7 Ways to Optimize Your Space


I f you live in a small apartment, optimizing the use of your vertical space can be your salvation. It’s surprising how much you can store utilizing floor to ceiling shelving. This solution can work well in almost any room: bathrooms (for toiletries), kitchens (for appliances and dishes), and living rooms (for books, CDs, and videos). If you install the shelves yourself, make sure you have a good drill, that the wall can handle the weight of the shelving, and that you measure very carefully so that the shelves have enough space between them to store the items you have in mind.


Rolling your clothes instead of folding them gives them a smaller footprint and makes it easier to see what you’ve got in your drawer or bin. I now store all my socks, underwear, T-shirts, and gym shorts in four Robusto 12″ x 15-3/4″ x 8-1/2″ plastic bins (available at the Container Store or online) under my bed. I’ve eliminated the need for a bulky dresser.


This is less about optimizing space and more about preserving your spine, hips, and hamstrings although a standing desk will eliminate the need for a chair and chairs do take up a ton of space. Humans were not made to sit for long periods of time. When we sit, we shorten (and tighten) our hip flexors and hamstrings, and compress our spines. This is bad! I’ve been using a standing desk for more than 10 years and it’s been a Godsend since I have two herniated discs, which previously had given me a lot of trouble. Now I’m fine. My set up involves placing two Like-it drawers (available from the Container Store or online) on top of my desk. I have my laptop sitting on top of a 12” inch high drawer (12.5” wide and 20” deep) and my mouse on an 8” high drawer, which I can position either to the left or right of my computer (it’s good to switch your mouse hand every so often). And because I have drawers on top of my desk I can store a ton of stuff in them that otherwise might have cluttered the surface of my desk.


Chairs take up a fair bit of space and tend not to be all that comfortable anyway. In my home, we sit on faux-leather storage benches, which we bought at ACE hardware. They have a cool retro look, sit two people, and hold a ton of stuff. They really come in handy if you’re short on closet space.


Unless you’re Hilary Clinton you don’t need to save every email you ever wrote. I have friends with more than 10,000 emails in their inboxes. How do they sleep at night? I never have more than about 25. I’ve set up folders and subfolders for all my important projects, whether business or personal. At present I have about 100 folders. As soon as I read and respond to an incoming message it goes right into a folder or I make a new one. It really doesn’t take all that much time to stay organized in this fashion and I never have to wade through thousands of emails to figure out what I still need to address.


When you mix items from different categories (e.g., tools with DVDs or toys with towels) in the same storage space, whether in a box, drawer, or closet, bad things typically happen. The more we mix up our stuff, the more we misplace and lose things, the more time we waste, and the more disorganized we become. Just the other day, I was helping my friend Joanna with decluttering her kitchen and lo and behold she found a slew of postage stamps buried in a drawer beneath batteries, old receipts, and a bunch of other odds and ends. “Sh*t,” she exclaimed. “I just ran out yesterday to buy stamps not realizing I had these all along.” Try to give items that fall in a particular category their own home. Doing so will establish an order that should give you more peace of mind. In addition, if you’re packing to move, try to maintain the doctrine of separation. It will be much faster and easier to accurately label your boxes and unpacking will be infinitely less complicated as a result.


If you wear glasses, you know how much better your vision is when they’re clean. Smudges, scratches, and dust can make your life miserable. But who likes to carry a lens cloth in their pocket? Nobody! So here’s a solution: a company called Reisenthel makes an inexpensive travel laundry bag, which comes in a small pouch with a clip. I simply removed the laundry bag, replaced it with a lens cloth, and clipped the pouch to my key ring. Now any time I need to clean my glasses I have my cloth at the ready.

I converted my junior-size workshop room into an exercise room with Tim's help. Thanks to his understanding of space relations and with his suggestions for a few adjustments, the wrestling mat I'd been keeping in my bedroom — a circumstance which made for some perplexed looks on the part of my houseguests and a few awkward clarifications from me — was accommodated into the room with just enough space to spare for my workstation. Smiles all around!
Lyana Fernandez