Rising real estate costs in urban cities has led to an increasing trend: shrinking square footage.

It isn’t just New York City. Urban dwellers from the Southeast to the Midwest are finding themselves living in smaller quarters than ever before.

Living in tiny apartments often requires creative thinking when it comes to coming up with storage ideas. If the closets, cabinets, and drawers in your small apartment are maxed out, don’t stress — there are plenty of sneaky storage spots and solutions in even the smallest of spaces.

Follow these eight tips to learn how to create more storage space in your home, plus maximize the space you already have.

1. Pare Down Your Stuff.

Free Couch on a Sidewalk

The easiest storage solution out there? Decluttering.

Professional Organizer and author Felice Cohen says it’s important to ask yourself whether you actually need the things you have, or whether they’re just collecting dust in your home.

“Make sure you keep only what you love and use,” Cohen says, and donate the rest.

2. Invest in Multipurpose Furniture.

Professional organizer Jennifer Lava says you should look for furniture with multiple uses. For example, “a storage ottoman is a great place to keep things, plus it can be an extra seat or, with a tray on top, a coffee table,” she explains.

If you’re tight on floor space, Lava suggests mounting a table to the wall to serve double duty as a floating desk and eating area. You can also display stylish baskets and bins in the open space below for extra storage, Lava says.

IKEA is a great place to shop for space-saving furniture. From shoe organizers to open storage systems,  IKEA has a solution for everything. Much of their furniture is lightweight and has a slim profile, which is ideal for small apartments.

3. Take Advantage of Vertical Space.

Kitchen Pan Rack

Every home has a secret weapon when it comes to storage potential: vertical space.

“In the kitchen, hang a pot rack for frequently used items [or] mount hooks to the backsplash to keep cooking utensils handy,” says Lava.

Cohen recommends adding shelving to an entire wall; there, you can store books, framed art, file boxes, bins full of craft supplies, dishes, or even shoes.

If an entire wall is too ambitious, try a couple floating shelves instead. Lava says these are great for maximizing your vertical space while keeping the room visually open. The Container Store and IKEA are great places to find different shelving systems that can be configured however you like.

4. Don’t Forget About the Inside of Doors.

Don’t forget about the insides of bathroom and closet doors, either.

“Put small shelves or an over the door organizer [there],” Lava suggests. “If the ceiling is high enough above your doors, there could be space for a shelf there as well.”

Over the door racks and hooks are easy to find at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, which offers a multitude of versatile products.

5. Give Every Item a Home.

Two women installing shelf with level

“It is important when living in a small space that you consider your belongings carefully,” says Lava.

Give each item, no matter how small or temporary, a proper home.

“When you are done using an item it should be returned to the home as soon as possible. This will help keep the clutter down.”

For example, create a designated space to hold your remotes to help keep your living room looking neat.

6. Organize Your Stuff Into Hot Zones and Cold Zones.

When you’re choosing where to store your things, Cohen says it’s smart to create Hot Zones and Cold Zones.

“Cold Zones are high shelves or cabinets that are hard to reach — they are good for storing seasonal items or holiday decorations — while Hot Zones are areas within reach that you keep items you use more often: coffee mugs, jeans, extra toilet paper,” she says.

For example a good Cold Zone would be the kitchen cabinet above your fridge. This strategy keeps lesser-used items out of the way and ensures that your everyday necessities are easily accessible.

7. Limit Your Appliances.

“Do you really need an electric can opener? A bread maker? A blender and a Nutribullet?” asks Cohen.

Paring down your appliances, especially bulky kitchen gadgets like popcorn makers and toaster ovens, can save you tons of space when you are living inside of a cramped studio apartment.

8. Maximize Your Closet Space.

Most closets aren’t used to their full capacity. If you have a standard closet with a high bar and shelf above it, Cohen recommends adding another rod to double your hanging space.

You could also add a shoe rack to the corner of your closet, buy expandable shelves to stack your clothes, or use hanging organizers to store T-shirts, accessories, or shoes.

9. Think Outside the Cabinets.

Cohen recommends putting your bed on risers to expand the space for storage.

Large plastic [bins] on wheels are great for winter boots, holiday decorations, or high heels you don’t wear often. [It] keeps items safe and dust-free,” she says.

Bookshelves are perfect for storing attractive baskets filled with office supplies or spare toiletries, Cohen adds, while the three-inch gap between your couch and the wall can accommodate fold-up laddersmops, or brooms.

One word of caution: “Utilizing unseen spaces is great,” Cohen says, “but be sure it’s something you really need or use, or else it’s just going to gather dust.”

10. Choose an Apartment with Built in Storage.

When choosing an apartment, look for ones that have plenty of storage options already in place. Having a built-in medicine cabinet, for example, is a nice perk. Look for hidden storage spots and consider the amount of cabinet space and pre-installed storage shelves when comparing apartments.

Also many apartments now offer additional storage space for tenants at an extra cost. It might be worthwhile to rent the extra space so you can try out different design ideas and sort through your belongings. If your apartment doesn’t offer storage, you might consider renting a storage unit from a nearby facility until you can pare down your furniture.

Paige Smith

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