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How to Fit More in a Small Apartment

By Edited Feb 12, 2016 3 12

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. 

Declutter

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.

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Comments

Feb 3, 2012 4:55am
KrisSigeti
Good tips! I am a renter and find the need to declutter regularly. I also have utilized the ceiling! Hang stuff, i.e., my bike.
Feb 3, 2012 7:13am
kings120987
I bought a much smaller house than any of my friends. Sometimes it is tempting to try and keep up with them, but I like the feeling of living simpler.
Feb 3, 2012 10:47am
rskeller69
One word -- IKEA
Feb 3, 2012 4:01pm
southerngirl09
Very interesting article, and the video is fascinating. As the old saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."
Feb 4, 2012 2:09pm
Aleo
Really good advice, and congratulations on the feature!
Feb 6, 2012 5:17am
sultanarzari
useful piece of info...hope these work
Feb 6, 2012 8:14am
dmcgaw
Great article JadeDragon. I have always lived in apartments so when I moved into a house a year and a half ago, I thought it was huge. And then along came a baby and it is suddenly not seeming so big anymore! Your article gave me some good ideas though!
Feb 14, 2012 1:58pm
deyuan168
Having a smaller space forces us to think outside the box to use the space creatively, and also to think twice when purchasing household item. Thanks for sharing!
Feb 15, 2012 12:43pm
Klaask83
I loved all this information! My husband and I live in a small apartment and many of these ideas could be utilized. We are both fearful of clutter and unused items everywhere, great tips and new ideas!
Apr 21, 2012 8:49am
jjhansen
I love a good declutter! In London (like in New York) apartments tend to be small for the amount of money you pay, so these tips will certainly come in handy. Thanks.
May 24, 2012 11:03am
divaonline
You make excellent points. The co-op idea is absolutely brilliant!
Mar 1, 2013 5:24pm
chopsooy
My apartment which I rent is tiny. No bedroom, the living area and bed are all in one room. It has a tiny bathroom in which there is a toilet and an open shower and the kitchen is one gas burner in a small entry as you come in the front door :-) Very much like living in a caravan. These tips are great. What you mentioned about paper clutter is so true. Unfortunately I'm a teacher, I try to keep the paper down around here but sometimes it just takes over such a tiny space. I also find that limiting the amount of clothes is a big space saver. I think most people have a few stock standard things we wear most of the time, but we still keep wardrobes full of gear. You've inspired me to go an DE-clutter :-)
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