How do you keep a studio apartment organized and uncluttered?
December 9, 2007 10:17 AM   Subscribe

What are your tricks for keeping organized and eliminating clutter in a studio apartment?

I'm an elementary school teacher and a student, so I have a lot of paperwork and files to keep track of. This place is starting to spin out of control and I need to figure out how to implement some type of system of organization. What are your tips and tricks for reducing clutter?

I have two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with 5 shelves on each that are each about three feet wide. Should I pack up the books on the shelves and use them to store other things?
I also have a dresser, closet (not huge), and a desk. There really isn't any more space for furniture and there's nowhere to install shelves.
posted by HotPatatta to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'm rigorous in 3- and 6- month purges; move items not used frequently to high or deep storage and free up book cases for everyday organization (you'll need little boxes and other sub-organizing tools for this, depending your needs - I find just a series of little boxes that I can stack to be perfect.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:27 AM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh man -- I lived in a studio in Chicago one summer with my girlfriend, and the space issue was intense. The trick is to assign everything its space and only allow it out of its space when it's being used. You need to be strictly anti-clutter with every action you take. Another good tip is not to bring lots of new things into the apartment -- read newspapers online or in a coffeeshop or something, don't bring them into your apartment.

For your papers, buy a little used filing cabinet on craigslist or a couple of the plastic ones. That way you can keep all your papers organized in a little space.

Finally, ALWAYS make your bed. You'll be surprised how much extra space that creates when you need to lay books out or something.

Good luck!
posted by lockestockbarrel at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2007

Read ApartmentTherapy, their thing is small space living, and they have a smallest coolest apartment contest every year. They've just redesigned their blog and the search isn't working yet. But there are lots of ideas there, even if you can't afford all their fancy stuff (or like me you're not in the States and you couldn't get it anyway), there are ways you can adapt their solutions.

I've found living in small spaces you need to think differently, and use whatever space you have. So the bit of wall behind my door is where I keep my coats and bags; everything long and flat lives under my futon (if I didn't love it so much I'd get a bed with storage underneath, what's under your bed); sewing and craft stuff lives in my wardrobe. I also make sure that I have nice, clear decorative (for want of a better word) spaces, so on top of my drawers I have some photos and my little Buddha and little Ganesh, and a few other bits and pieces. It makes me feel less like I live in a storage container and more in a home.

And as my mum said 'a place for everything, and everything in it's home'. Oh, how I ignored her when I was a teenager. And how right she was.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:00 AM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

'A place for everything and everything in it's place.' And What's under your bed? was meant to be a question. I'm not having a good day.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:03 AM on December 9, 2007

A few ideas: ceiling shelving, one long shelf that runs about a foot below the ceiling along a wall, a steamer trunk or a couple of storage ottomans that you can use for both storage and your coffee table, some kind of cheap wooden storage boxes that you can stack somewhere, an organizer that you can hang in your closet, long flat storage boxes that you can slide under your sofa or bed.
posted by iconomy at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

re books, floor-to-ceiling with only five shelves seems to make for lots of space between shelves. Have you tried storing books horizontally in piles instead of vertically?
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 11:34 AM on December 9, 2007

My best answer has been double-depth bookshelves. They make good dividers (mine are around my bed) and hold so much more than they seem. Also, do you have a table and a desk? If you live alone in a studio, you really only need one.
posted by dame at 12:05 PM on December 9, 2007

Alot of good advice and links above. I lived in a Chicago studio for a year and one of the things that worked best for me was tossing out anything I hadn't touched or used recently. I had a lot of boxed up stuff occupying space in my closest which I just tossed.

You have to think about things in terms of their replacement cost versus how frequently you use them. So, you may use item X once a year, but if it's in the way the rest of the time and isn't that particularly expensive or hard to come by, then toss it.

Also, you can great very creative with storage solutions. There is probably alot of space above your head where you could put shelving units or something. Granted this requires some DIY know how and maybe a step ladder.

You don't say what size your bed is, but I lived with my queen mattress in a studio and it was hell. If I had it do over again I would have downsized to a double or maybe even gone the sleeper sofa or futon route. That said, properly elevated, you can store a lot of stuff out of the way under your bed.
posted by wfrgms at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2007

It sounds like the zealots at the Container Store might be able to help you out.
posted by Jeff Howard at 1:07 PM on December 9, 2007

If paper & files is one of the major issues, you might consider getting a ScanSnap and converting the seldom-accessed papers to digital. They really don't take up much space and can scan both sides of a page quickly with auto-document feed.
posted by underwater at 1:47 PM on December 9, 2007

Read this book.
posted by clh at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2007

Here are some things we've done to help out with space issues (girlfriend and myself in a small-ish one bedroom, with a dog):

- Coffee table is a trunk that has storage (there are great trunks/chests on Craigslist... we actually loved the storage from the coffee table so much that we got another for the bedroom)
- Lots of organizers/cubbies/boxes from IKEA. Some are utilitarian and reside in the closet, some are nicer and are out in the open.
- A bookcase that doubles as a room partition (as suggested by dame)
- We found out from our landlord that we could also store some stuff in the basement of the building
- Continually re-evaluating whether we want to keep things (What things around the apartment make you unhappy to see them?)
- For every thing you bring in to the apartment, TWO things need to go out (Give away on Craigslist, recycle, etc.)
posted by chimmyc at 3:38 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

One thing that helps me is that my desk has a shelf underneath.
posted by salvia at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2007

Are your bookcases fixed to the wall? If they're freestanding and sturdy enough to stand on their own, pulling them a foot or so out can give you a surprisingly huge place to store stacked boxes without seeming to take up a lot of room space. I would only use this for out-of-season clothing, special occasion dishes, sports equipment, or well-trussed holiday decorations, not stuff you use every day. For safety, I'd bracket the backs of the bookcases and attach a dowel rail from the bookcase to the wall. You can hang stuff on that.

Screening off a corner with a folding room divider can give you a place to store hanging clothes, and can double as a dressing area or a couch-guest "bedroom wall" when required.

If your apartment is tall, and you're reasonably handy, you can make a pulley platform over beds or living room seating areas (anywhere where the primary activity is "being short"). If done well, it looks like a stylish lowered ceiling and not like you're living in the garage.

If you buy a pair of matching wardrobes or tall cabinets and put one on each side of your closet door, you can connect them with a dowel rail and essentially triple your closet space.

Do you have a little hallway in your apartment? Like a foyer area or around the kitchen or bath? Depending on the layout of your place, you could install a storage loft very simply.

Google for yacht cabin designs if you want to see some examples of zero wasted space.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:37 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of those long, flat storage under-bed storage bins.
posted by radioamy at 12:56 PM on December 10, 2007

Reducing clutter is hard. Really hard. I've only really had success when I've enlisted the help of a trusty friend or s.o. You need an objective observer, someone who is kind but firm, to help you get rid of what you don't need.
posted by radioamy at 12:58 PM on December 10, 2007

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