Can 2 adults and 2 dogs go from a 3,000 square foot home with a yard to a one-bedroom apartment with less than 700 square feet? That is the exact question we (well actually just me) fretted over pretty endlessly prior to our PCS to DC. I’ll save you a lot of angst and tell you that the answer is yes, but there was definitely a learning curve that went with it.
During the months of preparation and our first six months of living here, I’ve picked up a few helpful tips for living in a tiny apartment!
Tips for Tiny Apartment Living
Tip #1: Make use of ALL the storage
You never really realize how much storage exists in a space until you have to find spots for 28 rolls of paper towels. And then suddenly, everything is a storage spot!
Places like under the bed (covered by a dust ruffle) and on top of the stackable washer/dryer can be great spots to store lesser-used items like seasonal clothing or those paper towels you impulsively purchased from Costco. If you’re going to make use of the space under the bed, definitely use space bags or other soft containers to keep things organized under there.
You can also maximize storage by dividing up spaces with shelves, baskets and other little containers. Almost all of our kitchen cabinets have shelves to double the space and most drawers are subdivided to keep smaller items contained.
Tip #2: Purge as much as you can
Ultimately, there’s only so much storage space in 700 square feet no matter how well you use it. Because of that, we did a lot of purging before we moved. I mean a lot of purging. Loads and loads made their way to friends and to charity and to the dump. It was not easy as I am one of those people who forms emotional attachments to items, especially if they’re given to me as a gift. But the hard and fast space constraints forced my hand quite a bit.
Things we purged: books, furniture, clothing, decor items and kitchen items.
We also have a small storage unit where we’re keeping some of our larger furniture that I couldn’t part with, including our custom dining table and a few antiques.
Tip #3: Don’t purge everything!
There are some things that serve no practical purpose other than making you happy. Those are the ones you need to spare from the donate/trash bin! I kept knick knacks, holiday decor and books that some people would have purged without hesitation. But I know the joy they bring and how quickly they make a cold space feel like home, so they came with me. I am grateful for that every day.
Tip #4: Walls offer storage solutions
One of the hardest parts of living in an apartment is making sure poor sweet Ruger does not constantly run into and knock stuff over. He’s a big dog and is used to a more wide-open living situation. Keeping as much of the floor clear and open was a priority for me to minimize the number of obstacles he has to navigate around.
But in a small space desperately in need of storage, you can quickly end up with narrow walkways…unless you make use of the walls! Wall shelves and tall (but shallow) bookcases can provide a lot of extra storage without taking up a ton of floor space.
Tip #5: Keep scale in mind when choosing furnishings
If you’re downsizing your living space at all, you may very well have to downsize the furniture as well. A smaller scale sofa or chair can make a huge difference in opening up the floor space and making it seem as if the space is larger.
In our old home, we had two massive sofas in the living room. While they would have fit in our much smaller living space, they would have been pretty much the only thing that did! We opted to bring a much smaller sofa that had originally been in my townhome and it is just the right scale. We also traded two overstuffed leather chairs for a much smaller upholstered option that fits neatly in a corner, but can be brought out when we have company.
Tip #6: Tidy up daily
For many of you, this is a no brainer. I’m not super proud to admit that in our old house, the clutter would pile up in various spots throughout the week and really only get dealt with on the weekends. When you have a huge expanse of counter space in the kitchen, a pile or two of mail isn’t that big of a deal. When you only have enough counter space for a cutting board and it also doubles as your dining area, a pile of mail is a much bigger deal. Every afternoon and usually right before bed, I spend 10 minutes tidying up. I put shoes away, get dishes out of the sink and pick up dog toys. Those small things make a big difference!
Tip #7: Combine form and function in your furniture
In our apartment, I’ve made pretty heavy use of dressers as the main storage system. They hold linens, clothing, extra bath and beauty supplies and serve as the entertainment center. But beyond providing much needed storage, they’re really pretty! I decided early on that everything in this apartment needed to be visually appealing because they were all going to be visible for everyone who stopped by. The same thought process applied when I chose bar stools and bookcases.
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