It promised a spacious pad with all mod cons, close to amenities. In reality, it’s a miniscule shoebox with a barely working sink, two buses away from the nearest shop. But grateful just to have found somewhere at last, you signed on the dotted line. And now you’re wondering: how come I’ve got so much stuff? Where am I going to put it all? And why did I willingly agree to pay the majority of my salary to experience life in a hamster cage?
Before renter’s remorse kicks in, relax. Here are 10 ways to make the most of the space you have, on a limited budget.
1. Get sneaky
Living in a small space means you have to get sneaky and employ some storage tricks to make your place seem tidier and bigger than it actually is. This means putting things where you can – think under the bed, behind the sofa and even inside the oven. Just remember to empty it before roasting the Sunday joint.
2. Shop and eat clever
A small kitchen with little or no cupboard and or freezer space means you can’t be doing a big shop every week. But buying groceries every day in smaller local shops can cost. Consider having your main meal at lunchtime, so you don’t have to cook at home. Search out local restaurants that offer cheap decent early bird deals – hanging on to that student ID a little longer than you’re entitled to will help.
3. Make like David Blaine
Unless you’re a builder armed with planning permission, it won’t be possible to add more actual square footage to your place. But it is possible to create the illusion of more space. Think strategically placed mirrors opposite windows or lights, which will bounce light back and magically make any room look bigger. Choosing light, neutral colours for walls, floors and furniture will make it seem bigger and more spacious. Glass and Perspex furniture will also help trick the eye into thinking the rooms are bigger than they are. Magic!
4. A stairway to storage heaven
Under the stairs is an often-overlooked waste of space. Lots of companies out there offer clever storage solutions like pull out drawers to house shoes, coats, mops, and vacuum cleaners, for a few hundred euros. You could always try asking your landlord nicely to foot the bill, stressing just how much value it will add to the place in the long-term.
5. Control your clutter
When you just don’t have the space, it’s inevitable that clutter will build up. And no matter how strong your in-built hoarder tendencies are, living in a small space means you just have to be ruthless. William Morris, he of the Arts & Crafts Movement, said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Ok so that was in the 19th Century, but it’s still a good maxim to live by today. So every six months, go through all your stuff and whatever you haven’t used in the last year, or isn’t aesthetically pleasing, chuck or resell.
6. Get multi-tasking furniture
Maybe an obvious one but make sure every piece of furniture you buy is as hard working as possible. A bed with storage drawers is perfect for sleeping in and storing unseasonal clothes, winter duvets and bed linen. Ottomans with hidden compartments are great for seating and storing. And coffee tables with drawers are perfect for hiding all those unsightly remote controls and other living room detritus that builds up, as well as resting cups on.
7. Reconsider everything
You know all those things you think, as a functioning adult, you should have, but in reality never use? Walk around and appraise everything. The dining table that you only ever use when mum and dad come round. The desk in your room, even though you work in an office, 9-5. That bike you got on the Cycle To Work Scheme, just because you could. Whether you choose to sell or store, it’s time to put it away and free up that wasted space.
8. Put an end to closet chaos
When you have enough clothes and shoes to fill a walk-in wardrobe, but you don’t have a walk-in wardrobe, a capsule wardrobe is the answer. The concept is simple. It’s an edited down collection of your clothes that you use for a set period of time. So instead of hanging up everything you own, choose say, ten shirts, two jumpers, two jackets and five pairs of trousers to use for the next three months, and store or give away the rest. By limiting your choice, the idea is that ultimately you will have more money, more space, more time and better style.
9. Go digital
You know all those pieces of paper you think might be important? Take a photo, then bin. And sure, your carefully-curated book, photo, CD and DVD collections are lovely to have around – if you have the space, if you actually use them and if you don’t mind all that dusting, that is. The alternative is to get a Kindle, a decent hard drive and a digital photo frame, and download/upload everything instead. You will then be free to send off your unused, unloved collections to a better place thus freeing up lots and lots of lovely space. Hell, you might even make some cash in the process.
10. Get creative
When you move into a rented apartment or home, the chances are it won’t have everything you need. But before you rush out and buy anything new that will only serve to take up more space, ask yourself ‘Do I already have something like this (or can I get creative with something I already own) to do the job? This can apply to anything: clothes, furniture and textiles.