Firstly, apologies, I made the promise to post regularly and I have been a bit lax this month, but you know Christmas … December … Gin … Blah blah blah. But anyway, I’m back, for now. We’ve received a few emails in the last couple of weeks (thanks guys!) about small space living, and it’s something I’m going to talk about over the next few blogs.
Small space living seems to be something of a buzz word at the minute, whether its all the wonderful design and lifestyle programmes showing you just how lovely a tiny space can be, or the reality that we need to consider the number of 6-bedroom monstrosities that are being built. Space is a premium, and a premium which is widely unaffordable for people today.
Perhaps unsurprisingly I’m a big fan of small space living, of course regular readers will know I wasn’t always, but back in the days of a big brick home I loved watching the tiny house programmes, I marvelled at how these people do it, at the creativity but always thought it can’t truly be liveable. Now my thoughts have changed, in fact they have flipped, I truly struggle to see how and why people have a need for huge homes, three spare bedrooms and umpteen reception rooms, it just doesn’t make sense.
When it comes down to it we as humans need a very small amount of living space, we need somewhere to cook, eat, relax, sleep and keep hygienic, when it comes down to the minimum of what we require, the square footprint really doesn’t have to be so great.
Having established the basics lets get onto the first question, how to make living in a small space more bearable. Honestly here, there are times when living in a small space is absolutely pants, there are other times when it’s great (your gin glass is very rarely out of reach). This said I think there are steps you can take to make small space living easier.
Hobbies & Interests
This is my biggest suggestion here, and one which I think is most important, I’ll undoubtedly mention it across all my posts on small space living. Hobbies, I think, are one of the most important factors. I have a colleague who can not comprehend small space living, but his main hobby is to retreat to his man cave and game. I’m not judging his hobby, it’s his hobby, but I’d have to agree that small space living is probably not for him.
I think its super important to have things which get you out of the space, last year when we had the awful snow, we found ourselves boat bound for a couple of days, had it continued any longer I think we would be taken out in straight jackets.
Prolonged periods in a small space, with another person can be difficult, we both have hobbies which see us out a lot, whether it’s the horses for me or cars and racing for James, or of course walking the pooches together. We have a lot of stuff going on away from the boat, and I think that’s important.
Make it comfortable
When we were first shopping for furniture aboard we took a lot of time to consider everything, we even went along to the boat and laid masking tape on the floor for where the furniture would be. Spending time and looking at the floorplan like this meant we could easily see what worked and what didn’t. It’s your home, it needs to be comfortable, and for me that meant making it as homely as possible. Cushions, throws and all those bits and pieces. You do have to balance this of course with the size of your space, those little bits and pieces have to be functional, you have to need them, having decorative cushions which you remove to sit on the sofa isn’t going to cut it in a space home that’s the size of the average master bedroom.
Realise its home
Regular readers will know this is something I have only just woken up to, and I really regret it has taken me this long. But the boat is home, we now see it as a long-term home but even if it had been a short term solution I still believe that realising and accepting this sooner would have been beneficial.
A home is somewhere you love and put effort into being nice and homely. For the first year or so, as much as I kept Fantine clean and tidy I just didn’t really acknowledge it as home. Now I’ve woken up to this I’m much more interested in updating things, changing them to fit with how we live and use the space. Realise its home sooner and make it feel that way.
Make sure things have a function
Bit of a no-brainer here, but space is limited, this is quite a biggie, and you don’t have to go wild on the Pinterest boards with crazy storage solutions. I’ve changed the way I view things around the boat, anything which takes up considerable space aboard has to have a function. Of course, you can have small decorative bits around the place, that’s often part of the two points above, making a space feel like home, but anything bigger, well it needs to work on more than one level.
Couple of examples of what I’m rabbiting on about, three of the things which take up the most space aboard would be the bed, the sofa and the dining table. As such these weren’t allowed to only function as these things. The bed is built into the boat, with all the space beneath it dedicated to well-built storage, its where we keep the bulk of our stuff. Similarly, with the sofa we searched quite hard to find a sofa which sat quite high off the ground, the beauty of this is we can fit a lot under it without affecting the use of it, including a hidey hole for Rosie the grumpy terrier. The dining table, folds away with the chairs folding up and storing inside it, one neat unit.
It can take a bit more time to find items which allow this, and sometimes they do cost more, but these big space items are the ones which really need to earn the space they command.
Be smart about your storage
There’s not much point spending a lot of time, money and effort in maximising your storage to just throw everything in there willy nilly. To be entirely honest we haven’t been able to get everything of ours into the boat, we have a small storage unit also. The one thing I took the time to do which has paid off more than anything else is the inventory, every box I packed had a number, every numbered box has a list of what it contains, all held on a master spreadsheet. When something is removed it gets marked in a different colour, when it goes back in it gets marked in a different colour.
This has really paid off in two ways, firstly when we need something, we know exactly which box to find it in and exactly where that box is. But this system also allows us to see exactly what has been used and what hasn’t, in the summer I went to our storage unit, armed with the colour coded list which allowed me to see exactly what hadn’t been needed in 12 months, and as such exactly what could be binned.
It seems like a farce at the time, and it does take a bit of extra effort, but it will definitely pay off.
Banish the mess
Small spaces magnify mess, I recently said that the biggest thing to change was that I am no longer lazy, I no longer leave things all over the place. You just can’t do it, as boring as it sounds everything has it’s place and it’s place is where it goes. Mess only magnifies the fact that the space is small and will only serve to make you feel claustrophobic.
Choose your colours wisely
Thinking about colours can be tricky, but honestly it is so important! I mean originally we had it in our heads that we would have a blue kitchen and green walls in the living area. In reality when your space is small and open that would of equalled one big headache. We got our green but that is the only colour, and it flows throughout the open areas of the boat.
We picked the green because it felt warm and cosy, and it’s really helped to lift the boat, it was a very light blueish colour before which to us felt instantly cold.
Honestly though, small space living is difficult, whilst there are steps you can take to ‘get it right’ its often that it organically grows as you adapt to the space.
James & Kirsty