By Elizabeth Prata
I often see folks’ photos of their bookcases or their offices or their podcast studios. I like to see where it all happens. Maybe you would like to see how I manage here, living tiny, and what my office looks like. Let’s be casual for a moment here on The End Time before I return to weightier topics next week, as the holidays end and we all get back to ‘reality’.
I have always liked living in smaller spaces. In the 1980s when the motto was “Greed is good” and the American dream was to have a large house, I bought a three story raised ranch with a yard. And filled it with furniture and stuff. After a while it got to be too much of an albatross around my neck, and I sought a better way of living. I’m glad I saved for, purchased, and owned a house. It taught me that I don’t want to own a house.
This was before salvation. After salvation, I learned that shepherding the resources God gives for His glory us is important. I committed to having less and decreasing my footprint. I made a conscious choice not to be weighed down by “stuff” or “debt.” That lifestyle gives more freedom, whether you’re saved or unsaved. It’s just a fact.
So this apartment I’ve lived in for 12 years is 410 square feet. A two room place with a small kitchen and a small bathroom. It has high ceilings and large windows, so I don’t feel closed in. It is easy on the utilities budget because there is less space to light, cool, and heat. It requires less furniture. It requires less energy to clean and maintain. There are a lot of good principles for tiny or tinier living, or just even less consumerism. In practical terms, I cannot maintain a large place on my own, physically or financially, as I age and I’m looking toward the future.
That said, I do have to live in a small space and function without frustration, so how to organize it? That takes some forethought. When you are considering how to organize a room, first look at where the electrical outlets are. Then look at where the light is coming from. You don’t want to station your television opposite a bright window, or there will be daytime glare every day. And if you read, also consider where the light is coming.
When I moved in, the fridge was where the table is now. I moved it to next to the stove. A fridge and stove side by side isn’t optimal, for obvious reasons. However, I don’t cook much, and I rarely bake, so having the oven on for long periods (making the fridge work harder to cool) isn’t as much of an issue if I was using the stove constantly cooking for a family.
Let’s take a closer look.
I needed a table as a central command location, lol. It’s where I study and write, my main activity. So moving the fridge (or whatever I had to do) to get a table to work on was priority #1. So after the electric outlets, consider your priorities for that space.
Then, the office accouterments. What goes with the priority you’ve identified, as support, whether it’s a bedroom or a library or a den. In the case of my office, there needs to be a spot for a printer, paper, notepads, pens and pencils, and so on. I decided that meant a bookcase. Normally, design people will tell you to go vertical. Therefore a computer desk would make the most sense, with its height and cubbies for exactly the things I just described. But I dislike clutter and I have a high priority on art, so I need the wall space. I didn’t want it crowded with things I’d have to look at if I was elsewhere in the apartment. Tiny living means it clutters quickly even with one or two items out of place, yet maintaining ease of use. A tricky proposition.
I decided instead of a traditional computer desk to use a short bookcase that just fits under the outlet. Since it’s short and almost the same height as the table it’s kind of hidden unless I’m immediately there. You probably didn’t notice it much in the first two photos. I can plug in my items that need electricity. And they are handy to me where I am writing. It would be inconvenient to go into another room every time I wanted to print or scan something. Preference/use indulged and visible clutter problem solved.
My bookcase is organized but it’s a working bookcase so it looks cluttered. I would not want that exposed to the rest of the apartment. Good thing it’s ‘hidden.’ OK, on the very top shelf has a coaster for putting my mug of coffee or pot of tea. I don’t like having liquid so close to the computer and it’s safer up off the table but within arm’s reach, especially with the cat jumping up. Also, I have a good lamp. Adequate lighting is crucial to anyone who spends a lot of time at a computer. Behind me is the stove light. I have enough light front, side, and in back. When it’s sunny I also have natural light.
Inside the first shelf is the canister of pens, pencils, highlighters, scissors. Behind it are Post it arrows for when I study, stapler, and a small dish of paper clips. Hanging from push pins on the back wall of the bookcase are the plugs for the scanner and flip-phone/Kindle charger. Remember the priority on outlets? I am glad these are midway up the wall so I can reach them with the chargers! All things at the ready for when I print out something or need to charge something. Hence the printer is on that shelf.
The middle shelf has my Bible and notebook. It is immediately handy, I can reach it without even rolling my chair. Next to that is the scanner, laminator, and paper- things I need and use daily.
The bottom shelf is working, therefore changes. It’s filled with books I’m reading now, references I need for the time being because of projects I’m working on, filled notebooks from sermon notes or blog ideas, resources I’m prepared to give away, cough drops, (because we all know what happens during a sermon, you get that itch and you start coughing and can’t stop and have to get up in the middle of the service in front of everyone to get water and everyone is watching and the pastor is distracted…ugh). I solve that with a $1 bag of cough drops and I replenish when I pack up for Sunday church into the bag I carry my Bible in to church every week, which is also on that shelf.
The covered kitty bed is because Murray likes to be near me and since I spend a lot of time at the table, he is more content if he can snuggle up nearby. I like to see him there. He is good company for me too. His sleeping snuffles are so cute.
Here is a peek at the rest of my bookcases. This one is my main reference bookcase. It is behind my office but mere feet away. Top shelf is art/nature books. The remaining shelves are theological in nature.
Small bookcase at the front door, next to my kitchen. I needed some place to put the modem and router. I hate wires so I put the technology in the top shelf of the cubby so it would be near where I have the computer for max wireless strength, but hidden from view. Everything in a small apartment can be seen, so the more I can ‘hide’ unsightly things the better. The wires come out the back. I drilled two holes. The middle shelf is Christian Living books, and the bottom are puzzle books and a mug full of bookmarks!
Below is the rest of the living room. Next to the couch is a table that had a shelf under it, so what to put there? Oh I know! Books! To the right of the couch is a personal library, a bookcase with secular books. Mainly Greek & Roman classics, field guides, natural history, etc.
Bedroom: lots of light and it’s a big room for the size of the apartment. It is also cooler back here, being surrounded by grass and trees on the outside. The kitchen is small and is surrounded on the outside by open space and a concrete patio, and being a kitchen, it gets hot. The laptop adds to the heat. I thought about making my command center here in the bedroom, after all, there’s a desk on the back wall, but in the end I decided on the kitchen.
As you can see, my MacArthur commentaries fill the top two shelves, with MacArthur books on the next shelf, and at bottom are Christian books aimed at women.
I had one more ‘open’ space in the apartment, and my home library was growing, so off to my favorite vintage/resale/thrift store I went, found this whatever-it-is case for $5, and made it into a bookcase. I needed a small one since the space there isn’t very big, and I don’t want to be cramped when I get clothes from the closet, since I use it twice a day, every day.
The bowl is there because I like the bowl but have no room for it in the kitchen, and it serves to prevent Murray from jumping on the top and then making a leap to the top of the bureau, which I do not want him to be able to do and he started to do the minute I installed the bookcase. Murrayyyy!!
Below is my personal library. Not theological. These are my books I read for leisure. Also note the costume jewelry hanging. I had an unused quilt display rod so I put it up top and hung some bracelets and necklaces there. Along the hidden side of the bookcase I pushed in some pushpins and hang other costume necklaces, also from my fave resale/thrift store. Murray can’t reach them. In tiny living, use every space. The 2 feet between the side of the bookcase and the closet wall was unused, so…
On the top shelf are Stories: Railroad stories, Legal stories, Dog stories, Sea Stories, Forgotten News Stories. The small shelf is classics, then Native American/Border issues books, then mixed bibliophile and chick lit, and bottom is Education books from my Master’s program. And some photo albums, from the days when we actually printed them out and organized them into a book… 😉
When I chose books for the 2020 Challies Christian Reading Challenge, it didn’t take me long to ‘shop’ my own shelves, since I live in a small space. I can see almost everything at once and can put my hands on it.
So that is the nickel tour. If I want to shepherd well the things given to me by God, I believe it’s important to recognize first that they are given by God. Second to prioritize my space according to the way I need to use it. Third, to organize it and KEEP it organized for the ease of use. Whether you live in a big mansion or a small camper, the key is to be organized.
Thanks for coming along on the tour with me! I pray 2020 is a productive and blessed year here at The End Time. You readers and friends have certainly made the last 11 years here a wonder and an encouragement.
This is the space where The End Time is written and The Quiet Life is lived. It’s where I meet my God in prayer and study. It’s where I eat and play. For all that I love where I live, I always wonder about my permanent home that Jesus is preparing for me! I think this is perfect, just wait until I see what Jesus has prepared. That WILL be perfect!