Shortly after graduating college, I was so excited to sign the lease for my first apartment in New York City that I didn’t realize quite how small my new living space would be: less than 450 square feet between my roommate and me, to be exact. As I started packing up my belongings, I began to worry about how I would fit everything in my new home without it becoming too cluttered and disorganized.
Moving into a new place is exciting, but can also be overwhelming, especially when you’re living in a small space. However, with some creative thinking and planning ahead, you can make the most of your new digs, no matter what the square footage might be. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your living space (without breaking the bank!):
Utilize vertical space
If you don’t have a lot of floor or surface room in your apartment, making use of vertical space can help you store your extra belongings. For example, my closet has a shelf at the top with enough space above it to place a small shelving unit, where I store my towels and bed linens. You can also purchase inexpensive bed risers and store extra belongings or storage bins under your bed.
Find furniture with additional storage space
Furniture can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re living in a small home or apartment. If you need to buy new furniture for your place, kill two birds with one stone by looking for pieces that offer additional storage. Lots of ottomans have removable lids and are perfect for storing out-of-season clothes, blankets, or shoes. Additionally, you can look for a couch or bed with storage underneath. I opted for a bed that included built-in drawers where I store my clothing, which eliminated the need for a dresser and freed up some precious floor space.
Spruce up shelving units
Shelving units can be surprisingly expensive, so when I was furnishing my new bedroom I opted for inexpensive, stackable wire racks. While the most affordable shelving unit might not be the most attractive, you can easily decorate it with colorful storage bins or baskets. If you have some extra room at the top, add a few candles, plants, or books to make the room feel cozy.
Be on the lookout for unused space
While there’s only one closet in my apartment, my roommate and I quickly realized we had a lot of extra space in the top shelves of our kitchen cabinets. Since they’re only reachable by standing on a chair, we store items we don’t often use in them, such as out-of-season clothes and extra toiletries. Take a quick look around your apartment and take note of any space you might not be utilizing. Maybe your bathroom cabinet has an empty drawer, or your windowsill is wide enough to place a few picture frames, books, or a small lamp on it.
Keep it simple
It’s easy for small living spaces to feel cluttered and claustrophobic. To keep your place feeling organized and spacious, don’t overdo it with decorations or knick-knacks and remember that sometimes less is more. Although it’s not easy for me to part with my belongings, I can honestly say that downsizing my collection of throw pillows and clothing was crucial to creating an uncluttered living space for myself. Consider donating some of your items to charity or lending them to friends or family.
Most importantly, have fun with your new space and be sure to make room for the belongings that matter most to you. Living in a small space certainly comes with its challenges, but with a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can make it feel like home.
Originally published on July 13, 2018.