Let’s face it, accommodations in Japan are tiny, with the average floor space for an apartment in Tokyo being 65.9 sqm – and only 41 sqm of that is used as living space. How can tenants store all their belongings without the area looking cluttered?
If you live in a small apartment, or even in one of the tiny 9.8 sqm ones with space for only the bare necessities, you might wonder how to keep everything tidy. Here are some tried and tested ways to organize a tiny apartment and even make it look like a home with some room for plants and décor.
Declutter the entryway
The first space to organize is your genkan or entryway. There are some very cheap shoe racks that can hold all of your shoes. If your shoes fit on the rack, you can then use the provided shoe cabinet at the side as extra storage space. Next is the door, which can hold umbrellas, masks, keys, and other trinkets using magnetic hooks.
Organize the kitchen space
Most tiny apartments in Japan have kitchenettes with a small sink beside a one or two-burner stove. On top of that sink is a shelf or cabinet that is usually not enough for someone who cooks. Your best option is to maximize the area underneath the sink and stove using plastic shelving. You can also use any flat surface available as extra countertop space. For example, our washing machine was right beside the kitchenette, so I would close the lid and put a wooden chopping board on top whenever I made fresh lasagna or recipes with heavy preparation involved.
Toilet and bathroom space hacks
Living in a tiny apartment, the chances are you have walls near one another. We lived in a Leopalace studio before, and there was a single shelf on top of our toilet, which looked all right at first but became a mess once we bought our necessities.
What I did was purchased more detachable shelves and paired those with large plastic boxes to hold toilet paper, toiletries, laundry detergents, towels, and other belongings. These tension rods or adjustable shelves can go as wide as 120 cm and carry up to 15 kgs of weight, so you don’t have to worry about your stuff suddenly falling down. Meanwhile, the plastic containers (usually stackable, too) keep your items safe from dust while remaining accessible.
Keep the bedroom neat
If you have a bed frame with empty space underneath, this is your chance to maximize all that free space. You can buy flat plastic containers to keep your extra futons, blankets, bed sheets, clothes not in season, shoes, and more. Some of these storage boxes even have wheels for added convenience. If you prefer a less bulky option, vacuum bags are the way to go.
If you don’t have a bed frame but have the allowance in terms of height and the knack for some DIY, then a makeshift but fully functional bedframe is worth a shot. All you need are a couple of IKEA Billy bookcases (the height is up to you) and some wooden planks for the center. What you get is a classy bed frame with so much shelving space.
Don’t have the tools and know-how to make a bedframe? You can opt for a loft bed instead. These are about ¥20,000 and will transform your bedroom into a functional space, with your mattress on top and a home office space or living area underneath.
General organizing tips
You might have realized by now but when you have the available height, use it! Whether it’s a tall shelf or adding a tension rod to create more layers in tall shelf spaces. Imagine all the wasted opportunities to create more storage space in vertical areas. If you have the liberty to do so, you can install hooks for caps, accessories, pots and pans, hanging plant pots, and so on. The possibilities are endless!
Now, if you want to create a divider in a studio apartment between spaces, you can do so with a shelf. You can skip the backboard to get that see-through effect or cover the back and use that space for other furniture.
Another way to create separation is through curtains. This is also a great way to hide the clutter you cannot organize. For example, we placed thin curtains on our tall shelf, which had all sorts of things, from pantry items to personal belongings. Hiding the clutter made the room look more presentable.
Organizing definitely takes planning, and you need to keep your most-used items accessible, or else you’re prone to not putting them back. Lastly, the best way to reduce clutter is by having a place for everything and being committed enough to storing them properly after each use. This is the tried and tested method to keep your space neat and tidy permanently.
Where to buy organization materials
If you are trying to organize on a budget, Daiso or any ¥100 Yen store is your best friend. Here you can find containers, storage boxes, and vacuum bag organizers of all shapes and sizes.
You can also try Tokyo Sayonara Sale Facebook groups or Craigslist for bulkier items; otherwise, Nitori, IKEA, and other home shopping stores would have what you need. In need of inspiration? Pinterest is here to save you those brainstorming sessions.
Of course, your organizational approach is based on the duration of your stay in the apartment and the level of freedom you have to drill and hang stuff on the walls. If you plan on staying a few years, then turn the space into a home by adding more personal touches!