The housing market crash exposed our obsession with the McMansion: cavernous houses that suck up space and energy while guaranteeing that a family of four almost never has to interact. Since we've all had to check our wasteful spending at the door, small has become not only smart but also fashionable. Smaller spaces are more efficient and often much cheaper. Those living in San Francisco and New York have known this for years, but now the idea of tiny yet elegant living spaces is catching on around the world.

The key to living large in a small space is to choose your possessions wisely (something we should do anyway). When you're living in 250 square feet or less, not a single inch can be sacrificed to clutter or unused stuff. In fact, some tiny-home dwellers have a rule that every time a new item is comes into the house, one must be given away or sold. Here are some essential tips to warding off claustrophobia and creating an efficient living space.

leather corner sofa

Photo: Santiago Cornejo/Shutterstock

Head toward the light

If you're looking for new living quarters and are considering a small space, place "lots of natural light" high on the list of amenities. Abundant windows, light, high ceilings, and natural materials should follow close behind. Even if it's a tiny studio with ancient fixtures, these features bring an organic elegance that's easy to augment with minimal accessories. Lots of passive sunlight also means you won't have to rely on artificial light until after the sun sets, saving lots of money on your utility bills. If your current space offers limited windows, light, bright-colored treatments or simple folded paper shades can provide privacy without blocking light.

TV hanging on the wall

Photo: Mayer George/Shutterstock

Hang your hat (and your TV)

Lights, shelves, mirrors, televisions, clocks. Anything that can live (tastefully) on the wall instead of placed on the floor or a surface should be hung. This keeps precious space free for things that can't be hung while also doubling as decoration. Mirrors are especially important, as they can redirect light and give the illusion of more space.

furniture with no arms

Photo: Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock

Lose the arms

In a post about how to make small spaces more comfortable, designer Kenneth Brown suggests eliminating furniture with arms as a way to open up a tiny room. Armless pieces "allow the room to breathe without creating boundaries," Brown explains. The resulting effect is an ample amount of seating while maintaining an open, airy feeling. Keep this tidbit in mind when scouring the thrift stores and swap sites.

Photo: Johannes Kleske/Shutterstock

Double-duty furniture

"Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time. Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time. Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time. It's time we gave this some thought," said the wise Buckminster Fuller. Part of the exciting thing about the sharing economy is finding a way to reduce this idle time, and in many cases, profit by allowing others to access items when we don't need them. Couches that transform into beds, bookcases that act as room dividers, beds that morph into tables: All of these are perfect for living large in a small space.

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Beth Buczynski is a freelance writer from Colorado who likes coworking, swapping, and meeting new friends through Airbnb. She wrote this post for sharing site Yerdle.

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