Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Introduction to Our Atypical Home and Work, Part One: Home

By now you're aware that Lord Covington and I are pretty atypical individuals. Our living situation is also quite unusual.

Couples have various degrees of how long they can stand each other before needing a break. New couples will often be given the advice to be sure to cultivate separate hobbies. Lord Covington and I have always been on the pretty extreme end of spend-every-waking-moment-together. We also work pretty well together, as our various projects will attest. As a result, we have worked for the same companies since we first got together. We both worked at the cafeteria and the book store at college, and since about 2006, we have more or less been working for the same hotel management company. (We started off as desk clerks at one hotel and moved into lower and then middle management)

At the end of 2008, Lord Covington accepted a position to be General Manager at a hotel they had just purchased in Corpus Christi. This was about 9 hours away from where we were then living, and four hours away from our closest friends and relatives. We'd never been to Corpus Christi before, and jumped at the opportunity to try it out.  Our most recent move landed us in Brownwood, TX. We moved from Bayside to Lakeside, and were given the task of getting this hotel up and running, and eventually profitable. To that effect, we work many of the shifts and take care of anything that happens during the overnight shift ourselves instead of having a desk clerk during that time. The only way to do that and keep a good guest response time and a bit of sanity, is to live on property.
 This is one of the rooms at our hotel. We have a lovely place, and it is great to get away in for a weekend or week, but it is an interesting challenge to figure out life in a room this size for going on 2.5 years.

Add to that mix two large dogs and a toddler (we were expecting when we took the position and made the move here, so we've dealt with a newborn on up) and you have to come up with some space saving solutions. We didn't initially know how long we'd be living here, but it might have been as little as six months. It turned out to be longer, so some things have changed organically in the way the room is organized. An emphasis is on changing the room structurally as little as possible, and using the least damaging techniques (few screw holes, removable strips to hang artwork, etc.)
Below are pictures of how the room looked two years ago when we moved in and prepared for the arrival of baby Toddlesworth, compared with current pictures to show off some of the changes we've made in the last two years.

Here is an overview shot of the room. Layout-wise, it hasn't changed much and can't really be modified much from this layout anyway. We have turned our bed sideways to give us a bit more room. The blue tarp in the first picture is what we used to try to keep the dogs off of the bed. I would love a murphy bed, but that is not currently possible. The tarp ended up catching dust and didn't work all that well. Now, we just use an extra bedspread. The bedspread protects the blanket we use underneath it. We also changed the table/desk area, there will be a better shot of that in a bit.

To the left of the bed is where we feed and water the dogs, this area isn't beautiful but it is pretty functional. The tree in the before picture was handprinted and signed by people at my baby shower. I rolled it up and took it down when Toddlesworth's own little hands started trying to tear it to pieces. I packed up most of my scarves, but it is about time to pull them out again!

This area is the closest thing we have to a mud room. As you can see, it hasn't changed too much. We hang jackets, bags, and my purse here. It is also the resting place for baby carriers and my art case.
We have added this shoe rack, which is a terrific improvement on anything we'd tried before.

This is our desk. It is the largest clutter-magnet in our room. One shelf has become CD's, Movies, Etc, one has been overrun by my art supplies, and one is for our Magic Card collection (a small part of it) The desk itself is rarely perfectly clear, but when it is we can fold it up and store it away from more space for Toddlesworth to run around in.  We switched from the original desk mostly for that reason, but also because it was impossible for us to both fit comfortably at the wooden desk for computer use. This area is always the most messy, but also very much the most heavily used area.

This is the area on top of the TV. Originally a spot for wedding memorabilia, it now holds some baby keepsakes and some keepsakes from weddings I have attended. Unfortunately, it has also become a catchall for anything we need to keep away from Toddlesworth or the dogs. I did some thorough cleaning recently, but this is one of a few areas I have not gotten to yet.

This was our cooking area 2 years ago. It was serviceable except the red thing kept being overloaded and crushing the top of the plastic drawers. I decided eventually that it wasn't the best use of space.
This was part of our 'kitchen/sink' area two years ago. The rack to the left is my 'jewelry stand.'

Now: We have a toaster oven! It bakes wonderful things like cookies and bread. (The framed art was a wonderful wedding gift depicting one of our engagement photos, and the line art is by a local artist in the art association.)

Above our 'closet' we have bread and bread like things (Lord Covington has been Gluten-Free with very few accidents since May of this year), as well as snacks. Under the closet are canned foods, a crock pot and food processer we haven't used nearly enough, and a giant bag of rice.

 To the left of the closet area, we have shelves that hold spices, condiments, mixes, etc. To the left of that is a shelf for fresh vegetables. (With only a mini-fridge, fridge space is at a premium. We use it for fake meats and cheeses and for soy milk. We try to use veggies pretty quickly before they get old.
To the left of the sink is where we store dishes. On the top is an electric skillet which comes in quite handy. We did have a large grill which we loved, but it had to be used awkwardly over the sink, and eventually we dropped it so often that it broke to pieces. (Tile floors are quite unforgiving!)  To the left of this area is the jewelry rack as before. It is currently also holding more hair products than I have previously owned in my life. I am trying to learn how to style my hair, it is a skill that has been previously lacking in my repertoire.  Above is where we store the high chair tray. We also previously stored the large grill there. Below is where we store clean bottles. (I know, Toddlesworth should have stopped using bottles a long time ago. : (  We're going to work on it and pacifiers soon.)

Here is an overview of the whole area.   Oh, and on the right is what became of that plastic drawer set. It is full of all the various food supplies that we don't use very often. I want to start working on using everything in there and clearing it out. I think the holidays will be a good time for that!

 Here is Toddleworth's 'closet' before he was here and currently. The crib and closet area have had the most permutations as I figured out what worked with a tiny baby and then with a toddler for clothing and cloth diaper storage. There is an area underneath his closet for some books and toys. I don't have a satisfactory storage solution for books yet, but I do have one in mind for his playroom (to be discussed!) On the left is his baby organizer, which held various things, then diapers, then we switched the drawers to diapers and the clothes to the organizer, then I decided most of his clothes were hanging clothes anyway and started using the area to hang them.

Here is an intermediate view of the room walls. I did have it crammed-packed with art. I decided that I wanted to reclaim them and make the whole room look less like a nursery.

This is the crib area currently. Slightly more 'fun' artwork, is here. (I did not get a picture of the art over our bed, because the piece that is usually there is currently in a show.) The next big change to the room will probably be taking the crib down and making some sort of toddler murphy bed. Toddlesworth sleeps in our bed every night, and since there is no way to separate us or give him his own room to sleep in, we might as well embrace bed sharing. I actually really enjoy co-sleeping, Toddlesworth is like a giant teddy bear that loves you back. It almost completely makes up for occasionally being kicked in the stomach or punched in the eye.
Above left is how we used to store toilet paper rolls. We now keep them higher, out of Toddle's reach. I broke that shelf down and it is now where our dishes and veggies go, on either side of the sink. On the right is our current setup. The bath toys get the bottom basket, and the baby clothes hamper is directly underneath to catch the drips.

This organizer was on the front of the door, but we moved it to the back and it made the main room look much more open and less messy. We store cleaning supplies, glass bottles of booze, anything that needs a place to go and needs to be out of toddler reach.
This is one of my favorite 'hacks' or changes out of necessity of living in a small space. We previously stored our broom and dustpan on a hanging rack by the door to the bathroom. Since before he was walking, one of Toddlesworth's favorite playthings were brooms, so he would constantly grab them or knock them off. I installed these broom-holding bars on unused bathroom wall area and now I don't have to worry about him grabbing a broom and hitting a dog on the head.
 And that is the extent of the space we live in!  What is the smallest space you have ever occupied? What did you do to make it livable? I welcome any advice on organization, as I am always trying to improve things and make things feel more like home!
I plan to handle the work aspect of our lives here in my next post. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear them.

Annendum: We do now use a second room, we refer to it as Toddleworth's playroom. Since they aren't adjoined, it can't be used for most practical purposes (otherwise we'd make it his room, move the crib in there and at least think about trying to get him to sleep in there.), but it is useful for our babysitter to keep him in during the days she watches him here. Although I don't consider it part of our actual livable space, it does allow for some larger, more decorative elements than would be possible in this room alone. Below is a good example, of a project I am currently working on for the playroom:
 The Rocket was made for his one year space explorer and mad scientist themed photoshoot:

The bookshelf is a comic book shelf that I purchased from a local shop. I have spray painted it and intend to add dials and buttons and other elements to make it look somewhat like a rocket ship control panel.


  1. So organized! You guys are an inspiration of what a family should be. The smaller the home, the closer the family.

    1. Aww, thank you, sis. You were always my inspiration for parenting!