Looking for a sustainable strategy to make your small house seem larger than it really is? Here are five tips to re-organizing a modest abode.
Like many families, our three-bedroom home only seems to shrink as our children grow.
When we moved here seven years ago, we had two toddlers and have since added a third child. As our children grow older, they bring home more school projects and get involved in other activities that tend to require items stored at home, such as music instruments and sports equipment, taking up more closet space and floor space and making me wonder what it’s going to be like when they’re all teenagers!
When I was pregnant with my third child, I would have recurring nightmares that I was searching all through my house trying to find an extra room for my baby items. I was desperate in the dream, certain there was a room but not being able to find it. Finally, I would find the room and be thrilled that it was even bigger than I remembered. Then, I’d wake up and realize, sadly, that I don’t have that room in real life.
When a baby is small, it’s pretty easy to fit them in a small house if you cosleep. It’s when that baby grows and transitions to their own room, and especially as more kids are added to the family, that the lack of space becomes apparent — and bothersome.
Many people, I suppose, would simply move to a larger house or re-mortgage their current house to build on additional rooms. My husband and I considered both of these, but we love our acreage and don’t want to move, and we’ve been debt-free for a few years and really don’t want to get pinned under another loan. I also have to think about that our time with kids at home is relatively short compared to our time in this house, and once they leave as young adults, what size of house do I want to live in and then have to clean?
Of course, I don’t want to live like a pauper with hardly room to stretch my legs. I like a clean, orderly house. But I also like small houses — they’re easier to clean, less expensive in utility costs, and just feel cozy. So, what to do?
Over the last few years, I’ve found a sustainable strategy to make our small house seem larger than it really is, to be quite comfortable even in the long winter months when we’re all cooped up in here together. Here are my five tips to re-organizing a small house:
1) Clean Surfaces
Counter tops, tables, the tops of shelves, the floor, any surface open to the air should be free of mindless clutter. If there’s something on these surfaces, it should have a purpose, and even if the item is purely aesthetic, go for simple beauty. Strive for clean surfaces.
This also goes for vertical surfaces, like walls or doors, that may attract children’s art or other wall hangings. I like to display my kids’ work, but having crayon drawings and finger-painted pictures taped up around my home doesn’t help the feeling of claustrophobia. I limit my kids’ artwork to be displayed on a cork board in their bedrooms and then on the fridge. I then choose wall hangings carefully, looking for inspirational quotes and artwork that reflects the peaceful home that I want it to be.
2) Be Picky on What You Keep in Long-term Storage
Rather than put storage items in boxes in the basement, attic, storage shed, or even a closet where you rarely frequent and so may forget where things are even stored, start sorting and get rid of whatever you don’t use.
Of course, there will be items of sentimental value and these don’t necessarily need to be on display in your home, but if you’re like me, I’m hedging that the majority of items in your long-term storage aren’t even items that you’re likely to use, if ever. Blame it on the part of your genes influenced by the Great Depression, pare down on your long-term storage items big time, and donate what you’re not keeping to those less fortunate who could really use them.
Then, what you keep can be stored in plastic tubs with tight lids to keep out rodents, bugs, water, and mold and better organized so you can find the items when you need them.
3) Be Picky on What You Keep in Your House
Just like with your long-term storage items, you have to be ready to make tough decisions on what to keep in drawers and on shelves in your house. Walk through your house with a critical eye on each room, and see what parts stick out to you.
For example, I was really bothered by a shelf in my laundry room where I kept the detergent. It seemed that it also attracted whatever random items where found in pockets of jeans about to be washed. Striving for a clean surface, I made it a house rule that if someone was cleaning out their pockets, they needed to put those items where they belonged and not on that shelf.
Another area that really bugged me was the built-in book shelves in my living room. I love books, but there were so many books crammed in there that it just looked trashy. I sorted through the books, keeping those that I reference often in the living room, storing some that I reference here and there in storage tubs in my basement, and donating the rest to the local library. The result was that some of the shelves were used for books, but not filled to the gills, and other shelves were open for framed family photographs and other keepsakes.
4) Hide Storage in Plain Sight
No matter how much you purge, you’ll still have items you have to store inside your home. Closets only go so far. After all, your clothes have to go somewhere! The home we have now has a couple shallow storage closets, and this is great for the vacuum, bed sheets, and holiday decorations, but what about all the other items that don’t need to be in plain sight, like my daughter’s clarinet, or my son’s baseball bat, or my box of crochet yarn?
I’ve found that closed shelving, like with a wardrobe or old TV cabinet, that has doors that close up to hide the items inside, work really well. I have a couple of these in the house and store all kinds of items in them, organized in labeled plastic tubs of all sizes.
Paper items, like bills and bank statements or books, can take up a lot of room, too, so going electronic can definitely help cut down on this need for storage. You can store a lot of ebooks on your phone!
5) Limit Your Intake of Clutter
Once you have purged your home of all extra items you don’t need or don’t use, and have it to the point where you are happy with your home and feel it’s reflecting the atmosphere that you want to have, it’s important to keep it that way.
There will be times when you get really busy and everything regresses a bit — or a lot, depending — and you have to play catch-up, but changing your consumer behavior really helps preventing your home from getting to the overwhelming stage again where another full-house purge is necessary.
This requires being intentional on not adding clutter, and keeping a constant eye out for things that you don’t need to keep anymore. Not shopping as much also helps with your budget, but definitely makes it easier to keep your home’s clutter to a minimum.
As a rule, for every shopping bag of non-food items you bring into your home, an equivalent amount of items needs to leave your home and be donated elsewhere. This guideline serves as a reminder that there’s only so much room in your house and you have to remain intentional on deciding what will take up that room.
Do you have any tips I’ve missed? Please share them in the comment section below!