Personal Finance

4 Tips for Living in a Small Space

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Living in cities is expensive. But what can make parting with that monthly rent more painful is you get so little for such a big number. Living in tiny apartments is pretty much the norm in places like New York City or San Francisco.

To afford to live  in these places you usually have to give up amenities like backyards, closets and sometimes even a separate space to sleep. While some grouse about limited space, others embrace it. Here’s how to maximize your small living space.

1. Reasons to Live Small

After years of racing toward the McMansion, some people like the idea of the simple life. How complicated can it get in 400 square feet? Empty-nesters may want to shed now-unused rooms. They don’t want to pay for space they don’t need. For others, it’s about the environment – wanting to have a smaller footprint.

For some, it’s purely financial. They want a place to live but want to pay as little as possible. The average person spends about 30% of his or her paycheck on housing. That’s a lot of money that could be freed up. By embracing a smaller, less expensive space and cutting costs, it could offer the financial freedom to travel more or retire earlier. Here are some tips to live big in a small space.

2. Prioritize Your Things

Micro-living means you must downsize. If it doesn’t fit, it can’t stay. It’s great that you have a ton of hobbies, but how many have you outgrown? When was the last time you used the item and how often do you really use it? Ask yourself some tough questions, and be ready to sell, donate or throw away some of your stuff.

It’s hard to part with some things, especially sentimental items. You may want to start with some stuffed closets. Put the things in boxes or bins and fill the closets. If you haven’t opened or even thought about the stuff in 6 months or a year, it’s probably safe to say goodbye.

This works for clothes as well. Just because the jacket from high school still fits, doesn’t mean you will (or should!) ever wear it again. Now, if it is a family heirloom, you can make an exception. Also allow yourself some leeway for those sentimental items.

Consider repurposing sentimental items into something you will actually use. For example, you can make (or pay someone else to make) a quilt using old T-shirts from your favorite places.  That way you can use it to cuddle up on the couch watching TV instead of having the T-shirts stuffed in a box in a storage unit.

3. Get Creative With Storage

Speaking of storage, get creative! When you move into a small place, you need to think not just about floor space but also about vertical space. Just because the bed sits in a corner of the room, doesn’t mean you are done using that corner. Store things underneath it and hang shelves above it.

Try hanging scarves, ties and jewelry as decorations in your bedroom. That way you are less likely to forget about what you have and you can really see what you gravitate toward wearing. If a necklace sits untouched on a hook under a mirror for months, you can feel comfortable giving it away.

4. Factor in the Furniture

Decorating can still be fun and economical with micro-living. When picking out the furniture for a small space, it has to be multi-functional. Pick a coffee table that pops into a computer desk. Choose a nightstand only if it has drawers or shelf space for storage. Use a trunk as a side table so you can store out-of-season clothes and have a place to put the living-room lamp.

This theory applies to appliances as well. If you have a small apartment or house, chances are you don’t have a ton of counter or cabinet space. Try to pick kitchen tools that do many tasks. The key is to make the downsize an exciting challenge. With less stuff to worry about you may find yourself feeling freer.

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Image: iStock

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