Skillshare Audio: Simple Steps to Optimize Your Space at Home | Erin Boyle | Skillshare

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Skillshare Audio: Simple Steps to Optimize Your Space at Home

teacher avatar Erin Boyle, Minimalism & Writing

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Tips & Tactics to Optimize Your Space


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About This Class

This class is audio-only, so you won’t see any active video on your screen. Plug in your headphones, take a listen, and let us know what you think!

In a brand-new, audio-only class, minimalism and sustainability expert Erin Boyls shares key tips and tricks for optimizing your space for work, school, and everything in between.

Whether you’re in a studio apartment or are sharing your space with a crowd, we’re all spending more time at home. Listen along as Erin shares how she maximized her 800-square-foot apartment for her family of five — and how you can translate her tried-and-true techniques to your own home. 

You’ll discover how to:

  • Decide what your family needs from your space
  • Configure your home into usable zones
  • Create location “kits” to travel with you throughout your home
  • Rethink norms and break the rules to suit you and your family

This class is perfect for a listen as you work on your latest creative project, tidy up at the end of your day, or as a soundtrack while you take a walk around your neighborhood. By the end, you’ll have the simple tools and tips you need to look at your space with fresh eyes and see potential you may have missed before — making your time at home more peaceful and inviting, no matter how much time you spend there.


Explore more audio-only classes on Skillshare! Hear designer Aaron Draplin answer questions straight from Skillshare students and discover how illustrator Mimi Chao found her way to her dream creative career.

Meet Your Teacher

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Erin Boyle

Minimalism & Writing


Erin Boyle is the writer and photographer behind Reading My Tea Leaves. She’s a minimalist with a penchant for a good story and a soft spot for an aged patina. Her approach to living simply is one that acknowledges that life isn’t always simple, but the curtains can be.

Past work in historic and cultural preservation informs her desire to cherish what is beautiful, useful, and meaningful. Time spent living in an apartment with a footprint of just 173 square feet taught her to reevaluate everything else. Erin’s first book, Simple Matters, came out in January, 2016. It’s a nod to the growing consensus that living simply and purposefully is more sustainable not only for the environment, but for our own happiness and well-being, too.

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1. Introduction: This spring, the playgrounds in New York City were closed. Our homes literally had to become playgrounds for our children to all of us city dwellers in small apartments. We really had to get creative with how we used our homes. There is a period where we started bouncing our kids on our beds while holding them just to get there wiggles out, and not make too much noise for the neighbors. I'm Erin Boyle, the writer, and photographer behind the blog Reading My Tea Leaves, and the book Simple Matters. You are listening to Skillshare audio. Today we're talking about creating a sense of calm within a multi-functional space. Right now so many of us are spending so much time at home, and we're demanding more of our homes than ever before. There not only a place where we live, there places where we work, there places where we educate our kids, there places where we rest and relax, where we cook, where we clean, where we maybe exercise. There are so many different demands on our space, and the places that we call home. Today we're going to be chatting a bit about how we can help make these spaces more multi-functional, and also more calm. 2. Tips & Tactics to Optimize Your Space: When we're asking so much of our homes, one thing that helps me is to remember that the home doesn't have to be everything all at once. In fact, it's easier and more calm and peaceful for me and my family if I'm not asking the house to be everything at once, if I'm focusing on a particular function. For example, we recently moved to a new apartment, so now, we have a dedicated office space, which is lovely, although it's still an office space that I share with my husband, so it's not always available to me. I'm often working, for instance, at the kitchen table. When I'm working at the kitchen table, I need it to really be a workspace. It's really hard for me to concentrate if there's also meal on the table, or kids art supplies, or leftovers from lunch, or whatever it is. I think that being able to return to zero and have a blank sleet and a clean fresh start. It has been really important for me. I remember in my very first tiny apartment when I moved to New York City, my husband and I found wine crate on the sidewalk and we brought it home and cleaned it up. It slid underneath our couch, we had this tiny love seat that fit perfectly in one little nook in our apartment. We slid this wine crate underneath the couch. In that wine crate, every day, I put my laptop and my laptop charger and my notebook. I'm a real pen and paper person, so I like to have things written down, to take notes on, and all of that went into that wine crate every single day after I finished my work. If I was working from home, everything would go there, and it could slide under the couch, and then it's out of sight, out of mind. It's a real opportunity then for the couch to serve as a place to relax. Toolboxes have always been something that I love. I have a real connection to toolboxes, just for nostalgic reasons. My dad always had these old toolboxes that had been given to him by an uncle who owned a hardware store, and then he passed them along to me. Now, I have a bunch of different actual physical metal toolboxes in my life, but I think just the idea of a toolbox is really helpful. What are toolboxes and why do we have them? We have them to create a sense of order, we have them to keep our physical supplies, we have them to take care of our things, and we also have them so that we can be mobile. Most toolboxes have a handle, and clasp, and a lock, and we can move them from space to space as we need them. Then, we can also put them away at the end of the day. I think using that as a metaphor for how to approach your multi-functional space can be really helpful, because when you think about developing toolboxes for the different needs, then you can think about it, both in terms of what do I need and also how do I put it away. How can I put that away so that space can transform into the next thing that I'm asking of it. When you're working on a project, like let's say, you're building a table, the first few times you've worked on a project, you might do a lot of walk back and forth. Let's say you have a tool shed, you might go back and forth a lot of times gathering your supplies. But the next time you go to work on that table, you're going to know what you needed and you're going to put it together, most likely, so that you don't have to go back and forth ten times to get the tools that you need. I think that that's part of the philosophy here, is establishing what are the essentials, what are the supplies that are most useful to me in a given moment, and where can I keep them so that I have access to them, or my kids have access to them, so that the whole family can feel empowered both to transform a room into whatever use that we need it to have at a given moment, and then also, to undress it from that use and to put everything away. For today's purpose, we'll focus on my family's kitchen table. At different points during the day, it's a place where a family gathers to eat. [inaudible] can you come up at the table? Where my first grader does her school wok, where we set up kids with crafts, where we screen family movies, where my husband and I do our work, and of course, where we gather for dinner. Most of you will also have a kitchen table, so it's a good place to start the lesson. We're going to go through two different scenarios for that kitchen table. One scenario is that kitchen table serving as a place for the kids to do artwork, and the other scenario is the kitchen table serving as a place for me to do my work. When you have little kids, you get used to there being a lot of creative messes all the time. One tool that I find to be really helpful is to have a big tablecloth, so that I can put it down on the table and not have to worry about the mess causing a problem. It's just the creative spot for them to be. I always start with the tablecloth. That's the first and most important thing in my toolkit for the kids' art supplies. There's a big tablecloth, and then I tend to use glass jam jars. We always have a whole bunch of them. My kids are big toast and jam eaters. Once those are done, we clean them out and they can become pencil holders, or supply holders. When they're set up on the middle of the table, that's a place that the kids can return their things to really easily. It creates a sense of order for them, and it's also routine, so they know, for instance, like the tablecloth are on the table, I'm going to go to the shelf, or I'm going to go wherever it is that you keep the supplies, I'm going to go and get those supplies and bring them out to the table. Then when they're done, they also know where those supplies go. Having that mobility is really helpful. Then after all of the creative play has happened, when there's paintings being hung up to dry or whatever it is, then it's really simple for the kids to put things away. They use those jars to corral their art supplies. Those go back on a shelf, and then, there's a parent to help wipe down the table, the tablecloth, fold that up and put it away, and there's literally, a blank table ready for the next use. I think that when you have small kids creating access points for them, places where they can get their own supplies and their own tools, is really helpful. For instance, we have water pitchers that we keep on a low shelf in the refrigerator, so that my kids can get out their own cold water and pour themselves the glass of water by themselves, so that every time they're thirsty, they're not having to ask a parent to help them. Same with their art supplies. Those are kept on a shelf that they have access to, so they are able both to get them and to put them away. I think that that's helpful for adults also. After the kids are done doing their art project, after breakfast is cleaned up, then that table might need to be a workspace. There again, if there's a toolkit, if there's a toolbox, or like a physical space where you can access all the things you need, all the better. That makes that transition really easy. Hey, baby. Hi. How are you doing? [inaudible]. I'm just doing a quick work for you. I will see you in a sec, okay? Okay. All right. See you later. For my toolkit for work, I'm still using that same wine crate strategy that I've been using for over a decade now, which is that my laptop, my computer charger, my notebook, a pencil, whatever it is that I need just goes into this wine crate, and I can pull it out from under the couch, or under my bed, wherever it happens to be living at a certain moment, and I have everything I need right there in that spot. It means that I can get to work quickly because I know I have all of the tools. It means that, for instance, if my husband's using the office, I can have that wine crate available to me in another room. I think as we try to carve out all of the spaces for ourselves at our homes, everything has to do double duty, not just the kitchen table, but also our bedrooms. While someone's using an office, another person might be using the bed to have a conference call, or someone might be doing virtual school in one room that also serves as a place for another child to take a nap later on in the day. I think that for all of us, we are looking for a ways to transform our spaces, even in really subtle ways, so that they can be serviceable throughout the day for different needs. I know some of you might be thinking, "What? This sound so tiring. This sounds like you're creating more work for me." But really, the goal with all of these toolkits is taking work away. It's really taking the thought out of it. This becomes muscle memory, and it's something also, in terms of, we talk a lot about sharing them as women and families, and I think that these are ways that actually, we can really do that. We empower our kids to use these kits in the same way, so that they're prepared. They know themselves, like, "Okay, I'm about to start school, so I'm going to go and I'm going to get that basket that has my notebook, and it has my pencils, and it has my art supplies," whatever it is that they need. They feel like they're ready to use it, and that ends up meaning there's more time. Hopefully, more time to rest and relax, or more time to work, if that's what you need to do. I think the biggest benefit to being able to think of a toolkit, whether that's, again, a physical toolkit or a place where you're returning your supplies to, is that you're creating a sense of order for yourself, and that order creates a sense of ease. You're looking for a quick breakdown and then an easy setup, so that you can transition seamlessly throughout the day. Now that you've taken the class, take some time to look around your own house and think about what toolkits or toolboxes would be helpful for you to have. You don't need anything special, gather wine crate, or a brown paper bag, or adult tote bag, and get your supplies together so that the next time you need to transition to a new part of your day, you have everything you need ready to go. Then share them. I would love to see them. It's really inspiring to see other people's solutions. I've shared some of mine, and I'd love to see what you guys do too. That's it for today. I'm Erin Boyle. Thank you for listening to Skillshare Audio. If you've enjoyed this lesson, make sure to check out my other classes on my Skillshare page.