Adjusting to a post-divorce lifestyle can be trying. If you’ve moved out of the family home, you’ve probably had to downsize in terms of space — and that can present challenges. For instance, how do you accommodate the kids on weekends when all you can afford is a one-bedroom apartment? Or how can you make your son enthusiastic about the fact that his new bedroom will be one-half the size of his old one? And how do you keep your new place from looking cluttered and overcrowded when you have to fit so much stuff into such a small space?
“Clutter and small space go hand in hand,” says Keka DasGupta, the PR Coordinator for IKEA Canada. “Storage must be easy and accessible — for you and your kids — or it won’t be used when you get busy.” She points out that the best place to store items is close to where you use them: videotapes beside the VCR, magazines near the couch, shoes by your front door. If you have to pick up an item and carry it to another room to put it away, it’s likely to remain just where it is — cluttering up your living room.
This seems obvious, but what do you do if there isn’t enough space to store your videos beside your VCR, for instance? “Use vertical space as storage,” advises DasGupta. “This makes it easy to keep the floor clear, and you’re not taking up valuable floor space with storage units.” She thinks that walls are a very underutilized resource in most homes, and advises mounting shelves, hooks, and storage units on your walls where they’re needed. Store your videos and CDs in wall-mounted racks above and/or beside the players; that way, you can pop one in to play or put one away without moving a foot. You can also mount lights on the wall to save valuable floor or side-table space in the bedroom or living room.
Another useful tip is to use dual-function furniture: a footstool that doubles as a Nintendo storage unit, or a sidetable that’s also a toy-chest (we’ll show you some great examples of dual-function furniture in the following pages). Even a bed can be dual-function. The most obvious example of this is the sofa-bed, but you can also make a small single bed into a sofa by adding big cushions and a different bedspread. These ideas are particularly useful for a part-time parent who needs an extra bed for a child on weekends.
“Basically, the three principles of furnishing a small space are to have accessible storage located where the items will be used, to choose dual-function furniture, and to take advantage of vertical space — as extra storage or to make two rooms out of one by using a loft concept,” says DasGupta. If you raise your bed (like a bunk bed without the lower bunk), you can use the space beneath it for a wardrobe, desk, or even a couple of chairs and a TV. And don’t forget the “dead space” under beds: use drawers or low boxes on castors to store anything from linen to clothes to toys.
DasGupta adds that if you have young children, make sure to mount their hooks and shelves at a height they can easily reach unaided. Make it as easy as possible for your kids to be neat and you may find you have less nagging to do — which is good news for everyone!
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s move on to showing you some great ideas for your new space.
The Living Room
Front Hall (entry)
Divorce Magazine would like to thank IKEA Canada for their help with this article: both in terms of expert advice and for the use of the photographs to illustrate this piece.