Making Small Spaces Work for You

I feel a bit hypocritical talking about this stuff since my house is anything but small now, but we did live in small and varied spaces for some 22 years before we moved here, and…
In a recent comment to this older post a fellow blogger asks for help making her small house work for her larger than Average American family (four children):

Our biggest challenges are:

*not enough room in the bedrooms to fit the boys’ loft bunkbed without having the bed stick out close to the door

*No storage for homeschooling supplies (to keep it out and accessible)

*No storage in kitchen for food

*No room to store anything in general!

*3rd. bedroom is just big enough for a crib mattress on the floor and a crib. No where to put 3rd. baby

An over the door pocket shoe organizer– we still use two of these in our nice, large house. One is in the Cherub’s bedroom (which is not much bigger than a closet), and we use it for stockings, socks, and underwear. Another is in the craft room where it holds things like glue, paints, brushes, pipe cleaners and other craft supplies. My favorite thrift shop uses one for kitchen gadgets they’re selling, and it occurs to me it might work in a kitchen for your own tools and gadgets, some spices, envelopes of seasonings if you buy those, napkins, even silverware.

In the kitchen put jars of dried beans and pasta in them (go lightly on the beans, though, you don’t want to weight them down.  You can also use them for hair products (brushes, shampoo bottles, bags of barrettes, head bands, curling irons, and more. Did I mention we have six daughters?),  toys, and for ziplock baggies of game pieces. Store the game boards in the closet in an open box, or use an old desk top or….

 Use a product called a horizontal desk tray.  Mine came from the thrift shop and I paid three dollars. I don’t recommend you spend thirty.  Anyway- these things are handy. You tip it backwards so it is a vertical desk tray. Use it to store the boards to board games. Use it in the kitchen for cookie sheets and trays.

I mentioned that we store spare sheets folded flat between the box springs and the mattress they fit.

Use trunks for benches for kids to sit at the table or in the living room, and keep stuff in those trunks (food, school supplies, whatever you need).

Bed risers beneath the beds to increase under the bed storage space.  We made our own bed risers using paint cans. You can decorate them with felt or fabric, paint them, or leave them plain. We have friends who raised their beds by setting them on bricks.

Beds are often longer than small children need. My mother remembers sharing a bed with her sister and sleeping, as they called it, ‘toe to toe’ so that there were essentially two heads of the bed. This makes a twin bed work for two children for a very, very long time. It also means you can use one set of sheets and blankets for two children.=) At first they may spend a few nights being silly and giggly or arguing too much, but if this is what has to be done, they will get used to it, and proportionally, they will have no less space than a big person does.

Simplify your stuff (I know you probably already thought of that) so you have less to store. I have blogged before about packing up all my kids’ stuff so they could do a better job of keeping their rooms cleaned, and finding that they actually played better, longer, and with more sustained attention when they only had dress up clothes, blocks, a ball, and a couple baby dolls than when they had toyboxes full of gadgets and gizmos.

In one house we got rid of the beds completely and the kids slept on real futons- not the furniture ones used in America. Something like this. It’s called a shikibuton, and we never used a platform beneath it. The shikibuton was spread open for sleeping, and in the morning it was folded up like a z out of the way. This may not work for you, of course.  In this house we found that one of our doors opened the wrong way- it blocked furniture or was blocked by furniture. So we flipped the door upside down and rehung it the other way. Actually, we hired a handyman friend to do it for us. It did leave a scar on the door frame, which he could have fixed up for us, but I don’t care how it looks, so he left it.

Food storage- I don’t know what your kitchen’s limitations are- If you click through the links in the earlier post you can see one thing we did for extended food storage- a workbench with crates beneath it and a hutch on top of it with large jars of various food supplies.

Use a small folding tv tray for a portable work surface that can be folded up and put out of the way- it’s good for two person games, a temporary desk for letter writing, a desk for school, or for extending space for visitors who are eating with you, and then you can put it out of the way.

Put hooks and/or racks on your walls and hang things from them- totebags of onions, potatoes, fruit, totebags of school supplies, crafts, game, puzzles, underwear, socks– buy those over the door hooks and hang totebags of various items on those (bathroom supplies, cleaning supplies…?)
Wreath Hangers: I use these liberally over multiple doors. I hang purses from them. I use it to hang clothes on as I fold and hang laundry. It’s portable. I use them for aprons. I have them inside my closet door with purses, totebags, sweaters and bags of yarn in them

Have over the door hooks on as many doors as possible and use them as well for totebag storage of various items associated with the use of that room.

Get sturdier over the door hooks and put school supplies in totebags hanging from the hooks. Each student can have their own totebag, or sort the bags by subject, whichever works best for you.

Go vertical: I extended my bookcases by putting wooden boxes (old ammunition boxes) horizontally on them. But before I inherited the old ammunition boxes, I used liquor boxes from the local package store. They are sturdy because they have to hold full glass bottles of booze. Cover the booze labels with contact paper if you’re not into decorating with booze advertisements..

You can also use old suitcases- store schoolbooks in them and slide them under the couch when not in use. 

I have known some people to store surplus cans or buckets of food under their beds, in the garage, or covered with cloth and used as end tables.

There are also over the door shelves you can get for canned goods and hang these on your kitchen or dining room doors, if you have doors there.  In one house where I had no kitchen space at all, I put a tall cupbard in the next room over and used it for a pantry. I used the over the shelf storage in my laundry room for surplus kitchen storage, too.

Extend the storage space in your kitchen cupboards by screwing hooks into the bottom of upper shelves to hang cups from; use wracks made for this- they basically are like the loft bed in principle- small wire shelves with tall legs. You put them in the cupboard and stack plates above and below.

Or consider freeing up a cupboard altogether by putting the plates in a wall mounted divided plate holder. This one is pricey and pretty, and I link it mainly to give you an idea of what I’m trying to describe (found it while looking for an example of the above item)

This is a totally off the wall idea, but is it possible or practical to remove a bedroom door and replace it with a curtain or an accordian fold door, so that then you don’t have to worry about furniture blocking the path of the door?

Try switching to a pack and play instead of a crib. My mother used a drawer with a pillow, once upon a time. I understand that now pillows are implicated in SIDS, but perhaps the pad from a bassinet in drawer with higher sides would be a temporary solution?

Those were some of my ideas, why don’t we brainstorm and you share some of yours?

 Honey-Can-Do Adjustable Ornament Storage Box

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