We often talk about the importance of labeling: labeling file folders or labeling all sorts of other storage containers so you know what’s inside of them. But have you ever thought about labeling your rooms?
Not literally, of course. Rather, putting a mental label on a room can help you clarify its purpose and what belongs where. And you can be creative; rooms don’t have to be used for their traditional purposes.
I’m lucky enough to have a home with a guest bedroom, but I don’t get guests all that often. So the bed — a nice big horizontal surface — tends to temporarily store a whole range of items I’m donating or freecycling on behalf of others. That used to stress me out, until I realized there’s really nothing wrong with it. The room is now mentally labeled as my “guest bedroom and donation/freecycling processing room,” which made it clear that this room is also where I need to store the plastic bags I keep for putting freecycle donations on my front porch.
Sometimes people wind up using their family rooms, living rooms, or dining areas as home offices. Laptop computers can make that easy, and sometimes these other rooms are more attractive places to work because of the lighting, the views, etc. If you find yourself working in a place other than your defined home office, maybe it’s time to go with your natural inclinations. If your dining room or other such space adds the label of “home office,” what needs to be kept in that room to support that use? And, how might the more traditional home office space be relabeled?
More dramatically, a room can be used for something totally separate from its original purpose. Some people turn small rooms into closets; some people turn closets into offices or reading nooks. Parents in San Francisco changed a rarely used formal dining room into a playroom for their two young children. The family eats in the “enhanced breakfast nook.” Someone who just doesn’t cook acknowledged that fact, and turned her kitchen into a closet.
Sometimes labeling a room makes it clear what doesn’t belong. I knew someone with a home office, who complained that the room was just too small for everything she needed. But then we found lots of non-office things were stored in that home office, too. Once those non-office items were removed and relocated to other rooms whose purposes also got clarified, her home office was just fine.
This concept can even be extended to self-storage units. I know a woman who ran a business that required her to keep a large number of product samples on hand, to take with her when she visited clients’ homes. Her own home had no place for all these samples, so she rented a self-storage unit and outfitted it with good shelving. While such units can often be a waste of money, depending on what’s stored in them, hers was definitely not. The key factor is that it wasn’t a dumping ground; it was her inventory storage unit. Nothing else went in there.
It can be enlightening to think of all the spaces your family members need or want — for sleeping, grooming, eating, working, playing, exercising, pursuing hobbies, etc. — and compare that to your mental labels for your rooms. You may just find some changes you’d like to make.