Decluttering Hurdle: Aligning with Your Significant Other

Recently I asked readers to share their biggest hurdles with decluttering. I was surprised and fascinated by the fact that the number one reply was that it’s tough to get a partner/spouse on-board with the idea of downsizing the household’s possessions. (This response was followed closely in numbers by “sentiment,” which I’ll address in a future post.)

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I’ve long taken for granted the fact that my husband and I are on the same page when it comes to a simplified home, so I spent some time considering whether we just hit the jackpot with our lifestyle alignments, or if perhaps we evolved into our shared mindsets in tandem with one another. (I think it’s a bit of both.)

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As such, I’m no expert on how to magically transform your significant other into someone who is as enthusiastic about a simplified lifestyle as you are. But I don’t see that as a negative thing— why should we aspire to switch on and off various components of the people we love? But naturally, over time, we can demonstrate first-hand to our partners the overwhelming benefits that a pared-down home can offer, and allow them to form their own opinions from there. (As the saying goes: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.)

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GIVE IT TIME 
Decluttering takes time— it’s a rolling series of actions that ultimately result in a significant lifestyle shift. And decluttering only works after you’ve managed to curb your new acquisitions and purchases, and have become stricter about and mindful of the things you bring into your home. 

Go through your own process gradually. Your partner will likely take notice once it’s no longer deemed a passing phase, and as you make the ongoing process a part of your own philosophy and ritual. It’s fairly safe to assume that no amount of badgering is going to convince your significant other to change her/his ways. But if you quietly transition your habits, your partner will hopefully be influenced by your resulting joy, and catch-on out of proximity and solidarity. 

 Above photo by Gabriel Sweet for  Joie

Above photo by Gabriel Sweet for Joie

BACK TO BASICS
When I look back at my last significant relationship, I realize how happy my ex and I were with very little, versus how unhappy we were towards the end when we had a giant apartment and far more possessions than we ever needed. Rather than channeling my energy towards our failing relationship, I focused on filling our place as a hopeful remedy to our problems:

“If I buy this giant desk for my home-office, I’ll have more space to be creative with my work and thus be happier! And if we have this expansive dining table, our future children will all dine here together— can’t you picture it?!” 

It was foolish of me for so many reasons. And it’s not unique. 

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The “we didn’t have much, but we were so happy,” refrain pops up again and again, and there’s a reason for it. With fewer belongings comes fewer responsibilities, coupled with the possibility of more time and mental space for exploration. Couples have a heightened opportunity to truly connect. Perhaps you can remind your partner about the satisfaction and spark that comes with an less complicated life. (A huge an ongoing inspiration for me on this topic and lifestyle is the insightful and endearing couple behind @BrownKids.)

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REFOCUS ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS
If the above won’t work, it might be helpful to subtly and routinely remind your significant other about the impact our material consumption and waste has on younger/future generations. (Read more about this via the hilarious yet sobering book by Ashlee Piper, “Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.

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For example, is your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend addicted to fast fashion? Without hounding your partner, gently educate and inform them of the devastating environmental impacts of the industry, and how it’s indisputably damaging to the wilting planet we’re leaving for our children. (Not to mention the microplastics it’s shedding into the liquids and foods we consume, chipping away out our health.)

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SHOW CONFIDENCE
If that’s too obtuse, then bring it even closer home. Won’t they be happy and more confident when they can reach into a carefully curated, compact wardrobe, grab ANYTHING in there and then be content with how they look? The prospect is so much better than shuffling discontentedly through drawers and racks of garments for long stretches of time, debating about what fits right.

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I’m not suggesting that this lifestyle is suitable for all folks. Small homes and streamlined living are not for everyone, and that’s fine. Perhaps your partner finds immense pleasure in having a large home, or delights in his or her overflowing collection of shoes. 

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But as the population continues to climb, and as the impacts of climate change roll ferociously across the globe, more and more of us will have to share resources. As such, I believe that getting our partners enthusiastically on board (at a reasonable pace) with a less wasteful, more compact way of living is certainly worth the gentle, subtle, yet deliberate effort.

Children's Books

When home at the Cottage, West’s favorite activity is reading.

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Now that he is two, he’s no longer ripping pages in excitement, so we borrow about 30 books per week from our city and county libraries.

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Since he goes through so many titles, renting books is a great way for us to save money and space. (And our son can always revisit his old friends / previous rentals when we’re at the library.)

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If he truly LOVES a particular book for several weeks in a row, then we commit to buying it, and add the volume to his permanent collection here at home.

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We used to have 2 rolling carts filled with books. We’ve since broken those down by donating several titles to the libraries, and storing a bunch of much-loved board books in a cabinet by our built-in couch… just in case we have a second child. The library books are kept by my desk in a mobile “Strolley” by OllieElla, while West’s picture books are stored in our single, shared closet, atop the drawers that span the space, just below our hanging clothes.

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It’s not fancy, but West genuinely seems to enjoy disappearing momentarily behind the curtains, and then jumping out triumphantly with his selections in-hand. Plus this non-traditional storage method frees up space in our home by eliminating the need for a dedicated, children’s bookshelf.

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Since I post so many Instagram photos of West reading, I’ve received many requests for children’s book recommendations. As such, some of his old and new favorites are below.

 Above: StanLee sitting by the floating book exchange on the Venice Canals.

Above: StanLee sitting by the floating book exchange on the Venice Canals.

Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part VII)

While it's great to share stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in small spaces, I think it’s just as important to discuss the things that we can happily live WITHOUT. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less. 

As always, before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items might be easy for easy for some folks to forego, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best. Habits shift, tastes change, lives and practices evolve. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone.

The following is just a small sampling of everyday items you may want to reconsider. (View all the entries in this series here.)

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Traditional Window Treatments
Not only are curtains and blinds oftentimes expensive, but they take up a surprising amount of both visual and physical space in a small home or apartment. Depending on the moulding around your windows, you might be able to skip the usual hardware and go for a more inexpensive and removable (yet lovely) design with the help of a basic tension rod and lightweight linens and curtain clips. When we temporarily rented the front house on our shared property earlier this year, we tried this method out and loved it. We only popped the window covers into place when needed, which is when we converted the couch into a bed. When not in use, the window covers and telescoping rods tucked away with ease, requiring no more space than a t-shirt. We were also able to reuse the tension rods and linens for other various purposes when not in use within the window frames. 

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An Entryway
No dedicated entryway at your front door? No problem. You can still make a lovely, functional space to support your needs and belongings as you come and go with the help of a few clever, petite, inexpensive accessories. I wrote about this in greater detail via our new book, Small Space Style.

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An Umbrella/Yoga Mat Stand
I actually find umbrella stands to be most useful as small space waste-bins, as they’re typically tall and slim, and oftentimes quite stylish. But if you’re pressed for inches in your compact home, skip the door-side stand and opt instead to hang your umbrella and/or mats from wall hooks, either on display, or tucked inside a closet or on the back of a door. If one is wet and needs to air out, simply hang it from the curtain rod or shower-head in your bathroom.

Gift Wrapping Station
Very few people require a full box, drawer, closet, or cart dedicated to gift wrapping, and yet we weirdly tend to hoard decorative papers and ribbons. Challenge yourself to find creative ways to wrap gifts that don’t involve single-use products. For example, I love using tea towels, scarves, and extra canvas shopping bags— all of which can be repurposed by the recipient. A simple piece of twine, a strand of leather (vegan or otherwise), and/or some fresh clippings from around your neighborhood can top it all off beautifully while demonstrating that you put mindful effort into the presentation, even if it isn’t enveloped in shiny new paper and dressed with a fluffy bow.

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An Extensive Sewing Kit
Unless you sew on a regular basis, there's probably no need for an entire box of spare buttons, thread, and so forth. A simple jar or pocket-sized tin can most likely contain the basics that most folks need on-hand to repair slight tears and loose hardware.

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Watering Can
To be honest, we have one. But most folks in a small home or apartment— including us— don’t need one. Do you have a drinking glass? (Of course you do.) Or even better— a reusable water bottle? Guess what?! Those make for mighty fine watering tools.

Serving / Salad Bowl
If you have a mixing bowl, then you have a serving bowl. Pick a classic stainless steel design, or perhaps an enamel model, both of which could function as a serving bowl, salad bowl, and a mixing bowl. They’re timeless, simple, versatile, and attractive.

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A Magazine File
Traditional magazine files consume precious inches. Challenge yourself to update all your physical magazine subscriptions to a digital format, which will reduce waste (in production, transport, and materials), and require zero space in your home. No magazines? Then voila— no need for a clunky file.

One thing you cannot go without is VOTING. See you at the polls on Nov. 6, America!

Tiny Living & Better Money Habits

This blog post was sponsored by Bank of America. As always, the images and words are my own. Any photographs of my son and/or the pups were taken as they interacted happily in their own natural ways.

It’s clear that I love living “tiny.” It reduces my family’s footprint on this planet by requiring fewer resource and belongings, it frees up time, it encourages me to remain undistracted from the topics that I believe matter most, and it saves money in a myriad of ways.

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However, like all folks, we still have numerous financial issues to consider daily. We are a single-income household. We live in a costly city, and in an even more expensive neighborhood, specifically. I run my own small business, and it requires a great deal of money to start, own and operate a company in California. (And, as we all know, some seasons of life require more spending than others.)

Living tiny helps balance out and accommodate all of these other pricey realities. 

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Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, there’s a seemingly endless list to consider when choosing the area in which to live, and how to much to invest in your home or apartment.

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For example, we knew we wouldn’t need a garage if we shared one compact car and relied on biking as our primary mode of transport, which we do— even with the pups and our son. 

Similarly, we opted to forgo moving into a home with a second bedroom when we became pregnant with our son, because we were— and still are— genuinely happy with the idea of co-sleeping/bed-sharing. (Instead, we put that chunk of money away as a starter fund for our son’s education.)

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Such considerations require careful thought and attention. I’ve used Bank of America for business and personal purposes for years, and they offer an enormous number of tips and resources for prospective homeowners and renters through their #BetterMoneyHabits portal on their website and app.

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I use the Goals Tool and the Spending and Budgeting Tool, both of which are highly useful, straightforward, and visually-appealing. 

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When I use these tools, it enables me to better understand when I can responsibly approach improvement projects around the Cottage. The Goals Tool is my go-to. It allows me to easily map out the projects and life-stages for which I’m saving, and set my own timeline for each topic. 

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I’m currently monitoring our savings for retirement, education, family experiences, and home renovations, all on varying timelines. 

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We have two dogs and a toddler, and we live by the beach, so life gets… sandy. Instead of moving to a house with a “muck room,” we decided to budget for an outdoor shower, which we plan to install soon.

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Thanks to the SoCal weather and our coastal lifestyle, I feel like this is a worthwhile outdoor update that we’ll be able to appreciate almost year-round.

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Next I’ll consider modifying the color of the wood on our built-in bed and two pocket doors. I don’t love the dark tone of the stain, which even appears red in certain lighting. This has been on my mind for over seven years, so I feel like it’s something I should finally tackle. Plus it’ll improve the overall look and feel of our tiny house tremendously. 

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I’m still debating between sanding and re-staining (which will be difficult due to the beveling on the wood), or simply painting. I’m on the fence. (You’ll probably find me sitting here twiddling my fingers a year from now. I can’t make up my mind.)  

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Considering an improvement of your own? The Home Ownership resources on Bank of America’s Better Money Habits site offer insight on both home ownership and renting, and determining the true cost and benefits of either option.

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Here’s to keeping our homes simple and smart. Check out these tips for before and after you buy.

Small Space Style - Lil' Giveaway  

Gifting is usually a simple affair over here. I almost always prefer to give food— such as freshly baked bread and grape preserves from the Cottage vine— wrapped in a reusable napkin. Presents such as local food or beverages reduce waste, don’t contribute to clutter, and can easily be adapted to suit seasons, recipients and occasions. 

However, every now and then for special occasions I like to create little gifts made up of a samplings of goods that we have here at the Cottage. I did this for my closest girlfriends before my wedding, and I’m doing it again now in celebration of the release of my book, Small Space Style: Because You Don’t Need to Live Large to Live Beautifully. Some of these bundles are being given to folks who helped me in my career and/or with the book, while others are reserved for a lil’ giveaway as a way of saying thank you to the readers of this blog and my corresponding Instagram account.

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When deciding what to include in this little gift box to accompany a copy of the book, I chose some of the items that I enjoy daily, including:

  • A vegetable tanned leather file folder from Graf & Lantz, handmade here in the USA

  • A blonde wood S’well Bottle (no more new, disposable plastic bottles, folks!) 

  • A natural fiber wrapped pen 

  • A linen hand towel or canvas bag from Maptote (exact styles for giveaway will vary)

  • A set of (toddler-friendly) coasters from Wayfair 

  • A simple handheld fan

  • A handmade raffia bottle cover from Seavibe Design

I am giving away 3 of these humble bundles. Just complete the simple form below to be entered for a chance to win.

Giveaway info + rules: Continental US residents only, please. Giveaway will be closed at 11:59 pm PST 11/01/18. Winners to be announced on 11/02/18 via @WhitneyLeighMorris’ Instagram Stories. No purchase necessary.

If you already bought a copy of the book, THANK YOU so sincerely for helping support our tiny business and family.

Below are images of the giveaway items, paired with visuals of how we use them in our home:

Here’s a snap of Adam packing everything up here in our garden— when I say we’re a small business, boy do I mean it.

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Again, many thanks for helping us share the message that you don’t need to live large to live beautifully.

Tiny House Halloween

I never realized how odd the tradition of Halloween is until I tried explaining it to my 2 year old child.

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On our daily walks, he’s suddenly seeing skeletons coming out of the ground, massive faux-webs and spiders clinging to hedges, and all sorts of strange objects hanging from stoops and trees. Some of it he likes. Some of it he doesn’t. (I feel the same way.)

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I’m sure that our level of Halloween decor will fluctuate as West grows. But for now we’re still keeping things simple and nearly waste-free. We’ve done this by focusing more on fall-related activities, rather than crowding the Cottage with temporary flair.

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Our decor consists of real pumpkins, autumnal flowers/branches from the market, and small number of die-cut paper pumpkins (which we’ve suspended with twine from the branches above our front stoop).

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Southern California doesn’t get too fall-ish, but we’ve faked it by getting overflowing Ollie Ella baskets of apples from the farmers markets, checking out Halloween and seasonal books from our two nearby local libraries, visiting the pumpkin patch, and heading outside in the rare rain and cooler weather whenever possible.

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West really loves the gargantuan spiderwebs spread throughout the neighborhood, but rather than buying them for the Cottage (and then inevitably tossing them in the trash), we use his enthusiasm for them as an excuse to take more walks with the pups and hunt for web displays that many of our neighbors have installed.

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I’m not sure yet what West will wear as a costume, but we’ll figure something out. (A bit of cleverly-cut + penciled cardboard paired with an everyday basic from Primary can go a long way.)

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Keeping holiday decor simple might seem a bit grinch-y, but I don’t feel like we’re lacking in spirit at all thanks to all the wonderful community offerings and activities.

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By avoiding the delightful-yet-superfluous decorative trappings of Halloween we save money, prevent excess waste, and eliminate the need to store anything in our tiny house until the fall rolls around year after year.

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However you and yours decide to celebrate Halloween, have fun and be safe! And don’t forget the most important fall date of all— election day! See you at the polls on Nov. 6, America.

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Better our bodies, Better our planet

Some of the primary considerations when it comes to making lifestyle shifts towards reusable goods and healthier foods is, of course, economics and accessibility. Here in LA there is a seemingly never-ending list of restaurants and markets where you can buy local, fresh, organic foods, but they tend to come with a lofty price-tag. While I’ve experienced (and shared) how small homes and reusable goods can save so much money and so many resources, I need some help on the topic of food. (It seems like nearly all of the money I earn goes into our bellies, and I’m really trying to be smarter when it comes to what we eat and how much we spend on it.)

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I aim to make healthy, wallet-friendly, ethical food choices for my family, but it can be tough to check off all the boxes on this list for the majority of folks living on a tight budget in larger, fast-paced cities. By researching how to wisely feed ourselves and our families in a way that reduces waste, costs less, and is accessible to more of the population, we can better our bodies and our planet. 

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I wanted to learn more about this subject, and do so alongside youth and staff members from The RightWay Foundation, which is a local organization that I’ve been involved with for years. The RightWay Foundation works with current or emancipated foster youth to move from a point of pain and disappointment to a point of power, productivity, and self-sufficiency. This topic of healthy and affordable meals is important to many of the RightWay youth who are struggling to budget for healthy foods for themselves or their children, and/or find ways to eat healthy while juggling the realities of shared living spaces and busy work schedules.

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For our discussion, we met at a sweetgreen restaurant, which I chose due their business philosophy and practices. sweetgreen believes that the choices we make about what we eat, where it comes from and how it’s prepared have a direct and powerful impact on the health of individuals, communities and the environment. (Note: This is not a sponsored post.)

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sweetgreen operates with a transparent supply network, they cook from scratch, and they’re building a community of people who support real food. I also appreciate their focus on sustainability, from their brick-and-mortar designs and waste management to the food they serve. Society can’t afford not to think and eat sustainably, and sweetgreen takes steps to positively impact the food system.

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Our specialist for the session was Lily Diamond of Kale and Caramel. Lily is a stand-out voice in the food community, and she uses her blog and social media channels to share her knowledge of ways in which we can invest in self-care without spending a penny, and eat healthy and beautiful foods on a strict budget in all types of kitchens, whether small, shared, temporary, mobile, or professional.

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Lily offered some easy practices that I intend to look into immediately. A few simple highlights are below, but I encourage folks to browse her channels to dive into everything in deeper detail. 

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HEALTHY & AFFORDABLE MEAL SOLUTIONS (a sampling)
by
Lily Diamond

Imperfect Produce
Imperfect Produce is a delivery company sources “ugly produce” directly from farms and delivers them to your door. From their website: “Approximately 20% of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. never leave the farm just because they look a little different. Instead of ending up on your dinner plate, they end up left in the field or trucked to landfill. We think that’s crazy, and we’ve built a network of over 150 farmers and producers who agree. We buy their unloved produce, and they’re rewarded for their full harvest–not just for the pretty stuff.”

Multi-Use Food Staples 
Did you know you can wash your face with honey? And you can moisturize your skin with almond oil or even olive oil— not just coconut oil? And use salt or sugar for body scrubs? The list goes on. While a bottle of oil might cost a bit more money up front than you want to spend, it can go a long way in the kitchen AND when it comes to skincare. (Which can save SO much money AND space.) Similarly, a single, larger container of Greek Yogurt can be used as sour cream, traditional yogurt, and even cream cheese. 

To-Go
Refillable water bottles will save you money. (A leak-proof bottle might cost, say, $20 up front, but can last for a lifetime. Seeing as how a bottle of water can cost around $3, it won’t take long to get your money’s worth.) Having reusable bags filled with bulk-purchase nuts, or carrying stainless steel containers of cut up fruits and veggies in your bag at all times will keep your snacks healthy and your waste minimal. (Carry a reusable roll-up utensil pack at the ready so you’re not tempted to pop into a cafe.)

Store Fruits & Veggies Appropriately
Think about where fruits and veggies are displayed in the market, and store yours accordingly. (For example, tomatoes shouldn’t go in the fridge.) This will help them last longer, and ripen naturally. Use bags like Ambrosia Bags to preserve freshness. They have a price-tag, but will save you money in the long-run by prolonging the life of your food and reducing your waste.  

Make a Meal Last
Add nut butter to blended breakfasts to provide you with more nutrients and to better satiate your hunger, prolonging the amount of time until your next meal.

For Babies
It can be so much cheaper and healthier to steam veggies and then mash/blend them (or fruit) for a baby. You don’t need expensive equipment to do so— a handheld grinder such as this will work beautifully. This also introduces your child to more adventurous tastes, and prevents them from consuming preservatives and other add-ins in processed foods. 

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I look forward to trying out  more of Lily’s mindful suggestions. I also hope to spend some time looking into The Jar Method, developed by E and Roe of @BrownKids (who live in 140 sqft!) in Baltimore.

Sincerest thanks to the team at sweetgreen for welcoming (and feeding) us during this wonderfully productive meeting.

For readers who want to learn more about The RightWay Foundation, or are interested in donating funds for us to purchase produce bags, food storage bags, and reusable travel bottles for the youth, click here to visit the website, or contact the Cottage.

Our Small Space Baby Essentials

In a recent questionnaire I posted on Instagram, so many folks asked me what our small space baby essentials are. Below is a little roundup of what we loved and used the most with West for the first 1-2 years, and/or products we discovered later on that we wished we’d known about from the start. (As always, please research what is best for your needs and tastes, while keeping safety in mind.)

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  • Dock-A-Tot

    • Dock-A-Tots are multi-use “docking stations” where your baby can rest, lounge, play, and cuddle. (Throw a Gathre Mat over yours and it can become a changing surface, too.) They’re portable, and come in 2 sizes. We used ours as a bed-sharing dock for a year. I suspect that if we decide to have another child, we will use the Dock-A-Tot instead of a bassinet or crib.

  • Hie Bag

    • The Hie Bag has almost everything you need for a mini or major trip, including a fold-out diaper changing pad, a cooler (as a add-on), a built-in charger, clips to become a stroller bag, backpack and shoulder carrying options, a wipe dispenser, a “kick stand” to make the bag sit upright when resting on a surface, an expandable bottle holder, a clip for keys, an an add-on changing pod for wipes, etc. You could use this bag as your primary changing station at home and/or when away.

  • Gathre Mats

    • These wonderful mats come in various sizes and colors/patterns. They are easy to roll up and wipe down, and are perfect as changing surfaces, play mats, under-the-highchair mats, picnic blankets, and more.

  • Folding Tub

    • West is 2 and still adores his folding tub. We use it for his baths in our standup shower or in the garden, and he also uses it as a sensory/water activity basin.

  • MamaRoo

    • The MamaRoo takes up less space than a traditional baby swing. West was constantly in his for naps and entertainment until he was around 7 months or so.

  • Folding Play Gym

    • West was a big fan of this folding gym, which only takes a second or two to set up or collapse. We customized ours with little instruments and additional activities, too.

  • Folding Climbing Triangle

    • West uses his constantly— see a photo on this recent post. It folds up (as shown below) within about 10 seconds.

 Above: West’s climbing arch folded up in our main room. Expanded view   here  .

Above: West’s climbing arch folded up in our main room. Expanded view here.

  • Folding Play/Dining Table + Chairs

    • This set is lightweight and practical, and takes up very little space when collapsed. West uses it as a surface for a bit of everything, from activities to dining to sensory activities.

  • Rolling Book Cart

    • We very much enjoy our rolling book carts, which West totes all over our home and porch. Note: If your child climbs on everything, this might not be the best option for you, as these carts aren’t attached to a wall and can topple. (West is a climber, but has never pulled on his carts.)

  • Inserts for Cloth Diapers

    • We use Grovia diapers with bioliners, which catch solids for easy removal.

  • ErgoBaby Carrier 

    • You can skip the stroller at first if you use a baby sling or carrier. I like the Ergo brand carriers, which grow/adapt with your child, lasting until they’re around 45 lbs.

  • Booster Seat with Tray Highchair 

    • Highchairs take up a lot of space. Folding options aren’t a bad idea, but feeding booster seats strap on to your existing chairs and have a food tray, so you don’t need to make space for an entirely new, wideset chair.

  • Travel / Compact Toys

    • Travel toys are great options for everyday use in a small home or apartment. I love the handmade offerings by SoHandmade, who I discovered on Etsy.

  • Timberchild Plates (2) + Teether First-Feeder Spoons (2)

    • We first tried a suction plate and bowl, but West could always remove them within minutes. So we swapped those for a set of wooden bowls, along with handmade wooden plates by Timberchild. They’re so beautiful that I never mind seeing them out on the counter, drying or waiting to be cleaned.

  • PuraStainless Insulated Bottles

    • We prefer these bottles because they’re not made of plastic, and they have adaptable tops, allowing them to grow with your child simply by replacing the nipple/straw/cap.

  • Wonderfold Collapsible Wagon

    • I did an entire post about our wagon here. We’ve loved it from the start, and continue to use it daily.

  • Handmade Puzzles + Blocks + Rings

    • Etsy was (and still is) my favorite source for handmade, wooden toys.

  • Custom-sized Table Tent

    • No room for a pop-up tent or play fort in your home? These handmade, custom-sized table tents are basically tablecloths that double as playful hideaways for your kid(s)! West and the pups have used theirs for about a year now, and I suspect it will get much more use in the years to come.

  • Books, Books, Books

    • First Months: Cloth Books (Buy new since infants chew on them.)

    • Months 6-12: Board Books (Buy new and/or get hand-me-downs from family, as these are chewed upon as well.)

    • Months 12+: Board and Picture Books (These are great to borrow from your local library once your child no longer rips pages.)

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A Look Inside: Food Wrap Storage

Many of you have asked for an unstyled look inside our drawers and cubbies here at the Cottage to show how we store our homewares. Since The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a bleak and urgent report concerning the health of our planet, I figured toady’s entry could show how we almost always stick to reusable food wraps and baggies, and how we accommodate them in our tiny house. While we don’t use any clever tactics for stashing these items, I’ll share a few no cost (or low cost) space-savvy methods towards the end of this post as well.

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We’re lucky enough to have several drawers in our kitchen. (I’ve lived in numerous apartments that had 0-2 drawers, and I know that can be a struggle.) We don’t need to stash much in terms of our baggies and wraps, so we’re able to fit everything in a shallow space between the range and refrigerator.

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We have a roll of foil (and we reuse sheets as often as possible) along with some wax paper, but other than that, all of our baggies, wraps and kitchen linens are reusable/non-disposable.

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Above: About 6 reusable bags in 3 different styles are all we need for snacks for the entire family. (We also have a PlanetBox, and some stainless steel to-go containers.)

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Above: Beeswax wrap folds or rolls up tight, leaving more room in your kitchen than a standard roll of cling wrap.

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Above: We have two, roomy waxed bread bags. We use them for fresh loaves of bread about twice per week.

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Above: Waxed brown paper bags help us carry miscellaneous little goods. We only use about one per month and could go without them, but they’ve turned out to be fun with West for a myriad of mini items and snacks.

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Above: Mesh produce bags consume less space than plastic bags. They can be washed easily, and are great for stashing in a drawer until needed, and/or in your daily backpack or handbag.

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Above: Linen bowl covers are pretty, lightweight, slim, and eco-friendly. Since they simply pop over your everyday dining and cooking bowls, there’s no need to buy extra storage containers for your basic, everyday leftovers.

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Above: Our Ambrosia Bags, which I shared in this post, are also kept in this drawer when not in use. They help us preserve our produce longer, greatly reducing our food waste.

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Above: I have an entire “Bake House” bag set, handmade by Peg and Awl. I use these for a bit of everything, from carrying full market groceries, to transporting little pastries for West.

STORAGE
If you’re struggling to fit all of these items in your compact kitchen, first explore what items you can potentially live without, and consider donating those to a nearby non-profit. If you don’t have an available drawer as we do and are seeking some no-cost, simple storage solutions, see two examples below— one from our neighbor’s home, and one from the Cottage.

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Above: Our neighbor, @ZiaFinds, who lives in a tiny cottage like ours, simply keeps her baggies and loose wrap grouped together in a net bag hanging beside aprons in her kitchen.

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Above: An illustration from our upcoming book Small Space Style demonstrating an easy, no-cost way to store boxes of foils, wraps and baggies on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door. Want to go green? Good news— it’s just as easy, and is FAR better for the environment. Simply nail or tack an old magazine file (as seen on the right) or a similarly slim box on the inside of the cabinet door and fill that with your reusables instead of disposables.

Explore more posts from our “A Look Inside” series:

Embracing the Occasional Minimalism Fail

While I’m not a minimalist, I clearly find great joy in the simplicities of living in a small space with fewer belongings. However, every now and then I fail big time and take the plunge on a grand item. (The last time I did this was when I purchased our back patio dining set, after years of sticking to folding picnic tables and chairs.) This time around, I succumbed to buying an outdoor “mud kitchen” for West in honor of him starting pre-school. (More on that below.)

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For months, we’ve been setting up a makeshift water/activity table for West. He still loves that little pop-up play station, but we decided to get him an outdoor “mud kitchen” for different reasons.

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For months now he’s been tearing up the porch planters. He’ll crouch over them for long stretches of time, sifting wood chips from toy truck to toy truck. I don’t mind happy messes, but dealing with mounds of dirt and wood chips scattered around the play porch rugs and being tracked into the house was getting tiresome.

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So, after lengthy deliberations, Adam and I opted to get our son a full gardening station for sorting, splashing, and making a proper mess.

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We outfitted it with rocks, old and new stainless steel accessories, his beloved mini trucks, some hand-me-down gardening accessories, and hanging baskets from his old closet nursery.

 Above: West gives his grandparents (in Florida) a FaceTime tour of his new table.

Above: West gives his grandparents (in Florida) a FaceTime tour of his new table.

I’m so glad we decided to go for it. West absolutely loves the table, which we unveiled for him at at the time he began attending part-time pre-school. Our timing was very deliberate. We wanted him to understand that even though he’ll be apart from us a few days per week (for the first time ever), that his home is always waiting for him, and overflowing with love.

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So far the transition to part-time preschool has been a painless one. Adam began taking West to the school twice per week over the past 4 months, so when the day came for West to attend alone he was already familiar with the staff, students, and indoor/outdoor environment of the school.

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However, our son is still home with us for the majority of the week. And since this is also my office, it’s great to have this compact play zone just beyond the stoop. West can make a mess, enjoy his favorite activities, and play with us or independently, depending on his mood.

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Simple items like mixing bowls, cutting boards, garden supplies, and stainless steel restaurant accessories are the perfect, simple supplies for the “mud kitchen.”

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When paired with a few small and affordable toys, this little area sparks hours of imaginative, outdoor play.

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Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part VI)

While it's great to share stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in small spaces, I think it’s just as important to discuss the things that we can happily live WITHOUT. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less. 

As always, before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items might be easy for easy for some folks to forego, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best. Habits shift, tastes change, lives and practices evolve. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone.

The following is just a small sampling of everyday items you might want to reconsider.

Microwave
How have I not discussed this one before? We don’t have a microwave in the Cottage kitchen. I didn’t have one prior to moving here, either. You can use your oven/range for pretty much everything. If the extra prep-time gets to you, try to convert those minutes of waiting into productive chunks of time by using them to water your plants, stretch and breathe deeply, read, clean, call your loved ones, or read a book with your child. 

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Television
I know some folks can’t imagine living without a TV, but if you’re on the fence then give skipping the tube a try! It’s incredible how many hours you’ll get back when you’re not watching commercials or flipping through channels. I have a large iMac for work, and every now and then Adam and I will use it for a movie night since nearly everything is online now anyway. Our time on this Earth is short and precious— let’s try to be more mindful of when and what we watch. 

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Matching Pairs
If you’re in a small space, chances are you probably had to scrap the concept of matching nightstands and lamps long ago. I find that out-of-the-ordinary or multi-purpose side tables are much more interesting than matching sets. And tabletop lamps take up so much space. Get creative with your bedside accent furnishings and lighting alternatives to save inches and reduce the number of items you feel inclined to purchase.

Subwoofer
Music is one of the greatest joys in life, but bulky and fragmented audio system components aren’t necessary for the casual listener. And for those of us in small spaces, the idea of having high-tech audio capabilities is likely highly unnecessary anyway— a small, decent quality bluetooth speaker is likely more than enough to provide you with enjoyable sound throughout your tight square-footage. (Since 2013 we’ve had the same white “Big JamBox” over our kitchen cabinets next to our security system, and it sounds great throughout the entire Cottage, porch and stoops.)

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Clocks
While many types of clocks are beautiful works of functional art, they are no longer vital accessories for most homes and apartments. For better or worse, our devices tell us the time, wake us with reliable alarms, and also function as stopwatches and timers. 

Curtain Tie Backs
There are so many ways to keep a curtain cinched without buying a dedicated piece of hardware and tieback. You can simply gather your window linens with basic twine, or even knot the fabric. (For our bedroom curtains, we use a loop or rope that we secure to a piece of driftwood I drilled into the wall.)

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Shower Caddy
The more bath products you buy, the more cluttered your shower gets, and the more ledges you’ll need to accommodate the bottle build-up. Challenge yourself to stick to the basics, and you might find that you no longer need any storage accessories in the shower.

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Bassinet
There are so many beautiful mini-cribs, bassinets, bedside sleepers, and pack-and-plays out there. Do what’s best for your family and infant. We had a mini crib and I loved it, but if we decide to have another child, I suspect that I’ll stick with the Dock-A-Tot in lieu of a compact crib. It’s also portable, and it functions as a changing pad, activity gym, and tummy time surface, so it’s a win-win-win-win-win-win.

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Our Youngest Resident Turns 2

And just like that, the youngest resident of the Cottage turned 2.

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As with every major celebration here at home, we tried to center the events around each other and our shared experience, rather than tilting the focus towards “stuff.” However, a few days before West’s birthday, we received a beautiful, handmade, folding (and thus space-savvy) climbing ladder and board from Wiwiurka Toys, and it rightfully (and delightfully) stole the show.

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Other than enjoying the new climbing gym, we spent most of the day slowly rolling the cargo bike through the nearby, annual Abbot Kinney Festival, reading “new” library books, and paddling down the canals during sunset.

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Instead of buying new books for West and wrapping them in disposable paper, I decided to borrow a stack of books from the county library, and bundle them up in one of my scarves. This gift didn’t cost a penny, it produced no waste, and was every bit as fun for West to unwrap, discover, and dive into as a pricey gift in specialty wrappings. (And the books will spark happiness for weeks.)

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West was also given some musical greeting cards from our family members. We love these because they keep our squirmy son entertained during diaper changes.

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Our sunset paddle was a particularly gorgeous one— the sky was thick with layered gold and pink clouds.

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After floating home, West ate a slice of pumpkin pie (in lieu of a birthday cake), and he blew out a candle for the first time.

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Happy birthday, lil’ West. Our love for you is beyond anything I could’ve ever possibly imagined.

Easy + space-savvy + attractive, eco-friendly bathroom swaps

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It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that reusable goods consume more space than disposables, and thus are not small space friendly. However, I find the opposite to be true! Let’s look at some quick, affordable, and effortless bathroom swaps. If you select your eco-friendly bath items carefully, not only will they take up less storage space and fewer surfaces inches, but they’ll also look better than their single-use or plastic counterparts.

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Shampoo + conditioner bars are becoming increasingly available. I found mind on Etsy, and will continue to test out various types instead of buying disposable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles. And a simple wall-mounted, hanging or standard wooden soap dish is all one needs to accommodate these bars.

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Adam and I recently made the switch to Leaf (for me) and Rockwell (for him) razors. Up front the cost is higher, but over time they save so much money and reduce a ton of unnecessary waste. (And let’s be real— they’re far prettier on the eyes than loud plastic designs.)

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Reusable ear cleaning tips are arguably more effective than Q-tips, and are easy to clean and require far less storage space.

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Machine-washable cotton rounds are every bit as effective as disposables. They’re a one-time purchase that can last a lifetime. No need to store backups. 10 or so should be just fine if you do laundry at least once per week.

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Refillable floss and recyclable metal toothpaste tubes are lighter on the environment. Like everything else here, they take up no extra space and, in my opinion, look great on counters and shelves.

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Reusable tissues can serve as miscellaneous cloths as well. We keep small baskets of them stashed around the Cottage. No need to buy and store tissues, tissue box covers, or wipes.

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Adam just can’t quite get into using a bar of soap at our sinks, but obviously that would be the least wasteful way for us to go. Until we find a nearby refill station to which we can bike to replenish our inventory of cleaning supplies, we’ve started refilling containers here at home with liquid soaps instead of buying entirely new bottles.

Some other easy swaps include:

Hosting Overnight Guests in Your Small Home

In the 7+ years that we’ve lived here in our little home, we’ve hosted dozens of overnight guests. Most stay for just a night or two, but we’ve had folks stay longer, too— anywhere from 5 nights to 3 weeks. (If we can do it, so can you!)

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It’s less about perfection than it is about consideration. It’s not likely that your visitor will be concerned about whether or not the bed is made with flawless hospital corners, but they probably will care about having a place to hang their towel, change their clothes, tuck their bag(s) out of the way, and sleep through the variations of noise and light that are inevitable when sharing a small space overnight.

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The guest room is, of course, our main room, which serves as our entryway, living room, dining room and office. Recently we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to welcome a family member for a short stay, so I snapped some photos of the “guest room” setup prior to his arrival. I’ve also included some images from a Rue Magazine story I did several years back, which was photographed by the wonderful Kimberly Genevieve.

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Bedding Storage & Organization
We stash our guest bedding in the coffee table / trunk by the couch. Sheets for a Single-size mattress fit perfectly on our larger cushion. We also have a spare set of sheets for our Queen bed stashed in there, and those come in handy if we want to put the two main couch cushions on the floor and unite them to create a larger bed. With both sets of bedding I store the fitted and flat sheets within the set’s pillowcase. This helps keep everything compact and organized. 

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Curtain Storage
We like to string up a privacy curtain for our guests, and do so by simply spanning and tacking twine between sensible points on nearby walls. I either pin a lightweight throw blanket to the twine, or borrow the curtains from our bedroom for the evening. No need to buy a dedicated set! During the day, we either slide or pin the linens back, depending on the setup. We’re always sure to leave enough space between the couch and the curtain so that our guest has space to stand and walk along the sofa, and doesn’t feel crowded.

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Luggage
I supply a folding stool as a luggage stand, and/or empty out the trunk so that our guests have a place to put their bags. 

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Clothes & Towels
We suspend hand-painted hangers and basic S-hooks from the moulding near the couch to provide our visitors with a place to hang their outerwear, towels, and/or dress clothes.

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Little Considerations
Having items such as eye masks, earplugs, a phone charger, water, and local literature handy is a good way to help your overnight guests feel comfortable in your tiny home or apartment. 

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Lighting
Since we don’t have much room for tabletop fixtures or floor lamps, I like to keep battery-operated candles or twinkle lights near the pop-up guest bed so that there’s always a safe source of adequate lighting within arm’s reach.

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Toiletries 
We clear off a cubby in the bathroom so that there’s ample space for our visitor’s dopp kit, brushes and more. That way they don’t feel as though they have to pack and unpack their toiletries multiple times per day due to lack of space in the living area.

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Our first book: Small Space Style

I’ve been keeping this a secret for a year and a half— it feels good to share with you that we have some big news from our lil’ home…

Shortly after West was born nearly 2 years ago, I was approached again about writing a book about small space living. Publishing my own book was never something on my bucket list. But it was a time of notable personal and business growth, so I decided that I might as well go all-in.  In retrospect, it was a bit of a wild move— our schedules became dizzying. 

 The book is here! Cover image shot by  Marisa Vitale .

The book is here! Cover image shot by Marisa Vitale.

West was an infant, and Adam was still at an office full-time. I never took a single day for maternity leave. (Ah, the realities of running your own business.) So this was how the next several months were spent:

  • I’d get up at 3am to write the book at a 24-hour diner. 

  • At 6am, I’d bike back to the Cottage to nurse West. 

  • At 6:30am, my husband and I would walk the dogs, eat breakfast, and then Adam would get ready for work. 

  • At 8am, I’d take calls with my East Coast clients. 

  • At 9am, Adam left for his job. 

  • All day until around 7pm, I’d care for West and the pups, attempt to blog and Instagram, and tackle tasks for several of my clients while the baby slept.

  • When Adam got home, we’d put West to bed, eat dinner, and I would get right back on the computer to resume working on the book (and pumping) until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer— usually around 11pm. 

  • Then, of course, I’d feed West on demand until 3am, when we’d start the whole routine over again.

I’m not complaining— I felt like the luckiest person then, and still feel that way now. But it was a whirlwind.

 From a photoshoot on the same morning I received the contract for the book. (Image © Ergobaby)

From a photoshoot on the same morning I received the contract for the book. (Image © Ergobaby)

Life was blurry. But eventually, Adam left his job to help at home, and I was able to get more work accomplished during the day. We’re just now stabilizing, as the books are being packed to ship for their November 13th release.

 An illustrated DIY spread (featuring StanLee on our deck) from   Small Space Style   .  Art by  Magdalena Zolnierowicz .

An illustrated DIY spread (featuring StanLee on our deck) from Small Space Style. Art by Magdalena Zolnierowicz.

So it’s with great excitement (and fatigue) that I can finally share that our Cottage now has its very own book available for pre-sale: Small Space Style: Because You Don’t Need to Live Large to Live Beautifully.

For me, the key to living in a small home or apartment is not figuring out how to Tetris a life’s worth of stuff into limited square footage. It’s about understanding what you truly need — and don’t need— in order to live comfortably and contentedly, day by day. Compact homes aren’t necessarily stepping stones on our path to larger lodgings. Small space living can work (and work spectacularly) for all sorts of evolving family structures and income levels. Plus it can lessen our negative impact on the environment. Living tiny can be fulfilling, comfortable and, yes, stylish.

My intention is for Small Space Style to help you as you embark upon your own journey into the world of small-space living. I hope that the book’s pages provide you with ideas for crafting a tiny space that feels infinitely beautiful, inspiring and welcoming for you and your loved ones.

The book features over 200 tips for making the most of your little home, with chapters centered around the essentials— living, sleeping, eating, and bathing. It offers imagery from our home as well as others, and is brilliantly illustrated by Magdalena Zolnierowicz.

I want to thank everyone who contributed to this book in one form or another. I am so genuinely grateful for your generous time, creativity and positivity.

 Photo from  Casa Joshua Tree , where Artist  Lindsay Hollinger  hand-lettered the title for the cover of the book. (2017)

Photo from Casa Joshua Tree, where Artist Lindsay Hollinger hand-lettered the title for the cover of the book. (2017)

And to the readers of this blog and our Instagram feed: thank you, thank you, thank you. You’ve transformed our lives completely, and for the better. I am moved and motivated by your support every moment of the day. 

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Misc. Accessories in a Tiny Kitchen

It can often be tricky to find a place in a compact kitchen for smaller, miscellaneous items. This is when easily movable trays, narrow rolling carts and floating or inset shelves can be of great service.

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In our galley-style kitchen, a corner between our breakfast bar and the Dutch door is home to a handmade wooden tray that I can effortlessly relocate when needed. A vintage, collapsible file folder holds a small collection of cookbooks, while a basket from Kembali Collective keeps reusable cloth wipes ready for toddler spills and cooking messes.

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Not everything food-related lives in our kitchen. Our reusable, to-go accessories are all kept in a handmade, easy-to-clean basket/bag that keeps it’s shape so our utensils, containers and drinkware are all accessible within an instant while I’m at the market, juggling our purchases in one hand and lil’ West in the other. The tote usually sits on our couch a low stool by the door so we don’t forget to grab our eco-friendly gear on the way out.

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We recently got a Planetbox for West, which I love. It’s narrow and can fit almost anywhere in the kitchen or in the to-go bag. I think we’ll get another for Adam and I to share as well. (Thanks to Reading My Tea Leaves for introducing this product to us!)

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Our kitchen and main living area are all one big room. Whether that space is operating as a dining room, living room, play space, or office, the key is always to keep our belongings and setup simple and flexible.

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Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part V)

While it's great to share stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in small spaces, I think it’s just as important to discuss the things that we can happily live WITHOUT. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less. The following is just a very small sampling of everyday items you might want to reconsider. (Click to view Part IPart IIPart III, and Part IV of this series.)

As always, before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items might be easy for easy for some folks to forego, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best. Plus habits shift, and tastes change. Design and decor should be different (and enjoyable) for everyone. 

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Pots for Every Houseplant
Ah, plants. They breathe life into our homes, they clean our air, and they beautify everything. It’s good to give back to them, and provide them with an adequate vessel and some TLC. But some plants don’t necessarily need decorative pots. (If you do repot your plants, consider saving the plastic containers they were in when purchased, and return those to your local plant nursery for reuse.) Or instead of buying new pots, keep in mind that some plants can thrive in their original plastic pots, as long as they’re well maintained and have proper drainage. Look around and see what you have on-hand to tuck those ugly plastic pots into. This could be anything from a spare basket, bucket or even a bowl or mug, depending on the plant’s size and type. You can even use a burlap liner, which costs and weighs next-to-nothing, isn’t breakable the way most decorative pots are, and takes up nearly no space to store. We use burlap sleeves for the trailing ivy plants stationed all over our cottage. The ivy is thriving, we didn’t have to spend but a $1 or so per liner, and when there’s an earthquake no one will be harmed by heavy pots tumbling off their perches.

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Dish Drying Rack
There are numerous space-savvy drying racks available, from mini wall-mounted versions, to over-the-sink racks, to cylindrical bottle-trees, to fold-up designs. But, at the end of the day, an absorbent tea towel or a roll-up drying mat can also do the trick. No need to buy and store anything more advanced.

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Plastic Bag Dispensers
For the love of this wilting planet, let’s stop accepting plastic bags from stores— I can’t believe they’re still offered as often as they are. (Recently I watched a cashier put an oversized scanner box that was equipped with a handle for carrying into a standard plastic shopping bag. Once jammed into the bag, the box was awkward and impossible to carry comfortably for the buyer, and yet he walked out of the store with it slipping from his fingertips. WHY?!) And guess what: if you stop getting plastic bags, you won’t be tempted to buy one of those silly bag holders that adhere to the inside of your pantry or cabinet. If you need to keep bags of any sort together and organized, try repurposing something you already have. Are you using that old magazine file? If not, affix it to the inside of a door and use it as a bag holder. VOILA! Or perhaps you have too many canvas bags or miscellaneous totes sitting around? Suspend one from a safe spot and use that. A zillion other things that are eco-friendly and already sitting in your home could work perfectly. We use a coat rack on our front stoop to hold our market baskets and reusable totes. When it rains, we just scoot it inside.

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Holiday Decor Storage Organizers
There are so many “holiday decor organizers” available, and most of them are manufactured from plastic and are fairly ridiculous— particularly for small space dwellers. You don’t need much to make your space feel festive for a holiday or special occasion. (I’ll be writing more on this topic as we head into the colder months, but I’ll say now that we can fit all of our Halloween and winter decor in a vintage suitcase, which we use an accent surface within our home.) If you wish to keep some fragile ornaments and accessories protected, you can probably do so without buying something new. Egg cartons can be upcycled to protect smaller baubles. Wrap your twinkle lights around a bit of spare cardboard. Toilet paper tubes can be stuffed with odd-shaped glass or ceramic decor to keep them from clanking against each other. Try to keep your items to a minimum, and perhaps they’ll fit into a suitcase or a boot box that you can slide under your bed, on an over-the-door shelf inside your closet, or anywhere else that’s accessible yet out of sight. Bonus points for avoiding gift wrap! Presents don’t need to be bound in disposable packaging to be beautiful and thoughtful. (Again, I’ll share more on this topic soon.)

Shoe Organizers 
If you’re looking to downsize and organize your shoe collection, you might already have a “shoe organizer” available without realizing it. My mom cleverly pointed out to me that a 6-slot beverage bag is a great way to store (and tote) low profile shoes. And an old wine crate is a good way to separate and corral footwear as well. (We call our local wine shop whenever we need a used crate for this-or-that, and they’re usually quite happy to set aside an empty box or two for us to take.) If you do truly need a dedicated way to store your shoes, I recently wrote a post on the topic, here.

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A Spoon Rest
Even if you cook constantly, you can magic a myriad of other washable, heat-resistant items— such as a saucer or salad plate— into a “spoon rest” when needed.

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Short-Term Food Storage Containers
Don’t throw out those leftovers, but don’t buy (and store) plastic containers for them either. Reusable bowl covers are a simple way to turn any bowl into short-term food storage. These fabric covers come in various sizes and are outfitted with elastic perimeters. They’re usually machine-washable, and are often handmade with sustainable materials (depending on where you choose to buy them), and require very little storage space when not in use.

Small Space Al Fresco Happy Hour

This is entry no.3 from a three-part wedding registry series, sponsored by Macy’s in partnership with MyDomaine. (View part one here and part two here.)

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I’m pleased to partner with Macy’s to share some space-savvy home goods that are perfect for wedding registries. You might not have much room at home for gifts, but remember: wedding guests are genuinely happy to give newlyweds presents as a gesture of support and celebration. Help them find the items that work for YOU and your unique floor plan by crafting a mindfully curated wishlist that will make the process more enjoyable and practical for everyone involved.

PREPARING FOOD
Personally, my favorite time to dine alfresco is during the transition from summer to fall. The weather is juuuuust right, and gatherings naturally feel a bit cozier. But this time of year is also when social events seem to start popping up and gaining speed for the coming months, so there seems to be a bit of a time crunch. Luckily there are numerous wonderful small appliances at Macy’s that help make food and beverage prep fast and simple. There is also a wide selection of dining sets and serveware that can beautify your compact surfaces.

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Our Vitamix was THE main item we were excited to get for our wedding. This copper blender is beautifully designed, and makes food and beverage prep easy on a day-to-day basis and when hosting. With literally THOUSANDS of quick recipes available online and in print, you’ll never run out of options for what to make in this blender, which can last a lifetime.

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Usually I feel fairly “meh” about stemware, but the Vera Wang Wedgwood Metropolitan Collection was the first glassware collection I’ve ever actually wanted. There’s something about the sophisticated silhouette and unique vessel shape of the wine glass set that I just love. The corresponding champagne flutes are simple and delicate, but still offer plenty of character while holding your bubbly.

When we first moved into our cottage, Adam and I upcycled used candle glasses as tumblers. Needless to say, it felt good to finally put those in the recycling bin and to toast to one another with this beautiful set by Vera Wang.

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SETTING YOUR SURFACES
The Savona Grey 4-Piece Place Setting set by Mikasa has a beautiful visual texture, and the grey tones pair easily with both warm or cool accents. The collection can be put in the dishwasher or microwave for easy cleanup.

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Similarly perfect for any season, the cement Forte Collection by Nambé keeps tabletops looking both dynamic and clean.

In the past, I tried to be thrifty and used several kitchen items as ice buckets and scoops over the years. I pretty much ruined them all, and it would’ve been much more Earth-friendly to just get one beautiful set like this from the start. The mixed-media design of the ice bucket and matching wine chiller adds depth and personality to a tabletop without overcrowding it.

SAVING TIME
One of the great things about a small home or apartment is that it doesn’t take long to clean and arrange it for guests. Even if you’re just returning home from work, or about to head out on a trip, you can squeeze in some of that quality socializing time at home. 

Adam and I realized long ago that you see nearly everything in a small space, so it’s wise to only acquire items that you truly need and love. That way, when it’s left out in the open, you don’t mind seeing it, and you won’t need to carve out a clever storage space for it. This definitely applies to luggage.

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Luggage is routinely one of those small space headaches. We all need suitcases, but where do we keep them? Select designs you love and don’t mind seeing, and use them as storage by stashing spare sheets or off-season clothes inside them when they’re not in use. Adam and I have recently discovered how great it is to ditch the carry-on shoulder bag or backpack for one of these rolling TravelPro totes. Its compact design fits a surprising amount, and helps make air travel much more delightful.

You don’t need an entire day to prep and host a social gathering— you can fit it in to your busy lifestyle as long as you have everything you need at the beginning for prepping and serving. More of my curated collection with Macy’s can be explored here.

A Look Inside: Small Space Food Storage

We’re often asked how we manage to accommodate food for 2 adults, 1 toddler and 2 dogs in our tiny, full-time home/office. This post explains how we do it. It’s a setup that works well for how we cook and how we shop, which are factors that obviously vary wildly from household to household.

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Adam and I keep our dry goods in the double-door cabinet above the stove. We make very little from scratch, so the ingredients we need to have on-hand are limited. Other everyday food is either in the fridge or placed in various food storage containers on the countertops. We replenish our groceries every few days (rather than, say, once per week,) because here in Venice we have exceptional access to farmers markets. We don’t buy in large quantities, and go out to get what we need, when we need it.

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There are four different farmers markets nearby, and they take place on staggered days of the week, all within walking or biking distance of the Cottage. There’s a wonderful organic grocery store just a short stroll away, too. As such, we buy locally and on-demand. We try to turn shopping into a family activity whenever possible, encouraging West to cart around his market basket alongside ours, and opting to take the scenic route (via bike, foot or wagon) on the way back home. 

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In the cottage, Adam is the cook and handles most of the food in the house. (I make breakfast, but I’m pretty much a disaster at cooking much else.)

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He usually plans out three days worth of meals every time we shop, and that loose pattern helped us determine how to best use the kitchen spaces we have to suit our particular needs.

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Despite the fact that our new fridge is still compact, it actually holds a surprising amount of items. We follow a pescatarian diet, so that cuts back on the need to buy and store certain types of food. We also make our own sparkling water to cut back on waste and preserve space, and we rarely buy juice or any other beverages, so that frees up inches as well. (We keep our SodaStream on the counter next to the sink, where we use it multiple times per day.)

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We keep most of our dog food refrigerated, as it’s perishable. But we also have a kibble tin on the bottom cubby of a nearby shelf:

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We have reusable bowl covers in lieu of plastic cling wrap, and these protect our leftovers via our standard bowls in the fridge. The linen+cotton covers roll or fold up tightly when not in use, requiring less drawer space than a box of plastic wrap.

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To keep fresh produce in good condition for as long as possible, thereby cutting back on spoiled/wasted food and saving money, we use a set of flax linen Ambrosia Bags, which are incredible. There are 4 to a complete set, each of which is meant to be used in a different way depending on its contents.

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Not only are Ambrosia Bags sustainable, eco-friendly, and lovely to see and touch, but they preserve the life and freshness of veggies, herbs, mushrooms and berries. This means we save money by buying less food, as we no longer accidentally waste precious produce that have gone bad. 

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The “damp bags” hydrate vegetables and herbs 24/7 and extends freshness 2-3 times longer than plastic bags while the “dry bags” slowly dehydrate keeping mushrooms from sliming and berries from molding.

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Flax fibers absorb moisture well, allowing the damp bags to hold onto the moisture when stored inside the refrigerator drawer, and even releasing moisture back out, keeping vegetables and/or herbs alive from continuous hydration, unlike other natural fibers or plastic bags. The linen also allows air to flow and in and out of the bags, keeping oxygen present and preserving the food’s freshness longer.

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The Ambrosia Bags are simple to use and very easy to care for— just launder once a month, or as-needed. 

Storing your vegetables:

  1. Rinse & shake off excess water

  2. Place wet veggies inside bag & close zipper

  3. Store inside refrigerator vegetable drawer

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Storing your herbs:

  1. Gently rinse herbs and shake off excess water

  2. Place herbs inside bag and close zipper

  3. Store in refrigerator vegetable drawer

Storing your delicate greens:

includes spinach, arugula & packaged salad mixes

  1. Remove plastic bag, place on towel

  2. Discard aged or undesirable leaves

  3. Hand sprinkle water over leaves

  4. Gently place inside bag

  5. Place inside refrigerator vegetable drawer

  6. Keep bag moist at all times

Storing your mushrooms:

  1. Remove plastic packaging

  2. Put dry mushrooms into bag and close zipper

  3. Place onto refrigerator shelf

  4. Keep bag dry at all times

Storing your berries

  1. Rinse berries (optional)

  2. Put berries into bag and close zipper

  3. Place onto refrigerator shelf

  4. Keep bag dry at all times

* Protect delicate raspberries/blackberries place container inside berry bag.