Limited Space

Greetings from the Sparrow’s Nest! That’s what Evan and I call our cozy little apartment. While I dearly love living in this tiny “playhouse” of a place, making things fit can be a challenge at times. I’m sure I’m not the only one facing this challenge, so I thought I’d share a few ideas that are working for us.

Double Duty A classic example of this is, of course, the pull-out couch, or hide-a-bed. We don’t have one because there isn’t room to pull one out! But we use the principle. Our coffee table is a wooden chest, hiding our winter gear. The bench has storage under the seat. Our bed, with the addition of risers and a bedskirt, houses plastic bins of off-season clothes and shoes (another good option would be a “captain’s bed” with drawers underneath).

Hide the Clutter Reducing the clutter is the first step — we try to keep “stuff” pared down a minimum. But there seems to be a certain amount you can’t get rid of, especially if you have a home office space. One solution for me has been baskets. They’re attractive and work well in bookcases. I’ve been finding some at thrift stores, but Michaels is a great place for baskets, as well. Another option is decorative boxes (Michaels has a great selection, like these — also check Target and HomeGoods). Clutter makes small spaces look more crowded.

Think Vertical The Sparrow’s Nest is a mere 400 sq. feet, but that’s only counting floor space! Evan and I quickly realized we could do more to take advantage of the walls: replacing a four-foot tall bookcase with an eight-footer doubled our storage space. We didn’t have room for an end table in the living room, so we used a shelf to hold a lamp. The bathroom presented one of the biggest challenges. Because of the placement of the fixtures, a space saver wasn’t an option (I love this one, though!). Instead, the combination of a small cabinet and over-the-door hooks have served us well. We also found that putting storage “cubes” under the hanging clothes redeemed otherwise wasted space in the closet. Another option would be adding a second closet rod under the top one. And we even utilize ceiling space! The pot rack is the best feature of our kitchen. They can be quite expensive — we priced them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but thought we could do better than $130. Sure enough, IKEA had one for $25!

So those are a few ideas that have worked for us. Do you have any suggestions? Leave a comment and share your tips!


  1. A good idea for instant space to work at is a fold up tressle table. I pull mine out when I need to set up the sewing machine & spread out the material. It’s also great for when I want to invite a few couples over for tea. My table folds in half to the width of a large suitcase but only 10cm deep.

    1. @ Blue Sarah

      That is such a good idea! I have been trying to figure out where to put a sewing machine so I can learn to sew.

      It lives in a cupboard but I don’t have room for a permanent table to keep it out!

  2. What good ideas! I will probably end up living in a small apartment after I get married, but I HATE clutter, so I have my ears open for good storage ideas! I’m definitely going to bookmark this page so I can refer back to it.

  3. See, IKEA DOES have some cute things!! 😉 LOL You have the cutest little nest, and yup, it’s little. But you’ve somehow got this knack of making it feel neat and open. No clutter in your nest! Love it sis.

  4. Great idea for a post! I would love to see more on here, along with photos.

    I’ve been perusing Apartment Therapy lately, but their solutions often seem pricey, or just overly ambitious.

    I think “double duty” is a good concept, but with a few exceptions. As I prepare to get married, I dream of having a real BED/sleeping area, rather than the pull-out couch (which would work for guests) that is so ubiquitous here in Russia. Also, there are great tables that expand and fold up, but it can get tedious always assembling/reassembling, or carrying from room to room whenever you have guests. So I think I would sacrifice space in order to have a few well thought-out permanent fixtures.

    I LOVE the idea of a loft if it works with a particular space.

    Curtains or even an attractive shade could be used to disguise storage areas. With that being said, I would rather have a little clutter in view than have all of my belongings in boxes that I constantly have to go retrieving if I need something.

    My problem is that people usually have wardrobes here, with big, deep shelves. I’m constantly emptying the contents of a whole shelf just to find a single item. Piles topple over, and it’s hard to think of what to put in the back of the shelf that I wouldn’t need very often. I much prefer drawers/bins, or shallow shelves. If I weren’t renting, I think I would take all the shelves out of the wardrobe and install some drawers instead. Just in case anyone is weighing his/her options. 🙂

  5. Do you mind sharing where you got the bench from? We are moving to another apartment that is quite small, and I’ve been looking for a bench just like that.

    1. We found it on Craig’s List. It had been in some part of a small law office. It was actually kind of hard to find, but Jeannie kept at it as she always does.

  6. I too married into a small house. They can be so lovely, and so challenging! A suggestion that I thought of has to do with the whole clutter issue. I personally love family photos on the walls, but cluttered walls make a home look much smaller. So maybe a way to have both pictures AND keep it from looking cluttered, is to get one of those electronic picture frames that cycle through the selection of pictures that you put on it. Like the pot rack, there’s a great diversity in prices so it may be good to look over ebay, or garage sales or thrift shops before choosing one.
    Lovely post! It’s wonderful to see you have such a great attitude about it all! True, inner happiness is the best sunshine a house can hold!
    Much Love

  7. What a darling apartment! I love your taste! Did you inherit that from anyone, possibly? (I’m kidding!) Lots of good ideas . . . the Lord has always used your good ideas to my advantage.

  8. It sounds like you are doing a really good job of making use of the space you have! (400 sq ft is tiny!)
    I don’t have any tips or tricks to offer but I did enjoy hearing about what you are doing already. It’s always fun to hear from you, Jeannie! 🙂

  9. I live with my parents so basically just have my bedroom to keep my stuff in. I have a lot of stuff and it is hard to keep it all neat and tidy as I want it but really I am trying to fit a house worth in there!

    I dream of a super tidy and neat, yet still pretty and personal room!

    1. I think many young ladies here are in the same boat as you and I, Jenny!

      Thanks, Jeannie, for the tips! They came at a good time since I’m working on cleaning out and reorganizing!


      1. Me too!

        I think I’ve got the “pretty and personal” bit sorted in my room, but let’s just say that the “super tidy and neat” bit is proving challenging! The space under my bed and at the top and bottom of my wardrobe are space-savers I appreciate.

        I’m a big fan of keeping my stuff to a minimum in my space, but also using stuff to “decorate”. Books, obviously, are a good example. Hair sticks look quirky but pretty stored in a pretty mug with the decorative ends sticking out the top of the mug. Scrunchies look pretty heaped in a basket on the dresser. Papers can be sorted and stored in a files in a rainbow of colours. Patchwork supplies can live in a cute basket on the floor. And knitting and crochet surplies can fill a cute bag that’s hung from a hook on the wall.

        Something I also like to do in my limited space and with my limited money is use my notice boards as works of art that constantly change and evolve as I add pictures from magazines, quotes, photos and so on – as well as, of course, lists and things!

        1. Elisabeth – it’s funny as I have a notice board that I have been neglecting – such a good idea to update it! I am thinking seasonal / holiday ideas!

          Pretty and personal is the easy bit for me! I love having all the girly stuff and books around me.

          I have boxes under my bed which are useful but I really need to sort the top of my wardrobe as there is loads up there and it just looks messy!

          Need to go on the hunt for pretty boxes and baskets!

      2. It is hard isn’t it! I really need to have a strict clear out but at the same time don’t want to get rid of something and then regret it later!

        Perhaps I have too many books!

  10. Have you checked out the Apartment Therapy website? They have some amazing ideas for living in small spaces! Looks like you already have a good handle on living small, though!

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