By Elizabeth Wheeler
5 tips for living in a small house
I live in an 849 square foot condo with my husband, my three year old, and our two cats. Sure, it’s no tiny house but the U.S. national average home size is 2,349 square feet - almost three times larger than our home. How do these five beings peacefully (and happily) coexist in such tight quarters? Here are my top five tips for staying sane in a small space:
What are your favorite hobbies or activities? Use your space to accommodate these. We both love to cook so we have a lot of space dedicated to cooking accessories. My husband enjoys music and movies, so we have large storage units for cd’s and dvd’s. These things come at the expense of space for other items, but they are important to us so the choice is easy to make.
Do you really need it? Is there something you could get that would be more versatile, that could do 2 (or more) jobs instead of just 1? For example, I have replaced almost all of our cleaning supplies with baking soda and vinegar - seriously, one or the other of these - or in some cases both - can usually get the job done as well as any specialized cleaner. I also use vinegar as fabric softener. Similarly, we invested in a Playstation 3 which is a DVD/Blu-ray player in addition to being a video game console, and streams Netflix and Hulu. It was an expensive item, but it saves space and is still cheaper than cable.
3. Borrow, don’t buy
If you only need it once in a while, or once a year, consider asking your friends if they have the item you need and would be willing to lend it to you. I have done this with canning supplies, which take up a lot of storage space. But I can think of many items that could be easy to share: holiday themed cookie-cutters, power tools, sewing machine (I lend mine out frequently), etc. Another thing you can do is “rent” items from St. Vinny’s. Having a dinner party but only own 2 wine glasses? Run over to Vinny’s (or your favorite thrift store) and buy a few at 50 cents each. Wash them and take them back the next day. You could do the same with coffee mugs, silverware, plates, etc. This option is more environmentally-friendly (and classier, IMO) than using paper plates.
4. Plan ahead
Recently, my husband and I were shopping for a new medium-sized pot. I pointed out that we should make sure that we could slip the lid handle over the handle of the pot, so we could easily store it on our pot rack. We don’t have extra cupboard space for pot lids, so this was an important consideration for us. Thinking about how the item you wish to purchase will fit into your space will help minimize frustration when it comes time to incorporate it into your home.
5. Play outside instead of inside
Many families, especially those with small children, fill their homes with toys and play equipment. Our modest-sized home can’t accommodate larger kids’ toys like a play kitchen or a climber. So we get out of the house as much as possible on the weekends to explore the world out there. We love the children’s museum, the library, and the many parks around Madison as great play options. Outings are a great alternative to stuff.
There are a lot of ways to adapt to a smaller home, it just takes some small tweaks in lifestyle. Our small home is close to downtown, and there are a lot of benefits of the location that for us that outweigh the slight inconveniences associated with living in a small space.
Oh yeah, and our family is due to expand in November. And no, we’re not moving.