With only two bedrooms, Ermita Soenarto and her husband, Loo Ming Da, of our Supermom story part one and two had to figure out how to accommodate their large family of 6, especially when they had planned to only have two kids. After inheriting an old 3-room flat from Ming Da’s parents, the couple decided to sell it and applied for a BTO in Boon Keng to reduce Ming Da’s commute to work down to just a fraction of the time compared to the old home.
At 68sqm, it was smaller than the previous flat’s 72sqm. Then again, the couple were only planning to have 2 kids and certainly didn’t expect to conceive triplets when they booked their unit. As they had already shelled out the down payment for their new flat, they couldn’t change their minds either. “It was a 4.5 year wait for the flat. I had to write to HDB and tell them to hurry up. I said I had no children when I chose my flat and now I have 4, and still have no flat!”, shared Ermita.
They finally received their keys in January 2017. However, with her brood – Livia, 4, and 2-year-old triplets Lysbeth, Lucia and Liora – growing up fast, she had to think out of the (tiny) box to fit 6 people into 2 bedrooms. Her solution: “We started embracing minimalism, though I cannot recall if this happened by chance or naturally,” blogged Ermita on her website.
Here are Ermita’s top 5 hacks on how to make a tiny house work for a household of 6:
Invest in time-saving appliances. From dryers, robo-vacuums, dishwashers to ovens, electric pressure cookers, and food processors, Ermita is equipped to the gills. “Instead of spending hours doing chores every night, my husband and I simply need to load the laundry and dishwasher, turn on the robo-vacuum and we can go to sleep while the machines do all the cleaning for us. We wake up to clean clothes, clean dishes and a dust-free floor.”
Rethink bulky furniture. Keep décor minimal, advises Ermita. They invested in multi-functional furniture like bean-bags instead of sofas so that they can be easily moved around the house, or collapsible dining tables that can be shortened or lengthened depending on the function and number of people at the table. “For example, our collapsible dining table is used in the daytime as a dining table for 6. At night, we collapse it into a study table for two,” says Ermita.
Custom-build furniture to maximize storage space. Ermita and Ming Da decided on built-in storage and furniture, like hidden wall-beds and hidden storage walls, instead of buying off the shelf. The couple’s nifty queen-sized wall-bed is flipped up during the day, leaving plenty of space for other activities. It cost about $7,000 for the bed and tall wall-to-wall wardrobes but was worth it as it allows the family to use space more efficiently and reduce clutter. It also helps cut down on the cleaning – no awkward bending to peer under the bed!
Ermita also plans where to put all their learning aids and toys carefully. In a recent blog post, she shares that she uses a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to categorise all the kids’ things into five columns. With a clear idea of what she has, she says it helps her to decide which items to display or place in hidden storages, and also create a specific system to rotate out the toys. “It also helps me sieve out items that they have outgrown so that I can put them up for re-sale or donate them immediately.”
Start the kids young on doing chores. Encourage everyone at home, even small kids, to be responsible for their own routines and to be involved in chores. Ermita encourages everyone to forget reward charts. “Just model by example and make doing chores a part of their lives from the moment they can start pitching in, which is as early as 18 months old,” says the experienced mum. Very importantly, make the home accessible to little ones so they can do things on their own. For instance, provide footstools so they can access sinks, and put the little ones’ clothes at the lower parts of the wardrobe so they can dress themselves. In fact, Ermita says she has outsourced 90 percent of the cleaning and tidying to the kids and a bit of it to technology!
Rethink how you spend and consume. The family of 6 have downsized all their possessions to only essentials. “For example, we only have 6 plates, 6 bowls and 6 sets of cutlery. We also have very little possessions and we de-clutter monthly by sifting through what we have outgrown or what we no longer find useful.”
This article is written by Stella Thng for singaporeschild.com.sg