33 Ways to Maximize a Small Living Space on a Budget

Whether you’ve recently escaped the confines of your parent’s home for the first time or recently relocated to a posh condo downtown, adjusting to a small living space can be difficult.

During my adult years, I’ve lived in a tiny dorm room, a spacious apartment, and a beautiful home with limited square footage. And each of these living spaces has presented its own unique set of challenges and benefits. However, I eventually learned to make the most of my space in the most efficient manner possible.

If you’re a facing a similar dilemma, here are some ways to comfortably settle into a small living space without spending a fortune:

1. Do Some Homework

When it comes to interior design, the possibilities are endless, regardless of the size of your home. To begin brainstorming about how to maximize your space, keep reading (of course), watch HGTV, or search Google for interior design blogs. The advice and inspiration is endless, and it’s free.

2. IKEA

The Swedish home-goods superstore is what I like to call the hub of interior decorating and home organization on a budget. Don’t get me wrong: The store is definitely overwhelming at first glance and inundated with way more products than most can stand to sort through. But they have everything you need to efficiently store your belongings and decorate your home without running out of space or breaking the bank.

3. Stackable Washer and Dryer

Every apartment I rented before purchasing a home contained a stackable washer and dryer.  I had no desire to pay the laundromat’s exorbitant prices, and the standalone appliances take up way twice as much space and tend to fall on the pricier end of the spectrum.

4. Small Furniture

The oversized sectional may tickle your fancy, but isn’t ideal if it will take up the bulk of your living room. Instead, search for more space-efficient options based on your individual needs. If you won’t be entertaining a ton of guests,  a single sofa should suffice, or look for “apartment” sofas that feature a more slimmed-down design. Also, skip the kitchen or dining room table and use bar stools instead.

5. Sell Some Stuff

Still holding on to that collection of artwork or quilts that Grandma Sally gave you? Unless they hold significant sentimental value, it may be time to let them go in an effort to clear up some space. List your unwanted goods on Craigslist or host a garage sale to rake in a little (or a lot of) cash. Then use the proceeds to reinvest in more space-saving furnishings and supplies.

6. Keep it Simple

There’s not much space to begin with, so overloading your home with complex themes that call for a ton of décor and oversized furniture only makes things worse and can place a major dent in your wallet.

7. Downsize Your Fridge

Always on the go and rarely prepare meals? Or do you like to pick up just a few fresh groceries on the way home from work instead of stocking up at Costco once a month? Opt for a smaller fridge and save yourself some space and electricity.

8. Minimize Clutter

Even if the space is extremely neat, it will appear much smaller if it’s loaded with a ton of your possessions. Reasoning? In a larger area, there are more places to discretely store extra items until you have an opportunity to discard what you no longer need.

9. Multi-Functional Space

Until you can comfortably afford a more spacious home, make the most of the spaces you have by equipping them for a variety of purposes. The kitchen counter can also be a dining area, or serve as a home office as long as it’s sanitized and free of clutter. And the living room makes a great play area for the children if there’s a place to neatly store toys when they’re not in use.

10. Hidden Storage

Is there unused space under your couch, cabinets, or beds? Put it to good use. We frequently store construction paper, markers, and other arts and crafts materials in a small box between the sofa and love seat. That way, the boys can easily retrieve the items they need without breathing down my neck each time they want to create a fancy piece of art for mom or dad.

11. Captivating Furniture

It’s amazing what a piece of stylish furniture to do to the appearance of a room. In fact, the right sofa or dining room table could easily become the focal point of the home, taking the attention off the actual living space.

A more cost-efficient option: Use upholstery covers if your current living room furniture is in decent condition.

12. Stylish Accessories

To complement your furniture, pick up a few throw pillows and decorative rugs. But don’t go too overboard. Stick with basic schemes that are mildly colored and easily interchangeable.

13. Unique Artwork

Don’t forget about the walls. Pick up a few pieces of artwork to give the place a finished look. These can be purchased at a steeply reduced rate from discount retailers, such as Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. And if you wish to put your creative talents to good use, you can always pick up a canvas, paint, and a few paint brushes to try your hand at a decorative piece of artwork. After all, it’s an original!

14. Mirrors

It’s an old trick, but an oversized mirror mounted on the wall tends to give the impression of more space. Plus, they can be visually appealing to guests.

15. Store All the Extras

Is there an affordable storage facility nearby? Putting excess items in storage is usually cheaper than renting or purchasing a larger space. In my area, small storage units start at $30 per month. Meanwhile, renting a home with an extra room could cost hundreds of dollars more per month.

16. Unified Color Schemes

Consistency also helps maximize space because it creates a more open look. When you segregate spaces by color scheme, each room has its own dynamic — making it more obvious that space is limited.

17. Keep it Clean

Smaller spaces reveal messes much sooner than larger spaces do, so stay on top of things and clean as you go. Gratefully, they clean up faster, too. If you barely have enough time to relax on a normal day, incorporate a cleaning regimen into your schedule. Allocate an hour or so each week to get things in order, make it an automatic routine, and you’ll release some stress by giving your brain a rest.

18. Portable Storage Containers

I still use these for some of my children’s clothing and stow them away in the closet to eliminate eating up room space with bulky dressers. And they don’t mind using the storage containers because the saved floor space allows for a larger play area.

19. Stow Away Out-of-Season Apparel

Winter gear takes up a ton of closet space because it’s on the bulky side, so once spring rolls around, fold and tightly pack the cold-weather gear until cooler temperatures return. And repeat the same pattern for summer clothing.

20. Coat Hooks

Whether you have one coat or five, purchasing a coat hook and attaching it to the rear of the closet door is sure to save you space. Already have a coat closet? Use it to store larger items and free up space in your living area.

21. Bunk Beds

If your children are responsible and understand that they aren’t Spider Man, Batman, or some other superhero with wings, give bunk beds a shot. (Unfortunately, my two aren’t yet that mature, so we had to settle for twin beds). Some of the fancier models even include a few drawers and desk, further maximizing space and minimizing the expenses you’ll incur furnishing the bedroom.

22. Shoe Hangers

Instead of taking up all your floor space with neatly stored shoes or throwing them in one large pile, give shoe hangers a shot. Another option: Purchase plastic boxes and stack them on the top shelf in your closet, as high as you can reach. Why plastic? They’re uniform and balance well, so you won’t be forced to clean up — or get caught underneath — a pile of tumbling shoes.

23. Eliminate Television Stands

Have you ever noticed how much space television stands take up? While it may be a sight to see, do yourself a favor and swap it out for a wall mount. They are usually under $100 and don’t cost much to install. When we installed our first flat-screen TV, the mount was $45 and the electrician assessed a $25 fee to place it on the wall. Another benefit: It’s much safer than a standalone television waiting to topple over on your small children if they give it a nudge.

24. Be Flexible With the Setup

Don’t get too set on a particular arrangement or layout. Be willing to think outside the box. It’s normal to have reservations about having dinner at a kitchen high-top table if you’re accustomed to sitting down in a dining room, but you’ll adjust in due time.

25. Counter Storage

I’m definitely not suggesting you pile a massive heap of bills and paperwork on the kitchen counter because you have nowhere else to store them. However, there’s always room for a few neatly organized items that won’t get in the way of food preparation.

26. Beds With Storage

As I previously mentioned, my children aren’t quite ready for bunk beds. But when we were shopping for the latest wave of bedroom furniture, space-saving beds were definitely at the top of the list. After a day or so of searching, we finally settled on a set of twin beds with pull-out drawers below the mattresses, and they have been a life saver.

27. Shower Caddy

Even if your shower is equipped with shelf space, purchase a shower caddy that can be hung over the shower head to eliminate having to store bath supplies such as soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, and lotion in cabinets or on your dresser. You’ll want to save that extra cabinet space for hair styling supplies, towels, and wash cloths.

28. Storage Ottomans

Do you enjoy cuddling up on the couch with a cozy blanket to catch your favorite shows during downtime? A storage ottoman is the perfect place to store books, blankets, magazines, or any other frequently used items. I typically wrap up my evenings on the couch snuggled under a comforter with a good book in my hand — and I can access all of these items, stored out of sight, by stretching my arm and popping open the top of the ottoman. They also serve as the perfect foot stool, supply additional seating in a pinch, and can substitute for a coffee table.

29. Sleeper Sofas

Eliminate the need for a fully furnished guest room with a convertible sofa. And most sleepers are stylish, so they won’t detract from the look of the room.

30. Don’t Buy Unnecessary Stuff

If you work from home, but space is tight, think twice before spending your hard-earned money on a desk that can’t comfortably fit in your home. Consider setting up a small, tidy workspace in the kitchen or at the dining room table. Find an easy spot — a nearby cabinet, or even a shelf built into or above the table — to stow away your laptop, office supplies, and paperwork when you’re finished.

Likewise, the cheapest way to keep your cozy confines from crowding in on you is to avoid buying junk you don’t need. If your space is limited, just like your money, then keep a balanced budget: Whenever you buy something new, force yourself to toss or donate something else to make room for it.

31. Decorative Boxes

Boxes with cute patterns are another useful and stylish way to store your belongings without taking up too much space. No desire to buy the pricey ones from the store? Simply head to the arts and crafts supply store and pick up fabric, wallpaper, or basic construction paper to spruce up an ordinary box or basket. Also, take a look at Pinterest for more creative and cost-efficient ideas.

32. Use Bookcases Wisely

Bookcases aren’t solely for books (well, at least not in my opinion). They’re also useful for stowing trophies, electronics, collectibles, office supplies, toy baskets, and pictures, among other things.

33. File Cabinets

The paper monster seems to be a permanent resident at my home. Piles of paper frequently appear out of nowhere and linger around until I get fed up and sort through the mess. This was a major problem until I decided to invest in a file cabinet. And not only did it cost me less than $100 and a few hours of my time to free up desk space, I felt relieved when all the documents were organized and filed away in the proper place, making them easily accessible.

By incorporating a combination of these tips, you’ll begin to adjust to a tighter living space in no time.

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