’Tis the time of year to get sick… repeatedly, apparently. Adam, West and I all got our first colds of the season on our trip home from the East Coast after Thanksgiving, and none of us have quite gotten back to 100% since. This week, West and I caught a new round of something— his was symptomatic of a rude stomach bug, whereas mine was an epic assault on my sinuses.
When possible, our family prefers to stick with natural approaches to healing. (However, we’re not opposed to taking prescribed medications when necessary— for example, we all have our flu shots.) Since our tools for soothing and healing are rarely contained in a pharmaceutical pill bottle, they could quickly overrun sections of our small home if weren’t deliberate with them.
However, when you’re sick it’s tough to summon the energy to pick up a sock, let alone clean up larger messes after they’re made. But it’s obviously unhealthy to leave certain items sitting around when you’re sharing a tiny petri dish of a home-office as a sniffling, sleepless family. So, as I sit here, bleary-eyed with my hot water and lemon at 4am, I figured I might as well share a roundup of the items we have, and why they work for our small space.
I was intentional when I acquired the following goods for our Cottage. And, of course, I’m considering them in detail now as I formulate this post. But the great thing about these pieces is that they require very little consideration while we’re in the throws of cleaning up toddler vomit, managing migraines, or moping together in bed.
An Out-of-the-Ordinary Indoor Activity
Since our little one can’t go on his usual adventures when sick, Adam and I feel like it’s wise to offer him a major new activity to calmly enjoy while recovering. As we don’t like the idea of him sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, we got him a cardboard playhouse, which we shuttle between the main room and the covered porch, depending on time and temperature. It’s HUGE, yes, but it’s also completely perfect for the occasion. We’ve decorated it with twinkle lights— inside and out— and West retreats to it for long stretches of time to color and sticker the inside walls, or build with his legos and blocks.
When it’s no longer needed and West is back playing outdoors and with other kids from the community, we can deconstruct the playhouse and store it behind our clothing in the closet. I like that it’s a grand, plastic-free, special present that can be tucked away until another sick day.
We don’t use tissues— instead, we use little reusable cloths from Etsy and Grovia that we stash around the house. After we use one, we toss it in a washable paper bag that we usually keep on the built-in seat/shelf in our shower, where the cloths sit contained until the next round of laundry. The Grovia ones in particular are super soft and don’t irritate our skin (like standard tissues), and little cloth squares don’t take up space on the bedside as an entire tissue box would. This also helps us avoid accumulating mounds of paper in the recycling bin.
I remember the humidifier my parents used to fill up for my sister and me when we were young. It was HUGE, and it was loud… and mildly terrifying for a young, ill child. Thankfully, design has come a looong way. At the Cottage, we use a slim Muji humidifier that is almost silent, and at 3.5” in diameter it’s slim enough to slide onto a bookshelf or cabinet when not in use. Since our “nightstands” are cut-outs within our built-in, I can’t keep it there when it’s on. So I simply pull out a drawer next to the bed (slightly below the mattress), and cover it with a wine box top to create a stable surface on which to keep the humidifier overnight. It works perfectly.
We also use a simple drying rack in the bedroom at these times for a hint of extra moisture in the air.
I’m a big fan of our Eco Neti Pot. It works wonders while also being affordable, petite and durable. When I’m using it regularly, I let it dry out on an s-hook on our towel rack. And when I don’t need it, it only takes up bout as much space as a hairbrush, so I just hang it from a tack-and-string on the interior, upper perimeter of the bathroom vanity.
Clean Drinking Glasses
Since you’re supposed to drink clear fluids when sick, I want to be sure that West always has access to water. But I also don’t want him drinking from a straw and bottle that are just incubating the germs. A space-savvy way to offer up clean vessels without having to constantly stand over the sink and clean cup after cup is to use stainless steel ramekins or a removable silicon sleeve on a 4oz mason jar. Both of these “cups” can be used for many other things around the house as well.
We have a compact Muji electric kettle that’s so small and cleanly designed that it can stay on the counter for weeks at a time without consuming many inches. It slides into a cabinet by the stove when not in regular use. (We don’t use a stovetop model, as our stove is usually in use as a dish drying spot and as a surface for cutting boards when it’s not in operation.)
Plate / Platter per person
To keep mugs, cloth tissues, stirrers and more separated so we know whose is whose (so as to keep from passing serious germs back and forth to one another while our bodies are trying to heal), we dedicate individual small plates or platters to everyone on the countertops. We try to corral our individual collections here, whenever possible. It also makes things easy to move around, which helps when we need to open up space for cooking, crafts, and/or work.
I don’t bother with a dedicated compress. A simple washcloth or small towel can be heated with hot water (and salt, depending,) and used in the same manner. (Just be careful!)
We are extremely satisfied with our Dyson Hot-Cool Link Air Purifier, which manages our entire tiny home. But if we need a boost of concentrated heat— like while I’m at my desk, or when West is in his bed— we use a very small, personal heater. In limited square-footage such as ours, it’s all that’s needed. It’s footprint is small enough that it can rest on the low wall between our kitchen and main room when it’s on. (When it’s off, we just place it into the cabinet by the stove between the kettle and the mini-Vitamix.)