New York is not designed for short people

I’ve spent more time on step stools and ladders during one year in New York City than in my entire life up to this point.

See, this is a crowded city, and its space is geographically limited, bounded by water on each side. The only direction in which it is not physically enclosed is skyward. Naturally, as the population grows, the ingenious people of New York City begin building up.

Now, I’m all for high ceilings. When you’re paying out the #@%$ for a room the size of a closet, those extra feet above your head really do help reduce the claustrophobic feeling. But, since you’re still in a room the size of a closet, you have to store a #$@!load of stuff somehow. This is when things get tricky.

There are several options. Unfortunately, none of them are very good unless you’re an NBA player, in which case just get a penthouse already.

  1. The lofted bed. -Pros: Divides the room nicely between workspace/living space and sleep space. Cleverly hacks your tiny bedroom into…well, two tiny bedrooms. -Cons: Brings back the claustrophobic feeling you thought you’d eliminated with those high ceilings. Requires spending a lot of time on ladders while at your most sleepy and clumsy. If you’re already in a fourth floor walk-up, that extra set of steps feels like a cruel joke.
  2. The shelving units. -Pros: Storage! Neatly divided, carefully arranged storage. -Cons: Ugly. Puts all your junk on display (Hello, Pokémon cards I found in a cereal box a year ago. Why are you still here?). Also, your room is now actually a closet.
  3. The cabinets. -Pros: Don’t put all your junk on display. Organized (maybe). -Cons: Bumped elbows. What is living space?
  4. The minimalist. Get yourself a bare twin mattress. Put it on the floor. Place your four outfits and two pairs of shoes on a rack. Get a spare bulb and a copy of The Joy of Less to complete the look. Borrow everything else you’ll inevitably need. -Pros: Instagram-friendly. You can convince everyone that you’ve ascended to a higher spiritual plane. -Cons: You also have to convince yourself.
  5. The commoner. Keep your random junk in the living room / common area. Keep it tucked away in containers and suitcases, as some of my former roommates have done, or just literally throw it in piles around the living room, like others. Bonus points for leaving it there after you’ve moved out and new people are subletting the place. -Pros: An un-cluttered bedroom! -Cons: All roommates and houseguests get a front-row seat to the debris of your life. Hope there’s nothing embarrassing in there.
  6. The stack. Just stack it. All of it. One thing on top of another on top of another. -Pros: It now fits. -Cons: Hope you never have to get something from the middle of the pile.

So there you have it. Unless you’re willing to give up your things, your elbow room, or your privacy, the options all require being tall enough to reach the stuff you so cleverly tucked away. For those of us who aren’t, we get stools and step ladders. Many New York apartment developers went ahead and made the decision for us by creating impossibly high cabinets and shelves. How thoughtful.

I just purchased a ladder for the first time in my life. Send help.

A professional lifelong learner.

A professional lifelong learner.