Many older adults plan to move to a smaller space in retirement. It makes sense—we find ourselves thinking that we don’t need multiple bedrooms, thousands of square feet, and the upkeep that comes with a large house anymore.
There’s a stumbling block, though. Many of us don’t know how (or when) to make the move to a smaller space. We’ve been living in our houses for years, possibly decades, and aren’t sure how to utilize a smaller space.
If you find yourself in the same situation, these 5 tips for getting the most out of a smaller space will help you start forming a plan for the future.
An important first step to getting the most out of a smaller space is to downsize. Downsizing can refer to the process of sorting through and weeding out your belongings, or to moving to smaller, more efficient space. Many older adults choose to downsize for health, safety, convenience, and enjoyment.
To downsize (or, as some people call it, rightsize), take it one step at a time as you sort through your belongings. Go room by room and decide what to keep, donate, give away, and dispose of. It’s a good idea to start when you’re active and healthy. That way, you won’t need to worry about it in the future if your health ever changes.
For more downsizing tips, read Downsize Your Home, Upsize Your Life.
2. Create Storage Space
One of the best ways to make an apartment look and feel bigger is to limit the amount of visible clutter.
When you’re downsizing, you’re bound to be left with some emotionally valuable belongings, no matter how strict you are with yourself. And that’s okay!
If you’re looking for a place for those belongings in your new apartment, consider adding lots of storage space. Display your favorite things, but tuck the rest of it away to keep the room open and inviting.
Think vertical. You can make the most out of your new space by taking advantage of tall bookshelves or bins that slide easily under the couch.
“Floor-to-ceiling shelving or cabinets, underbed storage and closet shelving will make the most of the room you have,” Laura Gaskill writes in her Forbes article, Tips For Moving Into A Smaller Space.
Looking for a new space? Check out Sugar Hill’s available homes
3. Use Multi-Purpose and Space-Appropriate Furniture
When it comes to creating space in a one-bedroom apartment, multi-purpose furniture is a no-brainer. Investing in furniture that serves double duty means you’ll get to have the function of two furniture pieces for the space of one.
Here are some examples of multi-functional furniture pieces to maximize space:
- Sleeper sofas to transform your living room into a guest bedroom
- Folding desks that can expand when you need them, then collapse to save space
- Storage cubes that double as coffee tables or extra seating for guests
You should also think about downsizing some of your larger furniture pieces. In their tips for maximizing smaller spaces, for example, House Beautiful recommends swapping out your long, rectangular dining room table for a smaller, circular. This helps conserve space and makes things casual and cozy when you have dinner guests.
However, this doesn’t mean you only need to buy small furniture. Many of your existing furniture pieces will probably work perfectly for your new space. In fact, some design experts suggest that large furniture can make a room look bigger. Still, it can’t hurt to choose some smaller pieces when possible to save space.
Another tip from House Beautiful? Mount your TV on the wall as opposed to taking up space with a bulky TV stand. This will help open up the room and give you more flexibility when it comes to arranging furniture.
4. Utilize the Best Layouts for Smaller Rooms
Once you have the right furniture, it’s all about how you arrange it.
In a bedroom, for example, Max Humphrey tells Architectural Digest that he suggests placing your bed in the middle of the main wall to leave some space for walkways.
“I actually prefer smaller bedrooms to larger ones,” Humphrey said. “They’re cozier and you don’t have to waste money furnishing a room with a seating area no one will ever use.”
For the living room, think about how best to maneuver the room.
“Think about traffic flow when you arrange furniture, but avoid placing all the pieces in one corner of the room,” Jeannie Matteucci writes for HGTV. “Also consider pulling your sofa away from the wall.”
5. Decorate for the Smaller Space
Think back to your college days and you’ll remember how different it was to decorate an apartment than it was a home. Space was at a premium, so you had to get creative with your decor.
Here are some tips for decorating a smaller space to help you get started:
- Use negative space. If every inch of your new space is decorated with a picture or trinket, it may be a little overwhelming. If you have too many favorites to choose from, consider displaying them on a rotating basis.
- Use light colors with bright accents. Light colors can help make a room appear larger, but don’t forget to add a touch of personality with bright pops of color.
- Use mirrors. Mirrors can also make a space appear larger than it actually is. Incorporate mirrors into your decor to really open up the room.
More Tips for Smaller Apartments
There are so many things you can do to make the most of a smaller space. For more tips on how to utilize and decorate a new apartment or cottage home after downsizing, download our free guide, 10 Tips for Decorating after Downsizing.