Thursday, June 5, 2008

Defining a Room's Purpose

bed with piles of items, and a tortoise shell cat

When we think of containers, we tend to think of plastic bins, pretty baskets, file cabinets, and such. But in a larger sense, the rooms in our homes are containers, too. And while we don't usually label them with physical labels, we do label them in our minds.

Sometimes we need to changes those labels. For example, quite some time ago "my guest bedroom/office" became just "my office," with the guest bedroom moving elsewhere. I've seen clients struggling for space when they had a room getting very little use; re-labeling this room mentally allowed them to see all sorts of other possibilities.

How we use (and label) the rooms affects what we store in them. My guest bedroom is also my room to dry clothing that needs to lie flat - and it's the staging room for projects, mostly projects to dispose of things (mine or my clients', at their request) on Freecycle or on craigslist. I'm in a heavy dispose-of-things mode right now, so the bed has piles of stuff being picked up later in the week, and things I still need to list.

Once I labeled the room this way, I made sure all my pending Freecycling went on that bed, instead of on my office floor, in the hallway, etc. - and now I can have the piles and still not feel cluttered.

end of sofa plus lamp plus hamper storing foam roller

My living room is a place the cats and I hang out - so it has furniture for both of us. But it's also my exercise room, so at both ends of my comfy curl-up-and-read sofa is the exercise equipment. One side has my foam roller (with another half-roller on the way), in a great new hamper I got at The Container Store.

end of sofa; cat scratching post; end table bookshelf with basket on top; blue step with basket on top holding large exercise ball

The other side has my exercise ball and various other items; the hand weights sit on a bookshelf (in the shadows, under the basket) which also does have some books.

OK, it may not be an elegant look - but it supports my day-to-day living and I can easily put the exercise equipment (and the scratching post) elsewhere if I want to fancy it up for company.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeri,

I've discovered your blog only recently, but I've learned a lot from your posts. Really nice job!

I have a question about using your living room as the exercise room. From the pic you posted, one end of the sofa is pretty near the wall, so where do you exercise when you need to use the rolling foam? Is it in front of the sofa or at the other end of the sofa? I am facing this situation since the sofa is facing the TV stand, so if exercise in between these two it's like blocking the space. Thank you again for this nice blog!

Jeri Dansky said...


Thank you for the kind words.

In front of the sofa is a coffee table, and then there is empty space, and that's where I exercise. I may need to move the kitty perches a bit, but that's easy. On the opposite wall from the sofa are some bookshelves which also house the stereo. I don't have a TV, so that's not an issue for me.

SueBK said...

I'm not sure if I read your blog 'cause you offer great suggestions and advice; or because you don't have a TV and I feel less lonely :-))

We "relabelled" our bedrooms. There are 3 of us in an average to small sized (by today's standards) 3 bedroom home. And it just wasn't working!

The Man and I ended up moving into the smallest bedroom. We sleep and keep our clothes in there - and that's about it. We even managed to get rid of bedside tables. Because of the design of the room the best place for our bed is on an angle in the corner. We shaped a triangular piece of board to fit behind the bedhead, and it is more than enough space for lights, clocks, books and assorted 'stuff'. (Not to mention the great storage space underneath it!)

The Girl got the next room; 'cause let's face it - kids need room, and we only have one lounge/ sitting/ family room. In addition to a bed and clothes, she has toys, craft and study needs.

The master bedroom became "my" room. (As a trade off The Man got the entire double garage ;-)
I quilt (need lots of space LOL) and I've been at uni almost since we moved in (need lots of space). I occassionally share the space with guests.

There is simply no way any of us, including our guests, would be comfortable if The Man & I used the master bedroom as a bedroom.

I know a friend who never used her formal dining room, so turned it into her sewing room.

Jeri Dansky said...

SueBK, thanks for sharing the great examples of room re-labeling!

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Great idea about thinking of your rooms as containers! Also, very refreshing example of how one (and one's pets) should be allowed to live in a living room -- exercise stuff is available but contained, kitty stuff is there but can be moved elsewhere when necessary.

I think many people believe that to be organized, everything that doesn't fit a preconceived notion of what's "appropriate" for a living room has to be tossed out or hidden away.

By the way, I want your hardwood floors!!!

Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, I'm pretty fond of the floor, too. The wood is spotted gum. It's actually the second hardwood floor I've had; the kitty-caused flooding ruined the first one.

The house originally had orange shag carpeting in the living room, so this is a huge improvement from those days.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post. My husband and I read Peter Walsh's "It's All Too Much" and redefined rooms by what we wanted to do in them, who would use them, and what things we needed (and didn't need) for them to be used the way we wanted. I anticipate that this will always be a work in progress as we continue to reevaluate our lives and how the rooms support them as our lives and needs continue to change.

Anonymous said...

No tv??!!! Then I guess pointing you to the forum at was truly an EXERCISE in futility, har-har. Actually, there's a lot of "non-media" exercise going on over there nowadays. So... do you exercise to music? Instructional CDs? I'm a little baffled at the concept of exercising without either a DVD or BRAVO tv in the background!!

Jeri Dansky said...

Lee, congratulations on defining your rooms in a way that makes them work for you. I think for many of us this is indeed a work in process, changing as our lives change.

Anonymous, I do my cardio exercises at a gym, and there I MUST have my iPod, where I usually listen to my favorite podcasts. Cardio is too darn boring to do it without the iPod - which I bought specifically for this purpose.

But the exercises I do at home with the weights, the exercise ball, etc. I do without the iPod or the radio. My personal trainer gives me a routine, and I just do it. It requires more concentration than the cardio, so I'm better off without distractions.

Michele said...

Great post - very thought provoking.