Moving to a Small Apartment? Here’s How to Maximize Space
By Jack Frey
May 9, 2018
If you are moving from a suburban house to a small city apartment, room management and innovation are everything. Finding an apartment that suits your needs for space, location, and overall comfort can be difficult in such cities as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
The good news: Smaller housing is usually cheaper, and, all other things being equal, moving companies generally charge less when you’re not moving as much stuff. In 2015-16, 8.2% of the people who moved did so for cheaper housing and 17.4% of the people wanted better housing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Depending on your needs, you can always find ways to take advantage of a living space, especially in the city.
Learning to maximize space by digitizing life and using creative storage options can help you achieve more efficiency and space in your home. The following five tips and insights can help you achieve your goals in what seems like a tiny space, and then some organization experts also offer some advice.
Diving into the digital age not only saves you space but reduces the massive deforestation that happens each year – averaging 20 football fields of trees a minute. According to The Paperless Project, more than 300 million tons of paper are produced every year and the average American uses 700 pounds of paper annually. The 21st century has brought us the ability to store movies, books, records, and personal files in the omnipotent Cloud.
Converting all your paper documents to a safe online storage unit can help save space, time, and the environment. Online storage services include Google Drive, Dropbox, FlipDrive, MediaFire, and OneDrive. Securing your documents in multiple Cloud services can help your documents stay safe, organized, and readily available while free up space in your apartment.
Disguise your appliances
One of the best ways to make a room bigger is to create the illusion of space. Disguised appliances can add to the personality of a room in the form of art and decor. Samsung is working on a TV called The Frame that is set to hit the market this spring functioning as both a TV and wall art. The Frame can resemble more than 100 different art pieces or even your own photos.
Similar companies such as Frame My TV and Seura create TVs that pose as art or mirrors, respectively. Frame My TV works for a tighter budget by taking an existing TV and adding a frame with a drop-down art display. Seura might be ideal for a small apartment since its mirror-and-TV duality opens up the room when your TV is not in use.
You can easily crowd your apartment with too much decor, but selling the extra “wall stuff” and replacing it with disguised appliances can make a huge impact in a small space.
Get rid of unneeded items
Roughly 39% of American households have three or more TVs, and the average family spends more than $1,700 on clothing. When moving into a small apartment, think of it as an opportunity to rid your life of belongings you don’t use or need. Find items to resell or give to people in need. Selling items you don’t need can also make room in your budget for those disguised appliances and other smart home solutions.
Build efficient storage and design
Whether you are looking to own or rent an apartment, look for places that implement elements of efficiency. One couple completely transformed its Hong Kong apartment into the home of their dreams. The 300-square-foot apartment includes a movable wall, a drop-down bed, a bathtub, a movie theater, and a gym. The architectural mind behind the project is a company called LAAB, which finds solutions for the tightest quarters of Hong Kong’s densely populated city of 7.1 million.
If you own an apartment, building platforms can be an efficient way to increase the amount of storage space, whether you’re raising your bed or your washer and dryer. Brightening a space is another key factor for improving a small apartment and can give the room more volume if you have light colored walls, extra fixtures, and a good source of natural light. Other options include hanging your bike on the wall, using the fireplace as a bookshelf, and hanging pots and pans in the kitchen.
Use smart technology
As smart homes and the internet of things become more widely adopted, technology will continue to increase in quality and cost efficiency. This is a huge step for big cities with small apartments and a lot of citizens. Ori is one company already working to combat the issue of space by using a robotic wall that stores a bed, moves to create a new room, and functions as storage.
Other smart home technology such as climate-control systems, smart kitchens, security monitors, and more can help enhance the tiny-living experience. Imagine lights coming on as you walk into the apartment, adjusting based on the sunrise and sunset, and listening to voice commands via Amazon Echo’s Alexa or a similar device. It’s now made possible by using lightbulbs like GE Links or Philips Hue. Echo also has the capabilities to stream Spotify, provide news and traffic alerts, and control your other smart home gadgets.
Installing a smart security system also helps you protect your gadgets. The FBI reported more than 1.5 million burglaries in 2015 with property losses around $3.6 billion. Although apartments might not seem a likely candidate for robbers, it’s still a good idea to utilize a security camera that can stream live footage to your smartphone.
Smart technology applies to all the above tips, so seriously consider the benefits of today’s smart technology as you begin planning how to better use your apartment’s limited space.
Morgan Ovens, Haven
Decluttering BEFORE moving is going to be crucial to make downsizing easier on you.
- First, start by going through your kitchen and bathroom items and donating or throwing away any duplicates of anything you may have. For example: even if it means doing the dishes more often, how many medium size pots do you really need?
- Second, go through your clothes and any other miscellaneous items. If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it. If you don’t truly love it, donate it. The idea here is that you’ll be surrounded 100% by things you absolute love and nothing more.
- When it comes to storage in a small space, you’re going to have to be clever and think vertical. Buy over-the-door organizers for shoes or cleaning supplies. In the kitchen, hang pot lids, garbage cans, and towels on the back of a cabinet door. Hang stylish shelves near the ceiling to store books and other personal item.
These tricks can save space, but ultimately the less stuff you own, the more space you’re going to have. Consider this during your decluttering process.
Stacey Murray, Organized Artistry LLC
I grew up in a small New York apartment; my room was a 5-by-12 rectangle (I refer to it as my ‘Organizing Laboratory’). I acquired some mad organizing skills living in that space!
- The most important piece of advice I can give to someone moving into a small apartment is to look up. See all that space up there? Use it! Purchase bookcases that go as close to the ceiling as possible. Store less frequently used items on top shelves of linen closets and kitchen cabinets. If you have no more storage going outward, then you must go up!
- Purge your belongings before you move. Keep only what you love, need and use. Don’t pay movers to move things you don’t need or use.
- Purchase “double duty” furniture — those pieces that have more than one function. Examples include storage ottomans and coffee tables with file cabinet capabilities.
- Items such as vacuum or steam cleaners and large soup pots can be borrowed from friends and relatives or neighbors.
- Use overlooked spaces to store items, such as under the bed, behind a couch, and the back sides of closet and cabinet doors.
Felice Cohen, professional organizer
Having been a professional organizer for the last 20 years in NYC, and having lived in a 90-square-foot NYC studio for 5 years, I know a thing or two about maximizing a small space.
- Before you move into the small space, ask, “Why am I moving there?” To save money? Be closer to your job? Have a smaller carbon footprint? Having your WHY will come in handy when, and if, you get frustrated with the small space.
- Only take what you absolutely love. This is true for clothes, coffee mugs, appliances, etc. Remember: you don’t take up space, your stuff does. Less stuff = more space.
- Shelf out one wall, floor to ceiling if possible, around 13 inches deep. This can absorb a lot of your stuff.
- Utilize unused space: under the bed, behind a couch, over the fridge, behind a door.
- Use multifunctional furniture: footstool with storage, chair that turns into a step stool, or couch that turns into bed
- Loft the bed, get a Murphy bed, or put bed on pulley and raise it. A bed takes up precious space.
- Add a drop-down table or desk.
- Create Hot and Cold Zones. Store what you use daily in easy to reach places (Hot zones). Store stuff you use less often in harder-to-reach places, like above fridge or top of closet (Cold zones).
Janet Bernstein, The Organizing Professionals LLC
These tips can help you downsize and organize:
- Do you love it, need it or use it? Use this as your criteria. If an item doesn’t fit into one of these, then it doesn’t deserve a place in your home.
- Schedule decluttering time on your calendar. We’re more likely to accomplish tasks when we have a plan. Even if you’re just scheduling a task with yourself, you’re more likely to get it done if you put it on your calendar. Then start scheduling regular decluttering appointments with yourself.
- Less is more. The less you have, the more organized and productive you’re going to be. Decluttering is the first step in getting organized.
- If you find it emotionally challenging to part with items, remember: If you keep everything then nothing is special.
Dan Moyer Jr., Closet Factory
Today, an increasing number of homeowners are choosing to downsize. Whether it’s to focus on a career, save money, or escape the clutter, people are making the switch to smaller homes, creating another immediate challenge: How do I fit all of my existing stuff into less space?
Create Special Zones
Creating separate “zones” gives small spaces a purpose. For example, one feature of a typical home is a mudroom. Adding a small bench, cubbies, and a cabinet near your front door or garage entrance can subtly give each member of your family their own zone, keeping them organized on their way in and out of the house.
Add A Window Seat
Window seats and benches are the perfect ‘flex’ furnishings for your home, turning hallways and small spaces into multipurpose hangouts. From reading nooks to mudrooms and dens, every home has the potential to incorporate at least one window seat, adding style to an existing space and practical storage for the whole family.
Customize Your Closet
A custom closet will create additional space in your bedroom that you never realized you had. This is because custom closets are specially designed to fit YOUR space, angled ceiling and all, and can take advantage of wasted areas like corners.
In fact, think of all the dead space that exists in your average closet, where all you have is a single rod and shelf. That space between the floor and the bottom of your clothes goes to waste, and inevitably items like shoes and accessories just end up in one big pile.
Add More ‘Flex’ Furnishings To Your Home
When it comes to maximizing small spaces, you want to add elements that can function as more than one thing. Wall beds are a perfect example of this, since they can fold up to free up valuable floor space by day, and can fold down to become a guest bedroom by night.
Nicola Croughan, Blinds Direct
The main issue with small homes is clutter; even if your space is spotless, it won’t look clean if it’s untidy and disorganized. Getting rid of just a handful of belongings will free up space, creating a larger, brighter-looking room.
If you’re decluttering your closet, you’ll be amazed at the space that’s been freed up for other items! If you’re looking to spend some cash, it’s a good idea to invest in multi-functional furniture that provides additional storage. This type of design-led, multipurpose furniture has seen a resurgence in recent seasons, owed to its functionality while maintaining a sleek and stylish look. Pouffes and storage footstools, for example, are the ultimate addition to a studio apartment.
We are also seeing a rise in simplistic ‘invisible’ furniture pieces, comprising slim metal or wooden frames with glass or marble surfaces. This sleekness and transparency helps us to avoid cluttering up small spaces, but provides a place to store items or display ornaments.
Jack Frey is a freelance writer based out of Salt Lake City. Among his areas of expertise are moving, technology, and business.