Tetris skills are required for small apartments

Most urban cities have sprawled as much as they can and  there’s nowhere to go but up. Condo and apartment living is now an almost guarantee for anyone moving out of their parents’ houses or even when starting a family. There have been a lot of articles recently in the news about micro-lofts (like a space  in Vancouver that is just 290 sq feet!), and it seems like the latest hot commodity is literally having a place to hang your hat.

I currently have the luxury of living in a 730 sq foot condo with an open layout. But even with all that space, it’s surprising how quickly clutter can build up. Having my boyfriend there just adds to it. In my attempts to organize my life, I have my developed a few rules of thumb for any small space I may inhabit:

1) Use the walls to their full advantage:

I’m a big proponent of mirrors (make any space look larger!) and art on walls. For apartments, I’ve found that two things work best to decorate: wall decals and photos. Wall decals are great because they don’t take up any space, and they let you change your mind (you can peel them off without a trace).

Got the whole world on a wall

Got the whole world on a wall

Photos, on the other hand, add a real personal touch to any space. For the condo, we took a few photos a family friend snapped in Paris, blew them up and plaque mounted them. It’s a modern way to perma-frame photos without the actual frame.

Where possible, you can also use your walls for storage. If you have a bike, this neat bike rack shaped like a deer or bull skull would be a great art/storage piece. Additionally, shelves (like this Umbra floating bookshelf) are a great way to keep trinkets out of the way but still on display, and they can be mounted anywhere in the house where there is space.

2) Don’t be afraid of bins:

Storage bins, file organizers, jars, magazine racks…they are all your friends. I’m still mastering this art, but the more organizers I have the more I find my apartment seems to become more spacious. There are a lot of options out there: West Elm has some great basket organizers, CB2 has an awesome hanging file organizer, and this Ikea magazine file is an inexpensive way to get a hold of those bills or magazines that pile up. Most importantly, however, those storage systems can easily and neatly fit into bookselve, under beds/couches, or off in corners so that they don’t end up taking more of the precious space.

Stylish storage bins

Stylish storage bins

3) Don’t fall in love (with stuff):

I’m really guilty of this and I’ve been working hard to become more ruthless in throwing things away or donating them. Keeping loose-leaf paper or cards around “for posterity’s sake” just adds to anxiety inducing clutter, not to mention making cleaning the apartment a much larger chore. Any trinkets or papers or books or clothes that you haven’t used in years or that don’t have true sentimental value (read: baby photos, for example) should be promptly done away with. Whether you store them in a locker, donate them or just throw them away, get rid of those space hogs.

4) Use the perfectly hidden backs of doors:

In a small space, you can use hidden areas to store things you need to access from time to time, but don’t want to be tripping over every day. For example, the back of your pantry door can have a rack for those pesky pot lids that take up more space than they need to.

Out of the way but right where you want them, via The Kitchn.

Out of the way but right where you want them, via The Kitchn.

In your closet, use your door to hang necklaces, scarves or ties (even shoes with this over-the-door shoe rack). In your washroom, a hook on the back of a cabinet door can work as a hair dryer or flat ironer holder.

5) Get a big ol’ bookcase:

One of the saving graces at my condo is the big, plain Ikea cubby bookshelf. It not only holds my books (duh!), but also adds a space-saving storage area – I use it to store my purses on the bottom shelves, photos of friends and family, and mementos from my travels.

Storage bookshelf idea. Classy AND practical.

Storage bookshelf idea. Classy AND practical.

Decorating/organizing apartments and condos offers unique challenges. But spending a bit of time (and getting a bit creative with what you have available) definitely rewards you in the long run with a fabulous urban living space.

UPDATE: Apartment Therapy has an article today about my very bookcase!

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