Don’t mess with a woman’s storage space, or the result will be a stake-level intervention.

Over the last month, I’ve had numerous conversations with ward members about the policies and practices regarding the cabinets in our meeting house.  Those with a vested interest include teachers, counselors, presidents, and sisters who organize food for ward activities.  Real estate in these cabinets is at a premium, so the rules for allocating space are occasionally scrutinized and challenged, usually when there’s a change in leadership.

Our building has a row of cabinets along the north wall of the Relief Society room that are used by two family wards, a student ward and the seminary teacher.

Five years I was given the code for one column of these cabinets.  (My then-11-year-old son watched me use my code, inferred a pattern for the rest of the cabinets, and hacked into the whole row of them. But that’s another story.) Since then, I have seen a variety of items stored and retrieved from our ward’s column of cabinets, which consists of two sets of doors revealing 8 shelves total.

When you open these cabinets, you find dry erasers, magnets, church manuals, bookmarks, reams of paper, DVDs, table cloths, silk flowers, vases, framed pictures, and other items used to support Sunday teaching, midweek meetings and meals for funerals and for ward activities.

In an effort to maximize the space allotted to our ward’s use, I recently worked with a counselor in the Relief Society presidency to remove obsolete items and straighten up the placement of the remaining items.

We found remnants from activities past:  a dozen manuals for last year’s Relief Society / Priesthood curriculum, bookmarks with the teaching schedule from 2012, a record of compassionate service rendered in 2011, handouts from lesson taught over many a Sunday past, and a cassette player.  Yes, cassette. Digging further back, I expected to find craft kits for making macrame scripture totes.

Then there were the illegal items: candles, mounting putty and various items that are supposed to be stored in the meeting house library.

Our organizing efforts resulted in a bag of trash, a Xerox box worth of materials belonging to other auxiliaries or the library and one box of oddities—such as a dozen large ice cream bowls.  I took the oddities home to store for a year before giving them away. I have no idea who knows this code and expects to retrieve the oddities that were stored there. They have a year to claim them.

Last week, a facilities management employee gave me a tour of all the building’s storage space—ward cabinets, stake cabinets, and church maintenance cabinets. There are also eight cabinets in a closet off the stage. Who knew? It was as though he had knocked on a wood panel and a hidden room was revealed.

I have heard a few tales about the use and allotment of the cabinets in our building (not just for Relief Society, but for Primary, youth, and scouts). These anecdotes convince me that this additional space would be much coveted. But I won’t relay these stories because they might be tedious, confidential and/or controversial.

As far as I understand, these cabinets will remain empty until someone on a stake level calls a meeting to assign them to some or all of the interested parties.

At this point the facilities manager told me that he is recusing himself from the decision: “After years of working with church women over cabinet allocation, I refuse to get involved anymore.” He’s leaving that to priesthood leadership. I have decided to put the issue of requests for more space from sisters in our ward on the back burner for now.

I’m hoping all the people in charge of our building can find the Wisdom of Solomon regarding cabinet allocation when needed.  So far as I know, conflicts over storage have resulted–not in blows–but in no more than a kerfuffle.  In the mean time, I advise my son in strong terms to stay out of the other wards’ cabinets.


  1. Kathryn

    July 18, 2014

    Thanks for the chuckle this morning. The story about your son extrapolating a pattern sounds hilarious, though I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time!

    I’m YW president in my ward, and I have zero storage space other than beneath a small, round table in the YW room (which doubles as a Primary classroom). The Primary and Relief Society each have the corner closet behind the chalkboard in their respective rooms, and the Relief Society and Seminary each get one of the other two closets in the Relief Society room. But I’ve got a table. Most of the YW stuff ends up being stored at my house, and I really don’t have room for it, either. But all of that combines to mean that I really can’t hang onto stuff like you’ve found in yoir building, so that’s a good thing, right? 🙂

  2. Jessie

    July 18, 2014

    It’s funny the things that people get so anxious about–I can laugh at other people, but I know I’ve been guilty of being silly about things like storage space and bulletin boards. This week at work they were replacing carpets and I was surprised by how bothersome it was to me to not be able to work in my cubicle and to fear that someone might bother my stuff. Thanks for the reminder to step back, relax, and smile a little.

  3. jtg

    July 18, 2014

    Huh. This post just made me realize that my current ward building lacks all of the dark wood cabinets in older buildings I’ve attended. I wonder where everyone keeps everything. There’s one closet in the RS room, and audio/visual closet, a single wall of cabinets in the Primary room, the cabinets in the nursery room, and the storage unit in the HP room used by seminary. Other than that, I can’t think of any other places for storage.

    I recall a RS president befuddled by the large objects of unknown origin in the closet shared by three ward relief societies and occasionally the yw of the three wards. “A huge bag of fabric that hasn’t been touched in a year. Why’s it there? What’s it for? Has it been forgotten? Will it ever go away?”

  4. M2theH

    July 19, 2014

    When I was in young women my friend and I got tasked with cleaning out the closet. We found alternate lyrics to “Have I Done Any Good” which made it about being bad and selfish. I still think of them every time that hymn is played.

  5. Lisa

    July 19, 2014

    We brought in a large metal cabinet to the Primary room for our stuff. The other 2 wards confiscated the one closet, so this one is all ours. It works fine. (Except for the sticky lock.)

  6. Naismith

    July 19, 2014

    I’ve never attended in a building that uses “codes” for cabinets. Even after our building refurb, the cabinets all have key locks. How widespread is that?

  7. Karen D. Austin

    July 20, 2014

    Sorry for the delay in replying; I left Friday at 5 am for a road trip through four states. And it’s been tough to get online. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Kathryn: I am sorry that you have no storage for your YW materials.

    Jessie: It’s so weird to be displaced. I never see how deep my roots are until someone or something “transplants” me.

    jtg: No visible storage. That’s weird. I wonder if that meeting house has secret panels?

    M2theH: I’ve heard of some alternative lyrics to hymns and Primary songs before, but nothing like that. Funny (and slightly disturbing).

    Lisa: Ah, the metal cabinet solution. I had to do that once when serving in nursery. Difficult to open and seemingly easy to bust into if someone really wanted graham crackers or puzzles.

    Naismith: Keys for cabinets? Hmmm. I wonder how that difference might impact practices. Do people copy them? Do they lose them? Do they refuse to give them up when released? Do they loan them out and then not get them back? Does a locksmith have to rekey if something goes awry? Interesting.

    I hope y’all get some kind of recreation this summer to re-create. I’m loving being a bit unplugged for a time. I will hug some canyons and mountains and valleys for y’all–especially for my fellow flatlanders.

Comments are closed.