Making the most of a small living space

Young professionals who move to the big city are often appalled by how little space they can rent with the money they have available. After having grown up on a farm or in a big rural house in which they could disappear for days on end, the shock of moving into an apartment barely big enough to fit their bags in can be terrifying. Many genuinely don’t know how to cope. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and those who can stick it out find a way to stay happy and get by quite normally in their snug apartments.

If there’s any nation which we can learn from when it comes to living in tight spaces, it’s the Japanese. Or more specifically, Tokyoites. Tokyo is the most populous city in the world, with more people than the whole of Canada struggling to find space for themselves. The metropolis itself has swallowed up all of its satellite cities into glorified suburbs and occupies the whole of the Kanto plain. It is border by mountain ranges to the north and west, and the ocean to the south and east. There is nowhere for it to continue growing. Even 20% of Tokyo Bay has been reclaimed and built on.

Architects have built upwards, just as in other crowded cities such as Manhattan, only Tokyo happens to be built on two major faults and experiences 400% more seismic activity than cities such as Los Angeles, also built on major faults. And yet, they have built the world’s second tallest structure there. Not only that, but they have built downwards, too. The world’s most extensive transportation system features stations which run into shopping malls, which run into hotels, which run into more shopping malls. It is a city where you have to look in six directions to find where you want to go: left, right, in front, behind, up and down.

With all of this development, it becomes less surprising to see people crammed into the tiniest of living spaces. And yet there is no serious comparison drawn between Tokyo and other cities where people live on top of one another such as Rio and Dhaka. It’s comfortable cramped.

Small Manhattan apartments look spacious when compared to Tokyo small. By taking a few tips from the Japanese, it’s easy to begin to feel that way, too. Your bed, for example, in the big city, should not be a permanent fixture. You need to get a bed that you can fold or roll away when you’re not using it. See if it’s viable to put in a second level which will effectively double the space you already have. Even if you have to duck to get up to the second level, you can use it as a sleeping and storage space.

Only have things that you need. Work clothes, leisure clothes, hygiene, medication plus your laptop and smartphone. That should be it. Any books you want to read should be downloaded, the same with movies, games and so on. That’s why choosing the right laptop and smartphone and keeping them well maintained is essential.

If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony area, this is where you can alternately air your clothes, futon etc. and entertain your friends. Buy a portable barbecue, a small table and two chairs. You can get a Bluetooth speaker like these at SpeakerDigital to pick up and play tunes from your phone or laptop.

In Tokyo, many ‘apartments’ are more similar to coffins in size. You don’t have enough room to stand up or turn around in them. You need to kneel to get around. It means that if you want to get some exercise, you have to do it in public, or at best at a private gym. So, if you have enough room to spread your arms and turn around 360 degrees, consider yourself lucky – you can exercise in the privacy of your own home. And you should do so. You’re not going to be able to do any running, of course, but you can do your push ups, pull ups, sit ups etc. and then go to the park for your run.