New York City living is practically synonymous with small space living, so whenever I tell people that we used to live in a NYC studio apartment, in the heart of Manhattan no less, the expressions on their faces tend to alternate between amazement, confusion, and pity. But for 16 months, my husband, daughter, and I all comfortable fit in our c. 500 sq. ft. studio.
For all intents & purposes, we lived in a generously sized studio apartment, but first let me say -- this was never intended to be our forever living situation. I moved into this studio end of 2011 alone, so for me, this was the dream! I met my now husband, a few months later, and 3 years after that we had our daughter. During the course of our relationship, especially after he'd moved in, we'd discuss moving but it was never something we pursued aggressively because we knew that ultimately, we didn't want to stay in NYC; so for us there was no point in moving within NYC just to move again when we finally left the state altogether. This meant being smart & resourceful to make sure our space worked for us in the best possible way.
So let's get to the point -- how the heck did I do this?!
Smart & Thoughtful Shopping
Admittedly, we're not the best with money -- I love pretty things, he loves gadgets, and we both love shoes -- but living in the studio, even when I lived alone, meant being very thoughtful about every purchase. Where was it going to live? How often was it going to be used? Is it even necessary? This thinking played a HUGE part in how we shopped for our pregnancy as well -- we didn't get a lot of the "standard" new baby items because space was precious & every square inch had to be accounted for.
When I lived alone, I purchased 2 bar stools to but at the breakfast counter & a storage ottoman that could also be additional seating, instead of getting a sofa. Once we started living together, I shopped around for a settee or a really small sofa to replace the barstools because we wanted something more comfortable for lounging. It was either or, but never both. Every furniture purchase, and really every purchase in general, went through a similar consideration process.
Creative Storage Solutions
I'm personally not a big fan of dressers to begin with, but when you don't have a bedroom, you really start to explore new ways to store the things you'd normally toss in a drawer. Two really high advantages of our studio were the closets -- definitely not your typical NYC closest. There was a shelved walk in closet by the front door plus a regular closet at the center of the apartment. For the walk in, I'd purchased a closet system & had that mounted for more hanging & folding, and used the built ins for linens & such. This closet essentially became the storage closet -- seasonal clothes, suitcases, etc. -- while the other closet served as the main clothing hub. I purchased under the bed storage for some things & since the tv was mounted (absolutely must to minimize the foot print of things) a storage console of some kind always lived below it.
When it became 2 of us, a MASSIVE purge took place throughout the apartment, and we did his & her closets, with me getting the walk in of course. After my daughter was born, we did another purge, got a larger storage unit under the television, and made it work that way.
We never bought anything we didn't need (i.e. dressers) because although it would serve the purpose of storing stuff, it would present another problem of needing a place for itself. Instead, we worked with what we had until it couldn't work anymore. What used to be my magazine stand for the bathroom was now my diaper caddy; and my decorative floating shelves became our new nightstands.
Lots of Purging
Our spring cleaning was seasonal cleaning, and sometimes even monthly cleaning. We would load up bags to bring to our local good will, housing works, wherever; and it always amazed us how much stuff we still had -- a mystery that'll probably never get solved! In any case, we never let too much time go by without going through our stuff and deciding it it was worth keeping or not. We did the same with our daughter -- once she outgrew something, it had to go; we didn't have the luxury of just hoarding baby clothes for however long until we had another; we'll cross that bridge when we get there!
We also did our best not to do any major shopping before any major purges, because again, where's this stuff going to go?
Focused On The End Goal
Like I said before, for both of us, staying in NYC was never the goal; so with that always top of mind, we never allowed ourselves to accumulate too much stuff -- less stuff = "easier" move. The last thing we wanted was to have to rent an expensive uhaul, or pack a ton of stuff, or just do anything extra; and it paid off -- we lived with less, and therefore moved with less. Had we let ourselves get out of hand, I don't even want to imagine what moving across the country would've looked like. And funny enough, we STILL had a lot of stuff to sell/donate/trash/give away but the time we moved, but I guess that's life?
I'd love to hear how you handle your small space challenges!