Ex­pert ad­vice on liv­ing in small and sim­ple spa­ces

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE -

Erin Boyle, writer and pho­tog­ra­pher be­hind the Read­ing My Tea Leaves blog, joined writer Jura Kon­cius for a re­cent on­line chat. Here is an edited ex­cerpt.

Q: Most of the time it’s just me in my small house. Some­times I think about get­ting rid of all the ex­tra plates and glasses and such, but then house guests come to stay and ev­ery­thing ends up in use, so I keep them. (I hate plas­tic cups and pa­per plates.)

How do you bal­ance what you and your fam­ily need ev­ery day, ver­sus what you might need when others come?

A: There are many days when I wish we could have just the num­ber of dishes we need for our fam­ily, but of course be­ing able to wel­come folks into our house is a lovely thing to be able to do!

I be­lieve in strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween be­ing “pre­pared for any­thing” and not feel­ing over­crowded. So maybe a full set of dishes works, but three ex­tra guest tow­els and four sets of sheets aren’t nec­es­sary!

Q: I have an 800-square-foot house and a tod­dler. Any tips for con­trol­ling clut­ter, es­pe­cially the ex­tra car seats, bikes, strollers, etc.? I have no garage and feel as if I could drown in toys. I am try­ing to max­i­mize ver­ti­cal space; any other tips?

A: Hav­ing kids def­i­nitely means con­tend­ing with a fair amount of clut­ter even for those us of who try to keep it at bay. We’re in less than 500 square feet with two kids, so we’ve started from a place of try­ing to do with­out as much as pos­si­ble. For things we can’t live with­out, we’ve done our very best to clear places in clos­ets and un­der beds for stash­ing un­sightly gear. If there’s some­thing I don’t mind look­ing at, I’ll take that out of stor­age and put some­thing less at­trac­tive (a car seat, for in­stance) into that spot.

We’ve also got­ten cre­ative: a small scooter in­stead of a bike, for in­stance, takes up much less stor­age space.

Q: I’m cu­ri­ous about your views on place­holder ob­jects. When you’re just start­ing out, is it bet­ter to have a gallery wall of pieces that you’re not to­tally in love with, or a sad blank wall with just one or two things on it? Any ideas for how to fill a space in­ex­pen­sively un­til you find those for­ever pieces (wall, couch, cof­fee ta­ble, etc.)?

A: I al­ways opt to build slowly rather than to fill a space with things I don’t re­ally love. That said, it’s un­der­stand­able that you don’t want your space to be sad! This is one of the main rea­sons that I’ve opted to buy sec­ond­hand fur­ni­ture in­ex­pen­sively.

A good ex­am­ple right now is my kitchen ta­ble. It’s not my favourite ob­ject in my home, but it’s func­tional and prac­ti­cal and looks good enough to work un­til I find some­thing I love more. Be­cause I bought it sec­ond-hand from a small con­sign­ment shop, I know I’ll likely be able to sell it again for ex­actly what I paid for it when I’m ready for it to find a new home.

In our cur­rent space, we don’t have the space for bed­side ta­ble, but we do have the space for a small wooden crate. It’s not an ex­pen­sive de­sign ob­ject, but it serves a func­tional pur­pose of keep­ing a cup of water and a few books next to bed and it matches my es­thetic. Even bet­ter: if we ever find our­self with more room, it’ll still be use­ful for an­other stor­age pur­pose.

For small ob­jects and decor, I’ve of­ten gone the route of even more tem­po­rary fixes: a few dried flow­ers taped to the wall look pretty while I’m build­ing my art col­lec­tion; a poster tacked up with bull­dog clips can stand in un­til I have the re­sources to get it pro­fes­sion­ally framed; a lit­tle washi tape and a vin­tage post­card brighten up a dark cor­ner, etc.


I have an 800-square-foot house and a tod­dler. Any tips for con­trol­ling clut­ter?

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