I spent a decade of my life living in apartments all over New England, and the older I got, the more stuff I inevitably accumulated. All of a sudden, I needed bigger moving trucks to relocate from one apartment to the next and the single storage closet most rentals afforded was nowhere near sufficient to hold my holiday decorations, unitasker appliances, and extra pet supplies. (Don’t even get me started about what happened when my boyfriend moved in.)
While a minimalist might take this as a sign to purge their possessions, I took a different route, getting crafty to find ways to fit all my belongings into my limited apartment storage. I have to say that after ten years and eight apartments, I got pretty good at it, too! Here, my best tried-and-true tips for creating more storage space in a small home:
1. Embrace Multifunctional Furniture
My No. 1 tip for anyone searching for extra storage space is to keep an eye out for multipurpose furniture. I’m talking about things like storage ottomans and benches with built-in cubbies. These are items you’ll probably have in the apartment anyway, and now, they’re a convenient space to store your extra pillows, pet supplies, or other miscellany.
For several years, I had a budget-friendly IKEA couch that not only doubled as a sleeper sofa, but had a huge hidden storage area. It housed all my Christmas decorations, as well as a number of board games, and no one was the wiser.
2. Update Spare Closets Appropriately
We’ll get to clothing storage in a minute, but another key to making the most of a small space is to optimize every inch of spare closets. Most apartments have some sort of coat closet, and they generally have one high shelf—and little else.
I’ve found that best option here is outfit it with an inexpensive shelving unit, as this will allow you to store three times more stuff than if you were to just stack boxes on the floor. Don’t worry if your shelves block the bar where you’re supposed to hang coats—instead, just hang some over-the-door hooks on the back of the door.
3. Get All the Cabinet Organizers
Most kitchen cabinets come with sufficient shelving, but there’s probably more you can do to optimize the area under the sink or in the bathroom. Dual-tier organizers will be your best friend, as they essentially double your storage space, letting you stash cleaning supplies and personal products more efficiently. In particular, I’m a big fan of organizers with slide-out baskets, as these take advantage of the full depth of cabinets while still allowing you easy access to items in the back.
4. Stash Things Under the Bed
This isn’t revolutionary by any means, but the empty space under your bed is prime real estate for storage bins. You don’t need a special storage bed to make use of this forgotten space—just find some slim plastic bins that you can slide under there. Personally, I keep my out-of-season clothes and shoes in bins under my bed, but it’s also a good spot for spare linens, holiday decor, or even sports gear.
Can’t fit an organizer under your bed frame? Give it a little boost with furniture risers! They’re inexpensive and give you an extra 2 inches of clearance under furniture—you could even use them on a couch or dresser to create additional storage space.
5. Get an Organizer for Your Closet
Clothing closets can be tricky in apartments, but no matter how big a space you’re blessed with, there’s a way to make it work most efficiently. If you have a small closet that’s not nearly big enough to house your clothing, you might want to invest in a freestanding wardrobe to supplement the space.
Alternatively, if you have a wider, two-door closet, I’d recommend hanging things on one side, and putting in some type of organizer in the other. I tend to gravitate toward cubby organizers, which can be used with or without baskets to house folded clothes, socks, undergarments, shoes, purses, and more. Plus, you can even put folded sheets and other random items on top of it.
6. Look Above Kitchen Cabinets
Most kitchens have a big ol’ gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, and this is a great spot to store items you don’t use frequently. You can put small appliances or cookbooks up there, or you can even buy a few nice baskets to slide into the space. That way, you can stash random items while keeping the area looking good. Just remember, though—you’re probably going to have to get a chair to get them down.
7. Take Cues from Small-Living Experts
Your apartment may not be as tiny as a tiny home, but you can still borrow some of the ingenious storage solutions employed in these adorable abodes. For example, you can put up magnetic strips in your kitchen where you can stick knives and other utensils, freeing up valuable drawer space. We also love the idea of using hanging planters to keep plants from taking up too much counter real estate.
If you want to optimize your cupboard space, we also have a host of great storage solutions focused on this area of the home (how smart is the little slide-out pantry that goes beside the fridge?). If you have wayward cans you need to corral, be sure to read all of the unique canned good storage ideas that could help streamline all of your food storage.
8. Use Your Windows
If your apartment has big, beautiful windows, lucky you! However, windows can take up quite a bit of real estate on your walls, limiting where you can place furniture and shelves. If you’re willing to give up a little bit of your natural light, you can reclaim some of that space with a hanging shelving unit that goes in front of the window. Or, if you’re not allowed to put holes in the walls, consider a shelf that suction cups to the window. Either way, it’s the perfect place to display your plants or small knickknacks—just don’t put anything so heavy that it could pull the shelving down.
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