You’ve done it. You have decided to move into a senior apartment or into a retirement community. It is the sensible thing to do, but you find that learning how to live small is daunting. It was one thing to have a starter apartment when you were twenty because you knew it was temporary, but at 70 or 80 it is a little more unsettling. Studio or small apartment living is a real challenge and you have to be quite creative to make the most of your space.
When you are working with limited space you have to be pretty selective when it comes to deciding what you can bring with you. You are only going to be able to bring things that you really need, things that you love, and things that you actually use on a regular basis.
A studio apartment is basically one main room. You will have a small bathroom and perhaps a little alcove for cooking. Even if meal service is provided by the facility, you will probably want to have a small refrigerator and a microwave. Studio apartments are the most challenging because you don’t have room divisions. If each area has a purpose with established spots for storage it will be easier to keep each area tidy and separate. Label each space by what you are going to do in it (cooking, eating, sleeping, working or relaxing). You can use space dividers and folding screens to separate areas, but if the room isn’t all that large to start with, you will have to be careful to avoid a tight claustrophobic feel.
Create distinctive spaces in your living area by grouping furniture, rugs, wall decorations etc. to define the areas purpose. Look for furniture that has built in storage areas such as a bed with drawers or an ottoman that has a storage area under the cushion. Look for storage areas in unusual places and use every scrap of space available to you.
A small apartment may give you a few more rooms, but they will be small and not afford much more space than a studio. Look for smart ways to make rooms multifunctional while still keeping them streamlined and tidy. You will probably have to buy new furniture. Bulky bedroom sets, sofas and dining room tables from home are going to take up way too much room. Pieces that are too tall, wide or large will make small living areas feel cramped and cluttered.
I suppose that being tidy is the key. Keeping open areas clutter-free will create the illusion of roominess. Some people have a knack for keeping their living areas clutter-free and some do not. If you can maintain the self imposed space division that you have set up, and keep things organized (meaning returning items where they belong) you might be able to do this.
Emily Wilska in her book “Organizing Your Home,” gives great tips on planning your space and making use of multifunctional furniture. Pieces like trundle beds, futons, sleeper sofas and Murphy beds take up less space if your bedroom is in the living room. Expandable or wall mounted tables and built in storage spaces are great adjuncts. Keeping your little home clutte- free and functional is a big job so other than bringing favorite photos and your favorite chair you probably should consider starting over from scratch.