How to Organize a Small Apartment: Tips & Tricks to Maximize Space

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Organizing a small apartment has become an art form: innovation, creativity and functionality all meet in our attempts to maximize the space we have available.

Plus, small apartments are now far and wide as apartment size slowly decreases to allow for more construction to keep up with high demand. This is especially true in large cities as smaller, more efficiently packed apartments are the norm.

Leaving aside the running jokes among big-city locals — especially for New York City apartments — the popularity of small apartments makes sense nowadays. In fact, living in a small apartment can be heaven for those who embrace the minimalist lifestyle (and it also helps to cut down on housing costs). That said, because space is scarce, organizational skills are a must.

So, if you’re ready to start organizing your small apartment, below is our battle plan for each room.

Tips for Organizing a Small Living Room & Bedroom

In smaller spaces, your living room and bedroom might coincide. In any case, whether you have the same space for these or separate rooms, the main organizational principles are the same.

Invest in multifunctional items

When moving into a new apartment or sprucing up the old one, always choose multifunctional furniture. For instance, a bed with drawers beneath it is a great way to store items you don’t use on a daily basis. From spare sheets and pillows to winter clothes or shoes, they can all fit in there. And, although it may not appear so, the space is actually quite generous. Sofas with built-in storage work very well for the same purpose.

Similarly, storage chaises or ottoman benches are also top options for organizing a small space and keeping clutter to a minimum. Their multifunctional purpose is exactly what you need in a tiny apartment. Likewise, fold-up furniture does wonders for small places. Think of adjustable dining tables, foldable chairs or wall-mounted desks that you can pop out when needed.

furniture with storage space

Use floating shelves

Floating shelves are your best friends when organizing a small apartment. Not only are they good options for storage, but they also help you make use of vertical space that otherwise goes unused. What’s more, they also make the space feel taller, and you can use them to add a feature wall to any room.

However, make sure you know how to best utilize floating shelves from a design standpoint so as to not overcrowd the area. Specifically, incorporate heavier-looking objects on the bottom shelves — such as tall books or vases, or darker or larger objects — and keep the lighter, smaller pieces on the top shelves. In the same vein, place different groupings on various levels to create contrast by alternating shelves with multiple items (groupings of three work very well) and single items.

Implement expandable drawer dividers & shelf dividers

Never underestimate the power of space dividers. With expandable drawer and shelf dividers, you can turn one single unit into three, four or even more dedicated spaces. This would then help you categorize your items in a more efficient way. For example, you can reassess your underwear drawer and create specific areas for socks, tanks, bras or whatever other categories you need. You can also use dividers for shelves or cabinets to maximize hidden storage, as well.

Make use of walls & doors

Vertical spaces don’t get enough credit. There are so many ways to use doors or walls to store your items. For example, you could place hangers on your doors and bookshelves that could be reachable or not. Plus, the space above your doors is usually the perfect place for a bookshelf of books that you don’t access as often.

As for the doors, get a clear-window pocket organizer for either the bathroom or the bedroom. It works wonders for storing toys in kids’ rooms, as well.

organizing a small apartment

Utilize nesting baskets

Nesting baskets are the epitome of proper organization, and they’re also amazing for small apartments. These can be either the plastic, transparent baskets for easy access or wicker baskets that are more pleasant to the eye. Either way, the best thing about nesting baskets is that they can go literally everywhere — in any closet, cabinet, shelf or kitchen counter. You can even store them under the coffee table or in corners that usually go unused.

Draw the eye to the ceiling

Moving away a little bit from functional items, let’s discuss décor: the sense of height is essential when perceiving a certain area as sufficiently spacious. For that, you want to constantly draw the eye to the ceiling, and some design elements — such as vertical artwork or tall closets — can evoke this feeling. Thus, choosing curtain tracks or rods that are installed very close to the ceiling will also create the illusion of more height and, therefore, ample space.

Create plenty of lighting

Continuing with the topic of illusion, making sure there’s plenty of light in a room can really help enhance your perception of the space. So, choose lightweight, sheer curtains that diffuse natural light, and install mirrors in key areas to help bounce the light to more shaded corners.

Tips for Organizing a Small Kitchen

One of the most used rooms in an apartment, the kitchen is likely to draw clutter. For this reason, when organizing a small apartment, creating plenty of storage in your kitchen is crucial. Here, designated spaces for all items will help keep the clutter at bay and spaces looking fresh and clean.

Incorporate gliding cookware organizers

Make use of all of the space you have inside your cabinets by adding organizers to efficiently store and organize your pots, pans or spices. In this case, there are a variety of options to choose from, such as a foldable dish rack or a basket door mount on your cabinets. You can even opt for jars that magnetically attach under a cabinet shelf.

organization tips for small spaces

Use the space above your cabinets

If your kitchen doesn’t have cabinets that go all the way up the wall, make use of the free space there. Specifically, choose baskets or plastic boxes to store items that you don’t use regularly.

Alternatively, you can use floating shelves here, as well, and display your jars of grains, cereal or even spices. As a bonus, by choosing matching storage for your kitchen items and displaying them on floating shelves, you can also tie in a lovely décor piece that’s also functional.

organizing a small apartment

Use under sink expandable organizer racks

The space beneath your sink is valuable. And, even though there are pipes cluttering the space, you can still use an expandable organizer to help store your cleaning products. You can also use a tension rod to hang those spray cleaners, cloths or other hangable products to maximize vertical space within the cabinet, as well.

Add a magnetic or overhead refrigerator storage rack

Your fridge is likely taking up significant space, so why not make the most out of it? For instance, use a side rack to store spices, jars of jams and other products that don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated or other kitchen supplies, such as baking sheets, kitchen towels, cling foil and many others.

Tips for Organizing a Small Bathroom

In a small apartment, the bathroom is quite often the smallest room, which means it is in dire need of optimization in terms of space. And, while organizing a small bathroom is a challenge, it can also be a pleasure because there are so many ways to create more space.

Use under sink organizers

Start with the space under your sink. Just like in the kitchen, you can use a tension rod or different separators to store all of your cleaning products here next to the pipes. Or, if you manage to install a proper cabinet, you can also use nesting drawers to create space for supplies like toilet paper or towels, as well as products you use daily, such as skincare or mouth hygiene products.

Choose shower caddies & S-hooks

Shower caddies work best as they fit perfectly to the wall and you can place your soaps and shampoos on the little trays.

Meanwhile, if you don’t have enough space for towel hangers, use S-hooks on the shower curtain rack and hang your towels there. (This typically works even better than a wall hanger because you can place multiple towels on it.)

how to organize a small apartment

Install an over-the door drying rack

If you have a washing machine in your apartment, consider mounting a foldable drying rack on the door that masks the machine, whether that’s the bathroom door or somewhere in the hallway. Then, you can easily streamline the laundry process by keeping everything in one place.

Use more floating shelves

Floating shelves aren’t just for the living room or kitchen: Your bathroom can benefit from them, as well. Organizing a small apartment is all about cohesiveness, so carrying this idea from one room to another could help create that unity. More precisely, use these shelves for storing and displaying towels; skincare products; makeup; or any other products. (If you don’t like the look of your containers, buy matching bottles and transfer your products to them to create a coherent look.)

Place toiletries on turntables or Lazy Susans

Using turntables for your toiletries — whether you keep them in cabinets or on shelves — will ensure that you have easy access to them without having to move stuff around. Remember that organizing a small apartment is not just about putting things in their place, but also maximizing and streamlining your access to them to prevent clutter. So, make life easy for yourself and think about the order and frequency of use for most of your products and then store them accordingly.

Don’t Forget to Add Décor

While you might be tempted to keep décor items away from your precious space, don’t be afraid to use them! A nicely decorated space will make your small apartment feel cohesive and intentional — and that can create the impression of more room. If you’re not sure how to decorate, plants always bring more life to an apartment, and smaller spaces can really light up when you incorporate some greenery.

Every space — no matter how small — can work for your needs, as long as it’s organized and maximized to its fullest. Of course, these tips on how to organize a small apartment are just guidelines, but we hope you have found some inspiration to guide you along in this process. Good luck!


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Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart.

Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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