Small Spaces: Tip #2

TV stand DIY | maggie whitley designs

Tip #2: take advantage of the things you already have in your home.

I’m not sure this even needs to be said, but just in case…

Hello, my name is Maggie and I live in a cozy apartment in Los Angeles with my husband, our two young children and our wild dog. We’re constantly looking for better ways our home can serve us without spending too much money, especially because we’re knee-deep in freeing ourselves from our debt. Hooray!

And that is exactly how a few months ago we found ourselves looking for a “new” piece of furniture to place our TV upon. We had just two rules to follow: use something we already have in our home (no new purchases), and for the TV stand to be multi-purposeful (a small space must-have).

My mother-in-law actually came up with the idea. She’s a home decor & layout transformation genius, but she disguises herself as the owner of a northern Michigan bridal shop. With her last visit I took full advantage of her talents, I have no shame in admitting that.

Months back, when Cindy came up with this idea, we were doing a massive apartment overhaul, literally flipping out entire apartment around. The two main changes we experienced not only gave us our living room back (where our queen-sized bed used to be), but they gave me a decided place to work on Caroline-made.

Prior to Cindy’s visit, I had been feeling like our cozy apartment wasn’t serving our family as best as it could, and having her visit would be the perfect opportunity to make a few changes. While working on the inside of our closet she noticed a bookshelf from IKEA (similar), which we used to store extra bedding and shoes.

Here was the thought process:

  • What if we moved the bookshelf to the living room, then tipped it on it’s side?
  • Then, what if we put the white canvas storage bins back inside each cubby? These bins would be perfect for discreetly storing diapers/wipes, extra baby blankets, and soft baby toys — items we’re always needing with our infant daughter?
  • And lastly, what if we drilled a few holes and installed a set of black furniture risers (similar) to the bottom side of the bookshelf to store our shoes underneath?

TV stand DIY | maggie whitley designs

Nearly five months have passed and the furniture risers have been a great addition! Because of their height they instantly raised the corners of the bookshelf up about six inches, which makes me feel less nervous about having sharp corners as little children run around. (Because of the height we gained the corners are out of the way.)

This simple DIY has been life-changing for our family of four living in a small space. Our living room is a multi-purpose room, so this bookshelf-turned-TV stand has been a perfect blend of storage meets function.

Do you have any small space questions or tip suggestions? Leave a comment below or send me an email :)

Pin It

How to stay successful as a runner.

joanna maggie whitley

I’m noticing a trend as to why I’ve been so successful with running. You may remember I was not a runner prior to February this year. I was friends with walking, but running? I hardly spoke the word. So as the months pass and my success continues on, there is a very specific re-occurring trend which has encouraged me to keep at it:

Never stop trying new things.

In February, March & April I worked on my pace and pushed myself to run longer durations. Not at a faster speed, but simply run for 10, 20, 30 additional seconds. I also had to push through the pains of becoming a runner, which took time. This was a huge accomplishment and helped me to make it to May.

In May & June I wanted to run more miles during each workout, pushing myself to an average of five miles per run. This usually took me an hour, which was exactly the duration of time I was hoping for.

In July I aimed to run more often each week. The longer I ran in distance and duration the more tired my body felt. I paired running 4 days/week with walking 2-3 days/week. Even if my muscles felt sore, I ran. Even when I felt like we had other things we should or could be doing, I made time to run. The mornings give me my best workouts, so I kept that a priority and saved the afternoons for errands or taking the kids to the park.

los angeles beach maggie whitley

That brings me to August. So far this month I’ve been running in the early morning (think 7am), and the kids have been staying at home — which really is a gift for all of us :) During the week I normally take Bauer, but on the weekends I run by myself.

This past Saturday I did something totally different once again as I wanted to find a new location. I set my alarm, picked up my friend Joanna, and together we ran alongside the Pacific for an hour. Normally I run through a business district or neighborhood, so the beach was a real treat.

We walked for a few minutes and prepared our muscles to be bossed around. Our pace increased and soon we were running alongside other runners and cyclists. That’s probably the best part of running for me, joining my community in a workout that’s truly unique to each of us.

No doubt, when you have a running buddy it’s easier to push each other to keep going.

How long do you want to run?

We’re at 2.12 miles right now, maybe a little over 4 total? Let’s run down to that rest stop and then turn around.

Sounds good.

flowers maggie whitley

So that was my Saturday, and it was great. Trying new things is definitely working well for me.

PS. Many have asked what I listen to while I run. I keep one earbud in and switch between listening to music (Pandora: various stations depending on my mood), audio books (OverDrive is an iPhone app that links to your library account so you can listen with your phone), and podcasts.

Pin It

Are your things holding you hostage?

donations maggie whitley

Many times now I’ve seen a particular tidying up book pop up in my social media feeds. When I first saw the title, I admit, I wasn’t sure what it’s greater purpose was. I didn’t understand why it was gaining popularity. I wasn’t sure how it could be applied to my life and my things and why I needed to spend my time reading it. (I sound so selfish!)

And then my friend Rhiannon said she was reading it and enjoying it. So, I did a little research and came to the conclusion this book scared me a little because it would force me to fully evaluate what we keep in our home (along with WHY). Suddenly I felt like I had to read it, too!

You may remember three years ago our family moved to Los Angeles. I was newly pregnant with Maxwell, and when we arrived here we had just a few things with us. And I literally mean just a few: a few boxes and duffel bags in our Jeep, plus a couple boxes shipped via the postal service.

What we have in our Los Angeles home has (perhaps) even greater meaning than ever before, because we literally had to save our money to buy it. Simple things, like bath towels and a mattress and bed frame, a work desk and a couch and an end table, lamps and clothing hangers, kitchen utensils and cookware. We went without for months until we could afford to buy it with cash. (And some of that is still true today.)

Reading this book has helped me to realize I’ve placed way too high of value on the things we keep in our home — even if we don’t need it, use it, or like it.

Not too long after we arrived in Los Angeles we had our first baby. And then we moved to a slightly larger apartment. And then we had a second baby. I’ve started a business, put a business on pause, and have re-opened a business. In the meantime, we’ve accumulated more and more and more and more. Paper work and blankets and mugs and clothes and baby items and towels and sets of dishes and craft materials and extra furniture. Should I keep going? Someone stop me.

Our home, in all it’s simple living-ness, is wonderful at helping us to use it’s space well overall, but it’s made us (me?) cram in way more than necessary. Our bedroom and linen closets are so generous in size that they are able to house multiple categories of items, making them look and feel unorganized. There’s too much “stuff” in there, without a clear definition of What and Why. And I think this can apply to every home out there, not just smaller-sized homes or larger homes.

In fact, it’s not even about the size of our home, but rather the atmosphere we want to nurture inside our home.

I think what resonated with me the most is when Marie (the author) shared clutter happens when an item is either too hard to put away or has an unclear storage location.

I actually listened to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up through Audible while running with the kids. It took me four days, but I felt inspired after just 30 minutes. Pretty amazing.

My friend Joanna shared she loves to read because it gives her something to talk about with her husband, aside from their children. Do you see me nodding my head? Maybe you’re nodding your head, too.

What do you want to change about the way your family uses your home?

I’m maybe three-quarters through tidying-up our home and already have thrown out four bags of trash, donated seven bags, and have sold a few things to speed up our debt payoff progress.

Are you thinking of moving soon? We don’t have any plans in the near future to move, but I know it will happen some day. When the time comes, the process of packing up our home will be so much easier because we won’t be packing, moving, and unpacking boxes and boxes things we don’t need, use, or like.

Or maybe you’re knee deep in paying off debt, like we are? Could you set aside a collection of items to sell that will help you either build your emergency fund or make an advance payment on a debt?

All you have to do is let go of the things that are holding you hostage in your own home.

PS. a compilation of books I’ve read.

Pin It

Why your girlfriends are so important.

girlfriends maggie whitley

Three years ago, shortly after we moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, I found myself meeting up with Joanna. We hadn’t yet met, so you could say it was an “internet friend blind date”. (We had a mutual friend in Minneapolis that insisted we connect.)

One morning, while I was about 6 months pregnant with Maxwell, we met for coffee. And traditional to going on a blind date, I knew nothing about her, however per her confession (years later!) she had thoroughly read my blog beforehand ;) and knew everything about me!!!

Joanna and I met at a local cafe and settled in on their patio, which had many outdoor heaters. Many. (Extra emphasis on the many, because you know, southern California is cold in October.) With hot drinks in hand, we began chatting, and then said aloud to each other — at nearly the same time, Are you hot, because I am sweating!

And then we burst out laughing, knowing (I’m sure of it) that we were going to be the best of friends. #Midwestgirlsatheart

Not too much time later we both had a friend that “you just have to meet,” and suddenly we were a group of four. As someone who thrives on being in community, these women, Joanna, Rhiannon & Cristina, have become a lifeline to me in Los Angeles.

We talk about “all the topics” when we’re together, from pregnancy (and all it’s struggles), marriage, beauty, writing, travel, creativity, books, and finances. In fact, I’m sure people sometimes wish they didn’t overhear our conversations ;)

I’ve always trusted God to provide me with the right kind of community, exactly where we live, but to have it so continually — through all the highs & lows of life and parenthood and womanhood, has made me feel so cared for.

A time when I’ve felt the most-grateful to have this group of girlfriends? The first few months as I transitioned into my role as a mama of two babes. Those were hard months. I still remember. Obviously, because I hadn’t ever done that before, but also because there were so many hearts to be caring for, all at the same time — my heart included. Many times I fell back on this realization: the best way to get through “it” was to try and try again, but it’s so refreshing to have my girlfriends walk alongside me while I try. (Some things just need to be experienced, right? But that doesn’t mean we have to experience them alone.)

park maggie whitley

Our girlfriend group has grown from 2 kids to 6 kids, and as Cristina so perfectly explained it last week, it’s such a treat to know we can always count on seeing one other at the beach on Tuesdays. Once summer ends we’ll have to set up a new weekly date so we can continue to problem-solve together :)

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

PS. a fun (unplanned) fact: we all had babies in 2014! And can you believe Natalie will be turning One in October?

Pin It