Welcome to New York, the city of excess. We have extended buses that stretch along the avenues like wheezing accordions and 24 hour diners that have thirty page menus. We have bakeries that deliver warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies to your door at 3am and bars that offer fifty different types of beer-on-tap. New York is home to the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the largest toy store in the world. The city is begging and pleading, “Give me more! Give me endless options! Give me taller! Give me bigger!”
Bigger, that is, until it comes to apartments. Unless you’re one of the fortunate millionaires who can afford several thousand square feet of apartment space, you, like most New Yorkers, live in a tiny apartment that slightly resembles a shoebox. How on Earth is a person supposed to cram all of their belongings into such a small space without the apartment looking like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders?
I’ve been living in New York City for almost ten years and, in that time, I’ve lived in four different apartments and, because I occasionally slut around, I’ve visited countless others. I’ve seen quite a number of dazzling do’s and disastrous don’ts. Additionally, I take great pride in maintaining a clutter-free living space that my friends worship and envy.
Here’s the first tip to de-cluttering your apartment: If it’s not functional, hide it. Are you eating canned food every day? No? Then tuck that can opener in a kitchen cabinet to free up counter space. Do you really need to leave your deodorant out on the bathroom sink? Find a cabinet or drawer for items and get in the habit of placing them in their homes after each use.
Next, it’s time to get rid of junk. Look at every surface in your home. What is on every tabletop, countertop, night stand, coffee table, sofa, and chair? Remember, if it’s not functional, hide it, or, better yet, throw it out. Don’t be afraid to throw away things. Don’t save birthday cards and movie ticket stubs. You’ve just moved to the tough, gritty, graffiti-covered city that never sleeps! Now is not the time to be a sentimental slob. Are you saving piles of bank statements, credit card bills, and countless other supposedly important paper documents? It’s not 1987 anymore. Get with the environmentally sound program and go paperless!
This may be hard, but next, I want you to open your closet door and look at your clothes. If you haven’t worn it in six months, get rid of it. Donate it to a shelter. Homelessness is on the rise in New York and the shelters and clothing drives could definitely put your frocks to good use. And let’s face it: You will never fit into those skinny jeans that you’ve been hanging onto for three years. If you somehow manage to lose weight you’ll probably treat yourself to new clothes, anyway.
Also, your window sills are not shelves. You should be able to look out of a window without the obstruction of clutter and crap. Let the sun in! I once dated a guy who junked up his window sills with condoms, bleach wipes, cheap candles, and even a jar of Nutella. I felt like I was having sex in a bodega.
Even after you’ve decluttered your living space, there are additional options you can explore to optimize space. Consider investing in functional furniture that can double as storage. Perhaps an inexpensive ottoman that can double as storage unit for DVDs or books, or a flat bin on wheels that can easily slide underneath your bed.
The time honored trick of hanging mirrors can certainly deceive the eye into believing there is more space in a small room and strategic lighting can play a role in this as well. In lieu of super bright, fluorescent overhead lighting, opt for smaller lamps placed in corners. Not only will this cause the room to feel larger, it’s more flattering for selfies and hook-ups.
And one last tip: Keep your closet doors shut. Whether it’s your linen closet, clothing closet, or pantry, keeping the doors closed keeps the busy contents of those closets from distracting from the clean, peaceful symmetrical flow of the four walls in the room.