Some time ago, I wrote about the way sleep, or other mental breaks, result in fresh inspiration when a consensus-seeking interaction gets stuck.[1] Recent experiences have reminded me how well this works for other types of problem solving. For several weeks, I’ve been in the process of downsizing and moving to a new place. After all my careful planning, unexpected challenges still arose, often on a daily basis. In almost every case, when I thought about one of these challenges, then went to bed still stumped, I awoke the next morning to a fresh, creative solution.

For example, my new kitchen had so little storage space, I thought I might have to give up all my good china and crystal so I could use the china cabinet for kitchen overflow. I could see that, even if, as planned, I converted my former stereo cabinet to a buffet, there still wouldn’t be enough room for all the cooking equipment, utensils and dishes I actually use on a fairly regular basis.

After sleeping on this, I realized I could make room in the closet of the second bedroom, which I am using as a home office. Even better, I could do this in an eco-friendly way that would reuse things that, otherwise, would have been recycled.

Since the closet in question was designed for a bedroom, it has parallel high and low clothes hanging rods along one side for short items such as shirts, skirts and trousers that fold over the hanger. Immediately above each rod is a shelf. But with no clothes hanging on the rods, the substantial space between the upper and lower shelves is wasted.

This realization meshed with another: I had oodles of clean packing boxes I was gradually emptying as I unpacked. I turned several small book boxes on their sides, tucked the top flaps inside, and stacked them on the lower shelf to form cubby holes for kitchen items I wanted handy, but don’t use every day, such as baking pans, some of the nicer casseroles, and disposable plates and cutlery. I now refer to this arrangement as my “kitchen annex.”

As for the office itself, another overnight brainstorm told me that some of the supplies would be easier to see and get to if placed on unused portions of bookshelves, rather than in the closet.

And when I didn’t have room in my Mustang’s miniscule trunk for all the boxes of files I wanted to take away from the old house for shredding, and all my friends with trucks were unavailable by the date I wanted the files removed, a mental break helped me think of someone with a small car, but a small car with a hatchback, which, along with my own car, would be enough to carry all the boxes in one trip.

I stand as living proof that “sleeping on things” really helps with individual challenges, as well as with consensus seeking. What inspirations have you received after a good night’s sleep?