Academic Leigh Speaking

A professor, four kids, and a crash course in work/life balance

Home Improvements in a Tiny Space January 5, 2014

We’ve come to terms with the idea that we are going to be in this house a long time. It’s small (1000 sq. ft.) but it can be functional for us. After a couple of IKEA trips, we’ve successfully reconfigured a few things. We have two bigger bedrooms, one for Patrick and me and one for the boys. We have a smaller bedroom that we used as an office/computer watching room/occasional guest room. We have one long strip that needs to function as play room, living room, dining room, mud room, extra kitchen space, and secretary (I mean like the place where people kept their landlines and phone notes and mail). Then we have a closet-like kitchen that includes a full size W/D. We have a small attic and small shed out back.

The boys’ room has always been fine, more or less, but there was always stuff on the floor. We added a bookshelf to their room–a huge relief of the book clutter. Seamus got a lofted bed and we stashed his old bed underneath the lofted part so Gilbert could sleep there. It’s not very high and there’s a substantial rail around it, but we figure he will probably fall out eventually. A toy chest and laundry basket sit at the foot of G’s bed, under the loft. This cleared an amazing amount of space in their room, and they can actually play in there now.

We added an Expedit to the living room, making cubbies for the boys winter coats, hats, gloves, and backpacks. We added a cubby for our reusable bags so we can grab them on the way out the door. Then we added a shelf for their blocks and the toys they got from Santa. It has made a much more functional play area and mud area. That meant we took two dining room chairs to the attic. Additionally, I culled some of their toys. A while back, Patrick got out his projector that he had used in his classroom and set it up so we could watch movies on the wall in the living room. We removed two less comfortable chairs from the living space and put them in the office. We traded for the futon. However, we realized that the futon was just too big for our small space and we sold it on craigslist, replacing with a small love seat. We also added a small shelf above the kids’ art/eating when we have lots of guests table to contain their crayons, stickers, markers, stamps, etc. (I’d love to show you pictures, and maybe I’ll edit this post later with the photos). It’s so much better!

So we’ve got two rooms we’re really happy with and the clutter is way reduced and it just feels so much better. However, now we have to face the mess that is our room. I really think the answer is getting rid of about half my clothing, but every time I try I only manage to cull about a trashbag full. (There were several years right after we moved to Albuquerque that I got this totally under control. I was disgusted by moving so many of my clothes twice in a short period of time, that I decided to buy no clothes for two years. It worked. I did have to buy a pair of jeans when my old ones wore out, but largely I didn’t buy anything. When we moved here, I needed a few dressier outfits to wear to work, and I discovered that somebody is dumping perfectly good Banana Republic wool pants in my size at the local Goodwill. So I bought a lot of them. Now I have too many.) Our room is the next frontier.

Then we tackle the office. With Patrick working from home, it’s really important that he have a space that functions for him to actually work in. Right now we’re not sure what that looks like. I did take one of the not comfy TV chairs, but pretty good reading chair to my office. I love my office. Some days it feels bigger than my house.

It’s been great. Because we’re so pleased with the spaces people see, we’ve invited guests for dinner three nights recently. Pictures soon, if I can make it work.

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2 Responses to “Home Improvements in a Tiny Space”

  1. We have the same problem in our 1200 sq foot home. I actually like living in a small house – nobody can get away with anything and there’s less to clean – but organization and space are a challenge. We are also in the market for a loft bed for Rylan (who sadly is still in a toddler bed currently). You got yours at Ikea? Does it feel sturdy?

    I wish I had the Goodwill Banana Republic pants problem!

    • leighj Says:

      Space is such a challenge! The loft bed from IKEA is sturdy enough. I don’t like to climb up on it, but I have and it seems fine. I joked with Patrick that I think they use something more sturdy to hold the display beds together than they send home with you, because it was looking pretty rickety when he put it together. However, now it’s pretty good…as long as they remember “No Jumping.” The thrift stores in Northern VA are awesome!


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