Five Strategies To Make Space Around Your Home More Productive

Earlier this year my wife and I decided to stay put in our current home.  Now we are in the “how can we make this work” mode where you walk room to room with the realization that you will be here for a while, and the chances of building or buying a new home with all your needs will sit on the back burner for a while.  Here are a few ideas for making the existing space around our home more productive.  We’ve already implemented a couple of these items, and the remaining ones are on our to-do list.

Ways To Make Spaces Around Your Home More Productive

Convert spare bedrooms, garages or back porches to a home gym.
Our neighbors recently closed in a garage and added some gym-quality exercise equipment.  They now have a full squat rack, Smith machine, an elliptical machine, bike and treadmill.  To say I was a little jealous would be a major understatement.  I’ve always wished I could lift weights at home, mostly because I don’t care for the social setting at most gyms.  While I don’t think I’ll be able to close in the garage, I could put a weight bench with a bench press rack on the back porch.  I could also add a small set of dumbbells, a used exercise bike (for rainy days), and a heavy bag.

Create a home office with just a feet of empty wall space.
When I started writing here at Frugal Dad, I recognized quickly that I would need to carve out a quiet area to do most of my writing.  My requirements were simple:  a door, enough room for a table to hold my laptop and a few notepads, magazines, books, etc.  Finding a spot with a door proved to be the hard part.  That is, until I got creative.

Our washer and dryer are in a large utility room.  We have a rolling metal rack in there to hold canned goods, along with a spare freezer to store meats and vegetables we occasionally find on sale and stock up on.  The room may have looked full to the “unfrugal” eye, but I saw an opportunity.

I set up a four-foot folding table and small rolling task chair with no arms.  My laptop, a small lamp, a couple bookends to hold five or six of my favorite books, and a scratch pad for making notes all fit perfectly on the table.  The chair easily pushes up to the table, and is out of the way when doing laundry.

Plant vegetables in a table top, square foot garden on your balcony or porch.
Who says you have to have a ton of green space to grow a beautiful garden?  Consider building a square foot garden, or planting in containers, on your balcony or other outdoor space. I had a friend who grew beautiful tomatoes and a variety of other salad vegetables on his balcony.  Before dinner, his wife would pluck a few tomatoes to slice and eat along with their meals.  She also maintained a variety of herbs and flowers.

Turn your formal dining room into a den, study or playroom.
How often to you eat dinner in your formal dining room?  If you are like us, probably not that often.  Maybe a few times a year we gather there to host Thanksgiving dinner, or a similar occasion. But, for the most part it sits empty as a placeholder for our dining table, chairs and hutch.  Consider converting this space to a den, a playroom for the kids, or perhaps a study or home office (the latter may require adding a door or two).

One word of caution:  I once pitched the idea of replacing the dining table with a pool table.  I was half kidding (only half), but let’s just say it didn’t go over very well.

Create a reading and meditation nook.
I’ve frequently heard this advice, but it really stuck when listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer once describe how everyone should have a little “nook” where they can go to get lost in their thoughts.  It could be as simple as a quiet corner of a bedroom, or as large as an unused guest room.  The point is to create a quiet corner in your home, surrounded by things with positive energy such as pictures, drawing, motivational posters, etc.

When thinking about rearranging your home, keep in mind that any configuration changes you make may not be desirable to future homeowners.  Unless you plan to stay put forever, think long and hard about knocking down (or adding) any walls, hanging doors, etc.  For the most part, consider enchancements to your home’s space that do not require any structural modifications.  But don’t be afraid to get creative, and don’t be afraid to make the space work for you and your family.  After all, homes are meant to be lived in.


  1. I was always pushing my dad to turn this shed we had into a home gym. Every time I pushed the issue he’d waver and it would never get done.

    Years later I understood why: going to the gym was about working out, sure, but it was also about getting out of the house for an hour or or two.

    Which I totally understand, so I don’t know that I would enjoy a home gym. A reading room, on the other hand….

  2. These are some good tips. I have a small home too, so my creativity for use of our space has to be in full gear. I love your idea for your writing table … now you’ve got me thinking. My desk is in our living room, which I do not like.

  3. These are some great thoughts. We actually have an even smaller home-a townhome. We have larger rooms without doors that break them up, so our goal has been using furniture to create the feel of separate rooms. For instance, our couch in our living room closes the ‘living room’ space and then our desk and work things are behind the couch in our ‘office.’ No one would call it an office except us, but it works.

    Thanks for the incentive to look differently at space we already have.

    I’m blogging about a different way to look at my child’s and my own desires today at

  4. I really like the idea of creating a reading or meditation nook.

    Because I don’t have an area specifically for this often time I simply just don’t do it. I really wish I did more and know that creating the space would help initiate it.


  5. I made a walk in closet into our home office. It works perfectly as you can close two doors (the door to the room and then the door to the closet) to get away from the noise and chaos of the family.

  6. The idea of creating a space for a specific purpose really helps me too.

    I do have a home gym – nothing fancy – but it reminds me to work out. The reading nook is something I’m going to implement…thanks..

  7. Great and timely post. We, too, have decided to stay in our current home a while longer and I have been thinking of what I can do to maximize our space. Hopefully if I plan to blog about it, it will propel me to do something about it. I think rearranging our furniture and maybe some painting could go a long way with me. I like change and I’m needing it right now.

  8. As I plan to stay in my home til I die, I don’t have the restrictions of worrying about resale – (My kids can worry about that later)…so I can do with my house whatever makes me happy. Which is freeing!
    Remember to go vertical – up the walls – tall bookshelfs, free standing cupboards, and tall boy dressers can all be used a room dividers if need be. They can also be used to carve out that reading niche you want.

  9. I like the suggestion of a meditation nook.

    I have a prayer that I say that helps me put things in perspective. It’s called the Litany of Humility. It’s a Catholic prayer, but I am sure that there are similar things in other religions.

    It’s a trip of a prayer. It basically says “let me be small, God, let others do better than me.” It goes against everything we want to have happen, of course. The beauty of it is that just being able to say these things out loud helps you to put the entire idea of being a success in this world into perspective. You’re still going to try to be successful. But you become a little more accepting of negative results as being God’s will for you.

    Of course, I don’t say it all that often. I believe in trying to be humble, but I’m far too important a force in this world to let that get in my way too much! (That’s a joke!)

    My wife is the person who told me about the prayer. Do you think she was trying to tell me something?


  10. We removed the closet doors from the guest room and added a tv, computer table and printer there. There is a little space left for our guest’s things (most often my parents,) and my kids have a place to watch tv or get on the computer. It is on the main level of our house so we can monitor computer usage but not have all of the equipment out for everyone to see. When (if) we ever sell it will take a quick trip to Home Depot to grab new doors, as the old ones were nasty anyway.

  11. In regards to the square foot garden, GREAT idea. I have been meaning to grow some peppers. I love spicy food so it would be great for me to have. I just need to get the motivation.

    A reading room would be an amazing addition to my life once I get a house 🙂

    As long as it has a hammock…. in the room… that would be clutch!

  12. My daughter has 3 kids and they turned their master bedroom into a playroom. They took out all the bedroom furniture, then put in a couch and kids table and chairs, plus all their toys — the kids have a blast in that large room. And the parents moved to a smaller bedroom and went from a King bed (stored in the garage for now), to a queen bed and they are fine with this change. They still keep the bulk of their clothes in the master bedroom closet.

  13. We were blessed to purchase a 1200 square foot house with a garage and workshop in 2007! I converted the unused sunroom into an office. The livingroom had a peculiar L shape so we made a media room out of the bottom of the L and kept a formal living room as a gathering place for family and friends. Our furniture has all sorts of double uses – chairs with drawer type storage, tables with flip tops for storage, which helps keeps things uncluttered. My favorite room really is my sunroom office. It’s like working outdoors!
    Great post Jason. We should all work creativity to be happy in the space we are blessed with!

  14. The best money-saving part of the home office is by far if you can use it as a substitute for an expensive office space that you pay to rent elsewhere. As someone with both a small business and high rental costs in my metro area, this has been a life saver in terms of business budgeting.

  15. Hey there all across the pond, i’m in the middle of doing something similar we have a 3rd bedroom small ish but able to be converted to hold all our books a space for the computer and aheap of my craft stuff, i’m working on clamining a shed in the garden also 😉 but havent told them yet lol. this was a good post thanks to you all for shareing.

  16. These are great strategies. Our home is smaller and we have learned that is best to maximize our space as best we can. I love your ideas to continue productivity in those spaces. Thanks for the ideas!

  17. I have seen pictures of apartments in Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore where space is at a premium where the entire ceiling of the living space was fitted with pull down storage. Of course, that works better if you are not 6′ 6″

  18. I comandiered the basement and turned into an office/gym/man cave!

    I took the “Sex in the City” posters down and the whole place is ripe with testosterone now.