Regardless of a home's size, being organized is an important part of creating a healthy and productive environment, and this rings especially true for spatially challenged abodes. While being organized in a small home might feel futile, establishing a few practices and techniques can help keep belongings in order. Small spaces can lead to a lot of questions: How am I going to fit all my stuff and avoid clutter? How do I make sure that I have enough space to eat, work, and relax?
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For advice on exactly what it takes to have a more organized small space, we reached out to interior designers, professional organizers, and industry experts. With their tips and tricks, you'll see that staying organized while working with limited space isn't as hard as it seems — in fact, it can actually be a fun challenge!
1. Purge. And then purge some more.
The first stop on the road to an organized and tidy home is to take stock of what you own and then eliminate what you no longer need or use. While decluttering can be an emotional experience for some, remember the goal is to create space in your home, which will lead to a clearer head and heart. Ask yourself when the last time you used the item was or why you want to hold on to it. You may need to repeat this process a few times until you're left with exactly what you want to be surrounded by.
2. Think outside the closet.
Design and lifestyle expert Bobby Berk explains that you shouldn't feel confined to your closet when it comes to storage solutions for your clothes. "Add a freestanding wardrobe rack to an empty corner to double your hanging space or slim storage containers under your bed for organization that's (literally) out of sight," he tells Hunker. "You can even attach hooks to the front of the closet door for even more hanging space."
3. Add wall hooks and peg rails.
Confined rooms call for a little creativity when it comes to organization ideas. If your usual storage go-tos are full, make use of empty walls by adding hooks and peg rails. Take the opportunity to showcase your colorful scarf or wide brim hat collection. Or, they can even be used to display decor such as bunches of dried florals.
4. Invest in quality storage.
Alessandra Wood, Modsy's VP of Style, emphasizes the importance of shopping for the right items. "Invest in quality storage pieces if you plan to be a small space dweller for a long time and then layer in [items] like baskets, cute boxes, and shelves," she tells Hunker. "Small spaces are usually tight on built-in storage, so be sure to make the most of all your furniture pieces, incorporating storage wherever possible." This includes under the bed or above a tall cabinet.
5. Go vertical.
Whitney Leigh Morris of Tiny Canal Cottage and author of Small Space Style tells Hunker, "Pocket organizers, book hangers, wall systems (custom, DIY, or store-bought), and floating shelves outfitted with baskets are a great way to utilize vertical space while providing organizational solutions to your small home or apartment." In other words, look up!
When discussing the use of vertical space, Bobby Berk adds, "Line a wall with pegboard in the kitchen to hang everyday utensils and tools for easy access. Or cover a wall in cork tiles to pin up any paperwork, kids' artwork, or other ephemera that would otherwise clutter a drawer."
6. Double up on furniture functionality.
When discussing the importance of storage, Living Spaces's interior designer Emilie Baltorinic advises that you double up on furniture that has multiple purposes. Using a dresser as an example, she tells Hunker, "If you don't have enough space in the bedroom, or live in a studio apartment, you can double up your dresser as a TV console (editor's note: or a computer monitor, like in this photo) or utilize vertical space by choosing a chest instead."
7. Create zones.
Berk says you shouldn't see a single room as one type of space. "Have one room serve multiple functions by creating organized zones," he says. "A living room can do triple duty as a lounge area, work space, and bar by separating items into areas. Add a wall-mounted desk that closes up to stash all your office needs and a small side table with storage to hold all your barware and glasses."
8. Install bookshelves above the doorway.
Melissa Keyser, a professional organizer in Portland, Maine, says that the space above your doorway can be a goldmine. "In small spaces, it can be a total game-changer, particularly for storing 'backstock' of commonly used items — like toilet paper, extra toothpaste, and soap in the bathroom or cleaning products in the laundry room," she tells Hunker.
9. Get creative with organizers.
Morris says, "One of my favorite ways to tackle organization is by using vintage, handmade, or hand-me-down items in unexpected ways … You don't need a custom-crafted or store-bought drawer organizer. Just look around your space and consider what you already have available to you." This is a great way to save money and reduce waste.
10. Creatively integrate a home office into your space.
Certified professional organizer Darla DeMorrow, owner of HeartWork Organizing, recommends integrating your office into your space (and making it mobile). "Turn a deep kitchen cabinet into file storage just by adding a file frame," she tells Hunker. "Add a slim console desk instead of a larger model. Purchase a file tote for a mobile office that you can move from bedroom to living room."
11. Utilize your fridge.
Turns out that your fridge can be a total space-saver. "In the kitchen, utilize that empty fridge wall," Keyser advises. "Use a magnetic knife bar and stick it on the side of the fridge. While you're there, use magnetic spice jars, too. Use magnetic or sticky hooks to hang towels or hot pads."
12. Store and rotate your decor.
If you're the type of person who loves picking out new decor, you can still make that work in a small space. Wood says, "Think about having a box where you can store these pieces and keep them rotating in and out of your space. When you start to feel like your home needs a refresh, pull from that box to mix things up a bit." Just make sure you don't go overboard on the holiday decor!
13. Ditch the file box.
"It helps to stay organized and curb your daily paper clutter by regularly using a mini scanner and organizing your files digitally," says Morris. "However, what should you do with the paper files you cannot scan and have to keep in your small home or apartment? The solution is simple — repurposed picnic baskets." Morris recommends these because they are usually large enough to store A4 paper and US-size folders.
14. Embrace auto-delivery.
DeMorrow suggests auto-delivery so that you're not storing items you don't currently need. "Put essentials like shampoo and kitty litter on auto-delivery so they arrive just in time, eliminating storage needs," DeMorrow says. Rather than buying in bulk and having extra boxes lying around, subscribe and save options can be a great (and affordable) solution.
15. Purchase tiered furniture.
Double down on storage space and surface area for displaying pretties with multi-level furniture, such as the tiered glass coffee table Marie Flanagan used in this sophisticated living room. Trays and covered boxes are a stylish solution and lend order to disparate objects while the brass legs are an elegant touch that adds lightness to the surrounding upholstered furniture.
16. Create designated "drop zones."
Create designated spots or "drop zones" within a home that act as a catch-all for everyday items so they don't get strewn about. Despite its confined size, this entryway by Murphy Deesign provides a stylish station for depositing keys and mail as you walk through the door.
17. Maximize closet space.
Anyone with children knows what a challenge it is to contain all of their stuff. That's where closet organization comes in handy. Trick out closets with wall hooks, extra rods, drawers, and shelves for storing everything from art supplies to toys to books to clothes, of course.
18. Keep the floor clear.
When space is at a premium, it can be tempting to use the floor as a temporary resting spot for various items from a stack of books to a row of shoes, but a clutter-free floor is the foundation for a tidy and functional space. Take notes from this calming small bedroom by Amber Interiors. Complete the orderly look by keeping your bed made, too — it will motivate you to keep the rest of your surfaces organized.
19. Use the back of your doors.
When you don't have room to spare, even the back of a door can become an opportunity for storage and organization. Hanging caddies are available in a range of styles and materials including cloth, metal, and plastic, and they are wondrous for stowing everything from pantry essentials to wrapping paper.
20. Make the most of the space under your bed.
Under-the-bed storage is so popular that many bed frames come with storage drawers already built-in. But even if you don't have one of these hard-working pieces of furniture, you can utilize the overlooked space below your bed by employing slim boxes or baskets. Just keep in mind that dust tends to accumulate here, so covered storage or closed bins are a good idea.
21. Keep storage containers aptly sized.
Resist the urge to get one large bin or basket and toss any and all loose items into it. Instead, turn to appropriately sized (and labeled) containers that will not only look good, but also enable you to find what you're looking for quickly. Stock cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms with low profile baskets, non-skid lazy Susans, and shallow drawer dividers.
22. Compromise on gadgets.
Small spaces necessitate being selective about what you bring into your home — including gadgets and small appliances. Select multitasking options, such as a multi-pot or high-powered blender, in lieu of single-use items (say a waffle iron or fondue pot) and keep the countertops clean and clutter-free.
23. Invest in built-in furniture.
Maximize precious square footage with space-saving built-in furniture that can make the most of awkward nooks and corners. With careful planning, even a petite space can include almost all amenities — a desk, comfy sofa, and storage — like this gorgeous loft by Jessica Helgerson.
24. Integrate storage.
If you're embarking on a remodel and can play an active role in your home's organization plan, be sure to capitalize on oft-overlooked storage opportunities by incorporating plenty of hidden options into the walls and furniture. This cheery bathroom by Raili CA Design is void of clutter despite the absence of typical beneath-the-sink storage, thanks to the seamless integration of wall cabinets.