With the rising cost of real estate in cities like New York and Vancouver, figuring out how to do more with less space is a challenge and an opportunity.  If you need to downsize your life, consider these principles for compact living.

Don't Buy So Quick

Just because you can have something, or want to have something, does not mean you should have that something.  Before buying stuff think about alternatives or think about just doing without. Your bank account will thank you and your apartment will avoid the cluttered look.

Borrow, Share and Trade

If you only need the item for a short time, why not borrow it?  If  you don't want to informally use your friends network, look for a local cooperative that can help.  Tool cooperatives, car cooperatives, and creative lending libraries for all kinds of things have sprung up all over, especially in major cities.

You might also try sharing an item with a neighbor. Do you really need your own vacuum or BBQ?  Why not make a deal with a neighbor or the whole building to share these kinds of tools?  If there is an outdoor patio at your building it may be better to put a nice big common BBQ out there instead of everyone putting little BBQs that fill up small decks and send smoke into other people's homes.

Rent It

If you can't borrow, than consider renting things you need once or occasionally.  Located everywhere, Home Depot rents all kinds of useful tools to fix things around the home. There are many other tool rental stores as well. Party supply places have the extra stuff you need for the occasional get together.  From extra tables and chairs, to serving dishes, glasses and utensils, and linens, a party supply store can get you everything you need for entertaining and save you having to store stuff you might use once a year. 

The list of other rental options is extensive. Rent formal wear, cars, moving blankets, furniture, and recreational equipment.

Get Something You Already Have to Do the Job

What do you have already that can fill your needs and desires?  Can you repurpose containers or clear out something else to make way for your next project?  

Buy Used, Sell Used

Sometimes you can't rent or borrow, but maybe you can buy it used and then resell it for the same kind of price as you bought for.  Craigslist is great for this because everything is available on Craigslist.  If you get a really good deal, and are willing to wait for the next buyer a little longer, you might even be able to buy low and sell a little higher, making a few bucks and having the items you need for when you need them.

Minimizing the stuff you need to deal with helps greatly in the next step - space utilization. 


Look at everything in your home.  Are you actually using it?  Do you really need 5 of it?  Should something be thrown out or given away because it is broken, damaged, outdated, ugly, wrong size, or useless to you now?  

Decluttering is critical to recapturing your life and space.  Get rid of newspapers, magazine collections, old brochures, junk mail, and other clutter.  Remove extra clothing and accessories you no longer wear (or the ugly Christmas sweater you got 3 years ago and never wore).  A clean home is a happy home.

While decluttering you can improve your bank account.  Amazon buys books, DVDs and electronics for Amazon gift cards.  Craigslist is a fine place to get rid of extra stuff, as is eBay if you are willing to ship.  If you would rather not sell items, donate them to a local thrift store and help those in need with your extra stuff.

Design for Compactness and Multiple Uses of Space

Many techniques can be used to make space serve multiple purposes.  An obvious one is the Murphy bed.  Less obvious, but also effective is to create over bed and under bed storage.  A custom-built in can be used to hide one function and open up another, much like shown in the video. 

In Asia you can find many bathrooms where all the fixtures are in a small room together. Every shower gives the whole bathroom a good cleaning and the tile floor just has a drain in the middle.

Place your microwave over your range and have it double as an exhaust fan.  Conceal the fridge and freezer under an eating bar. Get a compact drawer style dishwasher instead of a regular model. 

Reduce Paper - It Gobbles Space

Read the newspaper online to eliminate the clutter of newspapers.  Borrow, read and return books to the library.  You can always get them again if you want to read them again.  

Reduce your stored paperwork by cleaning your files of unnecessary papers and then scanning the important stuff into Dropbox (its free, secure and makes all your files available from all your devices).

Get off junk mailing lists aggressively. This will save you time and space in the long run.

Look around for other space-saving opportunities - new ideas come out all the time and you might as well use the best ideas to keep more of your space free for living in and not filled with clutter.

Two Areas Not to Short Yourself On

Having emergency supplies of food, water purification, first aid and other items required to survive a disaster is really important.  These items don't need to take up a lot of space.  Everything needed for two people to survive for a couple weeks can fit in an emergency backpack.  

Portable wealth, in the form of a few silver coins and/or gold bars is a must to store at home.  In an emergency the ATMs might be down but a silver coin will get you out of almost any jam.  These compact stores of wealth are easy to conceal and transport and will not clutter up your home.