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How to Declutter a Small Apartment - 13 Efficient Tips

When space is in short supply, getting the most out of every square foot becomes paramount. This may seem like an easy task to manage at first glance. However, after living in a small area for a while clutter can creep in and make every room feel smaller. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to maximize the look and feel of apartments everywhere.

And as an added bonus, this can be accomplished in an almost effortless manner.

In this article, we take a look at 13 different ways to go about decluttering small apartments. Read on to find out how to master each one and reclaim, or discover, the lost floor space in your home.

One at a Time

Procrastination is a fierce enemy. To avoid letting this delay-ridden emotion take root, focus on decluttering a single area. This can be a junk drawer you have been meaning to clean out or the chair in the living room that somehow became a laundry bin. Along the way, be sure to throw out anything you do not need, use, or items that have expired.

Then, once you have decluttered the target area, treat yourself. Consider making your reward the focus of your attention. For example, if you opt to celebrate by eating a delicious meal, recall why you are doing so throughout. By doing so, you can generate positive feelings about decluttering. After a week, repeat the process until the activity becomes a habit.

Need, Donate, Toss

While implementing the 'one at a time' tactic, you may start to notice a desire to hang on to items you do not need. If so, try to nip it in the bud as soon as it arises. Remember, although it may seem harmless at first, given enough time this type of mindset can lead to a small space being overrun with unused items.

To break the cycle, use the 'need, donate, toss' method while decluttering each area. The objective here is to identify items you absolutely need. If you find yourself wavering between "yes I need it" and "no I do not need it", place the item in the donate or toss pile. Once you have gone through all items in the area you opted to declutter, revisit each pile.

When To Let Go

Think through why you need something. Then, consider whether someone else can put said item to better use. For example, if you have a coffee maker and never use it, clear up some counter or cabinet space by donating the machine to someone who will enjoy it. The same thing goes for anything you do not use or wear on a semi-regular basis.

Remember, if you cannot come up with a justifiable reason as to why someone else would want or why you need an object, put it in the toss area. By doing so, you can keep your space as clutter-free as possible.

Transfer Physical to Digital

If you are like the majority of the population, odds are you have lots of important documents, old photos, and other 2D objects lying around. One of the best ways to address these potentially heaping piles of paper is to transfer them to a digital format. This means scanning said documents and saving them on your computer, thumb drive, or anywhere else you feel comfortable storing them.

During this step, be sure to double-check if you will ever need a physical copy by reviewing the list below:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Death Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Insurance Policies
  • Wills
  • Vehicle Titles
  • Deeds
  • Mortgage or Loan Papers
  • Pension Plan Documents
  • Retirement Plan Statements
  • Sentimental Photos

Now that we have the must-have physical copies covered, let's take a look at a few types of documents that are potentially worth scanning and how long they need to be saved on your computer.

  • Tax Records - 7 years
  • Receipts - 1 year
  • Medical Documents - 2 years
  • Warranties - as long as you have said object the warranty is for

Other than the documents we mentioned above, everything else can likely be shredded.

Everything Has a Home

At this point, most apartments are going to be somewhat decluttered. However, we are just getting started on our journey to make the most out of the available space you have in your home! Next up, we address how to organize all of the items that made the cut and thus deserve to have a place reserved for them in your living space.

If that last sentence sounded a bit too ambitious, consider this. Each and every square foot in your apartment should proactively enhance your life in some way, shape or form. Even if the area just looks clean and pretty.

To accomplish this, designate a place where all of the remaining items you have should go. For example, clean clothes can be hung in the closet or dresser drawer, whereas incoming mail can go on top of a filing cabinet to be sorted through and placed inside at a later date. Just be sure to do so sooner rather than later to avoid another case of creeping clutter.

Bear in mind, if there is not a place for an object you elected to keep, revisit the 'need, donate, toss' step before moving forward.

Make Space Work For You

Most apartments these days should have some type of built-in storage space. This can come in the form of kitchen and bathroom cabinets, or even bookcases flesh with one of your walls. However, readers that find themselves lacking adequate storage areas may need to procure additional solutions, such as storage bins. These plastic containers can be pretty handy when you want to change your wardrobe from the fall selection to the winter collection and so on.

That said, this practical method is not the only way to equip your space with some much-needed storage.

Take a look at your furniture. How many items do you own that include drawers or shelves? If your answer is little to few, it is time to go shopping. Aim to only procure multi-purpose furniture. Think coffee and end tables equipped with drawers or shelves. Anywhere you find a place to swap out a "basic", aka single purpose, item do so when the opportunity arises.

And if payday is really far off, do not worry. Thrift stores are packed with hidden gems eager to be used and Craigslist has a section dedicated to free item giveaways. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for items that may potentially suit your needs and avoid focusing on things that do not deserve a place in your home.

Stay Proactive

As we mentioned in the 'one at a time' section, your long-term goal is to make decluttering a habit. This is feasible to do and given enough time, most space-saving tasks will become second nature to you. That said, incorporating each new habit will require dedication and practice until things stick.

To overcome the initial resistance, make up a schedule filled with mini-tasks you can knock out in under 10 minutes, such as the following.

  • Go through the mail, toss junk, file away important documents
  • Scan paper items you want to digitize
  • Put dishes in the sink
  • Pull trash bag out if full
  • Toss trash bag if on the way if leaving
  • Visually check to see if anything needs to be put back in its place
  • Straighten up magazine stack

When the activities above start to become normalized, or if you are already doing these, it is time to step up the difficulty level! Challenge yourself a bit by adding in a few space-saving activities that take longer than 10 minutes. Check out the example schedule below for ideas.

  • Wednesdays - check dry food storage area to see if anything expired
  • Fridays - confirm no clutter is lying about before going out
  • Sundays - make sure all clothes are washed and put away
  • First day of the month - clean fridge, remove expired items
  • Every three months - check clothes to toss articles of clothing you have not worn

That said, be sure to develop a declutter schedule that better suits your unique lifestyle to ensure the healthy habit feels like a gift to yourself, rather than a burdensome chore.

Items That Never Stay Put

Once you have your decluttering schedule down pat, you may start to notice specific items never seem to stay in their designated area. Typically, this occurs when an item is being used frequently in an area that is not close to its storage spot. To reduce the likelihood of the object not making it back to its "home", consider moving the item's storage area a bit closer to where it will be used.

For example, controllers have an uncanny ability to never be put back in a drawer. One of the best ways to ensure these handy devices are always available without adding to clutter is to hang it up. This can be accomplished via a hanging storage item, such as a rack, or even just Velcro.

If you opt to go for a hanging rack, try to pick a location you can easily retrieve the controller from, such as on the side of your armchair or couch. Those of us who prefer Velcro can attach the useful fabric to the underside of the coffee table or even beside the tv. Just make sure you remember where you decided to store the controllers when all is said and done!

Empty Wall Space

Good interior design dictates that no matter how small a space is, it can be beautiful via balance. And this visual trait can be generated by decluttering in most apartments. However, if you want to maximize your storage space and enhance the ascetic appeal of your home, you have to look up. But not in the metaphorical sense. We mean literally.

Take a gander at your wall space. How much of it are you using? Chances are, not very much. See, a lot of apartments make up for a lack of floor space by being tall. This means more than likely there is plenty of viable storage area in your apartment, hidden in plain sight. So, be sure to use this secret to your advantage by equipping your walls with extra storage.

These nifty nooks can be as minimal as naked shelves, tiered up from just above the floor to over your head, or as elaborate as you like. That said, if you are interested in adding a full-blown loft area in your tall apartment, be sure to make an inquiry with the building attendant first. Most apartments allow for small improvements here and there, however, big construction plans are typically a no-no.

An Item For an Item

As time goes on, you are going to buy more stuff, be it clothes, books, or appliances. And that is perfectly fine. However, when said item makes its way into your home, it is time to make a judgment call. What item will you get rid of to make room for the new object? For example, say you bought a brand new shirt. This fabulous article of clothing probably brings out your eyes and generates a bunch of compliments when you wear it.

Are you really going to let that ugly sweater you never wear take up the space this new, awesome shirt should have? If you said no, congratulations! That is a remarkable first step to take towards decluttering your apartment. You know, other than actually completing the activities on our list.

That said, with some items the choice on what to toss in an equivalent exchange can be tough. If you find yourself in this position, try revisiting the 'need, donate, toss' method we outlined above. And if all else fails, consider creating a new, fabulous storage area for the item. Just be sure it is worthy of having a place in your living space.

Item Specific Organizers

Apartments come in all shapes and sizes. Capitalize on yours by buying item-specific organizers. Although these useful storage contraptions are going to vary in necessity, we have compiled a list of objects you may want to include in the home to declutter your space.

  • Hooks - can be used to hold jackets, hats, coffee mugs, or even laundry bags
  • Pan Shelf - most can house multiple pans as well as their lids
  • Plate Rack - makes plates easy to pull out or stack sideways to free up space
  • Space Shelf - a fun DIY project capable of making cooking way easier
  • Hanging Pole - use chains to hold a curtain rod capable of hanging clothes on
  • Door hanger - hang on back of door out of sight, can be used for extra storage
  • Arm rack - forego coffee and end tables by putting a mini table on your armchair

By adding a few of the additional storage devices listed above, you can maximize the odds of finding space for a new item you buy in the future or simply maintain a clutter-free home with ease.

Use Curtains as Room Dividers

For readers with studio apartments, or just a need to split a room in two, utilize the age-old curtain tactic. The idea behind this method is to separate a space based on what is inside to make each area feel like its own room. This tip can be used to create a reading nook, a place for meditation, exercise, or just to cover up a busy shelf. That last part comes in really handy when you are working through the 'one at a time' and 'need, donate, toss' phases.

It is worth mentioning, however, if you do opt to cover up a busy bookcase or shelf and find yourself never using the items stored there, it may be time to get rid of those unused objects. Remember, they are taking up valuable storage space that can better be used by something that flatters you, your personality, or your home. So do not waste the extra area!

Less is More

One of the key takeaways to review in this decluttering article is to remove anything that is not worthy of sharing your living space with you, which can be summed up as "less is more". No, this is not some minimalistic interior design pitch. We are literally talking about having less and getting more out of actively doing so.

See, scientists have discovered that clutter actually affects people in a very negative manner.

Let's start with the basics. When you look at clutter, it can invoke a bunch of unpleasant feelings, such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Given enough time, these emotions can lead to adverse health effects, both mental as well as physical. Check out the known associated effects of clutter.

  • A bunch of visual distractions reduces your focus in the same way multi-tasking does
  • Raises stress hormone levels which can lead to a heart attack
  • High levels of the cortisol can cause you to gain weight
  • Can make allergies worse since items collect dust and other bacteria
  • Waste time looking for an item
  • Spend large sums of money healing health effects related to clutter

That said, you deserve to live in a clutter-free space.

Mime Petit

A home appliance enthusiast and creative writer.

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