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Making the Most of Small Spaces

By Kim Robson:

If, like me, you live in a small apartment or cottage, you know the challenge of shoe-horning all your possessions into it without looking like the neighborhood hoarder.  Paying a considerable chunk of money each month for an off-site storage shed isn’t always an option, either.  There are lots of tricks to living comfortably in the tiniest dwellings, though.

One simple, cost-effective way to start is to get rid of any visible clutter.  You would be amazed at how much you can do with a few storage boxes.  Stylish cardboard boxes can hide in plain sight those frequently used objects.  Large plastic tubs are great for the garage.  The shoebox-sized plastic boxes are stackable, airtight, and fit neatly underneath the bed.  Another option for under-the-bed storage is to vacuum seal your bulky winter blankets and coats.  All the air is sucked out of the storage bag, leaving a thin, flat container with contents a fraction of the  original size.

Identify any “dead space.”  This would be a corner, or section of wall or cabinet that serves no useful purpose.  Fill that dead space with storage.  A simple three-tier wire basket hangs in a dead corner of my kitchen.  It holds cloth napkins and dish cloths, onions, and potatoes.  A simple metal spice rack now occupies another dead corner, thus freeing up much-needed pantry space.   If your cabinets are deep and/or tall, filling up all that space efficiently can be difficult.  Wire racks are inexpensive and versatile, and can instantly double or triple your vertical storage capability.  In the bathroom, additional towel hooks or rods can fill dead wall space.  And don’t forget the area above the toilet.  Over-the-toilet cabinets can hold extra toilet paper, washcloths, soap, etc.

Make sure your furniture is appropriately scaled for your space.  It seems as if all couches these days are enormous, scaled for huge “great rooms.”  Put one of those in your apartment and it’ll swallow the whole room.  Patronize businesses like Simplicity Sofas that specialize in small-scaled furniture.  There also are stores that offer a selection of smaller kitchen and home appliances.  SmallAppliance.com is a gold mine for such items.

Lots of natural light always helps open up and “air out” a room.  A simple monochromatic color scheme with a few added spots of bright color helps pull the room together in a cohesive way. Glass or acrylic tabletops can really lighten up the room, and mirrors will always maximize the light and perceived space of your home.

Consider multi-functional furniture.  Murphy beds and sofa beds can turn a one-room studio into a comfortable bedroom instantly.  A storage ottoman is a great place to tuck away a lap blanket, board games, or kids’ toys.  One of the largest objects in our little cabin is an old heirloom wooden steamer trunk with brass trim.  Instead of dominating the bay window it sits before, the trunk unobtrusively anchors the room.  We store winter blankets and extra pillows in it, and its surface serves as a tabletop for coffee table books, decorative bowls, and a compact stereo.

Once in a while, pull out your stored items and re-evaluate your need to keep them.  Something that seemed indispensable three years ago might not seem as important now, especially if you forgot you even had it in the first place.  Even re-arranging items more efficiently can open up extra space.  If you have a garden shed, basement, or garage, that’s the place for long-term storage.  There are some treasures that I’m just not willing to part with, but I have no practical use for them, either.  Those things go back into the storage tubs and up onto a shelf in our shed.

More and more people nowadays are ditching their McMansions and moving into smaller homes. The “tiny home” movement is catching fire, too, as the benefits of small-scale living are many. Living in a small space doesn’t mean that you have to be cramped or that you have to give away most of your belongings, however.  With a little creativity, your little home can feel quite spacious!


About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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