If you’ve been living in your current apartment for an extended period of time, you already know how easy it is to accumulate too much stuff over the years mindlessly. Maybe you’ve upgraded a few pieces of furniture here and there, stocked up on some seasonal home decor items when they went on sale, or just made some quick impulse buys on your last few Target runs. (Who among us hasn’t?) Suddenly, a few years later, you’re asking yourself: How did I get so much stuff? And where am I going to put it all?
How do I maximize storage in my small apartment?
If you’re limited on space in your apartment, storage can be a major issue. Studio apartments, one-bedroom floor plans, and condos all share this struggle. Sometimes it may even feel like living in a small apartment is the ultimate game of Tetris, trying to maximize every inch of storage space, so everything fits perfectly. But we’ll let you in on a secret: Usually, the solution to a lack of storage in small apartments isn’t owning less or investing in more space— it’s just learning how to better utilize the space you already have to suit your current needs and lifestyle.
So before you decide to become a minimalist overnight or start searching the Internet for a bigger apartment in your area, check out our top small apartment storage ideas below. You might be surprised by how just a little ingenuity and creativity goes a long way. (Even when your living quarters are limited to one room.)
Related: Challenges to Overcome With Studio Apartment Living
Small Storage Apartment Ideas to Maximize Your Space
1. Expand your storage space upwards.
Unless you have shallow ceilings, most studio apartments have unused space right above our heads. So if you need storage in a small space, think vertically. Shelves can be relatively cheap and easy to mount on the walls if your landlords allow it. They also keep your floors open and uncluttered, which makes cleaning a breeze. Plus, you’ll be able to see precisely what you have at all times since everything on them is visible.
Vertical storage ideas to save space in a small apartment:
- Place a shelf above the door trim in the bathroom to store towels and toilet paper.
- Add an extra pole or shelf in your bedroom or hall closet above or below your current setup. (This is especially useful for linens, bedding, extra coats, and shoes.)
- Take advantage of extra high ceilings by adding a lofted storage space.
- Hang your pots and pans from a vintage ladder that is chained to the ceiling.
- Install open shelving far up a wall and store items in attractive baskets or bins.
2. Incorporate storage into a room divider.
If you live in a studio apartment, dividing out space is one of your first challenges. Before you (quite literally) divide and conquer, consider what you will use to separate the room. Implementing a cubed shelving unit or open-backed bookshelf will provide much more storage space. Pro tip: Use open shelves to get as much light to pass through the divider as possible. Closed-off shelving units aren’t ideal, as they can make an already small apartment feel much more cramped and crowded.
Small apartment room divider ideas with built-in storage:
- Line up metal clothing racks for added clothing storage.
- Build a vertical plant stand using old pallets.
- Hang a curtain along with a hanging shoe organizer on the bedroom side.
- Hang bikes from the ceiling as a way to divide a space.
- Place a set of simple cube shelves next to your bed to serve as a three-in-one room divider, nightstand, and storage area.
3. Use small-scale, double duty furniture with concealed storage space.
There are a few different ways to make the most of your furniture choices in a small apartment. Most importantly, the furniture needs to fit the space. Don’t purchase anything too bulky or oversized. If you’re buying brand new (or at least new-to-you) furniture for a studio or one-bedroom, it’s a good idea to be prepared with your floor plan measurements first.
Secondly, make use of multi-functional furniture that has built-in concealed storage space. Some things look great in the open, like books, records, travel souvenirs, or decor pieces. But most of the time, it’s best to keep items concealed in small spaces to avoid the area looking cluttered.
Furniture pieces with built-in storage for small apartments:
- Find an ottoman with built-in storage that can function as a seat or a coffee table.
- Set a bed up on risers and store rolling totes underneath.
- Utilize an island as a kitchen prep area and as a work desk.
- Make sure your TV stand has concealed storage for unsightly items.
- Mount a fold-down desk on the wall that can be tucked away when not in use.
Related: 12 Seasonal Storage Solutions Everyone Should Know
4. Have organizational systems in place to control clutter.
People who successfully live in small apartments do so by having excellent organizational habits. Everything needs a place, or else clutter in an otherwise clean home will build up in no time. Think about ways to process your stuff so you can stay organized and your storage space is utilized to its fullest potential.
How do you hide clutter in a small apartment?
- Sort through the mail the moment it comes. Recycle and get rid of junk mail and have a spot for bills and other mail you need to process. Empty this area biweekly.
- Clean off your desk area at the end of every day. Have a binder to store office papers and a filing system to prevent paper build up. Keeping paperwork out of sight will help give the illusion of a larger, cleaner space.
- Bring out your recycling daily to prevent a buildup of paper products and recyclables in your kitchen area.
- Have a regular laundry routine, so you don’t have an excess of dirty clothes around the apartment.
5. Don’t forget about the entryway.
If you have a dedicated entryway in your small apartment, it doesn’t have to be grand or large. Even if you don’t, you can easily create one with some creativity and purposeful placement of furniture and decor pieces. After all, dragging coats and shoes through a studio apartment is not only inconvenient but it’s also unrealistic. More often than not, these items will get tossed somewhere near the exit every time you enter the apartment. So you might as well create a space where they can be stored daily!
Easy ways to create an entryway in a small apartment:
- Use renter-friendly command hooks for keys, bags, and light coats to use your wall space.
- Invest in a small coat hanger and place it near your apartment’s door. Bonus points if it has a built-in storage basket for hats, gloves, scarves, and other winter accessories.
- Consider building a DIY entryway bench or storage unit if you want something custom! Be sure to include some hooks and cubbies to keep everything from your coats to your keys organized and at hand.
6. If all else fails, downsizing your belongings might help.
Let’s say you’ve tried all of the small apartment storage hacks in the book— from multi-functional furniture to vertical storage solutions— and you still feel crammed into your tiny apartment. It may be time to take a long, hard look at your belongings to see if you can part with anything. After all, living in a small apartment (or any sized apartment, for that matter) means you’re confined to a finite number of square feet. That means you need to be extra intentional about each and every item you bring into your space.
Decluttering and downsizing your small apartment doesn’t mean you need let go of the things that bring you joy immediately. Simply work your way through your apartment room by room (or section by section, if you live in a studio!) and make four piles: Keep, donate, sell, and toss. Try to be as honest as possible during the process, asking yourself what you really need to keep and what’s just taking up space that can be used for other things.
Learn more about the four-pile sorting method for downsizing and decluttering in our article How to Downsize Your Home in 6 Simple Steps. If you’re interested in selling unused items to make extra money, our article on The Best Resale Apps to Help You Downsize and Declutter Your Home is for you.
Related: How to Declutter On a Budget: 5 Essential Decluttering Tips to Save Money
Storage in Small Apartments Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle
Even without built-in storage spaces, living in a studio or one-bedroom apartment is a feasible lifestyle (if you’re considering moving to any major city like New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you may not have another option.). It may take a bit of creativity, but you’d be surprised by all of the small apartment storage ideas people come up with!
If you’ve used any of the above storage solutions or have your own foolproof tips you’d like to share, feel free to share them with us on social media.
Read These Articles Next:
- How to Downsize Your Home in 6 Simple Steps [Free Checklist]
- How to Store Shoes Without Destroying Them
- 11 Innovative Clothes Storage Ideas When You Have No Closet
Update: This post was originally published on February 12th, 2017, by Lauren Thomann. It was revised on January 5th, 2019, with new information from Molli Spear, and was revised again on March 17th, 2023, with further information from Emily Malkowski.