-Create space for a fifth person
-Make the apartment feel more like a home and less like a temporary stop-over
Today I am going to focus on the second goal.
If you want to imagine what we were working with, just imagine taking everything out of your basement and putting it in your closets. Because we move about once a year, we don't have a lot of crap that needs to be purged, so most stuff - the sort of stuff people with houses put in the basement - just needed to go to storage. For example, the girls closet was crammed with totes of outgrown clothes; our master closet contained sleeping bags, a Christmas tree, our one-kid stroller; the furnace room had Christmas decorations and a second tree packed in around the air conditioning unit and the hot water heater. All three closets were so packed-out that they were essentially unusable except for a small space in the master closet for dress clothes.
We rented a small storage unit less than five minutes away and over the course of about two weeks, I went through my apartment room-by-room and reorganized everything. Every evening, Matt would run a load up to storage.
The resulting spaciousness is so wonderful that spending the winter here now seems bearable.
The Girls' Room
While the girls' room is spacious, it's not really "three kid" spacious unless we got a bunk bed, which the girls are way too young to be trusted in just yet. I hope to put Abigail in a twin bed, Eleanor in the toddler bed, and this baby in Eleanor's crib when we settle down in a house to avoid buying a second crib.
I moved the two beds together as the girls love sleeping near each other and made a place space with the other half of the room. All the girls' books were move out into the living room and all the toys were put into the bedroom. The room feels much larger and much cozier now. I also did some work in the girls' closet. I still keep the current size clothes totes on hand, along with all shoes, socks, hats, etc, but you can see below that there is plenty of space for me to put things we accumulate throughout the winter.
And those little shoes boxes to the left are empty. I love shoe boxes for organizing! They are pretty sturdy, stack well, and a good size for small stashes.
The Dining Area / Foyer
One of rooms I was most eager to tackle was the dining area/foyer. The armoire/china cabinet was awkwardly placed and the top of it had become a dumping ground for board games and things we didn't want the girls to reach. The table didn't fit the space well and the two booster seats always stuck out into the walkways. We had no place to put hats/gloves/scarves and our shoe rack was overflowing.
I shifted the armoire/china cabinet to face a different direction and found new homes in our newly spacious closets for the junk pile on top. It now showcases some of my favorite glass and crystal pieces. One of the few things I bought was a larger shoe rack, which I "accessorized" with a winter wear bin and a bunch of pushpins for structured hats, sunglasses, and keys. I also moved our Chicago flag and instead put up some of Abigail's artwork in a gallery style.
The space feels much more spacious and sophisticated now, like a room an adult would have instead of a couple of stressed parents in a crowded apartment. I even have some extra space to squeeze a high chair should this baby be ready for one before we move. When we do settle down in a house, I plan to buy a new/new-to-us dining room set - one that can seat more people and is not literally falling apart.
Last up in the "make it homier" category, we have the kitchen. It's a small, galley, apartment kitchen, so you can imagine how much I had my work cut out for me. Mainly, my problem was counter space.
The only appliances I kept out were ones I used at least once a week. That included the microwave, standing mixer, bread machine, and toaster. That's a ton of stuff, so I had to make some compromises. You see, my apartment comes with a built-in microwave, but it's very old and makes a funny noise and I hated using it, so I kept mine out instead. But I finally decided that I wanted counter space more than my fear of old microwaves, so my microwave went into storage and I now use the built-in. I also moved the bread machine to the top of the fridge and bring it down when I use it (which is usually overnight anyway). The result is enough space to prepare dinner without frustratedly cramming things off to the side.
I also needed to make some more space in the cupboard, both for our growing supply of brightly colored plastic tableware, and also because my growing family is consuming more and more food. So I stole a shelf from another room and turned it into my "pantry," tucked safely behind a baby gate.
The kitchen improvements took us from "way too crammed" to "everything just fits." If we find ourselves needing more space during the winter, we'll have to buy a taller shelf for the pantry.