Beauty, and Multi-functionality

Check out my friend Thays’s ingenious setup for storing her jewelry! Not only is this highly functional; it’s also really pretty.

This creative storage method offers multiple benefits: 1) keeps the jewelry more orderly than a jewelry box – less prone to getting tangled; makes each individual piece easier to find; 2) guards against waste by allowing the user to keep track of what she owns; pass an item on if she is no longer wants it; avoid buying duplicates; 3) frees up space; and 4) creates a beautiful piece of home decor that reflects the personality of an inhabitant.

When one element provides multiple functions in this manner, the term we use in permaculture design is “stacking functions.” This means getting maximum bang for your buck. In a good permaculture design, every element should serve multiple functions. When a home or workplace is burdened by too many items that serve only one function, clutter and waste arise.

One of my permaculture design mentors told us that if an element serves three or more functions, it probably also serves a fourth function: beauty. That’s certainly the case with Thays’s jewelry hanger!

Here’s another example of stacking functions. Let’s say you have a room in your home or workplace that gets very hot in the summer as the sun streams through the window.

To cool the room down, you could simply crank up the A/C. But then you’d be increasing your fossil-fuel consumption (and running up your utility bill).

Alternatively, you could plant a tree outside your window, or put a trellis there and grow a vine plant.

In both cases, your room will be cooler. But in the second scenario, you’ll get multiple benefits beyond just cooling off your room. The tree or vine can serve as a privacy screen. And (if you grow something edible) it can provide you with fresh food. Furthermore, it can serve as habitat for birds or other wildlife. And if it’s a flowering plant, it can provide food for pollinators. That’s five benefits from one element! And six, you will be adding beauty to your place.

What other examples of stacking functions come to your mind? Write me and share some of your favorites!

In closing, I’d like to put in a plug for my aforementioned friend Thays Pagani-França, who is a professional artist. A highly successful and public-spirited one, who often lends her talent to environmental causes such as sea-turtle conservation. Visit her website to see her beautiful, brilliantly colored paintings. P.S. She teaches classes too!