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Hacking Houses into Homes


September 22, 2021

Housing and Transportation Life Hacks Living in LA

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Like a lot of people, I’ve spent most of my time over the past year and a half at home. In a series of events (some fortunate, others not so much), “home” for me has looked like a USC dorm, my childhood bedroom, and several short term apartments. Since March 2020, my living situation has been like a game of ping pong: LA → New Jersey (1 month) → Wisconsin (1 month) → New Jersey (2 months) → Connecticut (4 months) → LA (4 months) → Illinois (3 months) → LA (present).

Map of my moving around the US

1.5 years of moving around

On top of hopping between states, I was constantly changing the spaces themselves. I can get obsessive over tetris-ing my things into a new space as logically as possible. I draw out floor plans and make models on the Sims. Then, I rearrange my house when I’m stressed (it is a hazard of living with me, any roommate of mine can attest). But what all of this moving, planning, and rearranging has taught me is that there’s no right or wrong answer for a living space — the best space is whatever works for the people living in it.

We’ve learned repeatedly in class that an environment that matches a person’s needs can support their ability to participate in occupations. If you’re considering changing your current setup, moving to LA for grad school, or trying out-of-area fieldwork in a new city — let’s talk tips for making your living environment into a home.

Locations for Leisure
Especially if you are working from home, it can be easy to forget that home is also a place for leisure. Think about how you can make space for leisure activities you like. This could be leaving floor space for a yoga mat, setting up a craft corner, or establishing a comfy space to read. For me, this means having a dedicated table to do puzzles.

Match Your Mess
Nobody’s perfect and sometimes our habits/routines are messy. Instead of shaming yourself for it, consider how your environment can support you. Here are 2 examples:

  1. If I don’t see something, it isn’t there. I keep my clothes easily visible stacked on bookshelves instead of hidden in drawers. In my fridge, leftovers are on the top shelf, the condiments are in the vegetable drawer, and all vegetables are in the door (this one has really saved me from wasting food).
  2. Part of my daily routine is trying on no less than 4 outfits before I pick one and then I either run out of time or, honestly, don’t prioritize putting them back. This used to result in a disaster zone in my bedroom and confusion between what clothes were dirty vs clean. My solution now is to have a separate basket for clothes-to-put-back-later that I can reorganize when I have time.

While these might make no sense to you, my point is that there are no rules. Match your home to your habits/routines.

Furniture is Fluid
I’ve gotten almost all of my furniture second-hand and a lot of it is not used for its intended purpose. I’ve used an IKEA dining table as a desk. We used to keep pots/pans in the TV stand. My current fruit shelf was formerly my plant stand and is actually just a bathroom rack I found on the curb. Especially if you’re moving around and feeling like arranging furniture is like fitting a circle block into a triangle hole: everything is multi-purpose if you believe it is.

DIY Decor
Filling your space with decorations that make you feel good can seem expensive. Channel your creative energy and consider making some DIY Decor (throwback to Foundations: Creativity, Craft and Activity Analysis). It doesn’t have to be fancy - here’s some of what I’ve made:

Embroidered/painted moon grid + popsicle stick shelves.

Embroidered/painted moon grid + popsicle stick shelves. All materials are from Amazon or the dollar store.

Writing this felt a little like skipping ahead. Actually finding housing, furniture, roommates, etc is a whole other ball game — but I’ll save that for another blog post 😊