Full House? Use These Tips to Maximize Space When Working From Home

A man looks exhausted while working from home as his daughter tries to play with him.
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If you are feeling crowded in your home and considering buying something bigger, it’s scary these days to see how much just a little more space will cost. The median sales price of a home was up 17% for the four weeks ending April 11 compared to the same period in 2020, according to Redfin, the nationwide real estate brokerage.

But disappointed would-be homebuyers feeling priced out of the market can make simple changes where they currently live to maximize space and feel less cramped.

Here are some ways to create new spaces in your existing house or condo and enjoy it more while waiting for prices to drop. Who knows, you may decide there’s no place like home.

A completes his work from an office set up in his closet at home as his kids spend time in his room beside him. This photo illustrates one way to maximize small spaces: put your office in your closet.
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5 Tips for How to Maximize Your Space 

Here are some ways to maximize space and carve out individual rooms for a lot less than adding on or leasing a bigger apartment.

1. A cleaned-out closet becomes an office nook 

If you empty out a closet, it easily becomes a remote-learning classroom where all school materials can stay in one place and be easily accessed. Here’s how to quickly repurpose:

  • Remove all the shelving, except for perhaps the top shelf for storage.
  • Have your child pick out a color and paint the inside together.
  • Measure the width and depth of the closet then get a piece of scrap countertop or plywood cut at Lowe’s, Home Depot or an independent cabinet and kitchen shop. This could cost $50 to $100 depending on the size and material.
  • Nail wooden slats or 2-by-4s around the perimeter of your closet about 30 inches above the floor.
  • Place the desktop on the supports.
  • Add a bulletin board, plastic file holders, stapler and a cup for markers and pencils. Let your child decorate his or her “classroom” with a few photos or printouts of their favorite heroes and heroines.

2. Got Junk? Then you probably have space.

If a closet or a spare bedroom is packed to the brim with a broken vacuum cleaner or rusty exercise bike covered in old clothes, getting rid of all that offers more space for humans.

Pro Tip

Is it time to pare down your belongings? Use these tips on how to minimize your stuff.

Make a call to 1-800-Got Junk? Their minimum fee is $129 to remove and dispose of about as much stuff as fits in a pickup truck. There are also local, independent junk removal companies that offer competitive pricing. Or haul it away yourself, donating the usable items to your favorite charity for resale.

3. A sheet and a drill can create a room

When Beau Brown was a high school senior during the first year of the pandemic, he did school at home alongside his two siblings and his parents, who were working at home. Feeling cramped, he found a way to carve out a little space for himself.  But his easy fix could create a beloved hideaway for a kid for any age.

“He literally took a flat king sheet and drilled screws through it into one corner of the living room,” his mother, Alyssa Brown said. “He made this little triangular room of his own.”

The sheet supplied one wall, and the existing walls completed the rest of his triangular space that had enough room for a comfy chair, end table and a fan. The fan helped drown out the noise of the rest of the three-bedroom apartment. He used earphones when playing his XBox to contain his noise.

This “corner room” could also house a play space, Lego table or easel in a living room or kitchen, offering privacy to a child and keeping toys out of sight in the main room.

IKEA has organizational devices for small spaces such as the VIDGA, which is a curtain-like room divider and a BEKANT, which is a narrow standing desk.
IKEA has organizational products for small spaces, such as the VIDGA, left, which is a curtain room divider and a BEKANT, right, which is a screen that divides a room, gives privacy and reduces sound. Photo courtesy of IKEA

4. Ikea to the rescue

Ikea has several products from $59 to $149 that can create partitions or turn a corner into an office or bedroom.

Shelving units can be secured on one end to a wall and stick out into a room to divide it into two spaces. One KALLAX shelving system is almost five feet high and three feet wide for $70. Two of these would make a good-sized wall down the middle of your kids’ shared bedroom, or section off a corner of the living room for an office.

“The VIGDA corner room divider can be easily assembled following the provided instructions,” an Ikea spokeswoman said. The VIGDA consists of a track that is attached to the ceiling, with curtains that hang to the floor. It costs $46 while Ikea drapes start at $12.99 a set.

“The MICKE Corner Workstation can be placed anywhere in the room. With shelving and a magnetic board, you can organize this workstation in your own unique way,” the Ikea representative said. It costs $149, and can be placed so that it creates two walls against a corner with a small opening to “get in” to the desk-and-shelf unit.

“The BEKANT screen provides privacy and absorbs sound to create division within the room,” she added. It costs $119 and is 59 inches high and 32 inches wide.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

5. Rethink and Reconfigure 

A screened porch, sunroom or dining room may be put to better use as a bedroom or classroom when everyone is home. Eat in the kitchen or at a coffee table, and make that dining room into one or even two rooms for sleeping, schooling or working.

When I got divorced several years ago, we sold our four-bedroom home and I rented a two-bedroom house in a great neighborhood with a lot of character and big yard. With two daughters away at college and a high-school-aged son rotating between his dad and me, I really didn’t need more than two bedrooms.

But I struggled with my daughters having to move out of the house where they grew up and all their “stuff” being packed away in boxes in the attic. (“Stuff” defined: photos, embroidered pillows, framed record albums, twinkling lights, artwork, music boxes, stuffed animals, an old bubble gum machine, etc. It’s the “stuff” that makes a room, your room.)

I considered adding air conditioning to the garage, which had two big windows, but that was way too expensive. I thought about converting the dining room to their room, but there would be no way to get to the kitchen without going through it.

Ultimately, I made the master bedroom their room. I slept in it 90% of the time since they weren’t home often, but it was filled with all their “stuff” and their clothes.

I put my dresser in the dining room, and my clothes in the hall closet. For a summer when the girls were home, I slept on the sofa in the living room or on a pull-out in the screened porch.

The rest of the house was decorated with my stuff, but they still had a room of their own and a place they felt was theirs.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.