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How to embrace your small space

April 18, 2012

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.” — Leonardo Da Vinci

A few months ago I Googled “tips for small bedroom living in New York City” and came across this page with a collection of peaceful reflections on “living small.”

Every morning upon finding new shin bruises from knocking into bed corners, I’d remind myself of these quotes. Da Vinci’s words would repeat in my mind along with, “location, Jenny, location, location, location!” to cope with the fact that I could fit maybe a sixth of my wardrobe into my “closet,” which was more akin to the backpack cubby assigned to us in elementary school. It would be OK, though. I attempted to feel Zen about my small space with my daily motivational quotes. I was determined to make the best of it. A quick reminder if you recall:

This was me, insert laptop and a bag of chips on a Tuesday night.

My bedroom was 7.5 feet by 8 feet long, with one window and a very small closet, albeit in a fantastic location. Long story short, however, I no longer live in that apartment for unrelated reasons. I could have made it work, but let’s just say it’s a big bonus relief that I don’t have to. I think you get to a point in your 20s when you just can’t tolerate routines that were no big deal to you in college. I used to be able to stand at concert festivals for days on end without a shower or shred of irritability. I also used to be able to live in shoebox-sized rooms (less than 9 x 9 feet is my definition of a shoebox in New York, or an awkward 7/8 x 10). At 25, I’m done, regardless of the zip code. Less can be more, yes, but size does matter after you’ve crossed a certain threshold.

If you haven’t reached that point in your life yet and are living in a tiny space, I have a few tips for making it work, specifically when it comes to shoe and clothing storage. And, I promise you, you can make it work if you want to.  Do not let your stuff suffocate you!

First of all, your bed is going to take up the most space in your bedroom. Think really hard about this: Do you really need a full-size bed? Are you seeing someone who sleeps over regularly? If the answer is no, consider a twin. Yes, you’ll feel like you’re in your childhood bedroom again, but the difference between a twin and full-sized bed is several feet of potential storage space. If you absolutely cannot deal with a twin bed (no judgment, I refused to give up my full, I’m a sprawler), invest in the highest bed-risers you can find at Bed Bath & Beyond. The highest I’ve found is 7 inches. This will allow you to stuff suitcases and plastic under-bed storage bins underneath (think seasonal clothes, shoes you won’t wear everyday). You can also look into more expensive bed frames with built-in dressers or storage underneath the mattress. This one below was clearly designed by a New Yorker.

Once you’ve figured out your bed situation and can assess the remaining space, a couple essential purchases include:

  • The Wonder Hanger. Comes in a set of 8 and holds 40-80 garments for only $7.99. These “As Seen on TV” accessories are a lifesaver, oh my God. I’m sure you’ve seen the mesmerizing demo video at some point.
  • Hanging door shoe organizers. If you don’t survive off of these already I don’t know what to tell you. Where on earth do you keep your shoes?
  • Wall shelves. This is where you can mix function with style. If you don’t have room for a bookcase, pick a few of your favorite books to display, grab a drill and go crazy. Don’t go crazy with the drill. With the books.

This is perfect for cramming.

CD storage? OK.

Instead of a jewelry box, get a splatter sheet from any homegoods store for earrings. Hammer in a few nails below it, and you have a wall-friendly jewelry armoire. Easy.

Hanging lantern lights can replace a tall standing lamp, and they’re prettier! Cheaper, too. Some can teeter on the “dorm room section of Target” end of the style spectrum, but you can go upscale with them too at Pier 1, West Elm, whatever.

If you follow these steps and top them off with a daily glass of wine, you can be happy as a cozy clam in your new place. Depending on the rest of your apartment’s layout, try to work with available space in hallway closets, hallways themselves, and of course keep your roommates’ preferences in mind (i.e. shoving your clothes in the oven might not be OK).

For more ideas, I also love this Apartment Therapy article on the art of transforming small spaces.

Lastly, you are a stronger, more patient person than most for making it work long-term. God speed!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2012 10:25 am

    I don’t have a door hanger for shoes. All my shoes are at the bottom of my closet. I have a rack for the ones I don’t use too often. See: http://instagr.am/p/G7u_TbCKOF/. It helps that I don’t have too many pairs of boots. I do keep some shoes under my bed, though…

    • Jenny permalink*
      April 18, 2012 10:27 am

      I’m impressed. I’ve been using over-the-door shoe organizers since high school when I only had like, 2 pairs of shoes and a huge room. I guess my Mom liked them.

  2. embenton permalink
    April 18, 2012 1:45 pm

    Agreed on the bed part. My first NYC apartment (the old Astoria one) came furnished and the queen bed that was originally in my room literally took up about 97% of the space. Even though I convinced one of the other girls to trade me her full-size, it was still so cramped in there. I was broke at the time and didn’t think twice about taking the cheapest (smallest) room. Now I’ll say never again.

  3. Son Dodier permalink
    February 24, 2013 7:14 pm

    These wooden bed frames offer slats throughout the bottom of the bed and often include an attached footboard, or headboard. Well, there are several things, which can increase the elegance of your house. They are sturdy and durable assuring you of its life time use. These are mostly made of cherry veneers and solid birch. I also use a plastic bead as a buffer between my hook and sinker: this also makes a clinking noise when the sinker clashes up against it, it’s just another way to catch the fishes attention. ;

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