Living in a small home doesn’t have to be as limiting as you think.
Take my house, for example; once you’re through the hallway we have only one L-shaped living space: lounge, dining and kitchen. Upstairs we have a landing, two bedrooms (one with the dream, a walk-in wardrobe) and a bathroom. I’m not sure what this would be in terms of square footage but it certainly isn’t huge.
Coming from a large barn conversion with double-height ceilings it was difficult to envisage how two children and I would fit into this small space. Back then our furniture was large and bulky, as big as it could be to fill the huge floor space and height. I mean, that old kitchen was huge. HUGE. I had three times as much cupboard space as I do now and the worktop areas were just ridonkulous. We had two dining room tables (who needs just one, eh?), two sofas, loads of beds, shelves, wardrobes… just STUFF. Everywhere. So much stuff.
But interestingly I am much happier living in the smaller space, with less stuff and a more strategic approach: “ALL OF THE THINGS” would not work for this house.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the last two years of Small Space Living:
1. Fit your furniture to the space
It’s a struggle to fit big furniture in a small space, that’s just maths and measuring. One of the biggest changes I made once I’d settled in to the house was to consider the size of the furniture I had and swap it out for smaller equivalents, without compromising on storage. This beautiful Hyde sofa from Habitat is the same length as my old bulky IKEA one and only 4cm less in depth, yet it completely opened up the room; I fall asleep on it at least once a week so it’s not compromising on comfort, either.
I also introduced shallower, lower storage for my side board and TV stand – these give a much sleeker, less cluttered appearance than the previous large wooden furniture. White furniture also looks more minimal than dark or heavily textured woods.
2. Define your areas
We have three definite defined areas within our living space: lounge, dining and kitchen. Having these areas so distinctive from one another gives a feeling of separation when you’re doing the cooking, or relaxation when you’re watching TV. I’m never on the sofa feeling I’m too close to where I cook dinner or eating dinner thinking I’m too close to where I read my books.
There are a few tricks you can use to define your areas and one of the simplest ways to do this is with rugs. I have a living space rug, and when you step off that onto the wood floor you’re in dining space, and from there to the white rug is the kitchen. The rugs are markers, checking off the virtual rooms as you walk through them.
3. Be strategic with the kid’s toys
Toys, eh? Big, plastic, noisy, flashing toys. They used to be piled up EVERWHERE in the old house but I’ve taken a bit more of a strict approach with them here. The kids have one of these baskets each to store toys in downstairs and one for toys they share – everything else goes upstairs in their room in a big toy basket. They rotate their favourites (luckily Hux is currently into small toy planes and Elfie teeny Shopkins – score!) and know that toys are returned to their baskets at the end of the day.
If Daddy or their grandparents buy them anything bigger than, say, Buzz Lightyear, I strongly suggest the toy lives in their house ready to be played with when they visit.
I might be coming across a bit mean mummy here, but really, at the end of a stressful day the last thing I want to look at is a heap of singing plastic. Sorry, kids. You can have all the books you want, though ;)
4. Make use of dead space
In a small space it’s key to utilise every little corner. In the hallways this is done with a wall full of hooks for coats and bags. In the kitchen you’ll find my booze area is also a mini-workspace (makes it handy for those really stressful days). And my upstairs landing is storage for every episode of Vice Magazine I ever worked on – I can’t bear to throw them away – as well as toys, books and nappies.
5. Embrace open storage
The simple fact is that, if you have your stuff on display, you’re way more likely to keep it tidy.
I have a shelf for cookbooks in the kitchen that is always meticulous, my magazines on the TV unit are always as neat as can be and my wardrobe is spotless. It used to be the bane of my existence but, after having the door taken off when my new carpet was fitted, I didn’t put it back on because I liked how neat it looked after a big sort-out. Seeing its contents day-in, day-out is a huge motivator for me to keep it in order.
For motivation to get your shelves and open spaces organized take a look at The Project Girl – there are some great ideas and inspiration here.
6. Make your bed
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven says if you want to change the world, you should start by making your bed, and I totally agree with him. In a commencement speech at The University of Texas he said: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Making your bed starts the day with a bang; it means you can work around it to complete other tasks. I use my made bed as a station to sort and hang up laundry, to pack my ASOS returns, to organize toiletries. all these things would be much more difficult if I didn’t have a made bed to work from.
It also looks really nice.
7. Enjoy your things
The old William Morris quote “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” is an oldie but it’s a goodie, and probably the basis of Marie Kondo’s “does this give you joy?” throw-out theories. I like to look around at my stuff – it’s mine, I bought it, I like it – and know it makes me smile.
I never EVER have anything on display that isn’t either useful or makes me feel happy – it goes.
Essential stuff like loo rolls and thrush cream that don’t fit into either of these categories? They’re in a drawer.
How do you manage organization in your home?
Thanks to Habitat for collaborating with me on this post.