Last summer, I sold everything in my apartment and took to the road for three months. I had just finished college, and was working as a computer programmer remotely. For a time, the free-wheeling life of a transient minimalist really appealed to me. The experience was incredible, but once it came time to settle down, I didn't see any reason to start accumulating a massive amount of "stuff."
At the end of my journey, I moved into a 350-square-foot, one-room apartment in uptown Chicago. With a beautiful lake view, pristine hardwood floors, and very few items in my possession, the small space was more than accommodating. As I've started to slowly accumulate furniture, I've picked up many good ideas for keeping a small space beautiful and uncluttered. Here are my six decorating tips for minimalists in small spaces:
1. Organize and clean the hidden areas first. Just because the average visitor to your home doesn't see the inside of your closet doesn't mean it doesn't affect your minimalist space. In my small apartment, I have one closet, and without room for a dresser, I have to maximize its use. Ikea has some great closet organization systems that any minimalist will appreciate.
2. Utilize existing surfaces before buying new ones. Almost every apartment or home has some sort of built-in furniture or surface. Even if it's as simple as a window ledge, there's no reason to buy an end table when one is built into the wall already. My apartment's ledges are more than enough for setting a glass or a small plate, and having seating near a window allows for easy access when the weather is favorable.
3. Decorations can be functional. One of my hobbies is playing the guitar, but the instrument can be a bit space-consuming. I've cut my collection down to just one acoustic, and when used as a wall hanging, it makes a great bit of functional art. The same can be done with colorful coats, handbags, or tools. Your space should express who you are, so don't be afraid to let a little personality come out in functional decorations.
4. Plan your purchases. When you walk into a small, empty space, it's often difficult to know exactly how best to fill it. As you shop for furniture, make sure you measure dimensions carefully. Even large pieces of furniture can seem small in oversized furniture warehouses, and the last thing you want is to come home with an overpowering piece of disproportionately large seating. I taped together pieces of scrap notebook paper to serve as a footprint for all my furniture before purchasing anything.
5. Let there be life. Besides being a staunch minimalist, I am also a casual student in the tenants of feng shui. One of the important themes in that philosophy is the presence of life in your living space. My apartment doesn't allow pets, so I settled for an easy-to-care-for money tree. Make sure that you keep your plant alive though as dead creatures aren't good for anyone's psyche.
6. Incorporate decorative lighting. Many times, we take light for granted. Variable light sources allow you to set different moods depending on the occasion. I love natural light, so I removed all the window coverings from their frames and added candles to supplement the lack of sunlight after dark. While my apartment has built-in light fixtures, I find them to be a bit harsh for late nights when my body is preparing for sleep, so small candles are a perfect solution.
Minimalism isn't about depriving yourself of things you need. It's about freeing yourself from those that are unnecessary. Keeping your small space free from clutter may be difficult at first, but once you develop a habit of regularly removing what you don't use, it's a very liberating lifestyle.