Space Saving: The Entertainment Optimization Experiment

As any urban dweller knows, making the best use of limited space is an ongoing challenge. And when you’ve got five kids in a 1000-foot-square condo, the more usable space you can create, the more real estate you’ll have for kids (and you!) to enjoy.

In the last year we’ve done a few major things to create usable space for the kids – for example, our “IKEA bedroom hack”  which created nifty stacked sleeping spaces and larger play areas. In this article, I’ll tell you how we converted our TV and entertainment space from a crowded, monstrosity-dominated maze to a much more versatile and spacious area.

Before. Cabinet and speakers, your days are numbered.

Cabinet and speakers, your days are numbered.

Our first step was saying goodbye to our massive TV and stereo cabinet and mounting the TV on the wall – and saying hello to ten square feet of floor space!

Next, clearly on a roll, we sold our vintage Sony amp and speakers and replaced them with a small set of high-end powered bookshelf speakers. These little wonders sound infinitely better than our old clunkers, are far more versatile, and can dynamically manage different inputs, the way a stereo receiver does.

After. Look, Dad! No clutter!

Look, Dad! No clutter!

Part of de-cluttering, of course, is cutting unnecessary expenses, so we took a deep breath, cut our cable, and returned the rented (huge, loud, expensive) PVR to the cable company.

But wait – five kids and no TV? Well, sort of – we’re not insane, after all: we took another deep breath, said the word “investment” a couple of times, and bought a Mac Mini, which is now connected to the teeny-tiny speakers.

Billed as an “affordable powerhouse,” the Mac Mini is just that: it lets us store movies and TV shows, stream from any service available, and access media from any computer in our home. As I said, it was a bit of an investment, but there’s nothing our little home theatre setup can’t do now.

Sharing speaker space with the Mac Mini is our trusty old Xbox 360. People often ask me why I haven’t upgraded to the Xbox One, since I’m a videogame consultant. For me, the answer is value: there’s a huge array of cheap, secondhand games available for the Xbox 360, many of which I can pick up for ten dollars or less. I’m in no rush to leap to the Xbox One and pay $80 a game for a limited selection. And most importantly, the kids are more than happy with the X360.

Finally, to replace our big old amp/receiver, we added a little Bluetooth receiver ($50) to the bookshelf speakers: now any wireless device in the house can play music through them. Better yet, friends can come over, connect to our speakers, and play their tracks right on our system. (Yes, even Sarah’s country music, bless her heart… sigh.)

So in the end, after all was said and done, we ditched a whole lot of unwieldy, outdated old furniture and electronics and reclaimed massive amounts of precious floor space. With a small investment of time and cash, our family now has more room to breathe, play, move around, and relax.

On to the next project!

You can almost hear the popcorn popping... or maybe that's just Carrie Underwood.

You can almost hear the popcorn popping… or maybe that’s just Carrie Underwood.

Note: The author receives no payment, products, or services in exchange for mentioning the products listed in this article.

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Adrian Crook is a father of five living in beautiful downtown Vancouver, Canada. He's an advocate for rental housing and public transit.