Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to make the most of a small apartment

Q: I HAVE four kids aged 13, 11, seven and five, and we live in an apartment with only two bedrooms and no storeroom.

We have many things, including books, CDs, photos, shoes, stationery and toys, which we had gathered over the years and my husband and I are still buying new items for our children on a regular basis.

We kept all the old toys as it is such a waste to throw them away – they are good-quality toys and still in good condition. It is the same case with books. My daughter loves buying books and we do not want to kill her interest in reading by asking her to stop spending on books.

hen there’s also the textbooks, assessment books, lesson notes, examination papers, all of which we are keeping to hand down to our younger kids.

We are running out of cupboard space for all these items, so much so that I have to keep some of the toys in the children’s wardrobe, along with their clothes; under their study table; and even on the steps on their double-decker bed.

Shoes are another headache.

My children have at least three pairs each, not counting the ones that the older ones cannot wear anymore (which we are keeping for the younger ones). Then there are the shoes belonging to my husband and me.

I hope the professionals can suggest ways we can organise all our things and, if possible, tuck them away neatly.

A: Your two-room apartment is indeed small for a family of six but, with some planning, you would be able to maximise the space and find your things easily as well.

Cluttered living spaces are difficult to maintain, so let’s aim to keep the apartment as spacious as possible but, at the same time, have all the most frequently needed items within easy reach.

You should first consider what you really want to keep. If you are unlikely to ever use something again, it should be disposed of, to free up space.

Next, designate storage zones and prioritise them according to accessibility within your apartment.

For each storage zone, you need suitable storage equipment, for example, hangers, plastic bins and shelves.

You will also have to consider whether to store items on a higher level to maximise the space up there. Naturally, higher storage areas are not as accessible as those that are within reach, so they are best used for items that are seldom used.

When it comes to storage equipment, it is most practical to use something that is strong and durable. But you should also consider getting something that would improve the aesthetics of your home. Therefore, you may want to invest in good-looking furniture for the more visible areas.

The next step is to decide what you want to keep but do not use regularly. These items should go into the storage areas that are less accessible – they could be outside your home.

Things that you need to use more regularly should be stored in the apartment within the designated storage zones.

Organising your things can take quite a bit of time, but it will save you time searching for them later had they not been stored in an organised manner. Do label your boxes clearly so that it will be easier for you to find your things later.

For items that have sentimental value which you cannot bear to junk and yet do not want to keep in the apartment (as they take up too much premium space), you may want to consider self-storage service.

Self-storage can help by allowing you to keep these items in a purpose-built location.

You should select a storage facility in a location that is most convenient for you – either near your workplace or near your home – so that should you need to retrieve your things, you don’t have to travel too far to get them.

Source: my paper, 30 Jun 2010

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