By Claire Golden
If you live in downtown Portland, you probably know the struggle: Housing is so expensive around here that a lot of us are crammed into a tiny living space. Lots of college students live in a dorm room, which is not exactly known for its spaciousness. In my own case, my fiancé and I share one small attic room, with my office wedged into one corner. But I’m quite content in this space, because I have everything that I need. Here are my tips for making a small living space yours.
1. Decorate: The first thing I did in my “office” was decorate the walls. You can hang things up with tape or sticky wall hooks so as not to anger your landlord by putting holes in the walls. I’m not picky about what goes up on the wall. It doesn’t have to be an “art print” to go on my Wall of Art. Right now I have a picture of my chicken, my enamel pin collection on a pin banner, a pigeon ornament, an embroidered cat, a John Green quote poster, and the parking pass from the place where my fiancé proposed to me. These things have nothing in common with each other except that they all make me smile.
2. Double down on storage: Storage is key in a small space, and I take great delight in my miniature drawers from Target, which hold my school supplies, makeup, and knicknacks. I am also probably the target customer for IKEA’s Raskog cart, which is a three-shelved storage cart on wheels. I have two of them, one for yarn and one for stuffed alpacas, and they are a lifesaver when it comes to storage.
3. Try journaling for frustration: Journaling is a great way to create something beautiful on paper. You can go for a basic journal or go all out with art journaling — there’s lots of inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram. Journaling is also an excellent way to cope with frustration and process your emotions…and you can do so in a pretty way.
4. Go online: When get fed up with not having enough space to express myself, I turn to online platforms. Then, when I can’t control something in my physical space, I can make my online space a haven. My blog and Instagram are my creative outlets and ways to connect with people. I find happiness in curating them exactly the way I want.
5. Let go of the unimportant: Above all, the most important thing I’ve learned about living in a small space is not to hold onto things that don’t make me happy. There’s no reason to keep something you don’t want to keep (except, perhaps, those tax papers…) that will only clutter up your space. My favorite book on organizing is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, in which she advises only keeping things that “spark joy.” This is the rule that I live by when it comes to my living quarters. Because of this, everything that I have makes me happy when I look at it, and it’s enough to make a small living space feel exactly the right size.