living well in shared spaces

While many of us have Pinterest boards full of our "dream homes" that we will one day decorate with all the beautiful things and zero clutter... your living situation today may be a rental home or apartment with roommates. Whether you live with family, friends or roommates - there is an art to living well in a shared space. 

In your own space. 


Your bedroom may be the only space you can call your very own. That's why it should be your haven and retreat. This is the place you wake up and begin each day, the place you go for rest and sleep. While having systems of order are important, your personal design taste is equally as important. Displaying things that inspire joy (from art to family pieces to colors and textures) in your bedroom, is just as important as the particular way you store your clothes and accessories. If coziness is important to you, pick pillows and sheets and blankets that create the bed of your dreams. If art is important to you, create a gallery wall today. If your book collection is special, refresh the way they are displayed by color or subject. Images below from Apartment Therapy.


Are there storage containers and bins in your room that are taking up prime space, without adding a lot of functionality or visual appeal. There could be better ways to "store" your stuff, that adds personality and your taste to your room. Instead of cramming blankets into a bin or drawer of your dresser, find a wooden ladder and repurpose it to vertically display your favorite throw blankets and purge the extra ones.  For the keepsakes that pile up, check out local yard sales or antique stores for a vintage trunk that would hold them while also offering a little seating or surface for your favorite lamp. We believe that storage pieces should be working double time - offering storage and additional functionality in your space.


Before jumping in, or giving up altogether it is important to think about creating a system that works for you instead of against you. What are the things you wear daily or even weekly, those should be given the prime location in your closet or dresser. How do you decide what to wear each day? Do you think in terms of color - organize by colors. Do you think in terms of style/type - organize by category (professional, casual, dressy, activewear, etc). Let your closet work for you, not against you! 


Choosing which photos and memories to display might not be easy for you. Instead of a wall full of concert posters, pick your favorite one or two and consider switching them out seasonally for a refreshed look. A gallery wall is a great place to hold your family photos, postcards, historic maps and more. Find frames you love, to create an orderly and contained display of these special pieces. It's tempting to want every memory to have a place on your wall or bookshelf, but if you completely fill your space with things from the past there won't be room for the new adventures to be displayed. Pick your favorites and remember switching a photo from a frame is very doable. 


There is something life-giving about a little live (or artificial) green in your living space. It reminds us that we need nourishment and we're growing daily. The Farmer's Market is a great place to grab some beautiful fresh blooms or succulents. If you aren't sure a little plant would survive, there are faux flowers and plants that add the same feeling in your room. Look at Target or Home Goods for one or two that you love! 

In the shared spaces. 


It's important to remember to consider the people you're living with before going decor crazy in places like the living room or kitchen. It might take some communication on the front end, but talking through how each person plans to use and enjoy the room will help everyone feel at home in the shared spaces. Try a few furniture arrangements and see what works best for your group of roommates or family. Challenge yourself to see a room through someone else's perspective, you may end up loving it! Remember a blended space is just that, a blend of different needs and personalities - it can be eclectic and beautiful at the same time. 


It's all about communication. We live full and sometimes chaotic lives. If you and the ones you share a home, apartment, condo or RV with can create systems up front that reduce extra stress, your home will be a place you can relax and be refreshed. Maybe even seasonally, you each commit to purge the excess in your closets as well as the shared household things you don't need anymore. Individually and collectively you have the ability to create and maintain a home that works well for you instead of against you. 


No one wants to search through a full pantry on their way out the door for the day. Baskets, bins, containers, trays... containing items that are similar is key. If there are shelves, grab some colorful tape and outline specific areas that are for each person. In order to do this fairly among different shelf sizes and heights, draw the dividing lines vertically. This is another place that labels will serve a great purpose, because you are more likely to maintain order while unloading from the grocery store if there are labels telling you what goes where. Same thought goes for the refrigerator. If pantry space is limited, pick a kitchen cabinet that could serve as extra storage. 


Whether it's a basket, a shelf or a side table there needs to be a designated place for daily mail to land. If it begins to pile up, it might be helpful to sort through and discard ads and junk mail. This is a great place for labels in order to cut down on confusion and missing mail. 

One last thought that will go along way in shared spaces: be quick to extend grace. We're talking about grace for your (sometimes messy) roommates and for your (sometimes messy) self too. As much as we wish we were tidy super organized individuals all the time, we just aren't. Stuff piles up, so when it happens remember: you got this!