Making room for new hobbies and interests can be hard when you don’t have a whole lot of space. Particularly now that many of us are working from home, we have to figure out how to balance new home office set-ups with spaces dedicated to our hobbies.
Luigi La Tona and his wife Joyce Chung experienced this struggle first-hand as they began working from home while picking up new hobbies during the circuit breaker. Thankfully, Luigi was able to use his industry knowledge as Chief Operating Officer at StorHub Self Storage to make room at home for piano, road cycling and even Joyce’s new home baking business, Guilt Free Food. Today we bring you this family’s best advice, so that you too can make space for all of your new interests.
SquareRooms: How did you first realise that you wanted to take up new hobbies during the circuit breaker?
Luigi La Tona: Circumstances had me exploring new hobbies and I found two that resonated with me. The first was long-distance road cycling. I already enjoyed cycling, but I wanted a bigger, around-the-island experience. In order to do this, I needed new gear and a new bicycle. The second was playing the piano. With my daughter resigned to learning from home, we had to teach her to play and the more I taught her, the more I wanted to learn. We had already purchased a second-hand electric keyboard, so it was just a matter of learning more notes every day.
Joyce Chung: I chose to devote more time to baking because it’s an easy way to bond with the kids. Additionally, it’s healthier for everyone in the household as I can control the quantity and quality of ingredients in my creations. Since cinnamon buns are Luigi’s favourite, I worked out a recipe and it went over well.
When did you start taking your new hobbies seriously enough to make space for them?
Joyce: I started baking for a few friends during the circuit breaker period and they shared their thoughts about spreading the love to the whole of Singapore. Having had a small, start-up food business in Hong Kong, I decided to dip my toes in a few sales platforms under the same name, Guilt Free Food. Word spread quickly and I progressed from a homemaker to a home baker. Very quickly, space management became important in the house as we still wanted to have a home environment for everyone to enjoy and not just for my baking.
How did you balance making space for work and making space for your new hobbies?
Luigi: During the circuit breaker, we had to work from home, so making space for work was our priority. Having done some research, we knew that we needed a suitable, ergonomic space in order to avoid back aches and constant distractions. We only made room for our hobbies after we arranged all of this. Having carved out focused work spaces, dedicating certain areas to our hobbies became easier.
Do you recommend keeping work and hobbies in the same space or dedicating separate areas to them?
Luigi: Mixing work and play can be stressful. I’d hate to get paint on my laptop, type out emails while sitting at the piano or even end up rolling dough on my work desk. An individual space bears the greatest creative fruit so it is best to find a dedicated space for each activity.
What’s your advice for parents whose kids are constantly changing their hobbies and interests? How do you recommend making space for them?
Luigi: Hobbies come and go and parents should encourage their kids to try out new hobbies. That said, some hobbies cost more than others and may be revisited at a later date. If clutter mounts in the house, and you’d rather keep things simple, find a reliable and convenient self-storage space to store the items in.
What are your top three tips for maximising space in a small flat?
Luigi: First of all, get hold of versatile furniture, such as beds with drawers, fold-up mattresses and tuck-away tables. These are great, multifunctional items that help you save space around the home.
Once that’s done, follow the three Ds—declutter, donate, dispose. Travel through each room with these three words in mind and take into consideration what fits where. Consider donating the items that still have use and value but you don’t personally need to one of the many charities in Singapore.
Finally, evaluate the rest of the items and figure out which ones are important to you but are not needed in your house for immediate use. These may be old books, sports gear, musical instruments, winter clothes, collectibles, old toys, unused furniture and so forth. These items can be kept in storage facilities outside of your own home, allowing you to utilise your space better while knowing that your things are stowed away safe and sound.
Joyce, you ended up turning your baking hobby into a business. Did you need to make more space for it when you went professional? How did you achieve that?
Joyce: I was sharing what I loved doing with likeminded guilt-free food lovers. Out of the blue, The Smart Local and SG Magazine highlighted Guilt Free Food as one of their favourite home bakers during the circuit breaker. Demand increased and it quickly became apparent that I needed more space to meet it. Making more room to store my baking necessities, including new equipment and ingredients, was vital for my business to meet the increasing demand and achieve some semblance of scale. Luigi and I scrutinised every item at home to figure out what we needed for immediate use, then stored away the rest.
As a hobby baker turned professional, what’s your advice for others looking to turn their hobby into a business with limited space at home?
Joyce: Without more room to grow my hobby, I could not have been as creative as I needed to be and ultimately would have gotten frustrated. That’s why it’s so important to designate space to your hobby if you wish to turn it into a business. You will not just need a hands-on work area, but ideally a small work desk for administrative duties as well. I made sure to separate the latter from other areas of life to keep things tidy and remove any work stress from family spaces. Having said that, don’t be afraid to explore storage options outside of your home, giving yourself the freedom to dive deeper into your passion.