apartment living roomCredit: M. "Fox" Marsden

Moving into a smaller home, be it an apartment, condo, duplex, or house, can be daunting.  Will there be enough room for everything and the cat, too?  How will you avoid feeling cramped in your new space?  Never fear, here are some tips and tricks to help you feel at ease in your new, smaller life.

Downsizing with grace

The most important step will be to decide how much of your stuff you're going to keep, and what to do with the stuff you no longer want.  There are many methods and options for learning how to let go, so find one that works well for you. 

Pay special attention to your furniture.  Too much furniture in too small a room and you'll feel crowded and cramped.  Furniture that is too big for the space will create the same effect, so reconsider that entertainment center before you move it.  You want to leave plenty of "white space" in your home, rather than cramming every piece of furniture along every bit of wall.  I will go over specific tips for specific rooms below.  If you need help with what furniture to keep and what to let go, study your habits closely.  If you spend all your time at the computer desk and in bed, you may never miss the loveseat or second couch.  Don't fool yourself into thinking "it's for guests" when you hardly ever entertain.  

Knick-knacks, collectibles, and other small items may also make a room feel crowded and small.  Consider selecting only the most beloved of them, and either store or rehome the rest.  The same goes for kitchen gadgets. 

TIP:  While not at home, write down a list of your favorite items.  If you can't remember it while not staring at it, you probably won't miss it. 

The living room

The living room should be one of the easiest to tackle.  In my 590 sq. ft. apartment, I have a futon (which folds out for guests), a coffee table, a desk for my computer, and a bookshelf.  That's a photo of it right up there, in fact.  In smaller apartments, I've gone without the coffee table and had a smaller bookshelf. 

It may be tempting to hang on to the sectional sofa or the entertainment center, but be harsh.  If this is going to be more than just temporary, don't hang on to something that's only going to hog space and make you uncomfortable in your own home.  Remember, you want to leave yourself some breathing room. 

The kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most daunting rooms in a downsized life.  Many small apartments and houses sacrifice kitchen and bathroom space in favor of large bedrooms and living rooms, which is, in my humble opinion, a bit backward. 

Purging will be essential in a small kitchen.  You will need to consider every bit of cookware, every pot and pan, every place setting.  Be honest about how often you cook, and about how many you cook for.  A single person who rarely cooks for others doesn't need more than four bowls or plates.  If you hardly cook, downsize to only what you actually use instead of continuing to hang on to brand-new cookware that will only take up precious storage space. 

Every small kitchen is unique, and you will find if you move from one small kitchen to another that what worked in the old one won't work quite so well in the new.  Sites like Pinterest or Apartment Therapy are full of great small kitchen storage ideas. 

Be aware that many of the truly small apartments will lack a dining area.  Some will come with a bar for eating on, and some won't.  Even if you do have a dining area, don't clutter it with hutches and buffets!  Just a dining table will do, preferably one with two to four chairs and no more.

TIP: A mirror, placed opposite a window, can help make a small, dark kitchen feel larger and better lit.

The bedroom

Ah, the bedroom.  The first thing to remember is that bedrooms are for sleeping and sex and clothing storage.  This makes them, like the living room, fairly easy to downsize.  You have a bed, you have nightstands, you have a chest of drawers.  If you have a ton of clothing, again, purge, purge, purge.  Store winter clothing and extra linens in shallow storage tubs under the bed, and organize your closet thoughtfully (it may very well be the only closet you have!).  If you're single and more minimalistic, you may reconsider the chest of drawers altogether.  I have a bed and an oversized nightstand that holds socks and underthings.  My pants are stored in the closet with the rest of my clothing. 

The bathroom

I joked once to a friend that I've lived for so long with only the small triangle of space to either side of the sink that I have no idea what to do with an actual bathroom counter top.  The sad fact is that you'll likely find the bathroom as tiny as the kitchen, and as difficult to downsize into.  Expect to find little storage available for large quantities of toiletries, makeup, and towels. 

Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and the like will also be a big help in the bathroom.  In fact, you may find the challenge of coming up with unique storage solutions exciting!  I've found 3M's Command line of removable hooks particularly useful, in the bathroom and elsewhere.  You can use the available towel bars to hang small baskets for storage, and use the removable hooks to hang the towels from the back of the door or other unused wall space.

Decorating a tiny home

Just as you shouldn't clutter the walls with furniture, don't clutter your walls with art, either.  Leave plenty of white space, and don't hang too high.  Aim for the center of the artwork to be at around eye level.  Larger pieces can be hung higher, but keep in mind that you want to look at your decor, not strain your neck.

A common rule of thumb is that light colors and breezy fabrics make a small space feel more open and airy.  Pale curtains that obscure the view from the outside but let in a lot of light will be very helpful in a small space.  But as with any rule, it's made to be broken.  Dark, heavy furniture is harder to work with in a small space, but can make it feel cozy or opulent. 

Cleaning in small spaces

Cleaning becomes far more important in a small home.  With less space, areas become more heavily used and dirt accumulates surprisingly quickly.  But never fear, small spaces are also very easy to clean!  There's less floor to vacuum and (hopefully) less stuff to dust. 

A creative challenge

I find small dwellings delightful.  There's a strong focus on creativity when you're forced to make do with little that is lacking in oversized homes.  Don't see downsizing as punishment, see it as a chance to rise to the challenge and discover new, unique ways to organize your home and pursue what really matters in your life.