Friday, January 14, 2011

On Perceptions of Stuff

We're behind schedule, but have slowly started packing up our home.  Many items are being given to friends, donated, or in some cases, recycled or tossed out.  Some is getting packed up to bring with us, and the rest we'll hopefully be able to fit it all in the basement and attic of my parents-in-law. 

When I look at the stuff still waiting to be packed, I often think "We don't have that much.  It shouldn't take long."  And then I get into the work of it, and it seems to multiply somehow.  Here's a good example:

Manina decided to head out to her parents house this weekend, since it is a three-day weekend and the kids won't have to be at school on Monday.  At this point, whenever she goes, I send her with at least a box or two for storage.  I am starting to feel like a box or two at a time isn't going to get us into the shape we need to be in fast enough. 

So I told her I wanted to send her with as much as possible this time.  We'd already begun sorting through and packing away Hanukkah and Christmas stuff, seeing as how the holidays just ended, so I figured that was a good place to start.  When I picture that stuff where we normally store it in the attic, it seems like it takes up about four square feet of no more than double-stacked boxes.  This should have been so easy!

After much sorting and a concerted effort at beridding, I still found myself in the dining room several hours later with two large boxes, one long flat box, and four medium-size and small boxes filled to the brim! 

I need to start taking pictures so you can see what I mean.  It is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate even with a strong desire to be minimalist.  If this is any sign of things to come, getting the "small load" we plan to take with us to our apartment to actually fit into our apartment might prove to be even more challenging than we think.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Out Is Good For the Downsized

One big need I anticipate as a downsizing family is opportunities to get out and about rather than stay cooped up in our little apartment, especially during school vacations and on the weekends.

In this post I will be collecting ideas for things for families to do in New Haven (my new city).  I'll definitely take suggestions, if any one out there reading this is familiar with the area.  I'll add to the list periodically.

Of course, I can't wait to join the New Haven Free Library!  Not only will they be our go-to resource for books (many of our books are going into storage, so we won't be buying books regularly in our downsized life...instead, we'll keep a basket of library books on our bookshelf to help us stay organized and not lose track of those books), but the library has numerous free events.  And they have downloadable ebooks and audiobooks.
I hear the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is impressive for its size and child friendly.  With my Yale ID card, I can get us a family membership for one year at the rate of $50.  Would need to figure out a way to budget that, or see if they loan admission passes at the local library.

Edgerton Park looks like a great resource with some fun events and even community gardening opportunities (inclusive of instructions and guidance provided to novices like me).  While this looks like mainly a summer resource, with a few exceptions, I'll keep it in mind especially in case we end up staying in New Haven year-round.

The Connecticut Children's Museum for kids 3-9 looks great!  It is open on Fridays and Saturdays only, however, and does not appear to have an annual membership.  Each visit would be $7.50 per person ($30 total for the whole family), so this unfortunately probably can't be a regular stop for us.

It looks like without even needing a student ID card, the Eli Whitney Museum has an annual family membership cost of just $45 annually ($25 individual student membership), and it seems to have a lot of cool programs and opportunities (though many pretty school-centric and not maybe as open-ended as we need).  It does look like many of the programs and opportunities seem to have additional fees.  This is another one to either budget for or consult the library about.

There are also at least a couple of options for skate parks.  The outdoor Edgewood Skate Park is free, I am assuming, and should be good for at least two or three months out of the academic year.  There is also an indoor skate park in North Haven, which would be great for the winter months, but is too expensive to go often.

The Yale University Art Gallery is apparently something of a small, free, art museum, so you can't beat that.  I am sure "child friendly" is a relative term for all families, but I can see stopping at the museum on occassion with my kids for a short round, one floor at a time. 

Though I am not a big sports fan, I do want my kids to have the experience of some live sports games over the course of their childhoods.  Besides, Manina enjoys sports.  I was excited to see that we could get myself and the kids in for free to a Yale Athletics football game (and I hope/suspect there are discounted tickets for folks with Yale spouse IDs).  I can get into Yale basketball games too, and get the rest of the family in for fairly low cost.  Hockey is a different story.

The New Haven Parks and Rec has some relatively well-priced outdoor educational programs, including winter programs such as snowshoeing.  If we end up living in New Haven to the extent we'll pay taxes as residents, I think we count for the lower rates. 

By the way, I have to plug this.  New Haven has a BooksnParks program!  Is this too cool or what?

And finally, there are more items from the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

One Key To a Small Space: Thoughtful Decor

So tonight I learned about Wall Tattoos and Wall Decals, which apparently (at least in some cases) are removable and therefore a good option for renters. 

Here are a couple links:


urban wall sticker Cubes and Squares wall decals (set of 9)
DeZign with a z

Not in my budget, but fun to look!

Well, apparently there are some on Amazon too.  Maybe there is a way to work something fun into the budget. Here are the ones with the best reviews there, in the "restricted budget" range:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Maybe I Was Little Harsh (IKEA Might Be Okay, Afterall)

After posting my IKEA rant, check out what I came across on their website:
NORDEN/OLLE Table and 4 chairs red, white
I can't tell if it is flimsy (it looks like it has potential to be wimpy, which may be why it didn't catch my eye in the showroom), or if there is really room on the table for four place-settings, but the concept looks like some of the more expensive stuff I've admired elsewhere.  I am not a fan of white tables, but I actually like the red and white color scheme in this picture. 

Here's the way the table looks upon folding:

NORDEN Gateleg table white Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Of course, the set is probably out of our price range, even though it isn't terribly expensive as tables go, and I am still not sure what we'd do with the chairs between meals.  Luckily, IKEA offers a version without chairs so we could still potentially use, say, folding chairs.
NORDEN Gateleg table white Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
They also have a "natural wood" version sold without chairs:
NORDEN Gateleg table  Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Perhaps there is some potential there, even though the thing could fold a little more neatly:

NORDEN Gateleg table  Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Searching on Ikea's website for desks, I also found some interesting ideas, even if I am not in the market right now for a desk.

These, for instance, are a bit boxy, but similar to desks featured in a number of small-space living design websites recently, placed flush against the wall as if to disappear in it:

BESTÅ BURS Desk red Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
BESTÅ BURS Desk black Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
BESTÅ BURS Desk white Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
And this seems altogether too bulky for our size of space, and it is not really my style, but it does present an interesting set of storage-desk combo options:

EXPEDIT Desk  Width: 45 1/4 " Depth: 30 3/4 " Height: 29 7/8 "  Width: 115 cm Depth: 78 cm Height: 76 cm

Don't Go To Ikea! It's Not For Small Apartment Living!

When Manina and I lived in a small home an hour's drive from an IKEA, I had a few wonderful shopping trips there!  It was great for creative storage containers, and did wonders for our Montessori age 0-3 homeschool setup. 

The one item we bought that required significant assembly was a disaster, and required a return in the end, but as long as we stuck to items that didn't need us to go to alternate sites for pickup (the things that require only a little assembly, IKEA keeps either on the floor or in the storage area right before the checkout), we seemed to do okay. 

I liked that IKEA was interested in innovation, and I liked that IKEA demonstrated some ecological awareness, talking from very early on in company history about things like using wood from sustainable resources.  So understand, all in all, I was an IKEA fan.

For a while after we moved to that house, I would pour over the IKEA catalogs, which really were more like big books, for inspiration.  When I knew I was headed to IKEA -- usually a trip necessitated by my work -- I'd get all excited and spend the days ahead planning the visit. 

Then we moved to a slightly larger house a two hour drive from IKEA.  We learned that it was worthless to try to order something online, and we were well-stocked enough for our home that we didn't need anything enough to justify the drive.  So for a few years, save for one or two trips, our relationship with IKEA has been on hiatus.

Well, the big news is that where we will be living next year is most likely going to be within two or three miles of IKEA!  It all seemed so perfect, when I first realized.  After all, when folks talk about strategies for living in small spaces, IKEA does tend to come up in conversation.  What a blessing, I thought, to have IKEA right there for all my small space creative furnishings.

And just before Christmas, while in our new city touring the local elementary schools to get an idea of what lies ahead for our future, I gave myself a solid block of time to peruse IKEA.  I didn't have money to spend, but I had my notebook and was all ready to plan out my apartment.  I was pretty hyped! 

What a disappointment.  I looked around, completely uninspired, for as long as I could tolerate, and left at least an hour before planned.

Did IKEA change, or is it just my changing needs? 

My hunch is that IKEA is running on fumes of an earlier time.  Here is what I found in my IKEA trip:
  • Most of the same "inspired ideas" setups, or small variations of the same setups, on display in the showroom.  Nothing to see here folks!  Move along!
  • A couple new innovative items, but mostly the same products, or small variations of the same products, that I chose not to buy when I first moved to my small home an hour from IKEA in 2002.
  • A lack of some of the products I first loved at IKEA, but hadn't yet gotten around to buying.  For example, whatever happened to the ladder you nail to the wall for kids to climb?   (Oh, and don't bother trying to contact IKEA through their website to ask them.  They will never reply.)
IKEA, if it ever was, is no longer the go-to place for small apartment living. 

First of all, perhaps because Target has been breaking new ground for itself repeatedly over the last few years, IKEA resembles the sprawl-version of Target.  Sure, they have more showroom floorspace, but that means you'll be taking a hike to see the same types of products, and if you've been to IKEA more than a time or two, you've seen it all before.  If you need a go-to place, Target seems as good a candidate as any.

Second of all, I can't help but feeling like when I am in IKEA, I am getting the supersized American version.  Sure, the furniture is still on the modest end in terms of sizes, as a whole.  If you want a couch, yes, you better be ready to say "how low can you go?" when you sit down.  But I don't get the feeling that IKEA is designing their stuff for American showrooms with the person living in a small space in mind.

Check it out.  Just click over to the ideas and inspiration section of IKEA's website and look at the type of rooms they think you'll be living in.  Sorry, but for a place with a reputation of being the go-to place for those of us living in small spaces, I think that is crap.  Out of eleven featured space, I see only one...maybe two...places that would look remotely recognizable to those coping with low square footage.  Seriously, just click the link and see.

Click on sofas, and then the first item under sofas, which is "fabric sofas," and the first thumbnail you'll see is this:

EKTORP series



Dealing with a teeny, tiny kids room where you have multiple kids sharing a space?  Don't get too excited.  You will no longer see a trundle or bunk bed at IKEA, and sadly, IKEA has never taken to perfecting the Murphy bed concept in inexpensive form.  The best they have to offer is this...
KURA Reversible bed dark blue Length: 78 3/8 " Width: 41 3/8 " Height: 45 5/8 " Mattress length: 74 3/4 " Mattress width: 38 "  Length: 199 cm Width: 105 cm Height: 116 cm Mattress length: 190 cm Mattress width: 96.5 cm
I'll give them credit.  It's nice and streamlined, and it gives you some floorspace for a desk (if it is tall enough...I can't tell and don't recall), even if your child does have to remember not to trip over the "threshold," but what to do with more than one child, I have no idea.  Without a trundle or bunk, I can't figure out how any two beds are not going to take over my children's room.  Would I need to buy this and a second bed to put inside and perpendicular to this one, making an L-shape I suppose??  Do they have a second bed made to accompany it?  Not that I can tell.

And let's move to the dining room, shall we?

I posted earlier about some dining table options I easily found at my local "discount furniture store."  You would think a store known as the go-to place for folks living in small spaces would have some equally attractive options for families without a lot of square footage.  Aside from the one small table (might seat one...maybe two) that folds out from the wall, which I might use for adding some counterspace to my kitchen but that clearly couldn't accomodate my family of four, however, I left the dining showroom feeling frustrated.  I mean, they did have this...
FUSION Table and 4 chairs brown-black Width: 35 3/8 " Height: 29 1/2 " Total height: 29 7/8 " Seat width: 21 5/8 " Seat depth: 15 3/8 " Seat height: 18 1/8 "  Width: 90 cm Height: 75 cm Total height: 76 cm Seat width: 55 cm Seat depth: 39 cm Seat height: 46 cm
...which would neatly tuck away the chairs.  But then what?  Because that table would take a huge hunk out of our living room floorspace that we can't afford.

 They did have some flimsy-looking, so-not-my-style drop-leaf tables, such as the one pictured below, and some equally flimsing-looking tables that expand outward by pulling a leaf from the bottomside of the table.  But they were clumsy and unimpressive, and they did not inspire in me any confidence that they could withstand two young children.
MUDDUS Drop-leaf table white Min. length: 18 7/8 " Max. length: 36 1/4 " Width: 23 5/8 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Min. length: 48 cm Max. length: 92 cm Width: 60 cm Height: 74 cm

As for the kitchen, I can only say that I am still looking for creative combinations of appliances that lead to reduced numbers of appliances being needed.  I would have loved to have found, but did not, a full system of stainless steel stacking pots with small or collapsible handles that take up a very small amount of space.  And I am still looking for creative combinations of cooking utensils and the like for the same reason.  Clicking on "kitchen organization," for example, leads to thumbnails such as:

CELEBER series

And I found far less in the way of convienent, compact kitchen appliance and utensil storage than I remember.  Though, I think it is commendable that they have a number of different nice "hanging hooks" options for hanging a wide variety of things on the wall.

Maybe IKEA could hire me as a product designer.  I have a lot of good ideas for families of four living in less than 550 square feet.  Or maybe I should check their international sites to compare what they offer.