Monday, November 30, 2009

Living Small - Observations

Having just completed Month 3 in our 16x20 wall tent, thought I'd share some general observations about living in small spaces.

1. *Everything* you own must have a home. Don't purchase anything new until you know exactly where it will live when you get it home. Measure to make sure!

2. You should plan ahead to make sure it has a home somewhere close to where you'd be needing it, too.

3. Before you even think about decorative stuff, think about STORAGE! Trust me, a 2x4 shelving unit that holds 500 lbs of food is way more important than a beautifully crafted cabinet that only holds 100 (and that potted plant doesn't belong unless it provides you some food!). You can worry about decorating and aesthetic appeal after you get your storage plan taken care of.

4. Shelves are good, but cabinets and drawers are better. Why? Because it reduces the visual clutter if you can close a door or drawer, and it keeps things from falling over & out. Being able to close something also helps keep dirt, dust, soot, and ash from getting into and all over everything you own; otherwise, you end up sealing things like towels and linens in plastic bins/bags on the shelf and having to wipe down cans and jars constantly. (If you're a visual organizer and need to see your stuff... get glass/plexi fronts, it still helps with neatness even if not-so-much with the visual clutter)

5. Get some sort of secure/covered outside storage ASAP. This is for things that you need close by, but don't have to be immediately handy. The less stuff that is in your actual living space, the better! We got an 8x10 steel shed, and it's been a blessing for tools and any extra stuff we don't have to worry about freezing. Since you tend to stock up on bulk items out in the bush, having a place to put it all that's out of your way is very very important. Just don't start pack-ratting in your storage room... you have to be able to get to things in there or you simply defeat the purpose! If it's hard to get things from storage, you'll just start keeping it inside.

6. Never underestimate the need for appropriate clear walk ways. It's easy to fill your space wall-to-wall with stuff, but you'll get really tired of stepping over and around stuff all the time. Good space planning is essential. Vertical storage, also essential. Don't be tempted to make really narrow traffic flows... 18" is the MINIMUM, I'd recommend 24" if you can manage it. Folding furniture really helps in this regard... when you need more space to move, just fold up your chairs, etc.

7. Horizontal work surfaces are essential, but they don't need to be permanent! Tables and such have a huge footprint. Folding tables and nesting tables are a really handy solution. For really large work surfaces, consider a door over two stools (or similar). When you don't need it anymore, put the door outside or in the shed and the stools back in their homes.

8. Under-bed storage is a MUST! Beds have a HUGE footprint and you have to keep the top of it clear (or at least each night enough to sleep on). Raising your bed as high as comfortable/reasonable, and then adding storage underneath it can almost double your available interior storage space for awkward, heavy or larger items (like shotguns, ammo or folding tables). Depending on the height of your space, you may also be able to add bed posts and build over-bed canopy storage (probably nothing too heavy though!).

9. If you take it out, put it away immediately when you're done with it. There's just not enough room to leave anything out. This also means that you shouldn't start a project unless you can finish it (or at least one stage) in a single shot.

10. Multi-function is the key. If you're going to keep something inside your space, make sure it can serve more than one purpose... example: a small bench can be used as a seat, a foot rest/coffee table, a (albeit low) work surface for small projects, a desk or counter, and you can store boots and other stuff underneath it.

11. If you share the space, make sure your ogranizational and space plan works for your partner (or kids) as well... otherwise you'll just be working at cross purposes and end up wanting to kill each other.

12. Remember that pets have space needs, too. Is there room for dog beds, scratching posts, kitty huts, food and water dishes? Can your pet move around freely without knocking stuff over? Do you have room to store their food, grooming supplies, leashes, etc?


Linda Foley said...

Very good Plickety! I have lived in small spaces before and so I can thoroughly understand this post!

Anonymous said...

thumbs up :)

kind of a fan ... living in a small space ...