In need of a landlord-friendly set of tweaks to prepare the environment in a small rental home apartment (72sqm)? I sure was.
We have been in London for about a month, and in our new home for 3 weeks. Many of the drill-requiring space-saving hacks for our Singapore home could not be used in our London rental flat. And while I torment myself by carting cute children’s furniture online and deleting them, some inner voice of conscience nags me that it is un-economical to even attempt to ship these back to Singapore when our time here is done.
Tweaks: LED light, washi tape
Our entryway receives no natural light whatsoever and the kids still can’t reach the light switch, so I placed a LED light on the shoe bench. Tired of seeing shoes strewn haphazardly, I also used washi tape to demarcate “parking lots” for shoes, as one astute observer remarked, and a child-sized chair next to it. It is surprising how this one little enhancement with the washi tape has aided the children to line up their shoes and socks.
I also added a related shoe polishing work to this area, consisting of a Daiso tray holding two brushes (and eventually some homemade polish… or soapy water in that blue scrub with built-in container is probably more where my skill level is at). Have a closer look here.
Round the corner is an improvised coat rack.
Key items: Daiso extension pole, 3M command hook, acrylic mirror
I had been observing the children’s flow of movement and realised they liked to dump their coats on the floor at this spot before running off. Hence, this strange little door to the semi open-plan kitchen, which we had no use for, became the site for mounting a retractable extension pole for hanging winter coats. The pouch on the 3M command hook is for stuffing their gloves.
The child-safe acrylic mirror is really special as I had it customised with the children’s names. I would love to have a full-length mirror for them to see their whole reflection though.
And this is pretty much all the storage that we have for toys and books. Yes, this is it! ImThis bookshelf came with the house. I would prefer light wood tones so the Montessori materials stand out but nevertheless- it is so liberating to live with less. Make-believe toys are not completely Montessori but we have a few wooden ones that we store in drawstring bags on the bottom shelf. The second lowest shelf will eventually hold their trays when I am ready to restart our units. It’s one of the earliest pictures I took so you may spy some changes, such as switching out the cardboard art for the pouch for gloves, and moving the child-sized chair closer to the front door.
The carp streamers hanging from the bookcase are a gift from Japan from my auntie. They are typically brought out to celebrate the Japanese Children’s Day, koinoburi. I thought it was nice to display some Asian items to remind us of our travels and heritage.
Living and dining room (reception)
Key items: plant, IKEA children’s table, chairs
See the sofa? It was originally an L-shape. We shifted it around to form this rather aesthetically unappealing box, or as I now call it, a gross motor area. LOL. This being a Victorian-era building, the floors are rather thin and we needed a place for the children to expend their energies without disturbing the neighbours. So yes, they get to jump on the sofa.
This photo is here because it’s hard to argue with that view. Just yesterday Dyl exclaimed that he had seen a squirrel climbing the trees.
And see our dinner setup at this table here.
Snack and water station in living room
(Update as of Mar 2017: video tour of kitchen, snack and water station)
Key items: 3M command hook, plastic file ring and suction hooks
This was a great tip from this wonderful Montessori blog by a trained teacher and now school owner, recommended by our friend Julia.. Just adding a hook to a table and a ring to a towel makes it easy for even the youngest toddler to wipe spills and then hang the towel back up! Couldn’t even be bothered to sew so I looped a rubber band round the towel, and fastened it on a ring meant for filing notecards.
A frontal view of our water and snack station. Details here.
And a closeup on the child-sized tools. We color-coded them with washi tape, along with the tools hanging on the suction hooks, to unify the disparate tools so the children know they belong together. Update: sadly they’ve fallen off, am I the only person that happens to?? Need to restock.
We leave snacks out in the bear containers all day, and offer fruits/ yoghurt at the time. Today we have seeded crackers, organic granola, organic yoghurt and raspberries (only coz I was feeling fancy, usually it’s bananas). Thank you local bakeries and M&S. It is tough enough getting together lunch and dinner for the littles from scratch, I shall happily patronise M&S instead for breakfast foods.
I located the snacks here because the gap between this side of the table and the fireplace meant both kids could serve themselves at the same time.
Key items: IKEA step stool and various cutlery trays
The kitchen is so small one can just barely turn around in it to reach everything. However, it also only has one rack of drawers, so the lowest one became the children’s drawer.
We store from T-B, L-R: placemats made from Singapore Airlines fabric, aprons, thermos (scrub brush has since been moved to shoe area), snacks/ bars for packing on the go, cutlery, dish drainer for crockery, lemon juicer, tongs and cutlery trays containing child-safe knives, wavy chopper, measuring cup, whisks, egg timer, stainless steel creamer, rice baller and masher.
Sidenote: our collection has grown. Our collection back in Singapore looks meagre in comparison. Heh!
And following the principle that if you can’t bring it down to the child’s level, you bring the child up to your level (safely), the ubiquitous Ikea bekvam step stool. Here the children are waiting for their turn to do the dishes. This swan neck tap allows sufficient reach for a child so no further faucet extender is needed.
And see the kids washing dishes in Singapore, Emmy was under 2yo then.
Key items: more suction hooks and step stool
One drawback of our apartment is that it only has one bathroom, which is narrow and rectangular at that, so we needed to balance our huge amounts of laundry (remember this full disclosure post on how our prepared environment actually looks like?!) with our children’s need for their own bit of space.
The foldable stool has been multi-tasking, as a seat for us adults at the low table or extra shoe bench, but it is stored in the bathroom because it is used daily, and mostly on this side as it is closer to the cold water tap.
I like having clutter-free countertops so Andrew and my toiletries are stored in the mirrors cabinet, while the children’s ones are mounted on suction plugs. I smuggled the silly frog and pig toothbrush holders from home as a surprise to make the children feel welcome in their new home. In Singapore, they once moved the pig and frog right next to each other, almost touching. I thought it was kinda sweet. And my mum helped me ship the metal basket from Singapore, as it was deep enough to contain both cups, unlike a previous bar soap dish that I brought which was too shallow and the cups kept falling off. See our Singapore toileting area here.
Open the cupboard door and there is a laundry hamper for the children to put their clothes into.
And just for fun, this is the adult laundry bin, which really looks like a dustbin. After I dumped rubbish in it and our part-time cleaner pointed out my mistake, I thought I should play safe and enlisted my nieces to spell “Laundry” using foam clay- adults hate the foam clay which makes kids love it even more.
My favourite quote by William Morris: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. Interestingly, this was the same quote used in this motivating and inspirational article on clutter-free homes by Becoming Minimalist.
I’ll leave you to decide if this Laundry sign is either useful, beautiful… or none😂
Head over to our Facebook page coz we update there much more frequently! Next up on our FB page: visit to an AMI Children’s House in London, and our first Montessori-inspired unit in London and related to London.