BY MARILYN WILSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN October 12, 2016Most condos are small spaces. While homeowners can store things in basements, extra closets, spare rooms and backyard storage sheds, condo dwellers likely don’t have that luxury. Most condos have a couple closets — with varying degrees of storage space — one or two bedrooms, a bathroom or two and a general living area typically open to the kitchen. This spatial restriction means people with a lot of things may want to declutter, give away and toss before moving into their condo or that they’ll have to get creative with storage ideas.
Organizing a small kitchen
The trick to keeping your small condo feeling spacious and clean is to keep surfaces as free as possible. In a kitchen, try to store appliances while not in use. Freeing up counter space gives the appearance of having more space. This can be a difficult feat with a small kitchen with limited cupboards, so I’ve compiled three space saving suggestions for your condo kitchen:
- If you are purchasing appliances during or before move in, opt for mini appliances, like a mini food processor, which takes up roughly half the space of a full-sized one.
- Avoid gadgets, as much as possible. How often do you use that spaghetti maker your uncle gave you for your wedding? If it’s still in the box six years later, consider giving it away or selling it online. If you can’t part with it, or are convinced you’re nearly on your way to becoming the next Mario Batali, move it to your storage locker where you can retrieve it when you’re ready. A great way to determine what’s useful is to make a list of items you use regularly. Create ‘often,’ ‘sometimes,’ ‘rarely’ and ‘never’ columns and delete from your cupboards accordingly.
- Consolidate. Do you really need a food processor and a blender? Perhaps one will suffice. Are you only making toast once in a blue moon? Perhaps a toaster isn’t absolutely necessary then. Do you mostly grab a Starbucks on the way to work instead of brewing a cup of coffee at home? Maybe that Keurig is just taking up space and Starbucks Via Instant Italian Roast coffee packs (my personal favourite) or some other brand of instant coffee, will work just as well for your needs.
This applies to other spaces and categories beyond your kitchen. For example, if you only use a screwdriver occasionally, why not buy one with changeable heads instead of investing in a whole toolbox that has to be stored and collects dust?
Keep your storage needs in mind when shopping for condo furnishings. A bare bones acrylic console table may be exactly the look you want for your foyer, but what will you put on it? Don’t just buy — plan. Try to go through your day-to-day routine and imagine what items would best cater to your lifestyle needs. If you have friends visiting often and don’t have a second bedroom, maybe that wider couch is a better idea. A pull out couch might work even better.
Because there are few storage spots in most condos, don’t forget to plan to bring in furniture that can contribute to your storage needs.
When shopping in stores, know that you’re probably going to be tempted to buy larger pieces than you actually have room for. Look for tiny wisps of furniture pieces, keeping in mind the smaller scale of your condo. It can be hard to maintain a sense of perspective when shopping, as stores have so much more square footage (and higher ceilings) than you average condo, making furniture seem smaller.
As with consolidating appliances, you might want to look for pieces with multiple functions, like a table with a top that lifts to reveal more storage space, or a console table that is low enough to work as a desk on work-from-home days.
A great utility cart can be a stylish addition to any condo. They can be cheap, blend into other furnishings and be used to store bottles (water, wine, liquor), glasses and even books or candles – if not a mix of all four. Bringing your wine glasses out into the open in this way looks deliberately stylish and frees up an entire shelf.
Accessorizing: plant and lighting talk
Get creative with lighting solutions. Don’t just think in terms of traditional lamps and floor lamps which take up ample table and floor space. Those are great, but you might mix in unique lighting ideas like placing a spotlight on a window sill or in a corner where it will take up minimal space and throw light in a unique way, enhancing your sense of space.
Naturally, installing hanging fixtures can also free up space, but this can be a more costly option, especially if you are renting or plan to move in for only a short time. Consider lanterns that hang from the ceiling or a string of lights.
For those who want low maintenance plants, consider terrariums or buy flowers weekly to display in a vase. Terrariums can also be hung from the ceiling so they don’t take up table space and look amazingly artistic.
The best way to optimize a small space is to keep it as organized as humanly possible. Here are three things to consider.
- Consider using hanging jewelry organizers with clear pockets as life organizers. Use these to store things like phone chargers, USB sticks, loose change, travel packets of Kleenex, packets of gum and other items that you can never really find when you need them. This is an organized way to reinvent the contents of your junk drawer. Because they’re not being thrown into a drawer, they’ll be easier to find quickly and will remain in their own pouches, keeping your drawers clutter free.
- Consider purchasing hanging organizers like shoe organizers or hooks that fit onto the backs of closet doors. Your things will be organized, contained, and put away keeping your condo neat. Bed, Bath & Beyond and HomeSense are great stores to pick these things up.
- If you have racks at the top of your closet, consider storage boxes in fun prints or colours to help organize items. That way, you can store sweaters in one bin and hats and gloves in another. While keeping all the boxes one colour might look nice, it might be more practical to use different colours or patterns that are in the same colour family. That way you can find the bin you’re looking for quickly. If racks and high cupboards are a thing in your condo, don’t forget to invest in a stable and handy stool for easy access to these nooks and crannies.
Organizing your condo is similar to organizing a home; however, it is important to remember that a condo has less storage space than the average home. Use your condo sense when organizing and furnishing your condo to make the most of your smaller space.
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