Someday, I will have a house that’s big enough to satisfy all of our family’s needs, desires, and dreams. It will be able to hold all of our stuff so well and we’ll be able to live more than comfortably. Well, friends, that day is not today. As excited as I am for the day that we’ll have an overflow of space, I’m also immensely grateful for the space we have right now.
My little family of four currently resides in a three-bedroom two-bathroom open-concept ranch house. Yep, ranch, meaning one story. We do not have a basement or extra room or functional attic to store everything. This wasn’t so bothersome pre-kids when it was just the two of us; it wasn’t even too bothersome once we added our first child. However, now that there are four of us, we’re maxing it out quickly. (Who knew these kids would just keep growing so fast each year?!) We’ve had to get very creative with organization techniques in order to optimize the space we’ve got, which leads me to my first major thought in this:
Do what you can with what you have.
The Comparison Trap
Over the years, I would often find myself comparing our situation to peers and friends, wondering why they seem to have it more together and why their houses felt more functional for kids than mine. (I highly do not recommend comparing yourself to others in any situation.) I came to realize that every family’s house I compared ours to had almost double the space we did. Almost every house I compared with ours had two stories, a basement, or extra room for storage.
Comparison only set me up for disappointment and frustration! I realized quickly that it was time for me to view our situation as uniquely ours, troubleshoot our organizational issues, and find what works for us. I didn’t need to focus on finding universal solutions; focusing on the specifics of our situation would enable me to find functional solutions. This path also led me to make some other necessary realizations when it comes to how I view our space.
As a stay-at-home mom, I am the default parent, as well as the primary house cleaner and organizer. This is mostly due to the fact that I am home more often since I don’t have a place of work to go to regularly. (I do, however, work part-time remotely, but that still enables me to be the adult/parent who is home more.) I have found that the key to doing what I can with what I have is recognizing the difference between decluttering and tidying.
Decluttering vs. Tidying
Tidying is the process of straightening up what you already have, while decluttering is the process of paring down in order to have fewer things overall. I think about these two different categories of items as quality vs quantity. Tidying focuses on keeping the quality of our items in good shape by taking care of them and putting them away properly. Decluttering focuses on the amount of items we have, and making sure that amount is manageable and realistic.
Another key I’ve come to realize in this journey is the importance of working smarter, not harder. I’m always looking to maximize our storage capabilities, even with the minimal space we have. Sometimes, this comes in the form of certain organizational products, and other times it’s a process or system to implement.
There are a few must-haves I use frequently to optimize our organizational space. Vacuum sealed bags are so useful for storing sheet and bedding sets! We have a few different colored/themed sheet sets. I put each set in its own vacuum sealed bag and it makes the set very flat. Once I vacuum-seal and flatten all of the bedding sets, I’m able to easily stack them on the top shelf of our closet.
We also have a tufted velvet storage bench in our master bedroom that helps us with organization. The top of the bench raises up like a lid of sorts, revealing a deep empty storage area. Not only does the bench look nice (and gives our kids a place to lay when they sneak into our room), but it also provides a fair amount of storage space for overflow books, photo albums, meaningful keepsakes, and other various items that need a place to reside.
I also utilize under-the-bed storage organizers under every bed and couch in our house. Under the living room couch, I store our seasonal/holiday books that we don’t have shelf space for throughout the year, as well as seasonal decor items. The under-the-bed organizers typically store sandals or seasonal clothing that we rotate out during the course of each year.
Implementing a regular decluttering cycle has also helped me greatly. I’ve gotten to the point where I go through and declutter the kids toys (especially the stash in their rooms) at least weekly. There are some weeks when I don’t find anything to get rid of, but I at least make sure to go through and check. This process has made decluttering so much easier and less time consuming since it’s happening regularly, instead of just a few times a year.
Getting Your Space to Work for You
My biggest encouragement in all of this is to make your space work for you. It doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing, or “the norm,” or what other people like. . . . It just has to work for you. The ultimate goal is for you to enjoy your home, and to make memories with your family there. When your home is set up to work most effectively for you, this allows you to enjoy the space more and have more bandwidth to spend time with family. I’m constantly trying to let go of a perfectionistic ideal of my home; I really am happier when I strive for adjusting our home to be perfect for us, not perfect by anyone else’s standards.
Adjust your expectations, and know someday it won’t be like this. You’ll have the white furniture and the absence of toy-clutter, but with that also comes kids who are all grown up. Every season holds different blessings, and finding the positives in each one is crucial for restoring peace.