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Staying Sane while Living in a Small Space

Updated on July 16, 2015

How to live well in a small space

Living in a small space really isn't easy. Most people, at least in North America and Europe are used to living in houses much bigger than they need. But, if you find yourself in a small living space for financial reasons or because you want to reduce your eco-footprint, it really is possible to live well, in organized comfort. Read on for my own story and my top small apartment design ideas.

I live in a very small apartment with a partner as well as a cat. We have a tiny kitchen, a bedroom that doesn't fit more than the bed and a small living room area. We have to make the best use of our space as possible and over the years, we've figured out how to do this. And actually, I'll never go back to living in a big house again. I like the cozy feel of only having a small area to look after and the ease of which I can maintain it.

cluttered-apartment.jpg
cluttered-apartment.jpg

Tip #1: Reduce Media Clutter

The easiest way to live in a small space is to get rid of all the clutter that you have laying around. This can include things like old books, magazines, or newspapers that you don't read anymore. Give them away, recycle, or sell them on Craigslist.

Do you have lots of old pictures and financial documents around? Buy a scanner, scan everything and recycle all your old papers. A way to avoid this in the first place is just to sign up for online statements at all your financial institutions.

small-apartment.jpg
small-apartment.jpg

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too-many-shoes.jpg
too-many-shoes.jpg

Tip #2: Reduce your clothes and shoes

Shoes are one of those things that are difficult to store in a really space effective way in a small apartment. The solution to this is to simply not have that many pairs.

You probably only really need the following:

1 pair of running/workout shoes

1 pair of hiking shoes, if you're into that.

1 or 2 pairs of casual sandals/flip-flops

2 pairs of casual boots or shoes to wear with jeans or when you're going out.

3 or 4 pairs for work, in different colors to match your outfit.

That's a total of 10 pairs, which is actually a lot, but most people seem to have more than this. If one of the pairs wears out, throw it in the garbage and make do with what you have for a couple weeks. If it really won't work, then go to the store and buy a new pair.

Also, by storing your shoes in an efficient way, you can make better use of your limited space. I like the very tall shoes racks, that take up a minimal amount of horizontal space but almost all the vertical.

tall-bookshelf.jpg
tall-bookshelf.jpg

Tip #3: Tall Bookcases

You can store anything, not just books

A bookcase, such as this one in the picture is an excellent way to make use of limited space. The one in the picture is just over 7 feet tall, and if you have a really tight space, the taller the better. Measure the height of your ceiling, and buy one that reaches to just under it. You can use it to store almost anything, not just books.

For example, on my bookshelf in my living room, I have 6 blocks to fill. The first block near the floor is hidden behind a chair so I use it to put my "junk." I have some boxes that I just throw anything into, such as tacks, papers, travel power converters, etc. On the second and third small spaces, I have books. These are books that I'm planning on reading. Once I read them, they go into the pile of books that I'm going to sell.

In the 4th spot, I have all my board games, and DVD's. Hidden in the back are my office supplies such as pens, and tape.

In the 5th spot, I have my alcohol. 3 big bottles of my favorites. I also have a "junk plate." It's an art project that I made and perfect for all my jewellery, sunglasses, and extra batteries. In the 6th spot, I have my printer paper, and wine glasses. And on top of the shelf, I have just enough room for my frisbee and a big hanging plant.

Tall Bookcases - Perfect for making use of a limited space

desktop-computer.jpg
desktop-computer.jpg

Tip #4: You don't need a TV/VCR/DVD Player

Just watch TV on your lap-top

TV's and all the things that go along with them take up so much space. In fact, the whole living space is usually centered around this feature. If you have an old-style TV that is not a flat screen, this can take up a significant amount of space and make your small apartment seem cluttered. The solution is not to buy a new flat-screen TV, but instead just use your lap-top. It's very easy to download anything that would want to watch, or just borrow the DVD's from a friend or the library. You can set your lap-top on a shelf at the end of your bed, and have an enjoyable viewing experience!

watch-tv-on-laptop
watch-tv-on-laptop

Tip #5: Use a notebook instead of a desktop computer

Lap-tops these days are so small, compact and powerful that there's really no reason to have a clunky desktop computer. Instead of having a desk where your computer is, just use a laptop and you can sit anywhere to use it. Get rid of the desk and save yourself lots of space!

metal-shelving-unit.jpg
metal-shelving-unit.jpg

Tip #6: Make good use of a storage closet

Most apartment have at least a small storage closet of some sort. In mine, there are no shelves, but I bought a big metal shelving unit that takes up almost the entire space. It's perfect because i can fit a huge amount of stuff into this little closet, much more than would have been possible minus the shelf. Plus, everything is very well organized so I can find what I need with minimal stress and frustration. To make it ever better, I've hung hooks off the edge of it and this is how I store all my spare bags.

packed-food-cupboard.jpg
packed-food-cupboard.jpg

Tip #7: Reduce the amount of food that you have

It's very easy to have too much food. One trip to Costco and you'll have enough to feed a family of 4 for an entire year. However, if you have a small space, you really shouldn't be shopping there. Think small scale. To deal with the problem that you have right now, have an entire, "No shopping month." Just eat the food you have in your house and don't buy more. Once you've done this, you should have almost no food left and can start slowly adding a few things. Perhaps you can even go shopping twice/week for small trips instead of one big trip so you can reduce what you have in the house.

Tip #8: Replace Your Couch - Get a Bean Bag Chair or Floor Cushion Instead

Tip #9: Not too many decorations on the walls

An easy way to make a small space look bigger is to not have too much stuff on the walls, tables, or bookcases. By having a simplified, empty looking kind of place, it seems like you have more space than you really do. The key is just picking a few nice thing that give your apartment a homey feel, but not so much that it seems crowded.

futon.jpg
futon.jpg

Tip #10: Put the mattress on the floor

Having a bed, complete with headboard is a big waste of space. I've just put my mattress on top of a small wooden frame on the floor. It's given me 4 or 5 more inches of space in my cramped bedroom. It may not seem like much, but I've been able to rearrange the position of my bed so as to have a lot more decorating possibilities.

Alternatively, for those very tight on space, just go Asian style and sleep on the floor. Get a futon that rolls up at night and that's all you need. During the day, it can be a cushion that you sit on.

hooks.jpg
hooks.jpg

Tip #11: Hooks are your friends

Put hooks everywhere! On the sides of your cabinets, off you storage racks, screwed into the laundry room walls, and on all your doors. Hang things like clothes, towels, hats, bags, mops and brooms. The possibilities are endless.

Frugal Living Tip: Get Organized

Tip #12: Have one really comfortable chair/person

If you live in a house with 2 people, have 2 very comfortable chairs that are the place your normally sit. You live alone, then only one chair. Besides that, have some cushions or small fold-away chairs for when guests come over.

Small Space Living

yard-sale.jpg
yard-sale.jpg

Tip #13: Ruthlessly Sell, Give or Throw Away lots of stuff

If you haven't used something in more than a year, you don't need it. Clothes, shoes, tools, books, food, kitchen appliances: if it's idle, then it doesn't need to be in your house. If you don't have that much unused stuff, consider just giving it away to your friends, or on the free section of Craigslist. If you have more stuff, consider a yard sale. Make some money to buy shelves or bookcases to help you organize your remaining stuff.

big-office.jpg
big-office.jpg

Tip #14: Leave Work at Work

I'm a university professor, so I have lots of books, and papers, and grading things that I have to do. I'm also fortunate to have a big, personal office at the university that I work at. So, I just leave all my things at the office and do my lesson planning and grading there. I also have been known to store lots of other stuff that I need, but use infrequently on my bookshelves there as well.

So, in order to live well in a small space, don't bring your work stuff home with you. It just adds to the clutter. Instead, do all your work at work and come home with nothing at the end of the day! It also eliminates the need for having a home office.

kindle.jpg
kindle.jpg

Tip #15: Get an Ipad or Kindle

Do you enjoy reading newspapers, magazines or books but live in a small space? Why not get a Kindle or an Ipad to help you keep your living space organized? It's often cheaper to get the electronic version of something than the paper version. And, you can take your whole library with you anywhere you go.

What's your Top Tip for living in a Small Space?

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    • BeaGabrielle1 profile image

      BeaGabrielle1 6 years ago

      I love the ideas you have here! Great lens!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      Cool pictures! I live in an even smaller space. I featured this lens on one called "One Room Living"

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 6 years ago

      Great ideas here. Thanks for sharing them. Blessed by the Home Décor Squid angel :-)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      I only have 3 pairs of shoes and only wear 1 pair anyway so maybe I should cut down on the others!

      My main clutter problems are books and crafts - last year I spent time reading through most of the books I'd had for years and had never looked at and I gave away a lot of book I know I'll never read again - it made such a difference. This year I'm working on my craft stuff.

      We've still got too much crammed in here!

      Excellent ideas here.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      Make all furnishings small scale and they must do double duty as storage or multifunctional pieces. Use the walls to hang anything you can and replace cupboards with shelving. Yes, hooks are your friend! Lensrolled to EcoFriendly Tiny Houses ... 100 sq feet of living space is very small.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Blessings from the home décor neighborhood squid angel. This lens is now featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our lensography tribute page of lenses we have blessed. (You can check it out at http://www.squidoo.com/lenses-blessed-by-this-squi...

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      I like some of the older ideas like the Murphy bed that folds up into a bookshelf when it isn't being slept in. Sometimes classic designs are still very applicable.

    • turtleface profile image

      turtleface 5 years ago

      I live in a small space and I've learned that because space is crucial you don't store things like you would if you had extra space. The good thing is that you're not paying for that extra space to store things. Those items just become clutter that hold you down. In a small space you use all the space you can... which means you build upward. My walk in closet goes from floor to ceiling. I'm using every inch of that closet... but it's not cluttered. It's very organized. Also, cleaning a small home is a lot easier than a large home. After shampooing the floors and washing the walls even it only takes me about 3 hours for thorough deep cleaning of my home. Not something I got to enjoy in my previous larger places.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      I'm addicted to living in small spaces. I love having everything so close at hand.

    • Chocolatealchemy profile image

      Chocolatealchemy 4 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Great Lens - thanks for sharing all your tips; you've given me some ideas I can really use in my small space.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I LOVE bed risers! We use them in both the bedrooms and they are super for additional storage space under the bed.

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 4 years ago

      Awesome lens!!! Loved all the great ideas!

    • profile image

      MintySea 4 years ago

      I had to bribe family members to decluter junk but so worth it. Big spaces can be small spaces if you have a lot of junk.

    • profile image

      MintySea 4 years ago

      If you think you need food storage there are special meal bars that do not take a lot of space.

    • Sara Dowling profile image

      Sara Dowling 4 years ago

      Some fantastic ideas here, I live in quite a big house but it is full of clutter which drives me mad! Your point about the food is so true, I am certain that i could feed our family of 5 people, 2 dogs and a cat for at least a month with what is in our pantry!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      Great ideas! Moving overseas (twice) in a short time, meant I had to downsize really quickly. Of course, now that I'm settled, I'm finding things are building up again. I must get on top of this clutter monster now (especially as I will be moving again soon)!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 3 years ago from Topeka, KS

      It is my goal to downsize considerably so I'll be thinking of all the wonderful tips you offered here. :)

    • amandascloset0 profile image

      amandascloset0 3 years ago

      These ideas are great for a college dorm.

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 3 years ago from Nebraska

      I lived in a small house for many years and when I got remarried I thought it was wonderful that we could buy a bigger house with room to spread out. I'm now craving my cozy house that was a third the size now. My problem, I do have too much STUFF, but I'm so attached to it. I need to downsize, but a little at a time. Vertical space is your friend I do agree

    • profile image

      Mukesh 2 years ago

      Also, the image that I am using is a PNG. Would that affect the code ( I have aldraey tried replacing jpg eith png )?I am using a child theme of twenty eleven by the way

    • profile image

      Linda 2 years ago

      Good points all around. Truly apiracpeted.

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