Living in a small space, for me just under 300 square feet, takes some getting used to. In a larger home a little bit of clutter isn’t nearly so noticeable as it is in a smaller one. With that being said, I have found so much more to life when I gave up my stuff and larger apartment.
Today I want to share with you the top ten solutions to making a small space work best.
- Start with a clean slate. When I had chosen my new space I viewed it empty. I took count of the storage space available. I had one very small closet, two lower cabinets and one drawer in the kitchen area. I looked at what I needed to bring in to the kitchen and what was important to have in the closet. It was now, before moving in, that I choose which pieces of furniture and art I would bring with me. I got rid of everything else before I moved. Don’t bring everything with you then try to get rid of it. Your new space will feel cramped and you will be confused as to how to make the place work for you. I also gave myself a week to make the move so I would be able to bring things in a little at a time
- Look at the walls. What colors soothe you? White walls can be just what you want, not so much for me. I chose a neutral shade as the backdrop, leaving the ceilings white. Having white ceilings will give the illusion of height making the space feel less closed in.
- Bring with you only what you love and need. For me, I had to bring a painting which was a family heirloom, and one I loved all my life. Other things I passed on to others or dropped off at the thrift shop. The first quilt I made (and love) is now a covering on a day bed which serves as my couch for guests and extra sleeping space for a sleepover. The milk glass vase that was my grandmothers (and yes I love) sits on my desk holding pens and a seam ripper when not being used for flowers. If you love it, it will be should also be something useful to you.
- Art. This is what makes your space personalized and feeling like a home. My artwork on my walls depicts nature or uses items from nature to create it. I also have a framed family portrait my children got together and gave me for Christmas. Your wall art can all be very different, but if you tie them in with the same color frames they will all work together as if they were meant to be showcased in the same space. In addition, don’t cover the walls with too many small pieces, this will give the illusion of your space being smaller than it is and make it feel cluttered.
- Use multi-function pieces. Whether you use a daybed, sofa bed, or futon for seating and sleeping, a vase for holding pens and flowers, see how many uses one item can have. Another item I found more than one use for was a rice cooker. I can cook in it, reheat foods (especially soup) in it, and even use the bowl and lid to store leftovers in the fridge. Take a good look at what you are keeping, how else can you use that one item?
- Use closet space efficiently. I have one very small closet. Use the space horizontally. Instead of hanging everything you wear on the clothes rod, add shelves to store shoes and items which can be folded. Use a top shelf to store items you don’t need to reach as often, such as holiday decorations. Again, I used items in multiple ways. I have a bucket for cleaning on occasion, I wasn’t sure where to store this other than the closet, having whittled my shoes down to just a few pair I wear frequently I store them inside the bucket. Now it has a use other than when I am using it for cleaning.
- Digitize! Digitize! Digitize! We all have items that we use infrequently, yet take up a lot of space. Take a look at your photo albums. How often do you actually take them out and look at them? Instead of figuring out where to store them in your small space, digitize them. Put them on your computer for safe keeping and pass the albums on to a family member who would like to have them. CDs and DVDs also take up a lot of space when stored in their cases. (in addition the plastic cases off-gas toxins into your environment). I emptied my DVDs placing them in colored paper sleeves. Then I store those in a CD box I purchased inexpensively at Ikea. My CDs I put in a binder and tossed the jewel cases as well. My next step will be to digitize both my movies and music, but for now it freed up space and kept them handy.
- Keep flat surfaces clean. Yes, I have a bowl on my counter with fruit in it, and a vase on my desk with pens. But I try to have a place for everything and keep it there. If your counters or tabletops are cluttered it will draw the eye every time making the entire space feel too small. In addition, the few lamps I have for task or general lighting are floor lamps. Using floor lamps frees up the flat surfaces to set a drink on or any other immediate need you have.
- Eliminate as many big items as possible. If you aren’t ready to eliminate a television, at least don’t try to bring in a 60″ television. The smaller the room, the smaller the screen you can comfortably view. If possible mount the television on the wall which will make the space feel less cluttered. I don’t watch much television, so I eliminated the television, and now the couple of shows I do enjoy I watch for free on my computer. What about the stereo? I was able to use a clock radio with a CD player built-in as my clock, radio, alarm, and stereo. The less large pieces of furniture and electronics the more open the space will feel.
- Under bed storage. I have a love-hate relationship with under-bed storage. I love using the empty space under the bed, but I don’t like open storage underneath my beds. I also find I don’t like to have to pull things out from under my bed on a regular basis. What I did find was an inexpensive storage container which zips shut from Ikea. In these I can store off-season clothes or bedding. I don’t have to worry about washing them before using them as they are covered with dust.
There you have it. the ten tips to ensuring you can live comfortably in a small space. For those items you keep and want efficient storage solutions, check out Ikea.com. Ikea, found in Sweden where people live in smaller homes. You will find multi-function pieces of furniture and even items made to fit in a very compact space. I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase a lot of new items, re-purposing what you already have is by far the most economical way to go.