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Living Large in Small Spaces

For many years, the American dream seemed to focus on the idea that bigger is better. We wanted bigger cars, bigger homes, and lots of space for all of our junk. Now the trend is reversing, with more and more people scaling back and living by Thoreau’s “simplify” mantra. Here are some ideas for living large in small spaces.

First, even though you may be allotted a very small space, like 400 square feet, there’s a lot you can do with it. One designer suggested that instead of trying to turn 400 square feet into several rooms, turn it into one room with many functions. This makes the space feel more open and more uncluttered. Using a neutral, bright paint on the walls can also give the illusion of more space.

Another way to maximize space is to use as much of it as possible – that means bookshelves shouldn’t stop at 4 feet tall – they might as well go all the way to the ceiling. Try to use that space in your closets and cupboards as strategically as you can. Using one item for several functions works well in a small space – for example, try to buy furniture that can serve more than one purpose, such as an ottoman that provides storage, a bench that can work as a sofa, TV stand or serve as storage. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a mantra that will help a lot when living in a small space. Have a hook for your coat and keys, a charging station for your phone and other electronics, a place to stash magazines, mail and bills. This will help a lot with clutter.

Along the same lines, try to keep your own stuff to a minimum. Many people live by the philosophy “out with the old, in with the new.” If you buy a new book, sell an old one at a used bookstore. If you make it a rule that any time you’re bringing new clothing to your closet you’ll have to part with something that’s already there you’ll think twice before purchasing and not only save space but money as well. Experts recommend taking stock of your items twice a year and keeping only the things you use or love. The other items can be sold via Craig’s List or Ebay, consignment shops or donated to local shelters or the Goodwill.

Speaking of selling items on Craig’s List, try to digitize as many of your possessions as possible. Take those CDs, upload them to your computer and then get rid of them. Scan those photos and old college papers, digitize recipes and switch to e-books when possible. If you find yourself with lots of hard drives, remember that now we have cloud storage and you can eliminate the need for hard copies of just about anything.

Finally, consider whether or not you can include a moving wall – this gives you the option to enclose the space when necessary but it’s not permanent so it allows for the openness when you need it.

There are a lot of advantages to living in a small place. When you think creatively and use your space strategically, you can fit everything you need in a few hundred square feet. You’re living large and loving it.

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