When I first moved out of my parents' four bedroom home into my apartment (the first time I had ever lived alone on my own, which is another story for another post) I mistakenly thought keeping the smaller new digs would prove much easier.

Boy, was I wrong! I quickly learned that the opposite is true—without the extra space to dump shopping bags and packages until I was ready to put items away, my one bedroom abode quickly became cluttered. It's much easier for a smaller space to look messy because anything new you introduce to it can quickly throw everything off. 

The struggle is all too real for maintaining a clean home sometimes, especially when I view those picture perfect little apartments (including studios!) on social media where not even a single nicknack is out of place. However, within a few months of living in my place I'd gotten a routine down pat. 

Here are my top ten tips for keeping a smaller home clean and clutter free:

1. Put Things Back Where They Belong

A place for everything, and everything in its place is the old motto I now live by. Keeping things out of sight in their designated storage space goes a long way towards keeping a small home looking tidy.

This means as soon as I pull something out of storage to use — even if it’s a pair of scissors — I find I have to put it back promptly where it belongs. Leaving objects out on a table or countertop just contributes to clutter. There is a bonus to this as I get older: placing things back in the same storage area or drawer means I can find them easily!

I also had a bad habit of dropping my laundry basket full of clean clothes in the hallway or my bathroom floor instead of putting my garments away. It would sit there all week and constantly be in my way while I fished what to wear out of it. Today, I take a few minutes to hang up or place my clean clothes in drawers and then store my laundry basket.

The more often you can put away items when you’re not using or need them, the more uncluttered your pad is going to look.

2. Designate a Drop Area

Set aside a space — ideally in your entryway if you have one — to dump jackets, bags, mail, packages, grocery bags, and anything else you bring into your home on a regular basis. No, these items won’t magically vanish into thin air, but at least they won’t be taking up space in your living area or bedroom until you can put them away.

In fact, your entryway can be the catch-all area where you keep some of these items when not in use. Investing in wall hooks and a bench or shoe rack will ensure you hang up your bag, keys, and outerwear and tuck away shoes where they belong. They will look so much better there than parked on your couch or dining table.

3. Discard Junk Mail and Packaging Right Away

One of the first things I do when I come home from work every day is go through my mail. Any junk or anything I don’t want goes directly into a paper grocery bag set aside for the recycling dumpster. Anything important that I need to keep or look at later goes into a storage drawer. Catalogs I want to keep go into a small bin in my living room.

I also open up any packages as soon as I can and if I’m keeping the purchase, I immediately break down the box for recycling or discard any packaging material. It may make me sound a bit OCD but keeping floor space clear goes a long way in helping an apartment stay neat.

4. Make Vertical Storage Space Work for You

If you’re seeking additional storage space in a smaller home, look up — literally — for inspiration.

If you can take advantage of vertical space in your apartment, you can avoid using up more of your precious floor space. Something as basic as a corner or slim bookcase will give you an area to display plants and accessories and store reading material.

If your landlord or property management company allows it, consider installing floating shelves to store additional objects out of the way.

One of the first things I bought when I moved into my apartment was an over-the-toilet storage unit that occupies the unused wall space above the toilet to hold some of my beauty care products.

Even your fridge may have vertical space you can leverage by using magnetic shelves to store spices and kitchen utensils.

Take a look around your apartment to see if there’s room on the walls and other elevated areas for storage solutions.

5. Make Tidying Up a Regular Ritual

Instead of waiting until the weekend to tidy up your place, try to dedicate a few minutes each day to decluttering duty. When I get home from work every afternoon, the first thing I do after feeding my cat and cleaning her litter box is to spend at least 15 minutes putting away anything that’s left out, washing dirty dishes, throwing away used napkins and other trash, sweeping the floor, and placing stray dirty clothes in the hamper.

A little proactive effort goes a long way and will make you feel less stressed out about squeezing in a longer cleaning session over the weekend.

6. Seek Out Sneaky Storage Solutions

I’m always on the lookout online for clever storage solutions that can help me keep my smaller home organized.

I already mentioned the magnetic shelves I have on my fridge, but another cool item I love is my collapsible laundry basket. After I put my laundry away, the plastic basket collapses, and I can tuck it away out of sight in my closet or under my bed.

I also picked up a small kitchen counter shelf at HomeGoods and it is amazing how many spices, seasoning, and kitchen accessories I have organized on top and underneath it. I have similar shelves in the cabinets underneath my kitchen sink to store my cleaning products. And a two-tier plastic shelf under my bathroom sink to keep extra shampoo and hair coloring accessories.

And don’t forget furniture that can do double-duty as hidden storage areas, such as seating and ottomans that have storage spaces for blankets, remote controls, and items you want hidden.

7. Recycle, Sell, Donate, or Throw Away Unwanted Items

Chances are you have something taking up space that you just don’t use or have a need for anymore, whether it’s clothing, sporting equipment, books, CDs, or something else.

By eliminating unwanted items, you can free up more living and storage space. Take inventory of possessions you no longer want and determine if they can be donated, recycled, sold, or thrown away.

Even if you’re not going for a minimalist style, you’ll find it’s freeing to let go of material things that no longer serve you and you’ll gain more breathing room in your apartment.

8. Think Twice Before Buying Anything for Your Apartment

It’s a fact that in order to keep a small apartment looking nice, you can’t fill it with too much furniture or decorative accessories when you simply don’t have the space to accommodate them. So when you find yourself tempted to buy a piece of furniture or decor, just ask yourself if you realistically have a suitable space for the item where it will enhance the flow of your home, not obstruct it.

Remember that less is more when it comes to filling up a small apartment with furniture or decorative accessories.

9. Clean One Small Area at a Time

What if every part of your apartment looks messy and you don’t know where to begin? Just focus on one small section at a time. It doesn’t even have to be a whole room. You can start with clearing off and dusting your coffee or dining room table, or decluttering your kitchen counter. But just start somewhere.

The great thing about this technique is the satisfaction you’ll get from cleaning one area is usually great motivation to clean up another part of your home.

10. Focus on the Floor

If you want to keep your apartment as decluttered as possible at all times, clearing your floors should be your priority. The floor is usually the dumping ground for everything and anything, especially when you’re living in a confined space.

Shoes, clothing, shopping bags, pet toys, and other common items dumped on the floor will make a small home look messy immediately. Free up all those areas by putting away stray objects, and watch your apartment get spruced up in a hurry.

Your Small Apartment is Now Ready for YouTube…or Just Your Own Personal Enjoyment

When I practice these ten tips regularly, I just feel like I can fully relax and enjoy my small apartment more than if there’s clutter lying around.

Do you have any tips for keeping your small apartment clean and tidy? Share them in the comments!

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