This August marks the start of Arnie’s and my fourth year in our 650-square foot apartment. In terms of city living, this apartment is, by all accounts, a large apartment for the price. But when you’ve grown up in three- and five-bedroom homes, down-sizing to a one bedroom apartment with only one legitimate closet is a major adjustment.
When I first found this apartment, I had been living for nearly 10 months in a brand new, roughly 1000 square foot apartment, that was about 30 minutes outside of the city. We’re talking granite countertops, new wood floors, tons of closet space, a bedroom big enough to work out in…
And I. was. miserable.
I wanted to be in the midst of the action, close to all of the quaint neighborhoods, restaurants and shops that city-living offers. I made up my mind early on that my next move would be to the city.
On the other hand, I also knew that living in the city would require more…creativity…in order to fit everything without the space feeling cramped. (Let’s be honest with each other, I am a girl with a lot of clothes and shoes. If not for some serious organization, those things alone could make the place feel crowded.)
Over the past three years, I’ve found some great ways to utilize the space, so today I’m sharing a few tips I’ve used to keep our tiny apartment feeling roomy.
TIPS FOR ORGANIZING A SMALL APARTMENT
- Build up, not out
Vertical shelving units, wall shelves, hanging spice racks and baskets–to the maximum extent possible, you want to build up your walls, instead of out onto the floor. IKEA and Target are gold mines when it comes to clever solutions for small spaces (like using the ikea plastic bag dispenser to store wrapping paper, or magazine files for hiding away foil, saran wrap and ziploc bags).
- Use light colors to make the space feel bright
White walls and furniture reflect light and open up the room, as opposed to dark furniture and walls that tend to make the space feel smaller and confined.
- Choose multi-purpose storage
A media stand that doubles as a linen closet, or a storage ottoman that holds guest bedding and extra blankets, are great ways to get more bang for your buck when living small. We’ve got the IKEA KALLAX bookshelf storing everything from winter hats and gloves and laundry supplies, to tools and exercise equipment. Add pretty baskets or color code your bookshelf and a functional piece of furniture will act double-duty as a piece of decor.
- Use acrylic furniture, glass, and mirrors to create the illusion of more space
Acrylic chairs, coffee tables and desk organization are everywhere right now, and really great tools for tricking your brain into thinking you have more space. Mirrors also create that optical illusion of making a room bigger than it really is. Place one across from a window or above your couch to make the space feel larger.
- Choose one or two accent colors throughout to maintain cohesion
Sprinkle accents of the same color throughout multiple rooms. I have added a bright teal to the throw pillows on our sofa, my apron and oven mits outside the kitchen, and my letter file at my desk. This small touch ties together the office area, kitchen and living spaces in a subtle way.
- Don’t forget about inside-the-cabinet storage
Over the cabinet door baskets and cabinet inserts are really awesome ways to get more out of the space you have.
- Embrace the label maker
You know you’re a super-nerd when your label maker is one of your top three prized possessions. (I wish I were kidding.) I label everything: baking containers, magazine files for food storage, plastic drawers with tupperware lids and tea towels, cleaning supply caddies… Labeling has been one of the best ways to find things that are tucked away in small spaces, and more importantly, to ensure that they are put back where they belong (yes, I’m referring to your iPad, Arnie).
As we approach our fourth year of living small, it’s getting harder to imagine having more space. This tiny apartment has become such a sacred and comfortable place, and feels impressively large despite its small package. Living here has made me realize how little we actually need; you can be perfectly content with less.
And this is Arnie watching the Pirates game with his favorite Pirates cup… (he’s really possesive of that cup.)
Another really simple organizational tip: collect all of the loose menus and store them in a three-ring binder. You’ll always have them when you need them! (Extra points if you make a pretty label for the outside.)
(Disregard the dated beige leather cushions; I’m about to re-upholster them.)