If you buy something new, get rid of something old. That’s Brooklynite Matt Austin’s policy for living comfortably in a small space. Image: Anne Ruthmann for HouseLogic
Sweaters in the oven. Shoes in the kitchen cabinets. Books in the freezer. New Yorkers pay a median $3,400 a month for their tiny apartments, so they’ve learned to get mighty creative when it comes to maxing out every square foot.
Although your house may be much roomier than the typical NYC studio (thank God), you can banish clutter once and for all by pledging allegiance to these six savvy strategies.
#1 When You Buy Something, Toss Out Something
You don’t have to organize the things you don’t have.
“I’ve reached my saturation point with stuff, so I developed a new formula,” says Matt Austin, an artist and designer living in a 700-square-foot railroad flat in Bushwick, Brooklyn. First, if he hasn’t worn something in two years, it goes. Then, if anything new comes into his life, something else has to go out. “Ideally, two things,” he says.
In addition to ruthlessly pruning your belongings, keeping an eye on how much to buy in the first place makes an even bigger difference.
Adopt a capsule wardrobe — a minimal collection of clothes that mix, match, and layer for multiple uses. It frees up closet space considerably.
Ask yourself a few questions before hitting the “Add to Cart” button on Amazon. Does it really make sense to order that quesadilla maker when you can already make quesadillas in your microwave, on your stovetop, and in your oven?
#2 Think Vertically
Walls can do a lot more than hold the ceiling up.
“People look at space in terms of square footage instead of cubic footage,” says Ann Sullivan, owner of New York City-based Organizing People for Life. “Lie on the floor and look up.”
Sullivan suggests hanging bicycles from the ceiling and installing shelves high up along the perimeter of a room. In the kitchen, free up drawer and counter space by hanging pegboards for utensils and magnetic strips for knives.
#3 Add Storage to Your Doors
Use the inside of every closet, cabinet, and interior door of your home. Sullivan mounts magazine file boxes to the inside of kitchen cupboards to store tinfoil and plastic wrap. In her Manhattan two-bedroom, Organize Me Inc. owner Janine Sarna-Jones uses a Container Store system that allows baskets of varying sizes to attach to the back of the closet door for vertical storage tucked neatly into existing closet space.
A few more door ideas:
- Mount your hairdryer to the inside of your sink cabinet.
- Use shoe bags to store miscellaneous items like cleaning supplies, light bulbs, and batteries in your hallway closet.
- Mount a horizontal towel bar on a closet door and hang boots, sneakers, scarves, or ties from it.
- Store a whole drawer-worth of bras in one vertical cascade of connected hangers mounted behind your closet door.
#4 Containerize Everything
Ilana Eck, a New York lawyer by day and founder of the entertaining and lifestyle blog “Stylish Spoon,” admits to holding on to a lot of belongings. The only way it works is by containerizing her life.
For her, organizing is all about storing her containers exactly where her family members will be when they’re in need of the contents. Toys are in inexpensive fabric storage boxes in her children’s closet.