Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post: Maximizing your Square Footage with Minimum Space

Welcome back to our Small Home Living Series! This weeks guest post is from Martha Artyomenko. She has some fabulous ideas to share with us about how to maximize our small spaces. Please visit her blog and say hello.

I am the oldest of 11 children, which if you believe what you see on TV, means it is hard to live in a small space with many people. It is difficult, but not impossible! My memories of small home living are fond and many. I love to watch HGTV shows like House Hunter’s, Property Virgins, and My First Place. One thing I am always struck with is a person’s perspective. Many times I have witnessed someone walk into a place and proclaim it is too small for them and their one dog they own, because it only has two bedrooms. The Master suite only has one closet and the room is only 11 x 15, which I thought was a large room growing up.  I shared it with 6 siblings, but it was large to me. 

Martha and her nephew.
When I married, I moved to the state of MN, and shared a home with my sister and her husband for a while before we built a cabin of our own. The cabin was 14x24 with a steep stairway that was practically a ladder, to loft like bedrooms under a barn shaped roof. I quickly learned that less is more. We built our own skinny table that was less than 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. We had an extra one for guests, that hung on the wall on hinges and swung up, supported by one leg in the middle. The small room that we took showers in, had a portable toilet (there was no running water in our cabin) and measured probably 3 foot x 4 feet. It was under the stairway, so we used the space under the stairs, every inch of it. We made shelves under there that were covered by sliding cupboard doors. Outside the bathroom, there were little cubbies, on one side where there was plenty of storage for jars and many canned goods, and the other side for some children’s toys, papers and books. Our boys had one tub full of toys and everything had to fit in that space under the stairs. There was a couch, a large wood stove, wood box and that was all in the room. Coat hooks along the entry and a boot rack with shoes and boots lined neatly on it.  A large area rug separated the kitchen from the living area with the stairs between. We did have a small tricycle we brought in the winter for our son to expel some energy.  When the table was down, there was plenty of space to ride the tricycle! 

Under the skinny kitchen table, we stored buckets of grain, flour, sugar etc. Under the beds upstairs there were tubs with extra food, fabric, baby blankets, baby clothing. One small room, if you could even call it that, had a small entertainment unit with stereo and books on it. 
In many ways it was much easier to keep things clean in a smaller house! But with everything you bring into the house, you have to think, “Where will I put it? Do I have room?” 

You can maximize your small spaces by a couple of things:
1.      Look for out of the ordinary places for storage. We used under our table, under our stairway, under the beds. 

2.      Build a storage shed and organize it. – Heavy-duty shelving can make it easy to organize and find. Using hard plastic tubs can protect from rodents and bugs, but can be a way to store things you do not use everyday. 

3.      Pare down your stuff. If you do not use it everyday, pack it up. Less is more. Give away things you do not use. Only keep out a few extra dishes for the family and store the rest in a box in the shed, easily accessible, in case of guests. This will cut back on the amount of dishes that pile up, but also keep your cupboards neater. Sell extra toys and things that just add to clutter.

4.      Get rid of clutter.  Keep only things that are useful. Use useful things as décor.  Books can be used for décor, kerosene lamps, fruit, candles, photographs etc. can all be used to decorate a place and be useful in other ways. 

5.      Do not overdo it with clothing. Limit to a weeks worth of clothing, and every time you buy a new garment, get rid of one that you have. 

6.      Keep things clean: Small crowded place look nicer when they are clean and neat. It is hard sometimes to keep things clean, but it will feel better as a little mess feels like a bigger one in a small area. 

7.      Think outside the box when it comes to furnishing. Murphy Beds, tables on the wall, shelves on the wall around the whole room for books instead of a standing bookshelf.  I had many older construction project books that had many plans and ideas in them!

The boys

Enjoy your house, but also, when looking for a home, make sure if you choose a small home, you look at the areas resources. If it has a small indoor living space, what does the yard look like? Are there parks nearby? Is there a library in close proximity that you can use?  You will not have room for large pieces, look for small appliances, furniture, and smaller pieces, instead of the overstated, overstuffed furniture of today! 

In closing, one thing that I found made me never feel like I crowded or claustrophobic. We all had our own space to sleep growing up and later with my boys. They had their own area and could play there, read there, and sleep there. It gave us a place to go and chill, so to speak!
Our homes were not fancy and for sure nothing you would find in a BH&G magazine, but they were home to us!  There was an old poem we memorized and lived our lives by that I would put here at the end…. it always spoke to me when deciding what was important or not. 

A Hundred Years From Now
 ~Warren Parker

It will not make much difference friend a hundred years from now,
If you live in a stately mansion or a floating river scow.
If the clothes you wear were tailor made or just pieced together somehow,
If you eat big steaks or beans and cake a hundred years from now.
It won’t matter what your bank account or the make of car you drive,
For the grave will claim all your riches and fame and the things for which you strive.
There's a deadline that we all must meet, no one will show up late.
It won’t matter all the places you've been each one will keep that date.

(Taken from a Leonard Ravenhill audio sermon)


  1. Thanks for letting be a guest on your blog!!

  2. Pam McD7:40 AM

    Great post. Thanks!


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