I've uttered some variation of the phrase, "I'd be more organized if I just had more space!" more times than I can count in my life. It's why ways to maximize a small space is one of my most Googled phrases when bored or procrastinating. But realistically, the problem isn't necessarily that I have too little space; it's that I have too much stuff. The majority of which I hardly ever use.
In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist and stress-specialist Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., wrote, "Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives." Carter noted that clutter and an inefficient use of space "bombards our minds with excessive stimuli," making it harder to focus and get other tasks done, reminds us of unfinished work, making us feel guilty and anxious.
Since the reality is most of us aren't going to stumble upon bigger homes or living spaces overnight, the best solution is probably to make the most of the space we have. And since I am on a mission to do this for my own small, shared apartment, here are seven tips I've compiled for freeing up available space in your home that may help you too.
1. Utilize Vertical Space
Winsome Milan Bookcase, $108.99, Quill.com
On her lifestyle blog, We're Not Martha, Sues Anderson stressed the importance of utilizing vertical space when maximizing room in a small home. "Instead of using all of your floor area for shallow and long storage pieces, purchase units that are narrow and tall, giving you greater room for foot traffic," Anderson said. Also, don't be afraid to install shelves higher than you normally would reach to store things you rarely need, like tools or seasonal accessories, instead of just shoving them at the back of a closet.
2. Multi-Purpose Furniture
Trufant Tufted Upholstered Storage Ottoman, $173.99, Allmodern.com
Trent Hamm, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Simple Dollar, recommended purchasing multi-use furniture, like a bench that doubles as storage, or a trunk that also works as a coffee table. Trunks can especially "work well for coffee tables, end tables, and bedside tables in most homes. It just converts all of that cubic space into storage space very easily," Hamm said.
3. Don't Buy Single-Use Products
Hamm also noted that it's helpful to avoid purchasing single-use tools and products that can only be used for one extremely specific purpose, like a meatball shaper, or a cupcake tray in the shape of a pineapple (they exist!). These items will create clutter for very little actual use time. He stressed that this is especially helpful in the kitchen; "Instead of having an item for every possible use, look for single items that can do many, many things," Hamm said. "Instead of buying a set of bowls, buy two fairly large bowls. Instead of buying an entire set of pots and pans, stick with one skillet and one pot and see how that works for you. Instead of buying a butcher block of knives, buy just a paring knife, a chef’s knife, and a bread knife and store them in a drawer."
4. Get Rid Of What You Never Use
This may seem obvious, but it's worth remembering nonetheless. In a piece for Freshomes, architect and interior design blogger Ronique Gibson reminded us to toss the stuff we never use, and not just by finding somewhere out-of-site to store it. This way we will have necessary storage space for the things we truly need — and not just things we're afraid to throw away.
5. Invest In A Coat Rack
Coat Rack, $75, JCPenny.com
Gibson also recommended making sure you first and foremost have necessary storage in your home entryway in order to keep the rest of your home free of coat and shoe clutter. "Ensure you have wall mounted hooks, open shelving to place knick knacks, and place a large mirror on the wall to reflect the rest of your home," she said. And if you don't want to install shelves, a simple coat rack works wonders in keeping bulky accessories confined to one space.
6. Use Your Nooks
Altra Ladder Desk and Bookcase, $119.99, Walmart.com
In a piece on smart design ideas for small spaces, Kayla Kits, special projects editor at HGTV, said to keep nooks in mind for additional storage and work space. For example, a small desk can be placed in an unused corner or crevice to serve as a work station, or you could install multiple shelves instead of just using the space for decoration.
7. Ditch Your DVD Cases
Dynex Color Slim CD/DVD Cases, $9.99, BestBuy.com
This is a tip my coworker taught me but it definitely might not be for everybody — especially if you're a huge movie buff who likes having the "official" DVD cases on hand. If you're not one of these people, then transferring your DVDs to thinner, transparent cases will save a ton of space on your shelves. And if you want to economize on space even further, consider just keeping them in a bound DVD binder with sleeves.
A small living space doesn't have to mean a life of clutter and mess. Using some or all of these hacks will definitely help free up some of the unutilized space you already have, leaving you feeling a whole lot more zen.
Images: Giphy (2); Pexels; Courtesy Brands