Improving the Functionality of a Small Space
When I’m out helping clients and friends declutter, organize, streamline, simplify, and/or make their homes more eco-friendly, I’m pretty terrible about taking before/after photos to share here and/or on Instagram. I either forget because we’re so deeply into the process, or I don’t want to invade their privacy. (Understandably, most folks aren’t keen on having the personal contents of their overflowing drawers broadcast to the world.)
My latest on-site was no exception. I worked with a friend (and former client from when I used to operate my creative firm,) to help streamline elements of her small bungalow here in Venice, and naturally we got so wrapped up in chatting and troubleshooting that my camera sat neglected on her couch throughout both of my visits. But there were some quick and inexpensive adjustments that we applied to her space that I believe could be helpful to share, regardless of the lack of adequate visuals.
Some background on Eloisa: She lives in an 800 sqft house with her husband (Anderson), their toddler, and their two large rescue dogs. Eloisa is the founder of The Wolf Nest, and runs much of the business from her home. (Tour the space and learn more about this wonderful family here via Apartment Therapy.)
Eloisa’s main hurdles were the following:
Some miscellaneous items were scattered throughout the house and had no set place. They were either hard to find, hard to reach, or totally unnecessary.
The main work hubs are not located in an office. Instead, they’re located in the kitchen and by the couch. As such, papers and wires were piling up haphazardly.
The kitchen counter was crowded, and the dish drying rack stood plates high and upright, preventing Eloisa and Anderson from opening up a crucial upper cabinet.
The back of the laundry room door was so packed with hanging bags that the family couldn’t fully open the main door to access the space.
Anderson’s personal spot for worship and reflection was located in their toddler’s room rather than in a more appropriate setting, as there was no other space for it.
Eloisa and Anderson were having trouble housing spare rolls of paper towels, boxes of wipes, cleaning supplies, and various toiletries.
Eloisa didn’t know how to best get rid of items they no longer needed.
We approached each challenge one by one with a fair amount of brevity. Our solution to each issue was as follows:
We made sure that every necessary item that was previously nomadic throughout the home was given a dedicated space. We increased storage by introducing three rolling crates to the spare inches below the couch. This made everything easy to find and access. (Any miscellaneous item that wasn’t essential was flagged for giveaway.)
We added a bamboo power strip box / cord keeper to the living room to corral and conceal the exposed wires. This made everything safer for their young son, and cleaner and better organized. We then added an oversized envelope / laptop sleeve to the kitchen table to temporarily hold pending paperwork without making the area feel like an office. I also told Eloisa about our mini-scanner and tiny shredder, which will hopefully help them eliminate the hard copies of their documents, freeing up storage space and preventing paper build-up.
We swapped the clunky metal drying rack out for a set of machine-washable drying mats, which allow the cabinet above to open and close as intended. We also replaced the paper towel holder with a Uashmama washable paper bag filled with reusable Grovia wipes/cloths. (No more bulky and wasteful paper towels!)
We improved the function of their laundry room by better utilizing vertical space. First, we removed an old, tall laundry cart/rack, as the family was only using the bottom half of it. We replaced it with a rolling laundry cart that includes a lift-top surface that can be used during chores or as basic surface storage. In the newly-exposed stretch of wall behind and beside it, we redistributed several backpacks and bags that were previously hanging on the back of the door in a disorganized clump. Now the door opens completely, and more items in the room are immediately visible and accessible.
We were able to free up space to relocate Anderson’s altar from their son’s room to the master bedroom by making wiser use of surface space. The master bedroom’s horizontal dresser offers ample inches for all of the sculptures, artwork, photos, and artifacts included in the altar, but a bulky changing pad and corresponding diapering accessories were consuming the surface. I asked Eloisa to donate enough clothing in the master bedroom dresser to free up one of the smaller drawers at the top to hold the diapering accessories. Then, we cleaned and flagged the diaper pad for donation, opting instead to use a medium Gathre Mat as a diapering surface. The mat can be suspended by its loop when not in use, and is easy to toss out over the bed with one hand during changing time. This opened up the entire dresser surface for Anderson’s items.
We freed up inches throughout the home by eliminating the need for paper napkins and paper towels. Three to four bundles of 12-pack reusable wipes consume roughly the same space as a single disposible paper towel roll. We also traded the old, oversized, bright, toxic cleaning supplies for new, refillable glass bottles and organic concentrates from Supernatural. I then asked Eloisa to please get rid of all her expired toiletries, along with the “what if I need this some day products that she’d been holding on to for a long time, but never used. From there, everything went into Uashmama washable paper bags, which are particularly handy because they can adjust in size, or fold down for easy storage themselves when no longer needed. Plus they’re beautiful and eco-friendly. (We used them to organize her son’s clothing, too.) I recommended that Eloisa stop bringing products into the home that are not essential.
We then discussed the most fitting donation methods for the items that didn’t make the cut. Books and certain toys can be donated to libraries and children’s hospitals. Unopened or lightly used bath and beauty products are often welcome at shelters and community housing facilities. Clothes can be sold online or to thrift stores, or donated to nearby centers. Larger housewares, if in fair condition, will often be picked up quickly when left on the curb or in an alley on a weekend (depending on your neighborhood)— or many organizations will pick up your oversized home goods. Towels and blankets are helpful for disaster relief organizations, and at homeless shelters.
Note: The following photos are from my iPhone, and were taken for reference purposes. Apologies for the poor image quality.
I’ll check in with Eloisa and her family in the near future to see how the little changes are suiting them. But this was a perfect example of how a small number of low cost, simple modifications can have a positive impact on the functionality of a small space.