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5 Tips for Small Space Living


I currently live in 1,100 sq ft and it is the largest space I have ever lived in. The smallest space I ever lived in was roughly 150 sq ft when I only had a bedroom as an au pair, and I had to fit all of my possessions into one suitcase. Here are some things I have learned from living in teeny tiny spaces over the years that might help you:


1. The ultimate realization that we have to face when living in a small space is that we cannot have a lot of stuff (this one took me years to accept). Once I did the typical decluttering of letting go of stuff I didn’t want / use anymore I found I had to learn new ways of keeping my space edited. In my house this means:


  • I grocery shop once a week, and I buy the ingredients for the meals I am making in that week. I do not have “backstock” or duplicates, because the kitchen simply does not have the space. I let the store do the storing for me.

  • This goes for bathroom products too. When our bathroom doesn’t have storage space that means we need to only own the bath / beauty products we actively use and only buy new when we run out.

  • I borrow things & share things often. I borrow from the library when I want to read a specific book, or try a new cookbook. I share puzzles with neighbors so I can still enjoy that hobby without dedicating storage space for it.

  • I make most things multipurpose, and I skip specific gadgets or ones that do similar things. Meaning, I have a food processor, but not a blender. I have a slow cooker, but no toaster or instant pot. I use wine bottles for rolling pins, forks for potato mashers, and bowls with a plate on top as my “tupperware” in the fridge.

  • And the kicker - I have to say no to free things and things other people want to pass on to me. I might want a large armchair for reading, and someone might have one for free, but I cannot accept it unless I have the space for it. I have had to learn to keep a list of items I want (I keep mine in the IPhone reminders app), and I carefully plan out when / if I can acquire them. Oftentimes, after a few months I end up deleting the item because I find I don’t actually want it anymore.


2. Generally, we recommend storing all items from one category together, but this is a rule that is meant to be broken in small spaces. Think of ways you can break down categories into smaller ones, and then think of ways to store the smaller categories in ways that make them accessible. For example:

“Pots & Pans” can be broken down into “baking pans”, “pots I use all the time”, “large pots” etc. Then the “pots I use all the time” live in the kitchen, but “baking pans” live in a box under your bed or in a dresser.

“Clothes” can become “what I am wearing this season”, and anything you won’t be wearing in the next few months can get folded and packed away, or stored in another closet if that is available.


3. Make use of shoe boxes. I like them for small spaces because they can usually fit in the top of a closet, and potentially can stack 2 or 3 high, giving you precious vertical storage space. Additionally, it makes the category mobile so you can take the little category with you into whichever space you need it in. If you use shoe boxes, be sure to label the front of the box clearly so you aren’t actually hiding things from your future self.


4. We have to think creatively about what the function of our room / space needs to be. Ignore all the titles the rooms were given when you moved in like “living room”, “dining room”, etc. and re-label the room to be what you specifically use it for. If you are in a studio, think about each corner of the space and zone / name it to be used for a specific purpose. You can zone off a space by placing furniture or plants as a boundary. Look at kindergarten classroom setups on google and you can see some examples of “zoning” our space.


5. Think outside the box on where or how things can be stored, and let go of what other people might think of your solutions. Our space is meant to function at its best for us. For me, this means I rearrange if I have company coming over, when my needs change, or when the season changes. For example, I tend to want to work in whichever area has the most natural light, so I move my little work station around depending on the time of year. Sometimes I am at the dining table, other times I am working from the kitchen counter, and during COVID lockdown, I was working from the top of my bedroom dresser. The solution might not always look great, but in small spaces we have to prioritize how it functions for the people actually using the space.



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