life in a tiny apartment.

January 16, 2013

Tip #47: Scrap the tutorial, trust yourself.

At this time of year, organizational tutorials, tips and the tricks, solutions, and repurposing DIYs reach fever pitch. Much of it is encouraging. Much of it misses the point, especially for people living in truly tiny spaces. 
At the risk of coming across as simply mean-spirited–and I do think the internet needs more positivity, not less of it–I must say that projects involving sawing through pvc piping to create a storage solution strike me as both terribly ugly and also unwise.

Forgive me my snobbery, but I think the best solution of all is mere acceptance. A six inch drawer in which you must stack all of your cooking utensils is tiny. No amount of drawer dividers will a) fit in it or b) change that fact. A six-inch drawer cannot fit three different sizes of whisks. It cannot contain 6 assorted wine stoppers along with your grandmother’s collection of olive wood spoons. If any of those items are necessary for your well-being, it’s time to simply forgo the ice cream scoop (though I’d be tempted to make a different choice). I’m not poo-pooing a good drawer divider and heavens knows that if I had the space, I’d be divvying it up with gusto. But I don’t have the space for single-layer spoons, and you might not either.

The number one January organization tip that I have is to ditch the readymade solutions and overlook the over-the-top DIYs and simply think about you and your space. It’s not that I don’t like a good tutorial–I’d be talking myself out of a job if I really jumped on that bandwagon–but I do think that you know what fits into your own tiny drawer better than any online tutorial does. More than that, if you can’t find a way to fit your spoons in your drawer without stacking them, it’s because you live in a tiny apartment, not because you’re not a organizational maven.

Who’s with me?


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  • Reply Annabel Vita January 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I'm with you for sure! We keep our mugs in a drawer because it's the only logical place. Visitors can never, ever find them though!

  • Reply rebecca January 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    well OBVIOUSLY i'm with you on this one, my friend. 🙂

    • Reply Erin January 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      should have called it, "ode to becca."

  • Reply Alix January 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Wow, those PVC pipe storage thingees are ghastly, and take up as much space as a bookshelf! I'd take a bookshelf any day.

    • Reply Erin January 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      eeps! i know it.

  • Reply Amanda January 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    All one can do is all one can do. Choose carefully.

    • Reply Erin January 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Precisely, friend.

  • Reply e. January 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    i'm with you. having just combined two households into one small space, i've learned that it if you don't have room for it, maybe you don't really need it. and if it doesn't look "pretty" the way it is organized, then i've tried to put more emphasis on the fact that at least it is organized. accepting the space we have, rather than fighting it, has helped us enjoy our small place.

    • Reply Erin January 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      yes. you said it exactly right: less fighting, more accepting. tiny apartments = metaphor for life!

  • Reply Gilly January 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Oh, my. Those PVC things are awful. WLooking at my 3 kitchen drawers, I agree that acceptance is the only course. I have just used creativity to come up with ways to use them to store the things that I feel I must have. And it is a lot more attractive.

  • Reply issy504 January 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Totally agree. For me, living in a small space is great because I want simplicity. Not to sound snobbish, but I'd rather spend that time lingering over coffee with a friend than worrying about the organizational scheme of my closet. All of these tips for what I "need" are anxiety-inducing and completely antithetical to my goal. Not that I haven't fallen victim to DIY projects like this. But in 2013, I'm so over it.

  • Reply Gregory Brown January 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for the link on the PVC storage! So many crafty clever ideas there. I'm going to lay so much storage pipe the "rec room" is going to look like a McDonald's Playland™.

  • Reply Alix January 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I couldn't agree more. We have 1 wooden spoon, 1 slotted spoon, 1 whisk, 1 ladle, and 1 spatula. What else could we need?

  • Reply Tidy-Up Gal January 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I'm with you, and I blog about organizing! I agree, organizing tips have to be practical and are so different for different spaces.

  • Reply Tidy-Up Gal January 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    In fact, you have inspired me to finish a post I started on this very topic.

  • Reply Lauren Ashley January 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Yep – agreed. I think all the diy's out there and the organizational fever pitch on the internets right now has mainly been good motivation for me to *think* about organizing my small space (namely getting rid of accumulated junk), rather than actually following a tutorial. Of course there's no one size fits all solution, you just gotta do what works in your specific space.

  • Reply janeray1940 January 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    With you all the way! I live in about 250 square feet as well and undertook a massive organizing project while off work during the last two weeks of 2012. The best solution of all, that I have found, is simply: LESS STUFF.

  • Reply Mel January 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Haha YES, all the way. I've been living in my reasonably sized apartment for about six months now and am only now getting to the bulk of the organization in my office. It really just takes time in a space to understand how best to utilize it.

  • Reply Simply Meema's Mountain January 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for the affirmation. This speaks to my ONE six inch drawer that must also fit all of my beloved necessities in my small cottage! You hit the nail on the head with this one, I Love it!

  • Reply Anonymous January 16, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I am with you. One has to be smart on what organizer is appropriate. Sometimes organizers make you keep more junk when instead you should be getting rid of the unnecessary. — MaryFe

  • Reply Karin - The F Girl January 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Haha. Wise words. Recently I have been weeding through all of our stuff.. and giving away lots of it. Why hold on to so many items that we hardly ever use? Now our kitchen and cabinets are a lot more empty, and somehow I suddenly use more of what I have. I love it. Feels like I cleansed inside my head at the same time. Love that!

    • Reply Erin January 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      i totally get that. outer calm, inner calm and all that jazz!

  • Reply Debs January 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I go by the old adage — if I haven't used it in 6 months, donate it! (of course my husband has other ideas but I just wait until he isn't looking…)

  • Reply Kelcey January 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Wise words indeed! I've been looking to get organized with the start of the new year (and this time it actually seems to be working!) but too many bad pintrest DIYs got me feeling really blue. Turns out, you just have to do what works for you!

  • Reply Julia January 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Fantastically put!

  • Reply sheepystitious January 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Very well done, Erin. It's amazing that "organizing" blogs very often feature semi-hoarders with too much stuff to begin with. If we all simplified down to the bare necessities, then the drawer dividers and PVC pipe organizers wouldn't even be necessary in the first place!

  • Reply vivian January 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Yes! And FlyLady would agree with you (, if you're curious). She likes to say, "You can't organize clutter." Too much stuff is too much stuff, and no amount of "organization" will make it better!

  • Reply Lisa-Marie January 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    We have a normal sized drawer, with a cutlery tray, and then space on two sides for utensils. knives goo along the narrow side, and utensils are piled top and tail, one on top of the other.I don't see how that isn't organised. It takes about 2 seconds to rummage through and find the right one.

    Life is too short for more organisation than that!

  • Reply Kristi January 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I love that the limitation set by the size of our apartment forces us not to build up clutter… while some might think I'm depriving my children by not buying the huge play kitchen and the like, the fact is that they will grow up to be very familiar with making toys out of cardboard boxes!

    I thought you might enjoy this article, which supports your cause, and the exhibit it references.

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