This week I've been reading a book on organizing small spaces by Kathryn Bechen, titled Small Space Organizing. I posted a quote from the book a week or two ago. The introduction drew me in. My mom picked it up the day it arrived and read several chapters. My sister in law read the entire book while she was here visiting and enjoyed it. It was very easy to read. One key thing about books on organization, I think, is that they are intended to give you ideas. How we organize our homes and what we keep in them is very personal. This audience for this book is middle/upper middle class women who have disposable income that allows them a lot of freedom in their choice of furnishings and the ability to purchase storage containers. Are there ideas for women with more limited financial means? Yes, but this book is for people who choose small spaces and can afford to furnish them to their tastes more than for people who choose small spaces because that is the most they can afford.
Her ideas in the introduction, though, and the idea that we should strive to "dwell well" are ones that I think all women would be encouraged to hear. If you live in an area that puts a lot of value on where people live and the homes they live in (and judge others by this criteria), then this chapter is worth reading and taking to heart.
From there, Ms. Bechen covers topics such as the one room dwelling, the nursery, kids' rooms, and all other rooms of the home one by one. I enjoyed her ideas for a one room dwelling. My mom particularly enjoyed this chapter and took several ideas from it as she has settled into her room in our new home. I think she is pleased with the outcome though it's not entirely done yet.
I was especially curious about her chapter about the nursery and kids' rooms. She says at the beginning of the chapter that she and her husband don't have children. I have found your perspective on many things like this changes drastically when you have children yourself (even if you've been a teacher beforehand as both this author and I were). Many of her suggestions were great ones that I would definitely give people in light of my experience living with children in 4 different homes. But, many of the things she considers needs and what you "should" spend money on are ultimately optional. You only really need a crib, a place to change the baby, and some storage. In your living room or the nursery it is helpful to have a spot you are comfortable nursing or feeding a bottle in, but if your nursery is small, there may not be room. We didn't have a changing table for our first two or a diaper pail. I put a pad on the floor and changed my babies there--and never had to worry about them falling off. Oh, and I've never seen a crib that was high enough to store boxes of diapers under. But, for a mom who's able to design her nursery, these suggestions would be a great place to start. We were just coming from a very different place financially when we had our first daughter. (God did provide very graciously for us and I am very thankful that we had what we needed.)
Her ideas for kids' rooms are very much in line with what we see families have on television. For the most part, they're pretty good general suggestions. I suspect they'll align with what most families have found on their own to be workable ideas. All my friends will understand when I note, though, that I disagreed that kids rooms should be wired with extra outlets so that they can support more technology and media in their rooms. Um. Nope. At least not in our house. In my mind, computers are best out in the open where they can be seen. Televisions in a child's room? My opinion is that they're really not a good idea. I've heard too many stories of children waking in the night or not going to bed until very late because they stay up watching television in their rooms. I remember one story of a parent being so proud that her 3 year old stayed in her room for 3 hours watching Shrek. I wouldn't mind my children spending 3 hours in their room--if they're playing or reading or napping.
So, was this book useful to me? Perhaps not to me, but it was enjoyable to my family members and it is well written. We just moved into a new home a month ago and I have had to buy about 10 large Rubbermaid bins for storage in the basement. I opted for the sharpie marker labeling technique instead of a label maker as Ms. Bechen suggests. I know people love label makers, but it hasn't been a need for us. It's a want. We came in with all sorts of ideas of what we'd need to buy and spend money on for storage. We did buy 4 dressers, a small wardrobe, a bed frame, and 2 night stands for our room--all from IKEA and a new larger dining room table and chairs that we are waiting on. But, aside from that, we are using what we had before. We had other ideas, but those have been put on my garage saling list for the spring. That's the one aspect that she doesn't directly address--organizing frugally or on a limited budget.
If you enjoy reading books about organizing spaces or are looking for some encouragement to pare down and simplify, this book will definitely tell you that. She doesn't give specific directions of what to get rid of and what to keep in many ways or a lot of directions of how to do it, but she throws in a few comments about it here and there. This book is primarily a book aimed at helping you see the big picture of how you want your home to look and how you're going to use the space in it. What you keep and get rid of is up to you. It will give you ideas and start you on the path. And it will give you a lot of encouragement to keep going and press on as you organize your home and find contentment in the space in which you dwell!
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Revell Publishing.