Personal Space in a Small Home

We live in a small home, which means that, with six bodies inhabiting it, personal space is at a premium.

Creating personal space for the children was a top priority for me. But there were several things to consider first.

  • Funds are limited right now (and there is no equity in an underwater mortgage), so every decision has to be carefully weighed.
  • Not only is our home small, but it has a difficult layout, and some really weird interior lines.

The first year we were together, we spent a lot of time observing how we used the space. We hated the thought of jumping into building/fixing/improving something, only to realize it was a waste and that no one used or even cared about the change.

So, during that time, we compiled many ideas. Not only were these ideas necessary for creating personal space, but also to help with organization.

A pretty basic one was hooks for everyone in the bathroom (towels) and by the front door (coats and backpacks).

Those hooks? Invaluable. Not much of a personal-space-maker, but a real sanity saver for me.

Our search led us to many wonderful ideas, but we still had to tweak and adapt many to fit our own space.

One of the best ideas we came across was this:

Shelving for the bunk beds made from vinyl gutters. Seriously. (instructions follow)

How awesome are they?!?

Randy came across the idea at some point, and tucked it away in his mind. I was super excited to see how they’d turn out, and I could not have been more pleased with how they looked when they were hung up.

Because they are vinyl (and cheap), we were totally ok with them decorating and personalizing them anyway they wanted, to make them their own. Stickers, markers, whatever.

“My Little Pony” becomes ‘so yesterday’? No problem – remove the stickers the old fashioned ‘peel and scrape’ way, or just run to the hardware store and purchase another couple of feet of gutter.

What do I love about these shelves?

1) Since the shelves hang right over their beds, they couldn’t stick out too far. These stick out just enough to hold a tissue box, but not over the bed where you’d knock it or kick it during the night.

2) Crazy sleeper, and you happen to kick the shelf? No problem: the depth of the gutter keeps things from falling off onto the bed.

3) Bonk your head on it? No sharp edges.

4) The amount of things they can keep by their beds is huge (used tissues, marbles, race cars…), so we have them clean them out every Saturday. This prevents potential hoarding issues ;)

Since I took these photos, we’ve hung a magnetic strip of metal (be sure to sand the cut edges so that little fingers don’t get cut), with some cool magnets, above the shelves so that they can hang artwork, photos, etc by their beds as well.

The 6 year old is pretty eclectic with his choices, as you can see:

I’m not sure what the metal strip is called (‘metal strip’? lol), but you can see it a bit better below. I like it because it already had holes in it for securing to the wall.

Want to make your own vinyl gutter bookshelves?


  • vinyl rain gutter (any length; honestly, we purchased them without knowing how long we wanted each shelf to be. We decided on 3′ each)
  • left and right end caps for each
  • 2 brackets for each (more, if you are creating a longer shelf)
  • hacksaw


  1. Cut your gutter to predetermined length with the hacksaw.
  2. Put end caps over the cut edges on the ends.
  3. Snap on brackets and then slide them into position, according to where your walls studs are.
  4. Mark the position of the studs on the wall.
  5. Screw shelves to the wall.

Your turn: In what ways have you been able to create personal space for your children in your home?

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  1. says

    I love things that we can do for our girls that allow them to make them their own. The gutter idea is so cool. Will definitely be trying it out!

  2. says

    I LOVE THIS! we live in a small apartment (thank goodness there is only 3 of us!) and I am always looking for new ways to keep things organized, I had seen something similar to the gutter shelving done with a spice rack shelf or something, but this is a fantastic spin on that! Thank you for these ideas!

    • Karla says

      ooh~love the spice rack idea (need to search that :) Let me know if you try it out! I’d love to know how they turn out.

  3. says

    I love this! As for the “metal strip” we used magnetic knife racks from IKEA $5 for the same thing. that way the strip was magnetic and any metal stuck to it.

    • Karla says

      Let me know how it turns out, Colleen. The hardest part, for me, was getting the brackets attached. Ask your children to do that; they’ll get it in 2 seconds, sparing you unnecessary stress :)

  4. di says

    The gutter can also be used for vertical dishes in the kitchen or cosmetics in the bathroom.

    If the gutter is thick enough, add cup hooks. Hang mugs, dish towels, facecloths, jewelry, small pouches, etc.


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