life in a tiny apartment.

August 16, 2016

life in a tiny apartment: rearranging | reading my tea leaves

Tip #141: Hone Your Rearranging Skills

I was not a kid who grew up rearranging my bedroom. When I was little, my sister Cait and I shared a room and we didn’t have much of a say in (or opinions about) what went where. When I was older and I had a room of my own, the constraints of an old house and wonky corners meant that the bed really only fit in one corner of the room. 

James, on the other hand, was a serial re-arranger. He moved his bed and desk and a parade of stuffed animals around his room in what sounds like it must have been a dozen different arrangements. 

In a small space, some amount of comfort with rearranging is a helpful skill.  Small spaces often seem as through they’ll only work in a particular arrangement, but a little creativity can create a solution that allows for more space, or a better flow, or a generalized sense of improvement. Here’s to a sense of in a tiny apartment: rearranging | reading my tea leaves

As I mentioned last week, we recently invested in a new bed for Faye. And what I didn’t mention then, but what I will now, is that part of the reason for the bed switch has to do with the second tiny person who we’ll be welcoming into our home in January. (Yes. The pregnant woman I referred to in yesterday’s post was, indeed, me.) So, we’re figuring out to make the room work for two kiddos instead of one and that meant adding a bed to the equation without subtracting the crib. Tricky math.

We’ve gotten the room to a place where I’m no longer fearful that everything won’t fit, but some of the details of how exactly everything will come together are still to be determined. In the meantime, a few tips for approaching rearrangement in a small space:life in a tiny apartment: rearranging | reading my tea leaves

Take turns/Find fresh eyes. James and I can get in each others way a little bit when it comes to rearranging. I’ll declare I hate something a millisecond after it’s been moved. He’ll move something I just decided was perfect where it was. If we stay in the same room mid-rearrange, we’re bound to get a little grumpy with each other. But when one of us takes a little break, everything gels. Left to our own devices, one of us usually thinks of something that the other might not have, and given half a chance to finish giving something a try without anyone chiming in mid-process, we usually end up finding something to agree upon. The advice? Step away and let someone else step in. Take a walk; go make a snack in the kitchen; leave each other to work something out in relative silence and then come back together to determine whether the switch was a good thing.

Keep your storage versatile. There’s no better time to be reminded of the value of versatile storage options than during a room rearrange. If you solve a storage solution with plastic bins kept hidden under a bed, for instance, you have less flexibility about how to shift things around once that bed needs to move. (Unless you rather like looking at plastic bins, in which case, perfect.) Whenever I’m in the midst of a rearrange and realize I need a new place to stash something, I try to think of a solution that could remain flexible should something need to change again. Right now I’m puzzling ideas for toy storage where not everything is on display and I’m keeping my “beautiful and useful” mantra on repeat as I mull it over.

Don’t panic; purge. We all know the value of a good purge, even for folks who pride themselves on only keeping the bare essentials. I was starting to get worried about having space for two kid’s worth of clothes + cloth diapers in Faye’s current dresser, but when I actually endeavored to take a deeper look inside, I realized there was about a dresser drawer’s worth of things that could be consolidated, sorted, and passed along to friends. No need to toss everything, but giving a hard look at what’s working never hurt anyone.

Push through the awkward stage. Rearranging a space means getting through an inevitable awkward stage. There’s no way to avoid it, and I actually think it’s a good thing. When we first put the new bed in Faye’s room my first reaction was “Nope. No way.” But a few weeks in and it already feels like it’s always been there. That doesn’t mean I’m in love with how the rug looks in the new set-up, or that I think I’ve found the perfect under-bed storage solution. But giving myself the time to feel a little unsure means I’ll hopefully eventually end up with a space that feels right in the end.

Tiny apartment survival tips #1-140, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Sarah Z August 16, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Congratulations on the second tiny person!! How wonderful. I always love reading about your creative solutions for finding space for, well, everything.

    Also, very interested to hear more on your black-out curtain solution!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thank you! (Black-out curtain post coming tomorrow!)

  • Reply Annie August 16, 2016 at 10:06 am

    My husband, son (4) and daughter (1 1/2) and I live in a 660 sq ft 2 bedroom bungalow and I was just rearranging the kids beds again last night, trying to figure out the best configuration until they are old enough for bunk beds…
    Thanks for this post and all the others- always a good reminder 🙂
    Congrats on #2!

    • Reply Liz September 22, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Annie, have you considered a bunk bed where the bottom bunk is (essentially) on the floor? We moved our then just-turned-two year old into one when the baby outgrew its Moses basket. Even if he did roll out (which he never has) it’s not far to fall. Our ‘baby’ is now 1 1/2 and in 6 months or so we’ll move big brother to the top bunk and him into the bottom bunk. We have this one and the boys love it

  • Reply Helen August 16, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Congrats! #2 was a big game changer for us. I really had to plumb the depths of my well of patience and energy but the reward (twice as much heart exploding love!) was worth it. Will you show some images of the whole space?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Thanks! Will share more photos one day!

  • Reply Cynthia August 16, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Congratulations to all! I picked up your hint yesterday and today’s hint too. I will enjoy your process because it is always so inspirational, beautiful, simple, and lovely.

  • Reply Molly August 16, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Congratulations on the second kiddo! Things changed so much for us after our second was born. He’s almost a year old now, though, and it feels like our family never would have been complete without him. Best of luck!

  • Reply Mary Kate August 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear more about life with 2 little ones. You make it look so effortless (though I’m sure that’s not really the case behind the scenes!)

  • Reply Stacy August 16, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    First, congratulations! Second, like James I, too, am a serial rearranger. My boyfriend often comes home to find things moved around. In fact, I was once grounded as a kid for switching bedrooms with my sister! He’s gotten used to it, fortunately. I just know there’s always a better arrangement. And it’s cheaper than buying new stuff 😉

  • Reply Kari.M August 16, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Congratulations! I saw the post on Instagram and am so thrilled for you both. And I always love hearing about how you make things work in a small space. I get so many ideas from you.

  • Reply Manjiri August 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Erin, I love your posts. We had a baby recently and for various reasons were considering downsizing from a 2BR to a 1BR and you have been my inspiration. Congratulations on the 2nd LO. I am a little confused looking at the pictures….There will be a full bed, twin bed and crib in your bedroom?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Good luck with your move! We moved our full bed out of bedroom and into the main room of our apartment last fall. There’s just a twin bed, a crib, and a dresser in the bedroom now.

      • Reply emma August 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        would love to see a wider shot of the room (and the imperfect rug-situation 😉 ) but mostly I am curious about the bed you chose.

        • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm

          gah! can’t give away *all* my secrets. 😉 no wide angle shots, but i did just post a shot to instagram that shows a bit more! for the bed, we got a twin version of the same frame we have for our bed!

  • Reply Ashley August 16, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Where did u get the linen curtains? And congrats! Sending some love and prayers

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you! I made the curtain. More coming tomorrow…

  • Reply Katie Swanson August 16, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    When we were pregnant with our first we lived in less than 400 sf and were seriously looking at baby hammocks for a sleep solution. When we had our second we lived in 500 sf. Our eldest is the worlds worst sleeper so the baby first slept with us and then when that fell apart we had him sleeping in the bathroom where he was happy as a clam for five months. Ha! Flexibility and re-arranging are such key strengths to hone when you live in small spaces.

  • Reply Beth August 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    AHHH, I always have to make myself wait out the awkward stage. We moved in April, so I went through it a lot then. I also just rearranged my classroom today, and it’s making me antsy!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      yes! funny how everything takes a while to just…gel.

  • Reply Anna August 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Congrats on baby number two. Siblings are so fun to watch grow up together! Oh the joy.
    Been enjoying your blog and your great common sense ideas!

  • Reply Virginia Ritter August 16, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    When I saw your new post I immediately had to sit down and read. Let me just say how 100% true everything you said is. My husband and I live in a very tiny one room home. We recently rearranged our furniture (I consider rearranging free therapy) and I got this bright idea to put the bed in the center. He thought it was crazy considering how little space we have but in the end we both loved it and it actually allowed for us to feel like we have “rooms!” So I’m right there with you and know what it feels like to see the furniture seemingly taking over. Also, the twine pull handles on that bureau… genius.

  • Reply Kellie August 16, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I often struggle with not wanting all the kids’ toys on display vs. hiding them away so much that they don’t play with them. Our living room is currently home to no fewer than 8 different baskets with various toys like train tracks, trucks, blocks, magnatiles sorted into each one. It works well for the kids being able to get at what they want to play with, but sometimes it can feel a bit like the baskets are taking over my tiny house!

  • Reply Carmella August 16, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Oh, the thrills of two! And a high-five to littles sharing a room (and to mamas and papas for figuring out how to work it)! Our three guys have shared one their whole lives – from the time the baby outgrew the Moses basket beside our bed (about three months old) – and at 17, 14, and 12, they still don’t mind. Their separate spaces within their loft and curtained bunk nooks provide privacy and autonomony when they need it.

  • Reply Amélie August 17, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Congratulations !!!!

  • Reply Barbara August 17, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Congratulations! I so love happy news! I mentally rearrange furniture when I can’t sleep at night. We downsized to a small townhouse almost three years ago and I’m always trying to make the space we have work better for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reorganized the kitchen! Spaces need multiple purposes and personalities.

  • Reply Victoria August 17, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Congrats! Keep us posted on the toy storage. I am tackling that situation right now! The options for us seem to be woven baskets, wire baskets, wooden crates, or some low bookshelves. I also think part of the key is maybe having a set number of storage containers and don’t allow them to get too full by giving things away periodically that baby has outgrown.

  • Reply Angela August 17, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I knew it! Congratulations to the three of you!!

  • Reply Lauren n August 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    So funny–I’m in the process of rearranging my bedroom right now. I purged (a lot. so freeing), working on more storage, but I think the tip I’ll take home is to get some fresh eyes to weigh in on the arrangement! My room is so small and I need to create more of a (art)workspace in there, but I’m kinda stumped. Thanks for these seemingly simple reminders. And I wish your family the best in transitioning from 3 to 4!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Abby August 17, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Congratulations!! Looking forward to hearing how life changes with two. We just welcomed our first little one, and we’ve been constantly referencing your Baby Proof posts, from cloth diapering (a constant adventure) to using a Moses basket to making diaper deodorizing disks. They’ve been a fantastic guide for us so far…thank you!

    (Also, I made slightly more complicated-looking blackout curtains, so I’m looking forward to finding out how you did it!)

  • Reply Claudie August 18, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Congratulations for Baby #2! I thought when you were in France that you might bring such a great souvenir from abroard, (we concieved our second on a trip to Italy). But it was already there! Very happy for the 3 of you. Hope everything fine for you. For me 2 was in some ways easier, in other harder (as 1 took a lot of space). 2,5 year between the childreen is great I think. All the best. Bonjour de France

  • Reply Charlotte August 19, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I’ve been following your tiny apartment series for years and, as an accidental maximalist, find your ideas fascinating. Do you have any apartment tour posts that show the lay out of where you’re currently living? Would be interesting to see the space you’re working with (apologies if you’ve already posted this and I’ve missed it!)

    Charlotte xxx

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 19, 2016 at 10:12 am

      There’s this guest post on Cup of Jo that shows a fairly recent portrait of the apartment. And I link to a floor plan in this post.

  • Reply Mary Cate August 19, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Congrats on baby #2!!! xx

  • Reply Rebecca August 27, 2016 at 7:15 pm


  • Reply Heidi August 30, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Yay, another baby! You are such a inspiration for paring down and getting by with what you have. We’re in England right now, with very few items, and other necessities back in Seattle in storage. We move back to Seattle after Christmas, and are currently rearranging as our nearly 4 month old needs a crib (thats a cotbed now, which my nearly 3 year old is quite partial to). We didn’t really want to buy a second crib. We had a futon for guests, that are few and far between now, that we decided our daughter can use for our remaining months, then our son can have the crib. Problem solved. Nothing new came into the house. Thanks for all the ideas embedded in this blog to help people like me think a little harder to get by, just a bit more simply.

    Also, any recommendations on crib mattress pads/waterproof liners? How about for potty training toddlers?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 30, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Hi there!

      Thanks so much for your note and your kind words! Our crib mattress actually comes with a waterproof liner, so we never invested in another for that. For Faye’s twin bed, we have this one! Good luck with your move!

  • Reply Breanna Marie August 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Congratulations on welcoming another member to your family! Best wishes!

  • Reply Tessa September 2, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Congrats! I thoroughly love your blog and am finishing your book right now! My sister-in-law called this week telling me she is pregnant with their first baby! I’d love to send her a little gift (preferably for her, not the baby). She too lives in a tiny apartment. Any recommendations? Thank you!

  • Reply SEM September 19, 2016 at 10:12 am

    where did you find your natural colored basket… The collapsable one…?

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