Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Finding Room For Your Stuff: Part 3 - Multi-Functionality

Some people might not have to concern themselves with some of what I write in today's blog post.  It depends on how much space you have, how many occupants, how much stuff each occupant requires, and on and on.  When inches matter,  literally inches, the more you can do with the inches you have, the better.

Our place is a travel trailer.  We have around three-hundred and forty square feet of room under the roof.  That includes space for beds, tables, closets, bathroom: everything.  We have four people living in that same relatively small area, as well as our medium sized dog.  There is one bathroom and one bedroom.  The shower and bathroom sink are in the bedroom, and the toilet is in there, too, but it's in it's own little enclosure. It's all sort of one room with dividers for privacy.  The rest of the house, living room, kitchen, dining and the kid's areas are also basically in one room separated from the bedroom part by a pocket door.

It sounds crowded, and to be honest, I guess it really is, but we have learned to deal well with it.  I read where people live in one hundred square feet.  Unless they live alone, I can't imagine how they do it.  I have done some pretty interesting things to make things fit and to keep things functional, but I can't see how I would do it any smaller.  For now, let me tell you about a few things we've done that have helped us settle in.

To start with, we gave up on the notion that we could keep everything in the trailer the way it was to begin with. They arrange things nicely, and they utilize just about every free bit of space to it's maximum capacity while still allowing for it to feel like a "home."  They generally don't manufacture them to be lived in full time.  Although they do have certain models that take that into consideration, generally they are not made to be occupied by very many people for very long.

As soon as we moved in we gave up the space that was designated for an extra living room chair.  I got a great deal on a sturdy set of metal shelves and I got some decent totes and baskets that fit into it nicely and we put it in that corner. It is my son's chest of drawers, the stash for videos, some books, miscellaneous electronic components, pantry item overflow, dog items, coat rack, and general catch all for frequently used items.

We had a small bookcase that fits neatly beside the couch in the little offset area created when the slide is out.  Our homeschool and office supplies, books, art supplies and things of that sort are in there along with the kid's video games.  The TV and game decks, all that stuff is in a cabinet that was built into the corner for that purpose.  The kid's sleeping areas both have small areas underneath and overhead where the boys can stash their personal things.  They have a small closet to hang clothes, but  younger boy still has some toys, so we gave him a toy box in their closet floor.  A small plastic-type set of drawers is also in that closet for the younger boy's folded clothes.  The shelf in that closet is for towels and the rest of their clothes.

Our room is designed for storage.   It has  big closet with a sturdy shelf and a built in "dresser" with a counter top, and then overhead cabinets.  If we are living in this trailer much longer, I'm going to take the lower dresser drawers out in favor of some shelves and put doors on them. The drawers are just not a good use of space.  They are very small and there's clearly twice that much available room in there if I can clear out the dividers and rails and whatnot and just add a shelf or maybe two.  I think some fancy shelves that pull out on rollers would be great!

There's a lot of storage under our bed. We have lots of our outdoor gear, coats, heavy stuff like that, and some bulky items down there.  We have small overhead storage over the bed, too.  That's where I keep a couple of books, my Bible, a crochet hook and yarn that I have barely touched, and other things that most people have on their nightstand.

Even with all the pre-planned functionality of the living spaces, each area of the house has a dual purpose as well, with the exception of the bathroom.  The kitchen is just a busy area.   I think anyone's kitchen is.  I don't know if that would be multi-functional or just constantly functioning, but it's definitely a frequently occupied area.

The living room area transforms into sleeping areas at night.  It takes about 10 minutes to transform them from one to the other if I can keep the kids on task and stop them from goofing off.  The couch lays flat and the dinette lowers down.  Both are roomier than I would have expected and a lot more comfortable than they looked like they would be.

The dog sleeps with whoever doesn't kick her off.  :)

In the day time we sort of situated ourselves into our own little spots.  We gravitated to these places early on, and kind of adopted them as our own.  They are rather like office cubicles or something.  I have my space at the kitchen table where I set up my computer, my books, coffee cup and glasses, my phone and whatever else I'm going to be using.  When my husband is not home, my younger son sets his stuff up across from me at the table.  When my husband is home, he sits across from me and my son has a portable table and chair arrangement he can use for his computer or his school work.

The older boy has his area on the end of the couch where he sleeps, and up near the bookcase.  He has a section of a shelf there where he keeps some personal things like his phone and his iPod and whatnot. He has a folding table that he sets his computer up on.  It folds up flat at night and his computer goes under the couch where his bedding resides during the daytime.

These little folding tables are possibly the unsung heroes of the house.  We grumble about them when they're sitting in the way, but they are used daily, and for many odd jobs.  Besides being make-do desks, they are dinner tables for the kids. It sounds bad, like they sit off away from us at dinner, losing the wonderful family dynamic and all that, but you must understand, the seating arrangements in the whole room aren't spread out much more than most people are at their dinner table.  It works for us.  It is the best arrangement.

My husband and I have the big bed in our own room, obviously, but it doubles as a quiet area in the day time.  If anyone just has to have a nap, if a class requires reading or some serious concentration, or for a little bit of extra quiet for telephone conversations, that's where we go.  Take a folding table if you need one!

The trick is to be organized. That may be intimidating for some who might think they are not that organized, but you might surprise yourself.  I never really thought I was particularly organized, either. It just happens in the course of settling in.  You have to be, so you just start seeing where things have to go and how they have to be arranged and maintained.

I'm sorry, I realize this is sort of a choppy blog.  I just wanted to tell how we all fit into things and fit things in.

I'll have to blog about thinning out personal belongings at some point.  It's a necessary thing.  I'm not talking about being a minimalist or anything. If that's your bag you're one step ahead of the game.  Good on ya. I'm just saying, if you're planning on living smaller you're going to have to thin out what you own.  I won't try to kid you; it's hard, but it's very liberating.  For now, that's it!

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