A few months ago, I wrote a post on how math could help us get more out of the home space we have. Now, looking around my home, I suddenly realize that without conscious intention, I put many of my advices to work. Observing the results, I believe that we now use our not-so-large home more effectively and enjoy it more than before. Here are the 6 simple things that I tackled:
My husband has size 14 shoes. They are almost 12" or 30cm in length each. It took me years to realize that he needs much more shoe closet space than I or any of the kids. But even when we divide it 1-to-3, with him taking a whole half of the closet and me sharing the other half with the kids, his shoes outflow his space. I do have hard time believing him that he does need separate sneakers for running, basketball, squash and hiking. But it is too late - all this (and much more) is already in the closet. One simple approach would be to divide the closet floor proportionally to the shoe sole area. But a truly ingenious geometrical solution is to consider the other dimensions. On this Ikea rack, small or large size shoes take the same space when arranged vertically.
Writing about the statistics of our use of each of the rooms, I created a home usability spreadsheet that can be downloaded here. Studying it, made me realize that our living room was vastly underused. We were barely spending 6 hours per week in it, that is 2.5% of our total home-spent awake time. Why didn't we use the new reading couches and bookshelves we recently purchased? Mainly because the light in the room was never strong enough for the evening reading. Last month we installed four cute little spotlights that are strong enough for late night winter reading or a family game. We put a few games, books and magazines on the table and encourage kids to cuddle with a soft warm blanket on the sofas to read, chat or play.
A discussion with my friend who recently moved into a new home and from all the rooms that needed renovation, decided to concentrate time and money first of all on the kitchen because "we all spend so much time there" made me review my family's room usability chart. Indeed, after the office (I work from home), our open kitchen-dining-homework area is the busiest in the house and perhaps it is about time we invest to redo the antiquated 70th style kitchen to something more fitting our taste.
Feel free to upload and modify this room usability spreadsheet to investigate what is being under and over used in your home.
Learning from a flight attendant's suitcase packing tips, I started rolling my towels instead of folding and immediately gained extra space in our closet. Plus, kids find it much more fun to help me now. However, their favorite rolling place is the floor.
Ever since we moved to the East Coast from LA, we were wondering why toilets and vanities seem to be much lower here. The standard 30" height of the bathroom cabinets apparently came from the old days when water bowls were just put atop a dresser. Such a low height may work well for kids of certain age and height, but little kids still need a stool and teenagers are the height of their parents. Therefore, unless you are running a home-school, you can be much more comfortable with a higher vanity that does not require so much bending. Especially, if you have a bad back. To test this, we tried hand washing and teeth brushing in a kitchen sink, as kitchen counter height is usually 36". We liked it and when redoing our bathroom after an occidental flooding, we knew that we wanted to fit our home to our "tall" needs.
When turning our utilities room into my husbands' office and contemplating the style of the bi-fold doors that should cover the washing and drying machines, I recollected my own advice: "Mirrors make room appear larger and brighter by reflecting the light instead of absorbing it as walls do." Now, we can't believe that we got so much visible space out of the junkyard of utilities and storage.
Please feel free to post in the comments your own advices and stories on creating more space or making home more efficient with the use of trivial and not so trivial mathematical thinking. You can also share your own Home Usability Chart with your kids discussing how to make heavily used rooms more fun and underused rooms more practical.