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.