Changing spaces

15 July 2009
When we first moved into our current home, we made quite a few changes. The house had been lived in by an older couple and some of the things that suited them didn't suit us. We pulled up the carpet and laid a wood floor, we changed the kitchen, added verandahs front and back and put in gardens and the chook house. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply.

It's very easy to look at a new home and see spaces you don't really like, or know they won't work for your family and just ignore them. I want to encourage you to change what doesn't suit you. If you don't, you're changing yourself to suit the house.

We all have different circumstances and expectations but all of us can benefit from changing our living space to suit how we live. For instance, if you do a lot of sewing, you should have a space to store your equipment and fabrics; if you write or paint, you should have a quiet space to do it; if you bake a lot, have all your needs close to where you work. Outside, your mower and garden tools will serve you well if they're stored in a space out of the weather and close to a work bench were you can carry out your maintenance.

I guess the obvious and easy change is to create garden beds where there are none and to build a chook house or tractor. That change alone, while not costing the earth will equip you to provide a measure of fresh food right from your home. But there are other less obvious changes to be made, you just have to look at the space around you in a creative way with a focus on your sustainability.

Out in the back yard, along with the gardens and chickens, you could think about water tanks or barrels. If you don't have the finances for that now, it might we something worth saving for if your climate is fairly dry, if you get all your annual rain in a few months, or if you have a vegetable garden. And even if you don't have the money for big tanks right now, see if you can set up a system whereby you collect some water when it rains. We have a couple of 200 litre tubs here that, when full, can keep our garden going for a week. We just fill the watering cans or buckets from the tubs and transfer the water to the garden. It's more work than hosing, but we don't mind carting our harvested water the short distance. Make sure you set up your collector tanks close to where it will be used. Btw, mosquitoes take about 10 - 14 days, depending on the type, to go from egg to mosquito. Harvesting the water within a ten day period will kill the larvae before they fully develop. Or, you could just scoop the larvae out with a fine fish net.

Inside the home you might look for a cupboard to store your stockpile. I think one of the downsides of many modern homes is the lack of cupboard space. Think creatively about your cupboards, if you have a big cupboard near your kitchen, or in the laundry or garage, that may suit your stockpile better than what is currently in it.

Move pots and pans, baking supplies, tea and coffee making supplies close to where they're used. Organising your kitchen well will save you a lot of time and effort. It just takes an hour or so to think about how you work in your kitchen and then moving things closer to where they're needed.

Make a space to sit with your tea and coffee. This space might also serve well as the place you talk quietly with your partner, read to the children, write letters, knit or stitch. You need a space like this just as you need a place to store your linens or groceries. Make a space for yourself - make the house suit you, not the other way around.

I could go right through the house but I'm sure you get what I mean. Making small changes to your home will make your life easier. Modify the house to suit the type of family you are. Make the spaces work for you and if they don't, change them. Your home is one of the key tools you have in your life, making a few adjustments to make it work as it should and have it accommodate the activities of your family, will make living there easier. There will be some changes that cost money, just do them as the money becomes available, but many changes will cost only the effort you put in to make them happen.

I hope you identified some changes you want to make when we did our simple audit last week. So if you have some plans, I encourage you to dive right in and enjoy the process of change. You'll be making your home fit your family instead of living with the feeling that the house isn't quite right. This is another one of those things where we take the bull by the horns and give it a good shake, instead of sitting back wishing things were different.

Do it thoughtfully, take it slow and enjoy the change.


  1. Our last home was a 3600 s.f. monster and I designed all the spaces for the entertainment of many. In the first few years we had so many folks for dinner parties and gathers, my home was the one they all flocked to. Over time I grew weary of it and slowly our group fanned out to others for gatherings and all that space became cavernous when it wasn't filled. I then realized that I needed so little of it and how easy it would be to downsize.

    This tiny cottage of 1200 s.f. much better suits our needs and we've organized it for us and no-one else. We still have a few folks over but it's maybe one or two others and there's a lovely wrap around porch for summer gathering. None of us really travel in winter *g*

    I still find this space a bit large but honestly it's difficult to even find small houses anymore so it's going to have to suit us.

    If I ever have to move I think I'd build about 750 s.f. and that would be it. It's amazing what you can do in tiny spaces!

  2. Change is good. I fell into a rut with my home when I worked. Now that I have come home, I'm seeing everything differently. I have decided to make an unused space into a 'cute & useful' pantry. I also plan to tear down a kitchen wall next year to make that special place for sitting and conversing.
    Thank you for the idea of an additional water supply by using tubs in the garden to catch the rain water. This will be a perfect solution for us until we acquire some barrels.

  3. "If you don't, you're changing yourself to suit the house". Amen, sister! Whenever my husband and I built our house, I spent hours figuring out just how I wanted the kitchen to be laid out. I nearly drove my husband crazy. I can truthfully say that the time was well worth it. My kitchen is very small (only 8'wide x 18'long, including the dining area. It's the best kitchen I've ever had because everything is stored just where it is logical for things to be. Even the window overlooks the small stream and pond and I can enjoy the view while I wash dishes. Our bedroom is very peaceful and I love each piece of furniture that occupies space in that room. I love waking up in our bedroom. To this day, our house feels like we are on vacation most of the time. Lest you think our house is large - it's not - it's only 1,200 sq. ft. with two bedrooms, two baths, living room, kitchen and tv room. We are very fortunate to have been able to literally build our house from trees we cut down on our property. We physically did everything from digging the footings to shingling the roof. It was very tiring work, but how satisfying in the end. We didn't have money for a large house, but we did have energy to make our house suit us.

    I tell you and your readers all this not to suggest that everyone go to the woods, cut trees and build their house, BUT to say that it is absolutely vital that wherever you live, you need to surround yourself with peace and comfort. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, make sure that you have it arranged in a way that makes you at'll get there if you keep trying.

    Rhonda, your writings give me such warm and confident feelings that there is a path that everyone can find, if we try hard enough. You are such an inspiration.

    Diane in North Carolina

  4. Wow... and you are telling me this while we are dreaming about a new place to live? ;o)

    We've already taken a look at our home and at first I want to change our stockingplace. Maybe (I really don't know for sure) we've got some wallpaint to change the walls and second we need to change the door. Probably a serious amount of money, but I think it's worth the while.

    Also nice to read this story while this morning I was in a store and almost bought a book about Feng Shui: how to (re)decorate your home... ;o)

  5. Once again a great post Rhonda! When we moved into our home, I spent much time organizing the kitchen to make it enjoyable to work in and I love it!

    We use our large closet for stockpile and it works out very well for us.

    We starting using rain barrels this year but they have been empty! Today is the first time it has rained in 63 days! It was like the great dustbowl. Our pond which I have been using to water the garden has gone bone dry so I welcome the rain today. :)

  6. My oldest daughter has always wanted her own room and dreams of having her own cottage on our property one day but we have already extended once and cannot afford to add on more rooms or even buy one of those kitset sheds which can be used for extra accomodation. It was a case of using what we had which was an old caravan which she has taken on as her 'renovation rescue' project. Over the last week she has been ripping out the old panels and cupboards which were in a sorry state and insulating it and relining it with the help of her dad. She has come up with a design for her new room which includes furniture, lighting, colours, fabrics and she has measured and costed everything out. It is going to be a 'shabby chic' retreat. She even plans to have gardens around the caravan. I suggested a climbing rose over the door but she replied 'Oh no, you can't eat a rose, I'm going to be growing food!' By the way she is only 14! And to think I was ready to take that old caravan to the dump!

  7. I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I think it's amazing. At the moment, I am living with my parents (I'm 22), after having spent the past year living in a shared house. In September, my boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together, and your blog (and lifestyle too I guess!) has given me so many ideas about what I want to do with wherever we end up living. Thank you!

  8. Funny you should post about this today, Rhonda! I've spent the last two days deep-cleaning, de-cluttering and re-organising my kitchen and it's so much better now.

    I've also made room in the lounge for a sewing table (which I need to find) and am working on the linen cupboard and laundry today.

    Thanks for the encouragement and more lovely ideas.

    Cath in Sydney

  9. Something must be in the air today.I have spent most of the day clearing out the room I call my Studio to make one half of it into a pantry.We are doubling our canning,butchering many chickens and stocking up for winter.I needed more room for food.
    We have 1150 sq feet here and 4 people.I have to be careful and keep things tidy and organized or the house turns into a crazy jumble.

  10. Just wanted to say thank you for your excellent articles, photos and great ideas you share here!! I love coming is always interesting. Maybe someday I will actually get some of them into my home!!

  11. Rhonda,

    Again a wonderful and inspiring post! We've got a wonderful home and I'm looking into things slowly but surely that will make our lives easier along with the lives of our children. There's just too much of everything for the little people and too much for mom and dad, too, but we're going thru everything bit by bit. My mom gave me a great goal and that was to spend at least 10 minutes on our house each day doing something that I've been wanting to do, whether it be organizing or recovering chairs, etc. It helps! Thanks again, for a wonderful post!

    ~ Heather

  12. One of the upsides of living in a house that's older than God (well maybe not that old, but I'm 26 so it's old to me) is that I have a rather large kitchen and lots of cupboard space...not to mention a rather large pantry. The house that we lived in before had 2 set of cupboard and was so tiny we called it our "one person kitchen".
    I do wish that our home was a little bit more open - we had to take the doors off dividing the entryway from the kitchen and from the kitchen to the living room - I guess in the 50's having doors dividing everything was all the rage! LOL
    It could be worse though...I've seen worse!
    Thanks for the great post! Keep em coming!!!

  13. I am living with my son & the only room that I can call mine is a bedroom. I made it to suit me so that I can escape to a peaceful place of my making. I managed to fill it with what I still owned...mainly personal items. My bedroom is the only place where I still can be me.
    Living simple in CA.

  14. Fantastic timing Rhonda, as only a few hours earlier I wrote on my facebook page about my ongoing obsession with my home and garden. Though I am not particularly good at maintaining either, I feel as though I am learning and growing - and this alone is a huge hapiness booster!! Your blog is amazing - so inspiring and very interesting to read. Thanks so much!!

  15. I tend to find tweaking my apartment to work better for me is a great start to getting things in my life moving along better. I still have a ways to go, but moving things around to suit me has been a really useful exercise, especially in terms of both productivity and enjoying my home more.

    When I moved around and resorted my desk, bookshelf, and filing cabinet, I became more productive. When I set up my living room well, I spent more time out there reading (both for work and pleasure) and enjoyed myself more when I did. I don't always get things right on the first try, but if it doesn't work, I just try again, and usually figure out what's going to work best for me.

  16. Thanks again Ruth, for a thought-provoking post that has as always returned me to my thinking hat. I did this exact thing - audited and reasoned the space and use - when I 'decorated' our son's room, but for some reason I let it stop there. I am now aware that with a bit of effort, but not much cost, I can surely rally the spaces left over to better suit my family.
    I can't wait until your book, because although there are a lot out there that tell me this or that, there aren't any that speak to me like the mentor I never had, in easy steps like you do.

  17. How timely this post is. I have been working out in my mind what to change around here. Our home was built to meet the needs of my husband and I. Then our granddaughter moved in and we made room for her but she doesn't realy have space of her own. We have done just what you suggested not to do live with a space that doesn't fit.

    We are in the planning stages for putting an addition on our home so everyone can be comfortable. In the mean time I am trying to find spaces to store all the things a child needs including toys, clothes and a quite space to relax.

    Thank you for the ideas it gives me good fuel to think more and make the changes.

  18. Dear Rhonda, Sorry this is off topic, but I want to ask if you can repost the link to Sharon's flickr account to see the last swap things. I can't find the link on your blog.

  19. This is actually something I've been thinking about lately. I've had the "urge to purge".

  20. Thank you for the lovely post. It makes me feel better about how much time and thought I put into my house. These things aren't valued by everyone, but you're absolutely right that we should make our homes over into what works for us.

    I just posted on my blog today, in fact, about out kitchen makeover. For less than $200 (mostly paint) my husband and I have turned our kitchen from a dark and dreary space to one that is bright and cheery and begs us to spend time in it. I love it! Here is the link for anyone looking for ideas:

    I would love for y'all to visit and tell me what you think! It was a lot of work, but so worth it.

  21. Three years ago I bought my first house. What an adventure...
    It doesn't seem like it, looking from the outside, but it´s a 2700 square feet for 1 person, 1 dog, 3 cats. It's kind of "open space", with very few doors (WC, bedroom, basement. It's too big for me but I like it and it was a very good deal.
    It was built 76 years ago and had a major renovation by the previous owners, some 20 years ago.
    I've been working a lot to improve it. Most of the "small spaces" aren't yet ready or defined - my office area seems to spread to the entire area.

  22. Rhonda, I love when you post pics of spaces in your home that you've organized so neatly. It inspires me to get up and get something done around here. I wish you had somebody to post about living and organizing for small children. I have three ages 10, 3, and 1. It seems that it is a forever ongoing battle of dealing with toys and mess. Any Ideas?

  23. Thanks for this reminder Rhonda, I've been living with spaces that don't work for me for a long time now believing that I'm not worth the effort of trying to make it work. I just left it like it was because it suited everyone else, but after reading this post I'm going to make some changes around here, seeing as I spend more time in the home than any other member of the family.
    So thanks for reminding me that my needs are important too.

    cheers Kate

  24. thank you so much Rhonda for helping me realise why I never feel I belong in our home .I gave my eldest son the dining room as a bedroom about 3 years ago ( it was meant to be tempory as he was going to apply to join thwe R A F ) as he and his brother did not like sharing .We now have a very squashed living room as it has dining table and dresser in there too .To get to the table I have to move the couch so we end up eating in front of the t v and not talking over our meals .Imiss the social ,family times we used to have round the table and dislike our living room because it is so cluttered .I can see it's time to take control as the Mum ,reclaim our dining room and offer to put up a partition wall for them in the biggest bedroom which Im going to ask them to share .Surely at 19 and 24 they should be able to get on and respect my feelings .Bless you for your wise words and gentle heart ,love Pam



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