The exterior of a Wheelhaus Wedge cabin in the woods at night.
Tiny Homes

How to Live in a Small Space: 8 Essential Tips & Tricks from Cabinet Owners

How to Live in a Small Space: 8 Essential Tips & Tricks from Cabinet Owners Expand options

Few human dwellings have endured as well or as long as the cabin. Log cabins appeared in Europe over 5,000 years ago, and besides indoor plumbing, not much has changed in them since. They’re practical, economical structures that have used limited space wisely for thousands of years, which makes them wonderful models for modern tiny-apartment dwellers like you.

Whether you’re still acclimating to a small apartment or not, there’s no denying that all of us could use a little extra breathing room. Here are eight smart decorating, storage, and small-space living tips from cabin owners that you can easily apply in your own home.

1. Simplify your possessions.

A woman is reading at a table in a minimally decorated cabin with a wood burner stove.
Lawrence Modern

The first homesteaders on the frontier only owned the provisions they carried in wagons from the east. They filled their newly-built cabins with these possessions, and until the mail order catalogue appeared, not much more.

Simplifying to the bare essentials became a tradition of cabin living, and it might be the best lesson for you to learn before moving, selling, donating, or storing everything that you don’t absolutely need. That means you, juicer we only used for one week.

2. Make your apartment work overtime.

A clean and organized tiny apartment has storage shelves and cabinets and is decorated in mostly white.
Cloud Pen Studio

A lot of migrants to big cities grew up with many single-purpose rooms. We had rooms for eating, cooking, sleeping, watching TV, doing laundry, storing holiday decorations, and even taking off our shoes. A lot of cabin owners did too, but they acclimated to their condensed space by forgetting the rooms they only used 10 minutes a day (or a month).

Cabins, like small apartments, still have all the necessary makings of a home. The layout and square footage may be smaller than what you’re used to, but there’s nothing wrong with having your kitchen, living area, and bed all within the same four walls like these spacious micro-apartments. That’s how it’s been for most of human history.

3. Think “cozy,” not “cramped.”

The cozy interior of a log cabin is dimly lit and minimally decorated.
Sortra Decor

Did that room feel bigger before you moved your bed into it? Yeah, that happens, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Cabins remain popular not for vast floor plans but for their small charm.

Having your table next to your bed, and only a step away from your refrigerator, doesn’t have to be claustrophobic. Think of your small space as cozy, good for nestling — like a cabin. Of course, a little feng shui doesn’t hurt either.

4. Go outside whenever you can.

The exterior of a Northern Woods lynx cabin in the woods during the day.
Northern Outdoors

Let’s not forget why most cabin owners became cabin owners: the great outdoors. Cabins allowed families and woodsmen easy access to open land and idyllic settings. As cozy as they made their homes, cabin fever loomed if people didn’t go outside whenever they could.

It can be a threat for tiny-apartment dwellers too, so like Grayson Altenberg, try to limit the amount of time you spend indoors. Especially during REDRUM winter.

5. Don’t underestimate a natural grain.

The white interior of a clean, organized, and minimally decorated small apartment that has storage shelves, a loft, and wooden furniture.

We love IKEA too, but if you can’t have the wooden walls of a cabin, furnish your apartment with at least a few pieces that have natural grains. Like houseplants, wood accents make living spaces more pleasant and warm.

Wooden furniture only adds to that cozy charm your small apartment needs. But don’t take our word for it, take a look at the wooden Bike Shelf that doubles as art.

6. Install storage solutions everywhere.

A man is walking down the Mieke Meijer Objet Eleve, a suspended staircase with storage, a desk, and a side table.
Mieke Meijer

Storage is a major feature of just about every cabin you’ll come across because it’s essential to living happily in a small space. Cabin owners have perfected the use of every nook to store quilts, food, and firewood. You should too.

Buy shelves if your apartment lacks built-ins. And think outside the box to create extra storage spaces like how Dutch design studio Mieke Meijer did with the above staircase.

7. Get creative with how you store your clothes.

A portable DIY closet made of pipes, a storage crate, a shelf, and a vintage trunk.

There weren’t closets in early cabins, and that coffin with a door beside your bed may not feel like one either. Cabin owners and tiny-apartment dwellers alike lack space for many clothes, so divide your wardrobe by seasons.

Sending winter coats in the summer and tank tops in the winter to storage might be the best hack, but also consider the cabin method: buying an antique trunk. You can use it as a coffee table, or a platform for shoes. When the weather changes, open it up and swap out your clothes.

8. Enjoy the independence.

A woman is sitting at a wooden table and drinking coffee on the porch of a treehouse in a rainforest during the day.
Crowd Social

You may not have braved the Oregon Trail to reach your apartment, but you can still take pride in your independence like the old log cabin settlers. Living in a small space is a small price to pay for autonomy, and there’s a deep pleasure in that.

Enjoy your apartment for the independence it allows. If you still find yourself wanting a little extra room, let us help. We’re called MakeSpace for a reason.

This article was written by David Michael McFarlane, a writer from Texas and Oregon who lives in New York and loves smart design and organization.

Clutter is more than just storage.

To find out how you can declutter your life, talk to one of our space experts. We’ll get you started with the right storage plan for you.

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