The Psychology of Small Space Living

Trying to
“get organized” at home is one of the most difficult tasks faced by
New York City families. The truth is, small space
living pressure-cooks normal “where do I put it” problems. We don’t have
backyards or basements to store off-season stuff, or mudrooms to fling seasonal
coats and shoes.

 Most
challenging of all is where to place things we don’t even use, like clothes
saved for a second child, or sports equipment for “when we get to it.” These
items end up on shelves, pushed into closets or tucked in open corners of our
homes, visible to all.

No matter
how hard we try there never seems to be enough room to keep everything we want
while also keeping a tidy home that supports our growing families. So how can
we “get organized” when our precious homes seem too small every way we turn?

By
practicing a little conscious intention. When we focus on ‘how we live’ vs.
‘what we live in’, even the tiniest of homes can be a haven for a growing family.

 Here are
my top seven tips for how you and your family can to take control of your small
home, and make it work for you:

Get on
the Floor

When it
comes time to “get organized,” most of us turn first to a store for a product
to transform chaos into calm. But no amount of plastic tubs or shelving is
going to help if you don’t know what it is that you are living with—and what
you need to store.

 Before
you buy, get on the floor. Make piles of “like things,” and then ask
yourself—with each object you hold—if this were living, breathing and alive and
needed to be fed and nurtured (like a member of your family) is it worthy of a
home? Personifying things helps to clarify what’s important in our lives.

 It also
provides an inventory of our lives—when you make your piles you may be
surprised at what you are holding on to, and how much. Give yourself permission
to let go of items that don’t support your family. You’ll free up valuable real
estate, your home will appear larger—as if it has lost weight—and you may not
need to buy that storage product after all.

Do The
Math

“Too much stuff” overwhelms both
kids and adults. You can decide as a family how much is “too much,” but find a
threshold that works for you. If you notice a child struggling to decide what toy
to play with, or what snack to pick out, the answer may be volume more than
indecision.

 Once you have your
piles, do the math. Identify how many items from each category your family
needs and give away the rest. For example, if you are sorting clothes,
calculate how many dresses your daughter can wear the summer she turns two,
then eliminate the rest.

Think
Like a Retail Store

When you shop, you can see
everything quickly. This makes it easy to make choices. Take this concept home.
A child who can’t see into the back of a jammed drawer will grab what’s up
front, limiting what they use. Or, they will reach deep and yank out what they
want, making a mess of what’s up front. Adults are the same—what we see is what
we use.

As you pick your piles up off the
floor, think about how and where you are going to store them. Let shelves “breathe,”
instead of packing them tight. You can help your family achieve by allowing
them to see all the tools and resources at their disposal.

OSL:
Organization as a Second Language

With your home
streamlined, it’s time to communicate with your family. Imagine having words
other than “put that away,” to express how you feel.
Try replacing, “please put it away”
with “where does that live?” and “thank you” with “you put ‘like with like’!”
When you introduce an organization language into the home, parents and kids
have a common base from which to communicate problems and celebrate triumphs.

Children as
young as one year old will get excited to pick up and will do so without being
asked, if they know where something goes. Positive language about organization
leads to excellence at school, increased self-esteem and stronger independence.
And, organized kids serve as role models for other kids—which can benefit you
on play dates and at home.

Create
Kid Power

Children love responsibility. Invite them to participate
when organizing the home, particularly their rooms. Ask a child to show you
what they like, what they don’t like, accept their answers and thank them
heartily for their input.

Empower
your kids with responsibility and watch them get excited for their weekly home
and school routines. Kids love to demonstrate how helpful they can be, so
you’ll be reinforcing valuable lessons about helping and sharing. Teach your
kids to make their beds or set out their breakfast bowl. Give them one job to
call their own during your weekly routine. Learn to organize with your kids,
not around them. Make them part of the solution, and watch for positive
behavioral changes around the home.

Create
a Nerve Center

Time and
again I see families with life scattered inward from the front door. Bags
dumped in doorways, mail dropped on tables, keys and wallets scattered about.
Family calendars are on countertops and laptops are plugged in wherever they
can.

 Every
family home needs a two-tiered nerve center: first, a place to ‘stop and drop’,
and second, a place to take care of business of the home. Make certain you have
a table or landing zone for what comes in the front door. And then, establish a
second spot a nerve center for important documents, school papers, phone
numbers and schedules, health information. Keep folders labeled by kid names,
activities or color. Try storing your
nerve center on the kitchen countertop or pullout drawer.

Get
Shelved

In small
apartments, every shelf inch matters. Invest in a closet system that does the
sorting for you, with space for shelves, hanging rods and slide-out drawers or
bins. There are a variety of price levels from California Closets to DIY
shelving from Home Depot, Target or Lowes. These units are flexible and easy to
change-up over time. With a few adjustments a system styled for a child’s room
can turn into a teenager’s closet or home office. You can even disassemble and
take them with you on a move. One up-front investment can last a long time.

 If you
already have good shelves, make sure they are spaced efficiently. Once again,
think retail: stores don’t waste valuable real estate, neither should you.

Maeve
Richmond is the founder of Get Your House in Order, a NYC-based home
organization firm that teaches organizational skills to kids, pack-rats, busy
professionals and parents needing extra time in their days. Contact her at
[email protected] for tips on how to get to the other side of household
clutter, and follow her on Twitter as ClutterGirl.

Pictured: Apple Bank Condominium, 2112 Broadway.

The Psychology of Small Space Living

Trying to
“get organized” at home is one of the most difficult tasks faced by
New York City families. The truth is, small space
living pressure-cooks normal “where do I put it” problems. We don’t have
backyards or basements to store off-season stuff, or mudrooms to fling seasonal
coats and shoes.

 Most
challenging of all is where to place things we don’t even use, like clothes
saved for a second child, or sports equipment for “when we get to it.” These
items end up on shelves, pushed into closets or tucked in open corners of our
homes, visible to all.

No matter
how hard we try there never seems to be enough room to keep everything we want
while also keeping a tidy home that supports our growing families. So how can
we “get organized” when our precious homes seem too small every way we turn?

By
practicing a little conscious intention. When we focus on ‘how we live’ vs.
‘what we live in’, even the tiniest of homes can be a haven for a growing family.

 Here are
my top seven tips for how you and your family can to take control of your small
home, and make it work for you:

Get on
the Floor

When it
comes time to “get organized,” most of us turn first to a store for a product
to transform chaos into calm. But no amount of plastic tubs or shelving is
going to help if you don’t know what it is that you are living with—and what
you need to store.

 Before
you buy, get on the floor. Make piles of “like things,” and then ask
yourself—with each object you hold—if this were living, breathing and alive and
needed to be fed and nurtured (like a member of your family) is it worthy of a
home? Personifying things helps to clarify what’s important in our lives.

 It also
provides an inventory of our lives—when you make your piles you may be
surprised at what you are holding on to, and how much. Give yourself permission
to let go of items that don’t support your family. You’ll free up valuable real
estate, your home will appear larger—as if it has lost weight—and you may not
need to buy that storage product after all.

Do The
Math

“Too much stuff” overwhelms both
kids and adults. You can decide as a family how much is “too much,” but find a
threshold that works for you. If you notice a child struggling to decide what toy
to play with, or what snack to pick out, the answer may be volume more than
indecision.

 Once you have your
piles, do the math. Identify how many items from each category your family
needs and give away the rest. For example, if you are sorting clothes,
calculate how many dresses your daughter can wear the summer she turns two,
then eliminate the rest.

Think
Like a Retail Store

When you shop, you can see
everything quickly. This makes it easy to make choices. Take this concept home.
A child who can’t see into the back of a jammed drawer will grab what’s up
front, limiting what they use. Or, they will reach deep and yank out what they
want, making a mess of what’s up front. Adults are the same—what we see is what
we use.

As you pick your piles up off the
floor, think about how and where you are going to store them. Let shelves “breathe,”
instead of packing them tight. You can help your family achieve by allowing
them to see all the tools and resources at their disposal.

OSL:
Organization as a Second Language

With your home
streamlined, it’s time to communicate with your family. Imagine having words
other than “put that away,” to express how you feel.
Try replacing, “please put it away”
with “where does that live?” and “thank you” with “you put ‘like with like’!”
When you introduce an organization language into the home, parents and kids
have a common base from which to communicate problems and celebrate triumphs.

Children as
young as one year old will get excited to pick up and will do so without being
asked, if they know where something goes. Positive language about organization
leads to excellence at school, increased self-esteem and stronger independence.
And, organized kids serve as role models for other kids—which can benefit you
on play dates and at home.

Create
Kid Power

Children love responsibility. Invite them to participate
when organizing the home, particularly their rooms. Ask a child to show you
what they like, what they don’t like, accept their answers and thank them
heartily for their input.

Empower
your kids with responsibility and watch them get excited for their weekly home
and school routines. Kids love to demonstrate how helpful they can be, so
you’ll be reinforcing valuable lessons about helping and sharing. Teach your
kids to make their beds or set out their breakfast bowl. Give them one job to
call their own during your weekly routine. Learn to organize with your kids,
not around them. Make them part of the solution, and watch for positive
behavioral changes around the home.

Create
a Nerve Center

Time and
again I see families with life scattered inward from the front door. Bags
dumped in doorways, mail dropped on tables, keys and wallets scattered about.
Family calendars are on countertops and laptops are plugged in wherever they
can.

 Every
family home needs a two-tiered nerve center: first, a place to ‘stop and drop’,
and second, a place to take care of business of the home. Make certain you have
a table or landing zone for what comes in the front door. And then, establish a
second spot a nerve center for important documents, school papers, phone
numbers and schedules, health information. Keep folders labeled by kid names,
activities or color. Try storing your
nerve center on the kitchen countertop or pullout drawer.

Get
Shelved

In small
apartments, every shelf inch matters. Invest in a closet system that does the
sorting for you, with space for shelves, hanging rods and slide-out drawers or
bins. There are a variety of price levels from California Closets to DIY
shelving from Home Depot, Target or Lowes. These units are flexible and easy to
change-up over time. With a few adjustments a system styled for a child’s room
can turn into a teenager’s closet or home office. You can even disassemble and
take them with you on a move. One up-front investment can last a long time.

 If you
already have good shelves, make sure they are spaced efficiently. Once again,
think retail: stores don’t waste valuable real estate, neither should you.

Maeve
Richmond is the founder of Get Your House in Order, a NYC-based home
organization firm that teaches organizational skills to kids, pack-rats, busy
professionals and parents needing extra time in their days. Contact her at
[email protected] for tips on how to get to the other side of household
clutter, and follow her on Twitter as ClutterGirl.

Pictured: Apple Bank Condominium, 2112 Broadway.

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