Small apartment- or small house-living is all about minimizing clutter and maximizing usable surfaces - finding storage space in unlikely places.
If you live in a city like London or New York, the chances are that you're paying through the nose for a tiny space, and it's probably hitting the top of your budget. Perhaps you’re sharing a house and have just one room to call your own. Or maybe you’re downsizing and need to cram all your furniture into a smaller footprint.
The long and the short of it is that "small" living can be liberating. Or it can be a nightmare of lost keys, moldy cups, and rotting fried chicken, lost beneath piles of boxes.
If you’re reading this article, then chances are you need to maximize your living space, and we have some brilliant tips to make the most of the home you live in, and still be able to find your keys.
The most obvious tip of them all
This might seem obvious, but there are a couple of immediate things you can do to turn that chaotic cacophony into a heavenly haven. But I’m not going to lie to you - this is going to hurt.
Your mantra, for the time being, should be -
"You are not your stuff. And your stuff is not you."
It’s time to let go of the many non-essential items in your life!
Take a deep breath and read on.
These are the steps -
- Divide all of the possession you have in your current living space into three boxes.
- One box is going to be entitled “Things I use all the time."
- One box is going to be entitled “Things I haven’t used for three months." Be honest.
- One box is going to be entitled “Things I can’t live without."
We can guarantee that the “Things I haven’t used for three months” is going to be brimming over with tat that you’ve acquired and are never going to use again.
Burn it. Or throw it in the trash.
Or better still, recycle it or take it to the charity shop.
No charity shop would want that junk? Then why would you?
You don’t need that stuff.
You’re going to be happier without it.
Now - go through the “Things I can’t live without” box. Have you used them in the last six months? If not, put them in the trash.
But what if I need that 1987 knitting pattern next year?
Did you need it this year?
Or the year before?
You need to let it go. Give it to a thrift store. You can’t even knit!
Filtering your existence is amazingly liberating.
Do you even own a DVD player anymore?
No? Chuck out those 35 movies that you never watched when you did have a DVD player. They’re probably on Netflix anyway. 
The BOTTOM LINE is this -
You’re not going to miss anything that you throw out. We’ve all got emotional attachments to inanimate things in our life, but our lives would be more straightforward, and certainly clearer without them. Apply some common sense. Does that half-eaten sandwich really hold sentimental value?
Keep only what you’ve used in the last three months. Throw EVERYTHING else out. It might be painful to do, but you’ll be able to move about in your home again.
If you can't bear to part with things, organize some storage outside of the home.
OK - tough love over.
Now let’s make that tiny home into a beautiful place to live.
We’ve cleared the excess junk we never needed; let's get on and organize that blank canvas into a home.
Micro-zoning is the interior design buzzword of 2018. It’s a way of making limited home space work a little bit harder.
You might call one room "the dining room," but how often do you really dine there? That same space could still accommodate eating and socializing, but it could also be a snug in one corner, a library in another, and a music zone in another. If you live in just one room, then create zones dedicated to specific activities.
That dining room could be many things.
Consider everything you want to do in your home -
sleep, eat, relax, possibly study, possibly work.
Microzoning is all about creating separate spaces within the same room to accommodate these activities. 
What does relaxation mean for you? Is it a quiet corner, with a book and a steaming cup of coffee? Or is it a movie, a tinny, and a cigarette?
You can create “rooms within a room” with a curtain, or an appropriately placed chair or table.
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Color-coding each zone can help signify corners of the room dedicated to specific activities. Purple might be your chill-out color, blue might be good for stimulating the brain for reading.
Partitions need not be overly intrusive. There's a wide array of partitioning ideas that help to divide up a small space, without making the room feel claustrophobic.
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THE BOTTOM LINE -
Micro-zoning is a concept that takes one room and customizes it for multiple uses. Corners make obvious demarcations for varying uses in a home that lacks space. Color-coding or see-through partitioning can be incorporated into larger rooms to give a clearer sense of cozy security in each zone.
Maximizing space using storage solutions
Clear the floor
When you live in a small home, clutter is a constant battle. Well-considered storage solutions can make a hectic room feel calm and clear. When cupboard space is at a premium, the floor could be your newest ally.
Clearing the floor, therefore, is imperative; using the void under the bed and stackables to maximize storage, while leaving plenty of floor space for living.
Small cube- or rectangular shelf units are great for open storage - you can stuff them to the brim which can look a little messy, but covering a stuffed shelf with a blanket or a curtain keeps the clutter out of sight.
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Utilize vertical space
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Walls and doors make excellent space for storage; especially for those smaller items that really do add clutter to a room. Slim, wire baskets that hang from the back of a door make great vertical hangers for stowing clutter that would otherwise drive you crazy.
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In a small bathroom where shelf space is at a premium (or non-existent), wire hangers are total storage heroes - a place to store your toiletries, your tooth-brush, and shower gels.
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Towels take up loads of space in the bathroom, so getting some dedicated storage hangers is a great tip. This wire cage allows you to store clean towels while providing hooks for the towels that are currently in use. Towels are large items that take up lots of drawer space; save your drawers for your clothes, and get displaying your clean towels.
Maximizing Floor Space in a Bedroom
In a bedroom, the bed is an obvious necessity, but one which takes up a lot of your available floor space. There are lots of ways in which you can design your bedroom to maximize the available footprint.
Hiding the bed
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This raised platform idea makes maximum use of a tiny bedroom by hiding the bed completely and reclaiming 100% of the floor space. The slide-out bed is a fun solution to an age-old problem. Think about it - you’ll never have to make the bed again. Slide it away - out of sight, out of mind.
The raised flooring reclaims the space, providing ample drawer storage embedded into the steps. The bookshelf keeps clutter at an absolute minimum, while the cushioned seating makes for a comfy chill-out area. However, this raised flooring could quite comfortably accommodate a small sofa or bean bag.
Where to put the desk?
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A desk, for many, is an absolute essential in the bedroom. If you’re a student, you’ll need somewhere to escape the chaos of the rest of the house, and if you work from home, you’ll definitely need a space to collect your thoughts and create.
But desks take up floor space, so this excellent fold-down desk is a great idea. Some might favor a permanent desk, but this certainly isn’t without its issues. A standard desk often becomes a bit of a dumping ground for receipts, bills, notes, books, magazines, empty fried chicken cartons - you get the picture.
It’s beneficial to start the day with a clean slate, so this fold-down desk idea is practical and makes for good feng shui for the home-worker. Start each day with a clear desk, and let the thought processes flow.
The one room apartment
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If you’re living in a bedsit, there’s often no escape from the inevitable untidiness that results in one-room living. This space is an excellent example of micro-zoning, providing specific areas to accommodate different life needs. There’s a clear space for the lounge, separated by a dividing wall, behind which the bed is hidden.
One-room living can be fun - there’s not far to crawl after a couple of glasses of vino, and the white walls bring a sense of spaciousness to this single space. The walls are clear of storage, so you could certainly add some shelves and wall units to maximize the available space to keep this open-plan apartment clear of clutter.
Italian Space Saving Furniture
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Who said that the Scandinavians have the upper hand in savvy storage? There are some superb ideas coming out of Italy that improve the lives of those living in multi-functional spaces; furniture that grows with the needs of the individual.
I guess that anyone who’s stayed in a caravan or motorhome will be familiar with the fold-down bed, and if you live in a tiny apartment, getting the bed tucked into the wall can be a real boon. Multi-functional furniture often comes at a premium price, however, but there are lots of great ideas that could be cheaply emulated.
The display unit (0.19 in the video) that separates into seating is a pretty simple hack that you could create easily with inexpensive side-tables. Of course, they need to be sturdy if you are going to use them as stools, but stackable furniture is a wonderful way of maximizing the functionality of furniture crammed into a tiny space.
The coffee table that extends into a dining table is a simple thing to copy - your DIY version might not necessarily embody the sleek shape-shift from one to another, but an inexpensive dining table with sawn-off legs can make a spacious coffee table; while reattaching the legs restores the table to its former glory when entertaining.
Beds hidden into wall units that serve as desks or shelves during the day ensure that small spaces aren’t crammed. Again, there’s no better excuse for not making the bed each day!
More permanent desks
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If you favor the more permanent option for a work-desk in a bedroom, all-in-one desk- and shelf-units are ideal. They’re simple to install because they rely on their own weight to stay in place and they include some much-needed shelf-space.
This is a great solution for anyone who moves home on a frequent basis; if you’re a student spending less than a year in one place, this could certainly help to maximize your tiny living quarters so that they’re good for your studies. Get yourself a comfy, supportive seat, and the productive juices will flow in no time.
Corners are wasted space
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Sometimes the corner of a room is wasted wall space; so this high-rise box shelf idea provides a place to display your swimming trophies, store your books, and even house small TVs and sound systems - all while keeping clutter at bay.
If you’re not the tidy type, then try slotting in wicker- or plastic-boxes onto each shelf. Boxes conceal their contents, so keep the space looking clear and neat; hiding a multitude of sins! You could use the boxes to store your underwear and T-shirts, and all of that clutter that you just can’t bear to throw away.
The bright, clean grey of the walls helps to enhance
the impression of spaciousness - in a tiny room; light, bright colors are vital to keeping them roomy.
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Storage, in itself, can sometimes be problematic - a tiny room can be made to feel even smaller if the walls are crammed with clutter, which is why it's undoubtedly worth throwing away the items you never use.
This circular shelving unit is a great idea that operates as a bookshelf, a display- and filing-cabinet, and could even be used for storing clothes.
The entire unit rotates to maximize capacity while keeping the walls clear. This unit could be the only one you require, containing all of your storage needs into one single corner of the room.
More corner cleverness
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Corners are often neglected. If you can find shelving units that fit snugly into the corner of your bedroom, you’ll find that they give the space a lovely sense of perspective while making use of otherwise wasted space.
The corner desk provides lots of surface area, while the cupboards offer additional storage for keeping items out of sight.
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The problem with corners in modern buildings is that you often find that the walls aren’t perfectly square - years of plaster and replastering might have transformed that perfect right-angle into something not quite so perfect - which can be a problem when looking for shelving. Sometimes, a little manual adjustment is needed - you might need to sand down a couple of the wall-connecting edges of your shelving to sit snugly into the area.
It's completely worth the effort, however. This super idea creates a lovely little haven of things that add homeliness to any bedroom space.
THE BOTTOM LINE -
Bedrooms are often cluttered with furniture, so using the available wall space is the best way to maximize storage while keeping the floor clear of items that are likely to trip you up when you get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Shelving, rotating storage, corners, and space-saving furniture that transforms into multi-purpose fittings are a great way to make the most of your floor space.
Transforming the attic
If your home is bursting at the seams, then it might be time to consider moving on up, into the heavens of the home.
The attic makes a beautiful living space, but a full conversion can be a pricey pursuit. However, it takes relatively little effort to convert a dusty old loft into an organized space. All you need is some ’time, patience and a boarding kit - available from your local hardware store.
Finding practical space in an unfinished attic
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Your attic doesn’t need to look pristine to make it an ideal space for storing those items that you don't need regular access to - the Christmas decorations, suitcases, out-of-season wardrobe items, old photo albums, etc.
This attic space has been boarded with plywood flooring; which might not make it suitable for a dance rehearsal but is fine for light storage.
Vertical beams have been added to the gable slats of the roofing to accommodate a waist-height shelf that stretches from one end of the loft-space to the other. You could extend this idea by adding additional shelves and using the flooring for storing larger items.
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This example is less cleanly finished than the previous idea, but who said storage had to be pretty? You can see how they’ve used the beams to create supports for the shelves. This partially converted attic space makes absolute sense for anyone whose storage needs are expanding beyond their conventional living spaces.
Stairway to Heaven
If you have a more permanent attic conversion, then you’ll have stairs in spaces that were once just walls. But conversions often open up opportunities for storage in spaces that weren’t there beforehand.
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This fantastic under-staircase office really does make excellent use of space that might otherwise be relegated to dumping dusty old junk. There’s nothing particularly luxurious about these fittings, but when has that ever been important when all you really need is space.
The shelving is held to the wall with cheap bracket connectors - versatile in its ability to accommodate oversized items. The desk is attached to the wall using a similar bracket method. This space has been converted relatively cheaply, but they've gained a valuable space for working.
There’s something that goes against feng shui a little when working with your back to the room, however. It’s easily remedied by adding a mirror to the wall so that you can see whatever is behind you.
In lots of ways, directly facing a wall in this manner, while being enclosed by the staircase, is a really satisfying envelopment of cozy space in an otherwise open plan hallway.
An abundance of drawer space
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If you’ve had your attic professionally converted, the far corners of the gable roof are most likely wasted. They're too low to stand in or for placing useable furniture and are often blocked in with a partition wall to give the central space a suitable shape for living. However, those gable voids equal valuable storage space.
This wall of drawers is likely to provide more storage space than you’d ever possibly need - maybe not, but it’s certainly an ample collection of spaces to stow sweaters and socks! While this type of solution is usually bespoke and hand-built to fit precisely into the available space, it maximizes the storage capacity in a small attic room.
The hidden bed
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If your bedroom is a converted attic, then you’ll be spoilt for floor space, but not necessarily overly gifted for head height. So, a permanently placed bed in the center of the room can be a real hog of your valuable floor.
So, this tuck-away bed is a fantastic idea that looks welcoming and comfortable when it’s pulled out and practical and space-saving when it’s pushed into the gable void. You’d never have to make the bed ever again!
The additional storage alongside the gable void makes brilliant use of every square inch of this lovely, airy bedroom.
The slide-in slide-out cupboard
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These cupboards are neatly shaped to fit perfectly into the attic void, providing tons of useful space for storing your clothes and books. But the problem with long spaces that lack head height is access into the nether regions of the cupboard. You either have to climb into the corner of the closet, or you pull the entire unit out of the wall.
This projecting closet is on castors that slide across the lovely laminate flooring, giving you access to the far end of the shelving which would be otherwise impossible to reach.
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This is an extension of the previous closet idea, with some additional height, accommodating clothes on hangers, with ample space for extra shelves. This entire unit slides perfectly in and out of the gable roof, again providing valuable access to areas that would typically be entirely out of bounds.
THE BOTTOM LINE -
Attics make perfect spaces for temporary or permanent storage. If budgets are low, then simply boarding out the attic flooring makes the most of the void above the ceiling. Professional conversions are expensive, but you gain an extra room that's tucked away from the chaos of the rest of the home, offering ample storage space, so that small rooms become effective, walk-in closets.
Staircases are necessary constructions that allow you to move between levels in your home. But they also represent a wasted opportunity for some wonderful storage ideas that look funky and add an extra level of inspiration to your home.
The slide-in slide-out
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This slide-in slide-out idea makes maximum use of the void underneath the stairs. This three-dimensional cupboard could be a spacious larder for the kitchen, or a savvy space to hide away the DVDs and records.
Making office space from surprising spaces
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This fantastic bureau-style desk is great if you need a place to work. Tucked into the wall, this versatile desk provides ample workspace, which dissolves into the wall when work time has slipped into leisure time.
Forcing yourself to work in a confined space ensures that you keep your working space clear; otherwise, there’s no space for a laptop, let alone thinking. This lovely office space has cupboards either side of the flip-down desk, making this modest attic office a wonderfully Bohemian chamber for creating.
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Wherever there are stairs, there’s wasted space that could be prime real estate for storage. Just by adding a shelf around the edge of the wall, you give yourself a lovely bookshelf, and gallery space to display your favorite wall art.
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This staircase wall could easily be just another dull safety border. But it makes a really quirky bookcase that brings a little studiousness to the landing. Storing books in hallways is a lovely way to share your taste in literature for guests to peruse as they make they way from the bathroom.
Drawers concealed within the steps
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This is one of the most inspired uses of the storage potential inherent within the structure of the staircase that we’ve seen. Drawers that slide into the void underneath the step gives you tons of drawer space that you never knew you had.
Under staircase larder
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Just adding shelves to a tight space like the void underneath the stairs gives you loads of storage capacity. These shelves that extend from the foot-boards of the steps are an ingenious idea that has lots of Bohemian charm. If you need a walk-in pantry, then this fun idea adds an unexpected wow-factor to the home.
The under-staircase snug
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Is there any better way of maximizing space in a small home than micro-zoning the void underneath the stairs? This comfy snug, dedicated to reading and chilling is sure to satisfy the need to escape and store your clutter in one fell swoop. This cozy and comfortable idea uses wall space for shelves and cupboard space underneath the comfy sofa which just begs to be lounged upon.
Shelves and stairs
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This is truly one of the most spectacular uses of otherwise wasted space that we’ve ever seen. The stairs become an extension of the shelving here in a way that gives a dizzying perspective that almost looks like an Esher painting!
With all that shelving, you're unlikely to run out of places to store your valuables. This makes brilliant use of a staircase that stretches down into a basement.
Ladders stretching to secret spaces
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You might not have a lot of excess area, but with a bit of determination and a lot of inspiration, you can maximize your usable living space by moving on up. This mezzanine bedroom makes the most of a tall ceiling, with a futon bed on this raised platform.
We’d recommend a barrier to stop you from falling, however.
Nonetheless, if you’re stuck for space, going upwards is often a great solution.
Creating a bedroom from nowhere
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This ingenious idea turns a reasonably spacious room into a multi-purpose chamber for open plan living. The bed is an interesting take on the traditional bunk bed, but this is a permanent construction in the corner of the room.
But what makes this tiny bedroom zone particularly clever is the wardrobe space created underneath the bed, making this single room into a lounge, a bedroom, an office, and a walk-in wardrobe.
THE BOTTOM LINE -
Staircases are amazing spaces that hold immense potential for storage that is nearly always overlooked. If your home is bursting at the seams, the staircase could hold the key to keeping your junk tucked away and your valuable possessions in a safe place. Larders underneath staircases are literally ready-made homes for shelving, converting a dumping ground for coats and wellingtons into a luxurious walk-in pantry.
Snugs and offices can be homed underneath the stairs, providing comfortable, homely spaces for working and chilling
So, there you have it - there are literally hundreds of ways of maximizing storage when you live in a small home. Of course, it’s always worth clearing out your clutter, because often we collect garbage that really belongs in the skip.
But for genuine items of value that need to be stored safely, look to your walls, your attic, your staircases, and under the bed. There’s also lots of multi-purpose furniture designed to transform a tiny living space into a practical haven for living, storing, relaxing and socializing.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.