Optimizing Space in Small Apartments: From Marie Kondo to Real Life

Nicole Fishman Benoliel
Broker and Founder of Nestapple
Mother, wife and wannabe New Yorker

We’ve all seen the videos, watched her folding technique and fell in love with the idea to throw away anything that does not “spark joy”. Theoretically Marie Kondo’s advice makes sense: we should surround ourselves with items that we use and cause satisfaction. In real life things are less black and white!

I have lived in New York City for the past 7 years. I have co-habited with roommates, in a studio all by myself and currently in a two-bedroom apartment with my husband and 2yr old. So it is from experience and personal know-how that I have optimized my organizational skills and have arrived to a few good conclusions.

Closet space: when a new item comes in, an old one goes to goodwill.

Closet space
Fact: there is no such thing as enough storage. There will never be enough, you can never have too much and you will just have to live with that!

As a broker and founder of Nestapple I have heard brokers say “this apartment has enough closet space” or my favorite “There is plenty of closet space for the entire family” Lady, plenty is not enough. Having said that, living in the best city in the world does come with sacrifices and this is one of them.

I have made it a lifestyle rule to get rid of an item every time I buy a new one. This applies for kitchen utensils, shoes, baby clothes and everything in between.

This rule has served 2 purposes: maintain some sort of order and avoid a fire hazard but more importantly donate on a regular basis. There are so many charitable organizations, friends and family and overall opportunities to help others; buying something new because an excuse for me to give up something I no longer love but others will need and enjoy.

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Keep storage out of the floor and onto the walls

Fact: keeping things off the floor and onto the walls optimizes space and makes rooms look bigger.

When it comes to decorating, esthetics is not the only thing to consider when living in NYC. Since space is limited – and so expensive! that every inch counts.

A trick we have used in studios and smaller spaces is to create mirrored built-ins.

Using a mirror will always make a space look bigger: it will reflect light everywhere and create the illusion that the space continues beyond its limits. Built-ins are an ideal way to use wall space for extra storage.

Customized shelving might sound pricy but it can be an alternative in oddly shaped rooms and in older apartments. By customizing you can create doors, corner shelves and personalize each item to make it useful and proper fitting.

Baskets, boxes and more baskets

Baskets, boxes and more baskets
Fact: Marie Kondo is right about putting items in boxes keeps things organized.

When I moved-in with my now husband, I arrived with enough luggage and bags to fill up half a block. Looking back, I think he reconsidered our arrangement for a few minutes when looking at the amount of belongings I was bringing in.

When I moved in, he had one sweater per shelve and the kitchen had empty drawers. We are currently operating at a maximum capacity! I currently greet the cashiers at The Container Store and TJ Maxx by their first name.

When organizing a room, whether it is the kitchen, a closet or a baby room, I discovered keeping similar/relatable items together in small containers made things neater looking. For example: accumulating baby blankets is something most new parents are guilty of doing. My solution: see through, plastic boxes.

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I can fit a dozen into a box and being transparent I can easily pick one out without making a mess.

Fruit baskets and veggies baskets are easily attached in most walls. Using command hooks, to avoid drilling, was an easy answer to hang wire baskets that hold our weekly supply. It not only makes it functional but decorates the kitchen as well.

Small spaces are not synonymous of frugal living! Finding the right accessories and getting some inspiration online is all you need to keep your home organized and fabulous looking at the same time.