How to Maximize Space in a Small Apartment


In Greenwich Village, I lived in a studio apartment that was so small that I had space for my bed, a desk and a single chair. When I stood up to turn off the alarm clock, I was in my kitchen. If I rolled over twice, I could toast on the hearth of my fireplace. A friend described it as being so small that I had to go outside to change my mind. Here's how to maximize your limited space if you live in an apartment.

  • Start by being ruthless about anything that you don't need. Go through your closet. If you can't remember the last time you wore something, donate it to a thrift shop. If you don't fit an article of clothing, do the same. In the kitchen, do you really use all the appliances stacking up there, like the electric wok and multiple coffee grinders? Assess each area in terms of functionality.

  • Take a critical look at the floor plan for your apartment's furniture. It's very possible that your furniture is where you put it because you had room there when you bought it. It's quite possible that moving a table a bed or a sofa against a wall or by simply rearranging to better handle floor traffic, you could free up some space.

  • Your bed is in use for only 1/3 of your day at the most. Simply replacing it with a futon or a convertible sofa will open up some room. Another option is to put your bed on risers. Once your bed is off the floor, you can buy a set of under-the-bed boxes for storage. They look like Tupperware for your clothes, with snap-on tops.

  • Now open the door to your bedroom closet. If it's still overflowing after donating your extra clothes, you can take action through several solutions. Instead of using the wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners, buy multiple hangers where several shirts hang down from the same space on the closet pole. Look at the closet shelf. There's probably useable space still above it. Add a multi-tiered shelf above. If your closet floor has just a single layer of shoes, shelves or stackable baskets will help there too. Another option for shoes is to get a behind-the-door shoe organizer that hooks onto the top of your closet door and drapes dozens of shoes in pockets behind it. I use a similar solution to organize my extensive baseball cap collection. A more comprehensive system for closets is available online at ClosetsUSA (see Resources below) that allows you to design a custom closet organizer on line.

  • Examine the walls of your kitchen. Is every bit of wall space used? I love to cook and was running out of space for my pots and pans, so I put in a peg board with hooks to get them onto the wall. I moved the hooks around to maximize space utilization. Get a friend to help you install a cabinet if one isn't there. Within the cabinet you can install additional shelves for multiple layers of canned goods and food. Since I'm an avid cyclist and have both a mountain and a road bike, I put in a bike rack to store both bikes in the space formerly taken by one. Gravity holds it in place. The picture with this article is manufactured by Racor.

  • As crowded as your apartment is, you could probably add a shelf that runs through the entire place just below the ceiling. If you're an avid reader, it's a natural storage area for books. You can also display a cherished collection or assorted knick-knacks quite proudly.

  • Another option is to add shelving in halls or corridors. Ikea offers narrow shelves that attach directly to the walls so you don't lose floor space.

  • Most bathrooms are not efficiently organized. You can easily add a cabinet for towels and toiletries. Many manufacturers make over-the- commode shelving that can stack to the ceiling. Pick up an organizer for shampoos and conditioner that hangs from the shower head. If you don't have bathroom cabinets, you can probably find space to add storage under your sink as well.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that under the real estate laws of most states, any shelving or cabinets that you add to an apartment that are attached to the walls with hardware becomes property of the owner when you leave.
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