Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tales of a Small House, Part I

We are doing some rearranging, reevaluating and redoing of our house.  Nothing big, just some organizational and perhaps cosmetic changes.  This was spurred by the fact that Eliza's big girl bed is arriving on Saturday, so we have to figure out where her soon-to-be-displaced-by-a-huge-twin-loft glider is going to go in our small house.  So, we are doing some major rethinking of our living spaces, which is leading to a lot of purging, repurposing and asking ourselves "is this the best use of this particular space?"

You see, our house has 920 square feet.  Not college dorm room or one-bedroom apartment small, but for two adults, one child and two cats (not to mention all of our stuff), it poses a bit of an organizational challenge.  Over the past 6 years, I've become pretty good at handling the challenge, to the point that I actually enjoy it (that is, when I'm not cursing the housing market that makes it impossible for us to move - so much for our "5-7 year home"!!!  Anyway.....).  

Here's what we have to work with in our cozy house:
  • Three bedrooms.  This is rare in such a small house.  Even though the bedrooms are small (8'x10'), at least there are three of them - this helps a lot in terms of creating separate spaces and privacy.  One is a non-conforming bedroom which means that it doesn't have a closet.
  • One full bathroom with enough storage for towels, cleaning supplies, extra toilet paper and toiletries.  The bathroom is actually where we have the greatest ratio of built-in storage to square footage, maybe with the exception of the kitchen? 
  • Kitchen (not eat-in) - plenty of cupboard space, thanks in part to the fact that we don't have a dishwasher! ;)
  • Dining room - one tiny closet.
  • Living room/entry way - no built-in storage here, but my talented father crafted some beautiful custom hook rails (two of them with five hooks on each one) in the corner by our entryway for coats.  
  • Closets: 3 in total.  We have two closets of standard door width (26"), by 30" deep and as tall as our ceilings (8').  They do the job for mine and hubby's clothing (we each have one; Eliza uses a dresser) with the help of some mad closet organization and storage solutions.  We also have one teensy closet in our dining room.  It's not quite as deep as a standard hanger - I know because we use it to hang winter coats and things, and the hangers have to hang diagonally in order to close the door!  Thankfully, it's about one inch wider than my wooden folding chairs, so I can store those there.  
My new motto around the house is: question everything.  For example: Are we absolutely sure we need this {widget/gadget/dresser/random item}?  Or, who says we can't store the food processor on the top shelf of my closet?  It's more easily accessible there than in the basement.  And hey - why can't this wine rack double as a pants-holder when hung on the wall of my closet?? (easily one of my favorites!). We use under-the-bed storage like it's our job, our coffee table is a trunk that houses our extra blankets and hubby's gaming equipment, and baskets line the shelves (also made by my talented Dad!) in Eliza's room that store her next-size-up clothes (only clothes that currently fit her go in her dresser) and other necessities.  We're serious about alternative storage in this house!

In addition to storage solutions, living in a small house demands efficient use of space.  So, even if the answer seems unorthodox, I always ask: how could we better arrange this room to get the most out of the space?  An example: our bedroom isn't being used to its full potential - but for years we thought we didn't have any other options because "this is the only configuration that allows our nightstands to fit next to the bed! what about our nightstands? WE NEED NIGHTSTANDS.  Right? Right?"  It took a while for us to see that - hmm - maybe we don't need nightstands!  Huh. What would that be like?  Could we install a few corner shelves instead to store our alarm clock/kleenex box/kindles there?  Then, we could move the bed over there to the corner, and then look how much floor space is opened up.  Then we wouldn't have to SHUFFLE SIDEWAYS to get past the end of our bed (we currently only have 11 inches between the end of our bed and the wall).  How novel.  We're moving the bed tonight and we're going to try it out.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Does anyone else out there live in a cozy, er, spaciously-challenged home?  What are your tricks?  I have a few that I'll share in my next post.  I'd love to hear yours too!


Erin said...

We also live in a really small house (probably near you actually - I found your blog through your husband's twitter feed - I'm @erinkkr on twitter and live in St Paul!) - it's a 1.5 story and now is about 1200 sq feet if I'm generous, because we remodeled our bedroom upstairs to add in more space. It is definitely tricky with a toddler and a baby on the way - the kids will share a room, we're in the process of turning the office into a office/playroom and we really just limit everything that comes into our house. The hardest part for me is that we really can't entertain large groups, especially with kids. I do love a lot of things about our house though! Typically it's in the middle of winter that it starts to really bug me, and in summer I'm fine with it because we can use our porch and patio.

I wrote a post about all the things I love about our house last winter here - and it's always good for me to go back and re-read it :)

Summer said...

Love this post and can't wait to hear some more of your ideas. I feel like we haven't focused enough on using our small space to make the most of it. I am constantly complaining about the lack of toy storage in our living room. I've got some ideas, but it's a matter of convincing my husband to go along with them!

By: Kate Nadeau said...

I thought at 1400 sq feet ours was small... but I think our rooms sizes are comparable as ours is a 5 bedroom. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Eliza's Stats

Birth: 8 lbs 5 ozs
Going home: 7 lbs 10 ozs
5 days: 7 lbs 13 ozs
2 months: 12 lbs 6 ozs
4 months: 17 lbs
5 months: 18 lbs 12 ozs
6 months: 20 lbs 13 ozs
9 months: 24 lbs 3 ozs
12 months: 26 lbs 13 ozs
15 months: 28 lbs
18 months: 29 lbs 3 ozs
2 years: 32 lbs
3 years: 34 lbs

Alice's Stats

Birth: 8 lbs 11 oz
2 Months: 13 lbs 10 oz
4 Months: 17 lbs 15 oz
6 Months: 20 lbs 4 oz