Small livings spaces have a few nice benefits. They’re easier to clean, cheaper to cool/heat, and less expensive to rent or buy. Over the last few years I have adapted to living in smaller spaces and have come up with a few tips for living in smaller spaces with a wheelchair.
1) Don’t hoard.
I’ve discovered that it has become much easier to sell, donate, or throw things away that aren’t being used. Typically if something has not been used in a year, I try to get rid of it. When every square foot is valuable, it doesn’t make sense to turn your home into a self-storage facility.
2) Don’t worry about things that paint can fix.
It’s inevitable that my wheelchair will scratch a wall or a door. I have learned not to worry about this, especially when space is tight. At first I decided that once a year I would touch up those marks I’ve left on my walls. It has been four years and I still haven’t done it. In other words, I got used to it. It’s not that important.
3) Put pads on the bottom of furniture.
There are times when I need to push a piece of furniture out of the way in order to reach something. Other times I just want to move things around. Since I have wood floors, it’s better to have those protective pads on the bottom of my furniture so the wood doesn’t get scratched too much. It also helps to have those plastic sliders on furniture that sits on carpeting because then those pieces can move easily too.
4) If possible keep, your bed against a wall.
A great way to waste space is to leave a pathway all the way around your bed. Unless you have a reason for it, I suggest pushing your bed up against a wall, which can easily create 5-10 extra square feet of floor space in the middle of the room.
5) Keep it configurable.
How many pieces of furniture can you occupy at one time? Usually just one. Sometimes you never leave your wheelchair. I like to have sitting spots available in case company comes, but when visitors aren’t there, it’s nice to push extra chairs and tables out of my way. Then, the 95% of the time when nobody else is around, I can move more easily around my house.
6) Pay attention to your patterns.
If a wall or a piece of furniture is constantly getting in your way, change the arrangement. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a pattern of settling for an arrangement that isn’t really working. For example, I had my bed in a place where it was always blocking a direct path from my door to my office. Finally one day I asked myself, “Why do I make myself go around my bed 10 times a day to get to/from my office?” I was immediately able to see a new place to put the bed and now I have a perfectly open pathway.
Let’s face it, room to roam is great, especially when you use a bulky wheelchair. But it’s possible to optimize small spaces for comfortable living. Pay attention to what’s getting in your way and do something about it!