Survival Tip #158: Get Stubborn/Find Room.
This summer, we finally caved and got a window air conditioner. After the third consecutive June night where temperatures in our apartment were just shy of 100 degrees, I decided I would have to swallow my pride and my desire to win in the no A/C competition I’ve waged against myself, and cool our apartment to a tolerable temperature. We didn’t go completely off the deep end. We didn’t buy two air conditioners. We didn’t keep the thing running constantly. We only cooled our apartment to 78 degrees or so on the hottest days. It still felt like summer in here, but we could breathe. And sleep. And boil water on the stove. For June through most of September, it was an absolute godsend to this family of four living in less than five-hundred square feet.
Now that fall is here, of course, the air conditioner poses a new problem. Last week, we had to find a place to store the behemoth for the cooler days ahead, and so we embarked on an evening game of tiny apartment Tetris. After the kids were asleep, James and I pulled everything out of our closet. We tried our hamper in the bathroom. (No good, can’t fit your feet in front of the toilet that way.) We tried rearranging our shoe storage to go tall instead of wide. (No good, it kept toppling.) We briefly considering parting with our last crate of books in this place. (No good, we’re not total philistines.) We ultimately decided to part ways with a full-size wooden ironing board and a set of bongos (don’t ask).
The air conditioner now lives in the bottom of my half of the closet. It’s covered in a blanket to keep it from getting too banged up and from looking too ugly. On top are two large totes—one where we store things like our baby carrier and extra canvas totes, and one where I store all things blog-related. We rehung our dustpan and brooms in different places that work better with the new configuration. Yes: The solution is ever so slightly wonky. No: It’s not a custom-built cabinet designed for the purpose of caching the A/C. But it sufficiently hides something ugly and allows our livable space to appear just at it did before.
The point is: Where there’s a will there’s a storage solution that doesn’t involve compromising your living space.
The first apartment that James and I rented together was huge by New York City standards—the bottom floor in a ramshackle Queen Anne in Wilmington, North Carolina. There was an entire that we called a closet and treated accordingly. It was filled with camping supplies and various Tupperware bins housing Lord knows what kind of field equipment James needed for his graduate work. There were bikes and surfboards and James’s ugly plastic hamper that he’d had since college. There were rolling suitcases and paint cans from past tenants. In other words, it was the kind of extra space where it was easy to stash things we mostly just didn’t want to see.
The next apartment we lived in was very dreamy and very much devoid of closet space. (There was one closet, about six inches deep and outfitted with hooks.) Before we moved in, I spent nights (plural) fretting about how we would fit everything we owned into the new smaller apartment, without the luxury of closet space, let alone an entire storage room.
What I learned then, and what was especially clear in the very very tiny apartment that we eventually lived in just prior to our current one, is that yes, a lot of living comfortably in a small space is making sure you genuinely need and use everything in your home. But more than that, it’s about tapping into some good old-fashioned stubbornness. It’s about looking at a pile of stuff you don’t want to look at and figuring out a way to make it disappear even if it takes three stabs at rearranging the one closet you’ve got before everything fits.
In that second apartment of ours, we ended up hanging sleeping bags from hooks in the closet (better for them, better for us). We unpacked crates and distributed their contents into drawers. We bought locks for bikes and locked them up outside. We left behind a wonky shelving unit and vowed never to buy a similarly ugly solution ourselves. In the matter of a few hours we figured out how to fit our old stuff into our new space, even without traditional storage areas. In this place, it’s a blanket-covered air conditioner in an already filled closet. The common denominator is prioritizing a certain standard of clutter-free living and finding solutions, even when there don’t appear to be any. Where there’s a will there’s a slightly wonky way.
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #157, RIGHT THIS WAY.