I am very excited to share this Small Space Living with you today! One big reason is several of you told me about @WhitneyLeighMorris and said she would be perfect for the series! I am so glad you introcuded me to her and that she agreed to share her organizing tips and tricks for living in a small space. Also answer all of your top questions on living in a small house. Whitney does it so atuehtically and beautifully. I got caught in a rabbit-hole on her blog. Taking in all the ways she lives green too. So inspired by her. I know you will be too (if you aren’t already).
What is your homes square footage and where do you live in this big world?
The Tiny Canal Cottage® is a 1920’s Craftsman-style house by the Venice Beach Canals in Southern California. The house’s interior measures under 400 sqft, and includes space-maximizing features such as built-in furnishings, pocket doors, and vaulted ceilings.
Let’s head on in!
What is your home Motto?
You don’t have to “live large” to live beautifully.
Why a smaller home?
My husband and I didn’t actively decide to go tiny. We simply fell in love with this space, and knew it work for our lifestyle. At the time, it was just the two of us and my wonderful dog, StanLee. We’ve since grown as a family. We adopted a second beagle, Sophee, and welcomed our son, West, into this world 2 years ago. I love living in a small space home— it frees up time and money, inspires me to be creative every day, reminds me to exist with intention, and teaches our family so much about one another.
Where do you keep all of the small appliances?
Our compact toaster and kettle are both from Muji, and are stored on pull-out racks we installed in a cabinet by the stove. A single-serving Vitamix and its components are also kept there.
Our Soda Stream has an easily-accessible spot on our kitchen counter, as we use it multiple times per day. It keeps us from having to buy, store, and waste disposable bottles and/or cans of carbonated water.
We also have a single-serving sized Keurig on the counter, accompanied by a reusable/refillable coffee pod so there’s zero waste produced beyond the compostable coffee grounds.
Do you have a pantry? Where is all the food?
We don’t! We keep dry goods in the cabinet above the stove, and other items are either in the fridge or placed in various food storage containers on the countertops. If we lived in a remote place, this method probably wouldn’t work well. But here in Venice Beach we have exceptional access to farmers markets (5 of which occur on different days of the week, and are all within biking distance), and a fantastic organic grocery store just a short stroll away. As such, we fill up our containers, mesh produce bags, and bread totes every few days. It feels like a joyful family activity, rather than a chore. (We’re also pescatarian, so that cuts back on the need to store certain types of food.)
To keep our fruit, veggies and herbs in good condition for as long as possible (to reduce waste and save money), we use a set of flax linen Ambrosia Bags, which are incredible.
Kids and their Toys:
What is your approach to kids toys?
Before we consider the space a toy consumes, we try to consider how it was produced, and where it will go once our child outgrows it. As often as possible, we try to buy handmade goods that are sustainably made here in the US from eco-friendly materials. Usually these types of toys and games also fit our aesthetic, so we don’t mind stepping over them in our tiny house, or seeing them scattered around the property. We try not to have too many objects at one time, and aren’t sentimental about handing over items to friends with younger children, and donating to local non-profits, schools and libraries. I understand why it’s challenging for some folks to part with the toys their children once loved, but I think of letting go of used items as giving them a new life, and opening up space for growth and new experiences for my son.
How do you store or keep the kids toys and games organized?
Our storage methods are always evolving, and we currently use a combination of ways to contain toys and games.
By getting rid of extra clothes we didn’t need, Adam and I were able to free up a large trundle drawer that’s built in to our bed, and that’s where we stashed West’s toys during his first year.
We now use a mix of repurposed items, such as rolling market carts and apple baskets to hold West’s building blocks, musical instruments, things-that-go, and more. Whenever we need to use the containers for their intended purpose, we do! We just let the toys sit pell-mell for a little while. This enables us to organize our little one’s collection without having to buy dedicated storage accessories.
Are you able to fit all your clothes in your master bedroom?
Our wardrobe was, initially, one of the biggest struggles. Now that my husband and I have gone through countless rounds of paring down our clothing collection, and because we so rarely shop for anything new, we are able to easily fit all of our clothes, as well as our son’s clothes, in the little closet in our only bedroom. (Having fewer clothing choices took some getting used to, but now we love it. And I use Rent the Runway if ever I need a “new” outfit for a shoot or event.)
For the year that our closet was West’s nursery nook, my husband and I relocated our clothing to a waterproof shed in the garden, just steps from our bedroom door. This sounds bananas to most people, I know. But here in SoCal, it was not only doable, but oddly enjoyable. Having said that, I’m delighted to have our gear within arm’s reach yet again. (Although I’m sad that the nursery nook is gone!)
Our shoes are stored in the built-in cubbies beneath the couch.
How do you keep the kids clothes organized and your clothes?
West’s clothes all fit within three small bins. His lesser-worn items, such as a bathing suit, raincoat, and winter fleece, are all in one bin. The other items sit (with room to spare) within the remaining drawers.
His cloth diapering system takes up another 2 petite drawers, also located within the closet.
We dry most of his clothing on the clothesline to help ensure that it lasts as long as possible, which means we rarely have to buy anything new. Sustainable linen ages well over time.
West has a small collection of shoes, which are either in a basket on the closet shelf, on a suspended shoe hanger I found on Etsy.
Small Space Living Rapid Fire Questions-
We have one carry-on sized suitcase filled with holiday decor, such as our 5 stockings, twinkle lights, a few throw pillow cases, and oversized snowflake ornaments for our outdoor trees. But I prefer to decorate with natural seasonal elements. Real pumpkins, untreated pine cones, live garlands, live wreaths, fresh clippings, and seasonal bouquets. All these items can be popped onto the compost heap or into the yard waste bin. They require no storage, and leave no footprint. Plus they ensure that the house always looks somewhat different from the year before. Gathering, arranging, and updating these decorative pieces can be a delightful family activity.
ORGANIZING PAPERS ETC.-
We’ve opted for electronic bills for every one of our personal and business accounts. Similarly, we routinely unsubscribe our mailing address from catalogs and miscellaneous marketing lists. We keep a bulldog clip on the front door for outgoing mail. Any incoming mail is dealt with immediately so that we don’t have any paper piles.
I keep a travel-sized document scanner on a shelf that hooks to the back of my iMac. That scanner is fed receipts and documents every week. The hard copies are destroyed via a handheld Muji shredder, or dropped in bulk at a local office store for commercial shredding. The digital copies are stored locally and in a cloud drive.
As West is only 2, we don’t have many documents for him yet. But he does have a medical file and a school file, both of which are kept in vintage picnic baskets beneath our bed. His art portfolio is also stored there. We scan and photograph his art. We hold on to some, and use others as cards to send to his grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Our broom is suspended from a hook on the exterior of the house, protected by the eaves.
Our vacuum comes apart, and is stashed in a repurposed wine crate in a cubby by the built-in couch.
Our cleaning supplies are multi-surface and made from concentrate, so they all fit within a craft crate and metal caddy under the kitchen sink with inches to spare.
We LOVE entertaining at our tiny house. So much so that we even got married here on our front stoop, and hosted 60 guests for the festivities. We have had countless other celebrations here as well, such as Adam’s 40th. (We hired a wonderful Cuban food truck that pulled up to the alleyway behind our house— it was easy and so much fun.)
If the event is a smaller dinner party, we break out the folding tables that we stash in a shed that we share with our neighbor. We can host up to 12 for meals comfortably if we use both the living room and porch or garden.
If we’re having cocktail party for up to 50 or so people, we create small bar stations around the property, and convert my desk into a buffet table.
We also make a bag/coat drop station in the garden by suspending a driftwood dowel over 2 shepard’s hooks, and topping it with some hangers and s-hooks. A patio rug and bench beneath it provide even more space for guests’ belongings, freeing up valuable seating surfaces within our home and yard.
I only have a few keepsakes. For example, an understated ring from my grandmother is my wedding band. And I have a scarf from my grandfather that I wear or keep on display via a hook on our bedroom wall. I’ve archived family photos digitally, and I browse through them regularly on my phone or while at home. It took a while to get used to letting go of objects, but now that’s no longer an issue for me. It’s not the stuff that counts— it’s human connection. I desperately love our home— it has given me so much more joy and perspective than I could’ve ever imagined. But it’s not the house itself that matters— it’s the beating hearts within it, and the experiences we’ve shared together that make our tiny world feel so magical.
HARDEST PART ABOUT SMALL SPACE LIVING?
The Cottage is the full-time office for my thriving small business. It’s obviously challenging to work here during the moments when the dogs are barking at the postal worker, my son is climbing into my lap, and my husband is cooking or managing issues on the phone a few feet away. Even though those instances (which happen daily) are frustrating when it comes to productivity, they’re fleeting. And I’m sure that in the years to come I’ll look back on them with longing. I could rent an office of course, but there’s no way I’d voluntarily choose to miss out on being here with my family.
BEST PART ABOUT SMALL SPACE LIVING?
Every day, small space living encourages me to experience vastly more while requiring so much less.
Thank you so much Whitney for sharing all your knowledge and also how you can truly THRIVE in a small space.
Follow Whitney here- @WhitneyLeighMorris • Blog/Website: TinyCanalCottage.com
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