When Whitney Leigh Morris and her family started self-isolating in their 362-square-foot cottage in March, she was worried—but luckily, not about her living situation. “Our existence at home is remarkably similar to how it’s been for years,” says the Venice Beach, California, local. “We’re used to being mere inches from one another for days on end.” Both she and her husband work from the house, and their 3-year-old son, West, isn’t yet in full-time school.
That’s not to say the situation is without its challenges (the household also includes two loud beagles), but it does mean that Morris is a seasoned pro at the art of staying in—and, more impressively, doing it all with limited room. “There’s a lot that’s beyond my control when it comes to creating a quiet, focused environment,” she admits. “But that’s quite all right. This is a time for global empathy, understanding, and patience.” We chatted with the tiny home expert about the best practices she’s leaning on these days.
Prioritize Your Furniture
This doesn’t always mean turning your dining table into an office—in fact, it can mean quite the opposite. Reconfigure your pieces based on what makes sense for you. Morris swapped out her desk for a Lulu & Georgia credenza right before the lockdown, speeding up the clean-up process in an effort to make day-to-day chores a little more manageable. “It provides accessible storage for our son’s toys, which is great in a place of any size but especially in a compact home,” she explains.
Carve Out “Pop-Up” Zones
In the nine years Morris and her family have been living in the cottage, the main room has been something of a jack-of-all-trades: a yoga studio, a movie theater, a den, and a business. But even though her flexible layout meant she didn’t need to enact any major changes during quarantine, Morris has been leaning on smaller fixes—including a folding Pikler arch that’s basically a movable jungle gym and a rolling three-tier bar cart. “We can put anything we need wherever we need it within a matter of seconds to transform any area,” she says. For her work, she totes around a basket of supplies to her office of the day; be it the kitchen counter or the garden table.
Take a Breather Outdoors
Even in 362 square feet, it’s still possible to create a physical space where you can take time for yourself, and for Morris, this is her garden. “Any one of us can separate from the group and sit outside under the shade of our canopy of vines,” she says. Indoors, she and her husband like to set up a projector in the bedroom to keep their son occupied with cartoons while they catch up about the events of the day in the main room.
“There’s a lot that’s beyond my control when it comes to creating a quiet environment, but that’s quite all right. This is a time for global empathy, understanding, and patience.”
Involve Your Little Ones in Chores
Morris has recruited West to help keep the cottage in tip-top shape to combat cabin fever. “Everything can be turned into a game with a bit of creativity,” she explains. For example, they slide trays under their outdoor shower to collect water and use it to hydrate the plants. He also helps monitor and harvest leafy greens and veggies from the family’s two Lettuce Grow Farmstands.
“Everything can be turned into a game with a bit of creativity.”
Ditch the Pressure of Perfect Separate Worlds
“I’m less interested in finding ‘balance’ and more interested in going with whatever flow seems healthiest for us day by day,” says Morris. She recommends working instinctively to stay sane; whether that means focusing more on a job one day and back on family the next. Letting go of rules includes leaning on family activities—yoga (the Cosmic Kids YouTube channel is a household favorite), movie projector sessions, and baking marathons, to name a few. “I think our son has seen every episode of Sarah & Duck and Puffin Rock 1,000 times, and we’ve been making cake a bit too often, but the last thing I’m going to do is guilt myself over such things,” she adds. “Instead, we’re embracing them.”
This story was originally published in May 2020 and has since been updated.