Putting labels on your rooms

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.

5 Comments for “Putting labels on your rooms”

  1. posted by Beverly on

    Funny how time goes on . . . when we built our house, we had a room specifically for a hot tub. The tub was removed about 7 years later. To this day, we refer to it as the “tub room” even though it now has a closet so it can be classified as a bedroom. We use it for storage and to house my computer armoire. NOTE: we have lived here for 26 years. It will no doubt forever be called the Tub Room!!

  2. posted by Dorothy on

    Super post!

    So often I hear friends wistfully wishing for space for something. Since I quilt, I often hear a fellow quilter longing for a studio.

    If I know the person well, I’ll point out the formal dining room or formal living room they use twice per year, or the bedroom they have preserved in its all its teen-age decor glory for an adult child who has children of his own and is about to celebrate his 15th wedding anniversary.

    It’s your house. Use it in ways that reflect your values. If cramming it full of junk so you can’t turn around in it is a value for you, go for it. If setting aside a room for serving only Thanksgiving and Easter dinner is a value for you, Mazel Tov!

    But if embracing your present interests and art is a value, I say, leave behind the “well, everyone has a formal living room” room, or make Bobby finally come over and get his stuff out of your house, and make the freed-up space into a quilt studio, or a home office, or a potting shed, or a canning kitchen, or a model train room, or a gun-smith shop, or whatever makes your heart sing!

  3. posted by G. on

    The labels on the blueprints are just a suggestion.

    I can’t count how often I read about “no room for my office (or hobby), but I can’t totally take over the guest room because this person stays 2 nights once a year.” Or can’t take over the formal living room or dining room because they hold a once-a-year holiday get together.

    Is a short once a year event worth making your home not work well the rest of the year? Everyone will have their own answer to how often guests must stay to keep the guest room.

  4. posted by JC on

    Our home has an open floor plan (think barn frame with partitions). We have more “areas” rather than dedicated “rooms”. My sewing “area” is 25% of the loft, while DH’s “gun room” is an actual room with dead bolt locks in the basement. The dining area has our table, but also has a stereo, several very large (6-9′ tall) potted plants, and a woodbox for the woodstove and for several weeks of the year it is the staging area for DH’s hunting/camping gear for his big trips. Since DD has moved out, we now have an extra bedroom. Although we will likely keep the bed for the very rare guest, I use it mainly for storage of fabric and craft supplies so I have more active space in my sewing area.

  5. posted by [email protected] on

    I so agree! We actually had a large closet that we converted into a room for our grandson. We put a crib in there and when he spent the night, that’s where he slept. It worked great. I’m big on thinking outside the box and using things in an unconventional way. Love this post.

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