over a five iron protruding from the bag of golf clubs.

The next morning we head to IKEA. Shopping at the weekend is something we try to avoid, but our living room still resembles a jumble sale and it’s a pleasant tram ride out of the city. IKEA isn’t too busy either. We walk slowly, fondling cushions and twisting taps. Naomi lusts after bright kitchens with wooden counter tops, and we linger in the model 1-bedroom flats to discuss their pros and cons.

“Yes, I’d live here.”

“But where would the bikes go?”

“Hmm, good point. Maybe there’s a bike shed in the communal garden.”

Back in our real home we assemble the KALLAX shelving unit and happily sort our stuff into little trays. One for tools, one for stationary, one for hats and scarves, and so on. It’s a joy to behold and everything slides neatly back into the cupboard under the stairs. Everything except for the Christmas wreath, but Naomi threatens to leave me when the words ‘charity shop’ are mentioned.

I take the cardboard packaging out to the recycling bin and straighten out the living room. Order is restored. We settle on the sofa, tired but satisfied, safe in the knowledge that it’s been a productive weekend.