life in a tiny apartment.

April 18, 2019
organization | reading my tea leaves

Tip #184: Hammer a few nails.

I realize it’s not always possible. Wall construction and lease clauses and paint that can’t be matched can make hammering nails willy-nilly into your walls less appealing, or downright ill-advised. Still, I’ve been a renter my entire adult life and I’ve always hammered at least a handful of nails into the places I’ve lived. In nearly every case the result has been improved function and attending joy.

This time last year, we briefly moved out of our apartment so that it could be remediated for lead paint and entirely repainted. Needless to say, the move necessitated removing every bit of art and hardware and other genre of item we’d tacked into the walls over the previous four years. Before leaving the apartment, I dutifully patched nail holes so that when it was repainted a few weeks later, I knew we’d be starting with a clean slate (or, as clean as a 100-year-old rental apartment ever can be).

Since moving back in, I’ve been somewhat more hesitant to tap nails into the freshly painted walls. (They’re so smooth! So shiny!) But a few weeks ago we finally hung a lamp above our table. (See also.) And since then, I’ve been getting reacquainted with one of my number one organizing tips for a small apartment which is, hang it up. You don’t need anything special, just a hammer and some nails or a screw driver and some screws, and you’ll likely find yourself a solution to at least a handful of your peskiest storage conundrums.

Most recently, in our linen/everything else closet, I spent a little bit of time doing some reorganizing. I’ve spent the past few years cobbling together work spaces in coffee shops and shared offices out of the house and now that both kids are in school and out-of-the-house childcare, I spend the majority of my work day in my apartment. Having my supplies readily available—and safe from small hands when they do return home—has been a priority and a pleasure. And so, a closet reorganization project was in order.

organization | reading my tea leaves

I didn’t buy a thing for this project. A few nails and a few repurposed cardboard containers, plus a bit of strategic rejiggering, sorting, and clearing out, has left me with a whole shelf to devote to work supplies, and most importantly, easy access to them.

Inside the closet, I made use of wall space and lined an otherwise empty wall with my collection of scissors and clippers and other small tools that I use regularly. The result is all of the tools are at the ready whenever I need them, without needing to go into deeper storage. Also: it looks nice!

Like every other one in this series, this post isn’t about what you should do, but what you can do. Namely, make a tiny bit of difference in your everyday experience of your home by checking in to make sure it’s working for you. As I write in Simple Matters, I try make sure that every item in my home is doing good work. Joy and sparking it is important, no doubt, but in my estimation the most joy comes from an environment that’s functional first. And in my closet, and I’d guess probably yours, sometimes it’s as simple as hammering a few nails.

For the curious: 

+ My hammer*, a trusty friend to last a lifetime.

+ To patch small nail holes, I usually use this spackle,* or another I can find locally. For best results I use a small putty knife*, sand if need be, and paint over with a fresh swipe of paint to match the wall color. The whole process takes very little time and the end result is a wall that doesn’t look like it’s been through a battle.

+ Our entire apartment is painted in Benjamin Moore Simply White, including this closet (there’s a semi-gloss finish on the woodwork and an eggshell finish on the walls).

+ My very favorite kind of small nails for hanging lightweight items are steel tacks*. They’re simple and small and they feel more intentional and decorative than a regular nail, without being showy. A note: they work best if nailed into wood, but if the item you’re hoping to hang is very lightweight (a dried flower, an unframed print or poster, a tiny pouch…) they can work in drywall, too.

+ Similar to ours, metal baskets* for storage.

What about you guys? Team hammer away, or leave well enough alone?

* Denotes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply Katie April 18, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    While we own our own home, the old plaster walls can get holes quickly. So I opt for command strip products. They have some awesome variety and no holes!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 19, 2019 at 10:57 am

      Plaster is definitely tricky! I wish those guys made teensy tiny hooks. No dice so far!

  • Reply Katie April 18, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    I loved this post! …And also have a question – how did you know you needed to have your apartment remediated for lead paint?? I also in a very old NYC apartment, and though it has been repainted over the years, there is some peeling and chipping paint/wall around our windows and radiators. We have a two year old and it makes me very anxious!! Thank you!

  • Reply Mary April 18, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    The links in this article don’t appear to be working!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 18, 2019 at 9:12 pm

      thanks so much, mary! not sure what happened there, but it should be all fixed now!

      • Reply Erica April 18, 2019 at 11:37 pm

        Also, I think the two photos are identical?? Maybe there was meant to be one showing a metal basket?

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 19, 2019 at 6:10 am

          Ha! They’re both of the same view with a different focus, just for fun! Forgot I opted to focus on the basket in a different post and didn’t remove that link.

  • Reply Katarina - April 18, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    Really enjoyed reading to this blog post, just as all your other posts. I’m all about sustainable living as well and I also like to go minimalistic. So, I usually hang unusual pieces of art or Sukhi rugs on my walls because they look great that way too. I love your style and the rustic vibe in your tiny apartment which is why I love finding out all the ins and outs of how you’re styling it. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Reply Izzy April 19, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Loved this post and your constant reworking of your space as your needs see fit. We also live in a small apartment in brooklyn and one of the major downsides for me is not having a true creative space for leaving projects messy and as “works in progress.” I would love to be able to have my own art studio or office IN my home so that after the kids go to bed I can easily transition to my personal projects. It’s only getting harder as my two kids get bigger and the space grows smaller. This has led me to seriously contemplate leaving nyc for greener pastures and a larger space where life doesn’t seem seem so restricted. I know you have talked about eventually moving when you need to, but I’m curious if you ever consider leaving the city all together and if so, where would you go? After being in NYC for so long, I am at a loss as to where to go next!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 19, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      Aw, I know it! The creative space can be tricky and sometimes I definitely tire of the tidying! Honest to goodness no idea what the future holds! One day at a time is very much our motto around here!

  • Reply Mims April 19, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    I’m team hammer away! and it is causing me stress now we are moving and renting out our home. We have SO many holes from hanging things and the no saved paint to paint over patches…and every room a different color! Wishing I was team BM Simply white…..

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