PHS17In every home there is a place where unfolded laundry is thrown and a week’s worth of junk is shoved when guests rap upon the door unexpectedly. For some lucky souls it may be a spare room. For others it might be a more traditional space like a basement, garage, attic, or even a cupboard under the stairs that houses brooms and small boys named Harry. But the fact is, it exists.

To pretend otherwise, to make believe that your entire home looks like the inside of Martha Stewart Living every minute of every day is asking a great deal of your audience; and to pretend that your storage/organizational areas are just as tastefully outfitted as your master bedroom is bordering on the delusional.

Believe me, I love beautiful objects and beautiful rooms; but maintaining the status quo 24/7 while children, husband and pets insist on living with me is about as pointless as pointless can get.

Luckily for people like me, a bit of disarray is quite attractive in a garden setting.

Nothing is prettier than stacks of upturned terracotta pots waiting to be filled with pansies or petunias; and after a long day’s work, a pitchfork leaning against a tree doesn’t seem as incongruous as a fine oak floor scattered with three backpacks, five shoes and a couple of hoodies in varying sizes of sullen teenager. Of course things can get messy out there, but apologies to one’s visitors are unnecessary if the mess in your garden is just part of its charm.

However, if you’ve found yourself tripping over a rogue spade one too many times, you may feel the need for a bit more order. And just as it’s nice to have a place in one’s house where all the ‘stuff’ gets stored, stuffed or stashed to control the clutter between major clean-ups, there is certainly something to be said for confining well-used tools, pots, stakes, tie-backs and all manner of assorted garden paraphernalia to a centrally located area within your garden. Doing so makes caretaking far more pleasurable, and infinitely more convenient.

A potting station is a great place to start.

Potting stations can be hidden away.

Potting stations can be hidden away.

All you need is a table of some sort, a couple weatherproof totes for storage, and a few pots – this doesn’t need to be an expensive project. While I am the first to admit that $650 teak potting benches are indeed beautiful, they are sadly not vital; and many people that I know (including myself) use an old patio table.

potting shed

In my mind, garden clutter is completely acceptable when paired with even more garden clutter.

At my last house, it sat on a reclaimed brick patio – here, the same table occupies dead space against a barn. Soil, sand and gravel occupy totes under the table, pots are handy, and a wooden chair makes it comfortable to boot. This area becomes a convenient catch-all for homeless pots, plants and equipment until they can be properly put away in their rightful places: a garden “sorting house” if you will.

Other people use a back porch or another sheltered area to prolong the life of newly potted plants and errant tools. And, thanks to years and years of magazine covers extolling the rustic beauty of all things garden, it can pass for fairly attractive whilst still being extremely functional.

In short, it is as handy as a basket at the foot of the stairs or as a utility room off of the kitchen – a place where work gets done, stuff gets stashed and I can smile at the mess and look away…still smiling.

There is no such thing as a perfect home. There is no such thing as a perfect garden. Clear your mind of such silliness and set aside areas to make your life work more efficiently.

Whether it is a spare room stacked with winter coats that need packing away or a potting table filled with a hundred geraniums, one must embrace these spaces for the life savers that they are.