Temporary digs need home organization, too

Joan Fieldstone

August 2, 2016

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Home ImprovementInterior Design

I'm enjoying an extended visit at my dad's house while my BFF finishes up some renovations to prep my home for sale. I needed to carve out some temporary but functional living space for me and my dog and cat during the few months we plan to be with Dad until my house closes and I move on.

Organizing a temporary space

Staying for short periods of time in scaled-down quarters should not force you to live out of a suitcase or in a state of disorganization and stress.

Even on the 5-day road trip across country, with a bit of planning I was able to retain some structure to my nightly set up in each motel room. A plastic cleaning supply caddy I picked up for $4 at Ross held everything I used for my daily grooming routine. I simply plucked it from the car's trunk, carried it into the motel and set it up on the vanity counter when we rolled in during the wee hours of the night. I didn't have to dig around in suitcases looking for anything.

My entire summer wardrobe, aside from the three or four outfits required for that week, made the trip in a medium size vacuum bag from The Home Depot. It took up considerably less room than a full-sized suitcase. I knew if it fit in the trunk, the contents would fit in the closet when I arrived at Dad's. It was an easy transition for all of those items to get put away in the bedroom and bath.

Functionality for living in one room

My customary room at Dad's felt cramped and poorly organized when I arrived. It was okay for a week or two stay but not for a couple months with my cat and dog.

To make it much more functional, I divided a three-piece wall unit that spanned one wall, assigning each section to a separate wall to define three distinct areas in the room. The day bed and a low window take up the entire fourth wall.

One piece of the wall unit functions as a secretary desk with open shelves above and a closed cabinet below. It stands between my computer table and a two-drawer filing cabinet. It holds a printer, standing file folders and work supplies. Everything work-related -- both business and personal paperwork -- takes place on that side of the room.

Office and work area set up in a bedroom

The closet contains a set of shelves from top to bottom smack in the middle. All my hanging clothes fit on three rods -- on one side of the shelving there are two for tops and pants doubled over; on the other side, one for longer clothes. On the floor beneath the two-rod side I am able to fit a clothes hamper and the open cat carrier in case the cat wants someplace to sleep when not under the bed.

On the closet floor on the other side of the shelves, I installed the cat litter box after covering the floor and baseboard with a piece of plastic matting for easy clean up in case of accidents. All of the pet supplies are on the lower shelves, and my personal items are on the upper shelves, including things I need access to every day like vitamins. A big empty fruitcake tin holds all the supplement bottles, ready for me to put them in a weekly dispenser.

Organized temporary living space

On the same wall as the closet, another piece of the wall unit with drawers on the bottom and glass-door cabinets holds folded clothes in the drawers and costume jewelry in the display cabinet. Last, the pet crate where my dog sleeps (or the cat, when the dog is out walking with me) stands alongside the window, facing the foot of the bed. The crate fits a small pet bed, a big bowl of water and food dish. I covered the top of the crate with an old fuzzy bath mat that serves as a landing for the cat's feeding station. There's room on the floor between the crate and the cabinet for the cat's water bowl.

Finally, the fourth wall, the one beside the head of the bed on one side and the entrance to the bedroom on the other, holds my meditation altar where I begin and end each day. A little antique chair on which I sit in front of the altar fits beside the door and doubles as a place to store the decorative bed pillows at night.

If I stay for a longer period than expected, plenty of space remains in the room for additional personal items in these storage pieces. The room, which is about 150 square feet, with the addition of a kitchen and bath, would be considered a small studio. It's about the size of a smaller tiny house…which has me thinking about just how small my next home could be while still meeting my needs.


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