My first apartment was tiny, at only about 500 square feet and a total mess--I was 18 and everything in it was either a hand-me-down or a relic from my high school bedroom. Though my husband and I have upgraded a few times since then, we still live in a relatively small apartment. We don't really have the funds to make it everything we imagine it could be, but we have picked up some tips throughout the years that have helped us to make it a whole lot more liveable. Here are six things you can do right now to make your small space work better:

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1. Purge. The first thing you need to do in order to utilize your space efficiently is to simply get rid of stuff. The bottom line is if you want your home or office to be beautiful as well as functional, you can't have more stuff than you have space for. Inventory everything and only keep items that you use regularly or absolutely love. Donate, sell or throw out the rest.

2. Paint. We all know that black is slimming and white has a tendency to make you look heavier--and while it's not always great when it comes to your wardrobe, being familiar with the principle is essential when you live or work in a small space. Slap a coat of fresh white or pale colored paint onto any darkly hued walls and accessorize with bright/dark items for a pop of color.

3. Organize. Once your space is cleaned out and painted, you'll need to organize everything you have. Invest in some stylish bins and baskets and make sure that everything has a dedicated home of its own. For items that will not be in open areas, think outside the box. An over-the-door shoe organizer can be used for belts and scarves and inexpensive food storage containers can be used for toiletries.

4. Multi-use items. When buying any new items for your home or office, be on the lookout for pieces that can be used for multiple purposes, especially storage. Many living room ottomans double as storage, some high chairs convert to step stools, and of course a sofa bed can transform your living room into a guest room. Oh, and make sure never to buy kitchen gadgets that can only be used for one thing that you use only occasionally. Step away from the strawberry de-stemmer!

5. Mirrors. Please don't go installing a wall of mirrors in your bedroom--that's just weird. But you should utilize them in places like the living room, dining room and bathroom to help open up and elogate the space. Look for square and rectangular versions with clean lines and simple, classic frames.

6. Stop shopping. Lastly, once your place looks the way you want it to and is functioning well, stop looking for more stuff to fill it up. The idea here is to simplify in order to maximize, so bringing more stuff in--no matter how pretty it is--is likely to backfire. Try to only buy items when you're replacing something else.

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Topics: advice  decorating  design  first home  home office  house & home  new home  organizing