Moving into in a tiny space may seem to be an impossible task for many people. The first question asked is usually, “where am I going to put all my stuff?”
The answer you’ll get from people who’ve successfully made the transition into small spaces is often “you free yourself from your stuff” – which is in fact the underlying theme in this month’s issue of Small Living Journal. But there are also many small space tricks shared here too from choosing to live with less to clever ways of storing what you have away.
There are four articles in Issue 15: Small Space Tricks:
- Organizing small spaces: 10 tips to make the most out of your space – by Ryan Mitchell
- Thinking Big, While Living Small: 4 Design Ideas – by Tammy “RowdyKittens”
- 10 Guiding Principles for Living Tiny – by Hillary “Tinyhouse
- Space Saving Furniture – by Michael Janzen
In March 2010 we’ll be focusing on one of my favorite topics, How To Design & Build a Home. If you’d like to contribute learn more about Guest Submissions. This month we had our first get submission from Ryan Mitchell. Thanks again Ryan!
1. Use vertical space
After talking with lots of Tiny House folks, I have seen this as a trend: maximize the vertical. Everything above 8 feet is all dead air if you don’t use it, so capitalize on that. You could have a small chest that takes up 2 square feet of floor space. If it is 4 feet tall, you will have around 8 cubic feet of storage. Take that to the ceiling and suddenly you have doubled or tripled your volume, but haven’t given away any more floor space which is a scarcity in a Tiny House.
2. Everything has a place and is in its place
When working with a small space I know that everything needs a place. Without it, your house goes from quaint to cluttered. Make sure every item you have has its own resting place and be sure that it finds its way back once you’re done using it. One lady who lives in a 90 square foot apartment said to me “if it doesn’t have a place, do you really need it?” and that’s a good point. Things that matter and are used are important enough to demand a place.
3. Double duty on items
There are those items which are by their nature, multi functional. You need to capitalize on these types of items. When you consider an item, you should always think if there is something else that can do it already. A perfect example of this is the end table, which transforms to a chair for extra seating. Check it out here.
4. Purpose built – built ins
Built-ins are nice, but built-ins with a purpose are even better. Think specifics. When paring down your possessions, you will identify the 100 or so items that will be contained in your house. Take stock of those items and let them dictate the form of your storage. If you are a ski patrol member, your closet should be able to fit your skis. If you live in colder climates, you will need more room for larger jackets than others might.
5. Go digital / paperless
As if being greener isn’t motivation enough, going digital, as I call it, means that you are able to reduce the tangible items you need. Digital files take up no space if you have them stored online, with the added advantage of being able to access them from anywhere. Combined with backing the files up, they become safer than real world things. The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements. This extends beyond receipts: books on your Kindle, movies on your Roku, music on OpenTape, or recipes in a wiki. See my post about using some of these. Here
6. Less is more
At this point I am preaching to the choir but, the question is not how to organize all your stuff, but on how to reduce the stuff to organize. The mentality needed is the same as you had if/when you went to college. The dorm rooms were tiny and you were broke. You only had what you really needed. Studies have shown that more stuff does not lead to happiness, so focus on the important things in life.
7. One thing in, one thing out
One principle that I like to pull from the Zen/Fung Shui school of thought is this. If you want to add a new item, consider adopting the rule that for every item you bring in, you must give up something else. Now, no cheating – like giving up a pen for an arm chair, but you get the idea.
8. Be intentional
Living with intention will have a profound impact on your life. Be thoughtful in your actions and choices. This extends to your organization and stuff. When you consider purchasing an item, you must first evaluate it and decide if you really need it. I often don’t buy it right then, but next time I am in that store (in a week or two). If I still want it then, I usually go for it if it makes sense.
9. Think inside the box
This is a technique that I use when I feel that a certain space is cluttered or if I start stacking stuff. Take a box, fill it up with everything. Then as you need the items pull them out of the box. Six weeks later, if you still have stuff in the box – no, let me rephrase that, you WILL have stuff in the box – you can evaluate what is left. There is rarely an item that I have that I don’t use within 6 weeks that’s worth keeping. Detailed box theory.
10. Most used items easy to access
This seems pretty obvious, but having the most used items in the front means you are able to access them quicker and without disturbing other things. This ties back to being intentional. You should be intense about organizing your items in this manner. If you notice that there are items in the back that haven’t been touched in a while, it’s time to evaluate whether you still need them.
For more articles like this and other on Tiny Houses visit TheTinyLife.com.
Since plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, I borrowed some of Andrea Zittel‘s writing (from her ongoing “Things I Know For Sure” series) because, well, I’m quite a fan. Below I’ve put together a mashup of tricks for living in small spaces — or guiding principles, or billboard-quality truisms. Whatever you want to call them, I hope they are as useful and inspiring to you as they are to me.
1. What you own, owns you.
2. What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.
3. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.
4. People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained.
5. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void—- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled.
6. Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.
7. Surfaces that are “easy to clean” also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.
8. All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.
9. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.
10. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.
Image credit: Andrea Zittel, Andrea Rosen Gallery
Hillary lives in a 677 sq. ft. historic home with her partner while renovating a 50 sq. ft. tiny trailer and preparing for full-time travel. Her blog is located at thistinyhouse.com.
In my wanderings on the web for tiny house design ideas & news I often come across great space saving ideas. Many of them I post on Tiny House Design and Tiny House Living. Below are some of my recent favorites. I look at these ideas with an eye for uncovering inspiring ideas, not products to buy.
- Boxetti – Amazing built-ins and flexible furniture.
- Flat Fold-Out Home Office – I definitely want to try building this; it looks so simple.
- Convertible Table/Bench – Very nice table that has a section that lowers to form a bench.
- Transforming Furniture – Another example of multi-function transformer furniture.
- Compact Pull-Out Kitchen – An interesting way to conceal a kitchen behind a wall.
- Bookshelf Chair – It’s a chair with built-in storage.
- Sleeping Space – A sleeping loft hidden behind a floor to ceiling false wall.
- Room in a Box – A company that packs whole functional rooms inside transportable boxes.
- Bedroom in a Box – Configurable bedroom furniture.
Built-ins and multi-purpose furniture seem like great tricks for getting more use from a space without cluttering it up. No matter how small or large your home is, freeing yourself of stuff and de-cluttering your existing spaces can really help you clear your mind, relax, reduce stress, and make you more productive.
Finding land can be one of the biggest initial challenges in building any home and in the case of a small home there are often additional challenges if the home doesn’t meet local size minimums. There are four articles in this issue:
- Finding Land for Living – by the UrbanRancher
- Future Parking Options – by Tammy “RowdyKittens”
- This land is your land and this land is my land… – by Lelly
- Online Tools for Finding Land – by Michael Janzen
Guest Submissions - Small Living Journal aspires to be a repository of some of the very best writing from the Small Home Movement. As such, we welcome the contributions of guest authors. If you’re interested in submitting an article for a upcoming or past issue please read about Guest Submissions.
While we’ll be publishing new issues on new topics every month; in the spirit of growing Small Living Journal as a complete knowledge base we’d like to welcome new articles on past issue topics. So if you have expertise in any of those areas we’d love to consider your submission.