Finding Extra Room in a Rental

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Students and big city dwellers know the drill: affordable apartments are not exactly synonymous with huge spaces. We’ve all lived in tiny spaces at one point in our lives. When you live in a tiny house, at least, you have some options: you can knock out walls, change things around and even build an addition. Not so with a rental. Even if you are renting (for now), there are ways to make the most of your space:

1) Keep only what you need and love.

You can live in denial for a while, but it’s a universally acknowledged truth: unless you want to end up on a reality show about hoarding, you will need to get rid of some of your stuff when you downsize your space. Approach it like a zen exercise: the more clutter you get rid of, the more peaceful your space. Leo Babauta has a number of great tips for clutter-bugs here. If it gets a little overwhelming, keep in mind that you don’t use most of the stuff you own. If all else fails, think about what you could buy if you got rid of a lot of your excess stuff and sold it online.

2) Create separate “living areas” but keep them small.

Break it down to basics: you will need some place to eat, some place to cook, come place to relax, and some place to sleep, and some place to shower and prepare for the day. A very small dining area can be right next to a sitting area and you can combine your sleeping area with a sitting area if you buy comfort sleepers or sofa beds. You can find some good design ideas for comfort sleepers here, at Sleepers in Seattle.

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3) Take inspiration from other city dwellers.

Lots of people who are downsizing focus on all that they are getting rid of, and imagine that small spaces mean deprivation. Not so. Many people in Tokyo, New York City, and other urban centers have to get creative and manage to do so with style to spare. Check out some inspiration here.

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4) Look for apartment-sized pieces.

If you are moving from a house or a larger apartment into a smaller rental, it can be a good idea to get rid of your larger pieces and invest in a smaller number of pieces that are streamlined for smaller spaces.

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5) Look for furniture that works for the space.

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If you have a house the size of a barn, fitting in a huge hall table or an extra canopy bed is no problem. Not so in a tiny apartment. If a piece of furniture is going into your apartment, it better earn its keep. A dining table with storage underneath or a roll-away kitchen trolley that can serve as extra counter space are good ideas.

6) Look for spaces on walls, ceilings, and other spots that the more space-affluent may miss.

You can put hanging shelves on your walls, or hang a garden. The space behind doors can be transformed into storage space with over-the-door hooks. Get creative and you’ll find some extra space for your stuff. Hint: make use of spaces under furniture and on top of furniture, too, by investing in fabric-covered boxes.

Think of moving into a small space as a way to test your decorating mojo. With a little extra work, small spaces can look charming and stylish. But make no mistake: it will take a little extra planning.

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