THE BLOG
06/19/2012 02:52 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Small Space Ideas: How I Cope With Living In 200 Square Feet

When I first decided to move to Manhattan I had high hopes. In all honesty, I sort of pictured myself being the next Carrie Bradshaw. Little did I know, that Sex And The City didn't exactly depict a realistic living situation...especially for a writer. So I was a little surprised to find that (what I thought was a) massive student loan allocation would't land me a chic apartment like Carrie's, but instead a studio in the East Village (which I admit is conveniently located near my master's program) fit for a Smurf. As in: It left me feeling blue.

At first I was overwhelmed. I moved from a spacious (and cheap) apartment in Connecticut, where the cows roam free and the horses have bigger stables than most homes in New York, to what I've become comfortable calling my "hamster cage." So, the first month was tough. Okay, that's an understatement...horrible. I had so many things and no idea where to put them. Staying organized seemed like an impossible task. I considered myself doomed to a nervous breakdown or a messy apartment with things thrown about. But, knowing that I didn't have much choice in the matter--the lease had already been signed-- I decided I had better come up with some ways to make it work.

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These are the little tricks that have helped maintain my sanity while living, sleeping and cooking in the same 168 square foot box. First off, after freaking out about having no cabinet space for my pots and pans, I had an epiphany. They now reside in my oven and microwave when not being used. As for my other dishes, whatever doesn't fit in the cupboards stays put in the dishwasher, my makeshift space saver.

Now, for the more serious problem: Clothes. While my closet isn't as small as it could be, it's definitely not something you'd see on an episode of MTV's "Cribs." So, to sustain my slight clothing addiction, I installed six wall shelves that hold decorative baskets containing a majority of my wardrobe along with bath towels. They match my decor and look pretty in the space, but they are really my storage heroes in disguise.

Underneath my bed, which I put on 7 inch risers, I have a handful of storage bins holding...you guessed it, more clothes, plus my linens and a large tool box. And the cubby under my teeny desk has become a safe haven for my regular shoe choices when they're not being worn.

As far as dining is concerned, I have become okay with eating most of my meals...on my lap. That is, using the trusty-old computer lap desk I purchased on impulse years ago (hence the flower power designs.) It's not glamorous, but it is saves me from having to set the table...which I don't have!

My roommate doesn't seem to mind my lack of a dining space. That's probably because she is my dog, Layla, and gets along fine eating from a bowl on the floor. As a way of keeping her things in order, I bought a little end table with high legs that fits conveniently over my trash can. This little area, which I call my dog station, holds Layla's jacket, leash, harness and other must-haves. It also hides the garbage can, which can't be put anywhere but in plain view, and offers a convenient spot for her things.

Lastly, and possibly the sorest subject, is the bathroom. Now, I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single inch of my medicine cabinet is jammed-packed with necessities. So much so, that I went out and bought another one for the only free wall in the space. This allows me to organize my things in a way without chaos breaking loose and items toppling out of the cabinets every time I go for a Q-tip.

And for me, it works. Though these solutions may not seem monumental, they saved me from a mini-breakdown that would have likely resulted in the throwing out of half my belongings in frustration, or bailing on New York all together.

It's really been a learning experience. Not a painless one, but I've come to realize a few important things. Like maybe I don't need that shirt in FIVE colors. And two types of back-up shampoo are enough to have on hand. If I can't fit furniture in my apartment, I should shy away from my (now less frequent) Ikea trips. It saves me the heartbreak of walking out empty-handed.

It's not always easy. Sometimes I still wish I could have transported my spacious former rental to the city, but I can work with what I've got. And, not to toot my own horn, but I think my place might be just as stylish as Carrie's apartment was anyhow. So there.

To see pictures of my humble (and I mean that) abode, just click through the slideshow below!

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