How to Make Your Home Work For You

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Hello there, all you lovely small-living enthusiasts! So happy to have you over at Smallish. πŸ™‚

My heart is budding with much to share with you about Shoebox living, but there is just not enough time! My “off” minutes are far and in between, and now that you know I’m growing another baby, you can be assured that my energy and ability to, well, stay awake are limited. πŸ™‚ But I’m trying! Today I’m thinking back over the past four and a half years and remembering what helped us make this home work for us in each season.

We finally know for sure that the Shoebox is too small for our family. That realization arrived a couple months ago with both a sigh of relief and a pang of disappointment. Relief, because there is some comfort in the finality of knowing that our stage in this apartment is at an end. Disappointment, because we truly love it here.Β  These chipped and splattered walls have watched our family grow from two people to nearly six. I tear up when I imagine the furniture and noises gone and the carpet spotless. (Well, ok. Let’s not go that far; spotless carpet brings happy tears to my eyes.) πŸ™‚

kids playing on messy floor

It is time for a new home because some fragments of life just aren’t really working well anymore. Family dining is one. There is simply not enough space for our whole family to gather around the table for meals, which is a very important part(s) of our day. Since before Christmas either Caveman or I have had to share a seat with one of the boys during meals. While we like to be close to our children, we also prefer to have enough room to keep our elbows out of their soup.

We looked into alternative options and ways that we could arrange the furniture to create more dining space, but we didn’t find a workable budget-friendly solution that would be worth it. This ongoing process of evaluating a living “system” is a big part of why the Shoebox has been so livable the past few years.

This ongoing process of evaluating a living “system” is a big part of why the Shoebox has been so livable the past few years.

You see, with every year we resigned the lease, we overhauled an area to work better for us, to accommodate our tweaked style or rhythm of living.

One year it was the patio. We spruced up the outside, added some mulch and updated this cute patio set to render the entry more inviting and enjoyable for us to use.

Another year we upped storage area by putting shelving units up in the kids’ room. These shelves house diapers, socks, and other odds and ends.

Organization helps your home work for you

organization cubbies


Another year we changed our “office” station to better suit our needs. This is what it looks like now, by the way. Usually underneath the desk is where the diaper bag and the “to sell/donate” pile sits.

.home office area


Throughout the year when we identified a system that was making life difficult or an area that needed desperate reorganization, we’d evaluate the current need and then fix the area. Actually the words “identify” and “evaluate” sound a little too scientific. The “process” is as simple as getting rid of a lot of stuff and/or figuring out how to better organize the stuff that you do need to keep.

Perhaps you’re thinking of a spot in your own home that needs a fix to make it work better. If so, plan a time this week to purge and organize. πŸ™‚

Nothing coming to mind right away? That’s good. But just in case, think through these important home “stations” that often get overlooked in the throes of daily schedules:

  • Landing/ entry
  • Bathroom storage
  • Kitchen counters
  • Pantry
  • Dining area/ eating nook
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • Closets/ clothing storage
  • Diaper storage/ changing area
  • Outside/ usable patio or deck space

Β Be intentional about how you use your space!Β 

Chances are if you just reevaluate and update one area, your whole home will feel more like a haven and less like a cave of “have-to-do’s”. And just like that, your home will be begin to work for you, one area at a time. πŸ™‚


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  • Jesse May
    February 19, 2015

    I’ve missed you the last couple months!
    As a newer reader, I had originally scoured all your old posts to “catch up” on what I’d been missing, and then as I awaited new content, I figured you must be a busy mama, like me. Until recently, I didn’t realize you were PREGNANT, like me!!! πŸ™‚ My own blog has been painfully neglected, but growing a baby is an energy-consuming priority. πŸ˜‰
    I don’t know if you remember my original email to you, but we live in a basement apartment, too. With the news of our coming third child, several people commented that we’d need a bigger place to live. I was actually delighted to discover that so far, we’ll be fine with three little kiddos in this home. After reading blogs like yours and an excellent de-cluttering book that I received for Christmas, I’ve been filling bags and bags of things to get rid of. In a matter of weeks, our house has come to feel so much more spacious! I’m excited to be able to make do with our current home for the time being. πŸ™‚
    I look forward to reading about your journey of transitioning to a new home!

    • Evelyn
      February 19, 2015

      Hi Jesse! yes, of course I remember. I just dug out the original email and replied back to you again so I could write a little more. πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you understand my lack of ability to stay very consistent with writing. It’s just… KIDS. Haha. And dishes. And vacuum! And sleep… Life, I suppose.

      What was the decluttering book that you recently read?? I’m in the ongoing (but more aggressive) process of purging and I’m always amazed at how easy it is to let things go, if we allow it. Thanks for reading and commenting, friend!

      • Jesse May
        February 19, 2015

        Thanks for your reply and your email (delightful surprise!). I’ll reply more thoroughly soon, but I wanted to let you know the book I read on de-cluttering was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. While I wouldn’t subscribe to every single idea in the book, overall it helped change my thinking about the things in our home. It has shown me how to let go of so many things I thought I needed to hang on to, and even how to better store the items we do need to keep. Our home feels so different (my dad jokes that it looks like we’ve been robbed). Both my husband and I feel more relaxed, and it’s easier to keep up on chores. We’re loving the changes affected by what I’ve read in that book. πŸ™‚

        • Evelyn
          February 20, 2015

          OK! Putting it on my library list now…

  • Sarah T.
    February 19, 2015

    Great thoughts, as usual. Yep. There are definitely areas of our house that aren’t working. My obstacles: 1) Lack of storage. We sold most of our furniture before we moved. 2) Another possible move is keeping me from buying proper storage. 3) Lack of energy and motivation at the end of a long day at work. I’d like to think downsizing our stuff would help, but you know as well as I do, kids still need some stuff.. But they need a place to put it too… So that’s my dilemma. I plan on sitting in our house and just contemplating possible uses/functions now. I like that room uses change for you as needed.

    • Evelyn
      February 19, 2015

      Hey Sarah! I loved your post on Christian minimalism and yes– it is SO hard to balance not wanting a lot of stuff, but yeah needing SOME stuff. Storage is such a difficult thing. I find that if you think about it, sometimes the items can be grouped differently and therefore moved to somewhere else in the home. Hope you find a solution to fixing those places without buying something! πŸ™‚ Thanks, as always, for commenting.

  • Lisa Little
    October 28, 2016

    Yes, this post very much resonates with my experience. Kids go through different stages anyway – a layout that would work well when they’re babies might be very different from three ideal layout when they’re 3.
    Our house is not that small, but the crunch point for us has always been the kitchen. It was an eat-in kitchen, and with 5 if us it was getting kind of squishy. We were also really in each other’s way during breakfast prep/packing lunches. This summer we tried a major tweak. We moved the table into a corner of the living room. We had to take some living room seating out, but not much. We tried it for a while, and when we realized we really did like the table better there, we purchased some entry-way shoe benches and made a little corner banquette. This left room in in our kitchen for a freestanding island (purchased 2nd hand). We sold our couches (purchased 2nd hand 13 years earlier) and looked for something to fit the space better. I was trying to find something 2nd hand, but my husband said it was more important to get something that we would be happy with long-term – so we bought a custom sofa that was manufactured nearby.
    1. Our living room now feels welcoming and sociable.
    2. Our eating area feels roomier, and we have room to extend the table for company (it’s squishy but workable). And yet the table is still only 4 steps from the fridge, and 7 steps from the dishwasher.
    3. The kitchen now feels more sociable (you can stand at the island and see what’s going on in the living room) and has room for a few people working in it.
    We didn’t move any walls, but with some creative thinking we greatly improved the function in our main living areas.
    And yet, my children sitll sometimes argue, my husband and I still sometimes have communications fails, I still sometimes feel stressed, and we still fight the clutter. And it would be the same, no matter where we lived. No storage solution or “ideal speace” can bring real joy and peace – only God can do that!

    • Evelyn
      November 9, 2016

      HI Lisa,
      Thanks for sharing how you made your home work for you! It was really fun hearing about your solution. However your conclusion to your comment made me smile because YES!!! That’s the truth of it. We are still on earth and life will still be imperfect no matter what.

      “And yet, my children sitll sometimes argue, my husband and I still sometimes have communications fails, I still sometimes feel stressed, and we still fight the clutter. And it would be the same, no matter where we lived. No storage solution or β€œideal speace” can bring real joy and peace – only God can do that!” >>>>> ABSOLUTELY. πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

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