Book, music, and movie lovers would agree that one of the hardest things about living in a small space is the necessity of downsizing their beloved collections. Preliminary downsizing is easy: wean out the duplicates, outdated formats (VHS, anyone?), and titles you don’t like. But when you’ve trimmed down your books and still have ten boxes, or eliminated movies and still have two totes, where do you go from there? Do you part with treasured pieces of your personality, or do you cram it all into your tiny apartment, anyway? In my experience, it doesn’t have to be entirely one way or the other.
First, take a harder, more objective look at your collection beyond the no-brainer eliminations. Are you ever really going to read that copy of Anna Karenina or re-watch all ten seasons of Friends? Sentimental value is important, but so is space! On the other hand, there might be ways to keep your books and media without creating a cluttered or cramped feeling in your tiny living area. Here are some suggestions.
Streamline and Go Digital
Digital advancements are a great way to save space without sacrificing the media you love. If there are books you don’t mind not having a physical copy of, purchase a digital copy and start building an e-book library you can access on a reader, tablet, smartphone, or laptop. As you acquire more titles, eliminate your hardcopies, knowing you still have access to great books at your fingertips. I now have a combination of both digital and hard copy books, and make it a point to think carefully before buying new hard copies.
The same goes for CDs. They’re becoming rare in the age of iTunes and MP3 files, but you might have old ones you want to keep. Recycle the hard cases and file them in a 3-ring binder for an easy catalogue that will take up considerably less space. Another idea is to place them in paper sleeves and store alphabetically in a basket or file box.
If you have a large movie collection you can’t part with, consider either the binder/basket options, or digitize. Services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu allow you to stream or purchase digital copies of movies online, through a wi-fi device, or directly to your smart T.V.
Things you want to keep but don’t necessarily need to access regularly are perfect for storing in high places. Visualize shelves mounted close to the ceiling, essentially creating a border that doesn’t draw attention because it’s not at eye level. Of course, if there’s already plenty of décor on the walls, you might be risking a ‘heavy’ look, so decide which is the priority. An advantage of high shelves is you can either display items openly or conceal them in baskets.
Furniture with Built-In Shelving
Responding to the trend toward small-space living, furniture designers are increasingly creating multi-functional pieces. If you need new furniture, choose couches, chairs, and tables with built-in shelves to increase your media storage capacity without adding more bookshelves that compete for limited floor space.
Make it Art
Books and media are forms of intellectual art, so why not make them into visual art, as well? You can do this with strategic theme-focused or color-coordinated placement on grounded or floating shelves, interspersion with other décor, or with other creative ideas like these:
Turn large books into shelves by mounting them on brackets and decorating them with vases, pictures, or nicknacks.
Create a whimsical nightstand or coffee table by stacking sturdy books in a criss-cross fashion.
Slip books and media into unconventional places like kitchen shelves, rolling carts, window ledges, china cabinets, or under open stairwells.
Use Art to Conceal
If you have books or media you can’t make into art and would prefer to cover up, consider using a decorative screen partition, a mirrored cabinet, or even artistically strung drapes – the key is to make it look natural, not forced. Pieces of art featured prominently on bookshelves or even hung from them can create a new focal point that either detracts from or conceals unsightlier parts of your collection.
Camouflage with Light Colors
Sometimes there’s just no getting around the need to fit a lot into a tight space, so you’ll need to play a trick on the eyes. The more light colors you use in a tight space, the more open and aerated it will look. I borrowed this concept from interior decorating, but it applies to media, as well. The same quantity of books in a small area can look either crowded or neat depending on the color of the shelves, furniture, rugs, walls, and everything else around them.
Your compact or even minimalist lifestyle doesn’t have to require sacrificing all the books and media you love. Streamline, get artistic, and creatively conceal your collections in ways that meet your tiny living needs.