We don't have the luxury of being single dimensional anymore. We can't limit ourselves to doing just one thing — no, we have to dabble here and there — and so it is inevitable that everything we use, too, needs to double up as something else. That's why we have those mobile phones that have cameras and music and the internet and practically everything else we may need short of our next meal — though we could get the recipes there in a crunch.

It stands to reason that we need multipurpose furniture as much as we need multipurpose gadgetry. And when we have limited living space, this conversion of one thing to another becomes all the more important. That kitchen shelf-cum-table-for-two will save around 33 steps a meal between the dining table and the stove and the bathtub-cum-scooped-out-lounger can finally give us a legitimate excuse for falling asleep in the bathroom!

Our humble home, unfortunately, doesn't have any of these sophisticated ‘combos' but in our typical unaesthetic style we've put our furniture to good use.

Like everything else we did, we started small and we started unknowingly. There was one stray day of clearing up and waiting to think of a place to dump the old newspapers. We balanced them at the bottom of the metal clothes rack, and then added the next day's newspapers to the pile until a week or so later it seemed the right place for the old newspapers to languish until they were sold as junk.

Everyone knows that we can't make one mistake and be done with it. Erring repeatedly is so much easier; so next, the plastic bags we needed to store (since we couldn't let those be cast into the unsuspecting environment) were pegged onto one of the convenient hooks on the same clothes rack. Congratulating ourselves and the manufacturer of these all-purpose clothes racks, we huffed and puffed and pulled and shoved and hey presto, there was place for one more set of odds and ends!

Honorary post

Then, worried at last that there'd no longer be place for clothes on the clothes rack, I put my foot down and thus saved one of our utility pieces from collapsing beneath the weight of what it should never have been forced to carry!

With full stops there, the problem of what to do with the other stray items in the house reared its ugly head. Tired of using my every creative cell trying to find a place for everything, I let the rest of the family have a free hand. Go figure it out yourself, I said, resigning from the honorary post of being the sole stowing machine of the family.

If only I'd known just how inventive they'd be!

Now when you enter our home, you need to watch where you rest your tired body. Before you sit down on the sofa you may need to check whether the dumb bells are hidden behind the cushion (convenient, considering that we'll be doing those biceps curls daily).

And when you want to lounge on the settee you find that you really can't put your feet up because the laundry is there, the ironed clothes are there, the iron is there — why move all that when we know that we'll need to grab something from there and iron out a few creases come the next day's morning rush?

Piles of this, bundles of that, you manoeuvre around our house as you would around an obstacle course, but none of us are worried.

Instead we contort a bit and pat ourselves on the back for putting our possessions to good use — every one of them doubling up as something else entirely than what they were meant to be!


Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.