Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home. It's usually harder to get rid of things once you own them, but the next best thing is to recognize unnecessary objects as soon as they're brought in, before you either become attached to them, or used to them being there.
Things you don't need in a small home:
One for every room.
One for every person.
One for every season.
One just for special occasions.
Furniture that exists just to hold one thing.
It's funny that just by going small, you stop needing certain things! We have a number of things that constantly change rooms, depending on where we need them. These “floating items” include oversized throw pillows, flat topped wooden stools that double as side tables, wooden crates, chairs, our small crib, sheepskins, baskets, candles, our coffee table that doubles as kid’s table… As much as possible, we try to have things that are easy to move and serve more than one function. We never have to walk very far to borrow them back again.
Another funny one you might not have considered, is a garbage can. I grew up with one in every room. When were conscious about the actual physical distance we went, to put something in our kitchen garbage, we got rid of a lot of them. It also means there are less cans to empty!
Can you take turns using something? If you don't have children, and have enough space, it can be easy to justify having your own versions of something, but if you're trying to downsize, consider sharing. With kids, as cute as it is to see matching toys, they don't actually need to play with the same toys at once. They can share, coordinate efforts, divide tasks... They can chose complementary roles. It requires patience, cooperation and communication, but seeing them learn these skills is so worth the bit of coaching it takes, in the beginning. It saves space and saves the cost of buying those repeats. Have you ever said, "Well, if I buy one for her, I have to buy one for everybody else." It isn't true, and I think it's okay to communicate this with relatives, reassuring them that your children are capable of sharing. Also something to look out for: replacing things before they run out. For instance, if every person has her own toothpaste, and it gets replaced, but still lasts for another month, depending on your family size you could have 8 tubes that need to be stored, and if they open the new ones first... well you see how all the things add up.
We don't have Christmas mugs, Christmas towels, or summer plates. We have one beach towel, and the rest of us just use our white towels. I admit, it's hard to leave these objects in the stores. They look so festive, but I remind myself that I will appreciate them for a much smaller portion of the year than I will be storing them.
When we first got married, it felt like having certain things just for special occasions made us a fancy couple. Oh how we wanted to be fancy! My husband laughs at me now when I say that my version of having a "fancy drink" is drinking water of a clean glass! I've just come to appreciate the simple things in life, what can I say? We love having one large, uniform set of cutlery, one set of glasses. We have gotten rid of so much and I am still wanting to really downsize this category, I feel like I have too much. We enjoy and will keep a lace edged linen table cloth, and our cake stand, and the little set of antique dishes I bought when I was 13 and put in my hope chest. I remind myself that when I bought those, I pictured them being used in a house as sparse as a living history museum, and I think that actually helps me decide what to keep. Tables can be made fancy with a simple tablecloth and flowers, or candles, instead of a whole separate set of everything.
Lastly, furniture that exists to hold one thing... It is usually better to hang lamps, plants, magazines from the wall in some fashion. Hanging plants and lights create more dynamic, cosy spaces anyways, and sconces spill light onto walls, adding light just where you need it. I forget sometimes how precious my floorspace is. It's the space where forts are built, monsters chase after us, sewing projects are laid out, where chairs are brought out around expanding tables, where adults see eye to eye with little ones, where friends sit on pillows after the couch is taken.
The private spaces of our homes offer opportunities for the informality of being on the floor, and using space differently than the other more expansive spaces we have access to. It can be hard to maintain the precious floor space in a small home, but when you think about what it's being used for, it makes all the decluttering worth it!
Introducing The Small House Living Series.
I've been invited to take part in a blogging series about Small House Living, initiated by Kate at The Streamlined Life. It's an honor, and I'm excited to read the posts from the other bloggers, many of whom have also chosen this road in order to free more resources for creativity. As a contemporary artist, I'm frequently asked to write artist statements and do various kinds of writing about my paintings. Blogging allows me to stretch different writing muscles, and to live a well-rounded creative life. Naturally, I want you to look through the artwork on my website as well, and hope that you and your loved ones find encouragment and inspiration here.
This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!
Minimalist Meg-- “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.
Little Bungalow-- "Less Space, More Happiness" : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.
600 Square Feet and a Baby-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn't.)
Shelley Vanderbyl-- "Five Things You Don't Need in a Small Home" : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.
The Streamlined Life-- "The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value": Just because you're a minimalist family doesn't mean you aren't sentimental.
The Justice Pirate-- "What Small Home Living is Like" : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.
Our Nest in the City-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we "cope" and thrive despite it all :)
Fourth and West-- "You Can't Have it All" : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.
RISING*SHINING-- "The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home" : A smaller home is why we're able to live such a full life.
Family At Sea-- "The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom" : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn't realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.
Real Food Simple Life-- "The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family" : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.
Tiny Ass Camper-- "I Didn't Know Tiny Living Was For Me" : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.
Family Pedals-- "Location Trumps Size" : The truth is, it has been our home's location--not size--that has determined our happiness in a given space.
Birch and Pine-- "It's Not Always Easy" : Living tiny often means defending your own life and choices: daily.