Monday, May 26, 2014

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Living Room

Living in Paris has its joys, but tiny, antiquated apartments are not one of them. At least not if you are a family of four! In this series, I'm sharing my tips on how to survive, room by room, if you live in a tiny apartment.

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Living Room

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Living Room

For a Parisian apartment, we actually have a pretty large living area. But that's because technically they consider it two rooms. When we signed the lease, we originally planned on somehow dividing the space so that part of it would be our bedroom and the rest would be the living area, giving the one bedroom to the kids. However, since I was only one month pregnant with Baby #2 at the time, we figured we had plenty of time to make the arrangements and decided to start out by making a play area for Leo and having the three of us share the bedroom.

Fast-forward a few months and we were way too used to all the (relative) open space to change it now! So we decided to put Stella in our bedroom (it's like a sleepover party but without the party and without the sleep!) and keep our living room as open as possible.

That meant we really had to get our act together in organizing the bedroom, but we still had to arrange the living room well since it contained the kids' play area, our dining table, and our couch + TV area. Here are my tips for organzing such an awkward space:

Minimize the decorations and furniture

We've tried to keep it as simple as possible so that we have extra space for the kids to play and for us to set up our drying rack for our laundry (first thing I'm doing when I move to the US is buying a dryer the size of my house!). In a tiny space, people tend to reduce the amount of furniture they have, out of necessity. But give them a few more inches and all of a sudden there's crap all over the place. When we moved to this palatial apartment (ha!) we kept the same amount of furniture and were thus able to enjoy the extra space.

Tiny Apartment Series: Minimize furniture in your living room

Tiny Apartment Series: Minimize furniture in your dining room

Use multi-function furniture

Our ottoman serves three purposes:
- Foot rest
- Storage for blankets and other linens
- Place for Leo to spill things so that Mommy can constantly wash the washable cover

Central organization unit

Ours is from Ikea (Expedit, but apparently they're discontinuing it and replacing it with Kallax) and it's been a lifesaver. We can hide unsightly stuff in the bins (though of course I have additional organizational units inside most of them!) and display the books on the open shelves. Here's everything we managed to cram into this 16-shelf unit:

- Medicine
- Paper goods: gift wrapping supplies, stationery, pens/pencils/scissors/tape, stamps, checkbooks, passports
- Electrical stuff: spare light bulbs, cables, cameras, chargers, international adapaters
- Files: one entire bin for my French administration paperwork!
- Toys: Leo and Stella's toys take up three bins
- Scarves and hats
- Spare baby stuff
- Spare linens, burp cloths, and bibs

It looks decent and you'd never guess that our entire household's affairs are organized in there. I can easily find what I need and the important stuff is out of reach of the kids.

Tiny Apartment Series: Utilize a central organization unit

Rotate toys

It requires monthly trips to my zombie infested basement (I have a whole chapter on that in my book, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer!) but it's totally worth it. Our generous friends and family give us more toys than we have room for and we don't want Leo to be spolied or overstimulated, so we keep just a small selection in his play area and store the rest in the basement (or "cave" as they so awesomely call it in French).

Tiny Apartment Series: Keep it clean!

And I'm vigilant about keeping the entire space clean. We're slowly teaching Leo to put his toys away but whatever he doesn't do, I put away each night. Any papers that come in the house (mail, 50 zillion photocopies of my visa paperwork) get treated right away so there's no clutter. It's admittedly hard to stay on top of everything but it would be worse if I had stuff all over the place.

So, sniff, this is the end of my series - there are no more rooms in my house! I'm organized because I have to be - our apartment is too small for us to stay sane any other way.

What are your tips, whether your house is big or small? How do you stay organized with the space you have?

Check out the rest of the series:
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Kitchen
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Bathroom
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Bedroom
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Closet
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Living Room

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Life's short. Laugh more. Buy my books at

Vicki Lesage, Author