No Storage, No Problem: Workarounds for Renters for Every Room

updated May 4, 2019
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So, you just found that vintage apartment of your dreams: perfect millwork, cute tile, and a nifty fireplace. But the downside is that there’s no storage, just one tiny closet and nowhere to put all the stuff that you’re sure you’ll need. Don’t despair! Here are some renter-friendly solutions to work around that storage shortage.

In The Kitchen

If you don’t have much storage space, you can take some tips from Tamar’s tiny kitchen. Tamar hung a small shelf to serve as a window ledge where knives and canisters of utensils are kept close at hand. Obviously, some landlords may not allow you to add a shelf, but if you have a window in your kitchen, why not make the most of the ledge?

Also, for the items that have to remain visible, Tamar used boxes and baskets to keep everything looking tidy. It’s a wise move to use closed boxes on the highest shelves since those items probably don’t get a whole lot of use.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Use a wine crate on the counter to get a few extra inches of storage, double-decker style. (Or triple-decker, if you count the smart addition of a cup hook here.) For more suggestions on using wine crates in the kitchen, check out this post on the Kitchn.

In this camper, storage space is certainly at a premium but Meg made the most of it by using every nook and cranny. Cup hooks dangle from the shelf, a towel goes over a door, and herbs are hung from a shelf bracket to dry. Sometimes it just takes a creative eye to see the storage possibilities that are in plain sight. If you need some help, check out 7 Kitchen Storage Spots You May Be Missing and 10 Tips to Help You Get More Countertop Space in Your Small Kitchen.

In The Bedroom

Ashley’s Vintage Character (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Work around a shortage of space by using bookshelves as a headboard, as Ashley does. She can keep books and a clock close at hand, but the hidden shelves would work as a stellar place to keep items that you don’t use often (luggage or old documents, for instance).

We’re back to Meg’s caravan again because it’s just such a great example of what to do if you don’t have much storage space. Don’t be afraid to put a shelf all the way to the ceiling — short items can still fit on it. Don’t forget to use that space under the bed — baskets and bins will keep it from looking cluttered. And pretty items can be left on display — why worry about hiding them away?

Michael, Kerri & Nora’s Alternative Family Home in Brooklyn (Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

If you’re not a fan of open storage but you don’t have access to closet space, get a great screen and cordon off a corner of your room. The screen is much prettier than the mess that can lurk behind it, and it even gives you another surface from which you can hang clothes for the following day, as you can see here in Nora’s bedroom.

In The Living Room

Emily and Mark went vertical in their living room, making the most of a large wall by storing things up high. This vertical space holds art, shelving, and instruments. As a renter, if you aren’t allowed to hang heavy-duty stuff from the walls, their living room has another great storage idea that would work with stick-on hooks or clips: if you’re into music, keep CDs or records handy by using them as artwork.

Christina’s Unified Dynamic (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Christina lives in a studio so her living room is also her bedroom, but I think that her storage solution here is a smart one. In the absence of a closet, build a cute clothing rack like the one she has built out copper pipe. It balances out the étagère on the other side of the couch and it’s pretty enough to stay in plain sight.

This is an obvious solution in a bedroom, but I also like the idea that clothes don’t have to stay in the bedroom. If you have nice pieces, why not treat them like art and put them on display? You don’t want your dirty knickers hanging out in the open, but a nice spring dress or suit? Why banish it to the bedroom? Embrace whatever space you do have and go with your gut, not traditional norms.

It may seem like a given, but an easy way to make storage where there was none before is to select furniture pieces that have handy nooks, crannies, drawers, and ledges. In small spaces, light, airy furniture is often best, but if you know you need a place to stash your stuff look for something like this side table in Paula & Paul’s home, which is still visually light but offers a place for books.

Without Closets (Entryway, Cleaning, Linen, Etc.)

Katie’s Ideal Retreat (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Now, I know that this is in a kitchen, but Katie’s idea here would work in just about any context. In the absence of a closet to store cleaning supplies and shopping bags, Katie has just turned these everyday objects into art. Empty frames, hooks, and proper spacing elevate these mundane items.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

This chipper image from Better Homes and Gardens shows the power of the caddy. Corralling like items in small organizational bins means that they’re more portable and that they’re kept in a limited area so they can be tucked under sinks, atop shelves, or nestled into a corner. Even if they need to be in plain sight, materials still look neat and tidy when they’re placed into a portable bin.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Here’s a clever workaround for renters who lack an entryway closet and who love wooden crates. You could modify A Beautiful Mess‘ idea with any storage box that’s sturdy enough, if the rustic look isn’t your thing. Milk crates, wire crates, or modular plastic cubes would all offer the same customizable solution.