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Here's What I Decided to Prioritize When I Started Living Small

Small living space? No problem!

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Photography: Shutterstock (main)

I moved to a cozy 32sqm unit in a low-rise building in Pasig City in January last year. Lockdown or no, I decided beforehand that I wanted a balance between practical items and comfort. Since the units in my building were cut vertically (I had a loft-type bedroom) instead of horizontally, space to move around was a priority and having too much stuff will just prove to be problematic in the long run.

With the pandemic, any thought about having guests was moot, so I decided to make sure that things were stashed neatly versus being out of sight. Since I’m living alone, I wanted to have everything within easy reach instead of making the place look snazzy. That can come later.

That said, here are a few things I learned living in my small space:

Living Room

I chose to keep and use my old sofa bed and use it as a couch for the living room and just ordered a cover for it online. Having a small space means maximizing pieces in the house and in the odd chance that someone really needed to spend the night, they have a comfy place to stretch and sleep. I also used a banig underneath the sofa bed to keep things cleaner and can be folded away when not in use.

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Dining/Kitchen

I have a very small kitchen. The counter is built into the sink and drying area, so a single induction cooker is all I have together with a drying rack. In this area, I opted to have a short open wire shelf to store my singular saucepot, and hang my one and only frying pan. Having less cookware means more space and it forces me to make meals in bulk and just put them in the freezer for reheating.

For the dining area, I opted for two basic Lifetime tables: one long and narrow, and one shorter but wider. The narrow one rests on the wall and is where I put my electric kettle, rice cooker, as well as the dish and mug cabinet. I have a microwave on top of the fridge for nuking and reheating food. I may not have access to a complete set of appliances nor do I have the luxury of indulging in something like an Instant Pot or an air fryer, but having fewer appliances allows me to get creative when preparing my own food and allows me to indulge in a guilty pleasure: YouTube kitchen hack videos where they try to use appliances outside of their actual purpose, like making instant noodles in the electric kettle for example! Underneath the table is a multiplug for the appliances, and a stack of airtight storage boxes that serve as my dry pantry. From instant noodles to rice and canned goods are all segregated and stacked in their individual boxes for easy identification and use.

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The wider table is a dining area that can also double as a working area for when my girlfriend visits and needs to use her laptop, or when I want to work in a different place myself. When not in use, it can fold away to be rested on the wall so I can have more space to walk around.

Bedroom

My sleeping area is spacious enough for two people, so I opted for a double-size mattress and used rubber puzzle mats underneath so it won’t move around so much. I also use collapsible canvas boxes with tops that can open to store my house clothes and they rest at the foot of the bed. Since I work from home, I’ve slowly emptied my closet and just use these canvas boxes for easy and quick access to a change of clothes while maximizing the floor space of the sleeping area. Again, I emphasize having all the things I need within easy reach over making the space look social media ready.

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The built-in closet with sliding doors—since it’s at the far wall and not so easily accessible because of the low loft ceiling—is used as a storage space for all my boxes and luggage.

Bathroom

For the bathroom, I placed hanging racks to maximize the space. Opting for hanging storage spaces allows me to have a larger walking area. My bath towel hangs from a rack on the wall for quick access and to help it dry as well. I also cut down on the items on the hanging rack and just prioritized the essentials.

Work Area

This is probably the one place in the unit that I didn’t want to compromise too much on. I use a large wood and metal table so I can move my keyboard and mouse around without fear of reaching the end of the surface nor bumping into anything. To save space and have the table as close to the wall as possible, I use a monitor mount that clamps securely on the table so that my displays are at eye level and it frees up a lot of tabletop real estate for a phone holder, USB multiport, and my work notebook. Everything is neat and organized in a way that it’s easy to reach for something when I need it.

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Like any new tenant in a space, I also dreamt of transforming my unit into something that urban and cool like in home improvement magazines. But as I started living in said space, I found out that while I still want those picture-perfect homes, my specific needs come first. Real talk: I had to compromise, and that’s okay. Having a small space is perfect for me because I have everything close by and clean-up is not an arduous chore. It forced me to be creative with the stuff I want to have. It also made me realize that I’m more practical than anything else, and value furniture or appliances that have more than one function over something that makes the space look a certain style.

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Have you recently spruced up your room or renovated your home? We'd definitely love to see the result! Send clear photos (with your full name, city address, and accompanying kuwento) to [email protected] with the subject "DIY Makeover" and we may just feature your DIY project!

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