A common question that I get asked is how to organize a small space. And this is something that I’ve been perfecting in my home for years! I get it. I live in New York City. Our apartment, while on the larger side by city standards, is way too small for our family. But we’ve been making it work.
So to help you figure out how to maximize the amount of space you have to work with, I’m going to go through some of the different things I’ve done with our home.
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Only Having What You Need
While this may seem like an obvious solution to a small storage problem, you would be surprised by how many people hire organizers to help them solve this problem. Sometimes it’s tough to decide what you should keep and what you shouldn’t.
I’ve already covered the topic of decluttering extensively, so I’ll just touch on the basics. (You can check out my article on Decluttering Your Home as well as My Spring Cleaning Guide for more tips!)
The first thing you want to do is to make a log of everything you have. I have an amazing worksheet to help you out with that, which you can grab here!
Get a FREE copy of my Home Storage Log worksheet!
Use this worksheet to take stock of everything you are currently storing and decide what you're going to keep! Decluttering is the first step to an organized home!
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to keep, you need to make sure that everything has a home. In other words, everything that you have in your home should have a place to be put away. If something doesn’t have a home, or you can’t find room for a home, you need to question whether you should keep the item or not.
Trying to make this work is a true lesson in minimalism. The less room you have, the less stuff you can keep. Don’t try to keep more stuff than what will fit. Excessive clutter leads to anxiety, whether you realize it or not. It also leads to disorganization as it’s more difficult to maintain.
And if you have more stuff than you can fit into your home, and you just can’t split with it all, you will need to consider getting off-site storage. Just make sure that if you decide to do this, you revisit everything in your storage from time to time and reevaluate your need to keep it all.
Multiple Function Furniture
Another obvious solution to small spaces is to have multi-functional furniture.
And yes, while I would suggest a pullout couch, to fully maximize your space, you need to get a lot more creative than that.
For example, in our apartment, we have a tall shelf that sits between the kitchen and my office area. A third of the shelves are pantry space, a third office equipment (the shredder, printer, and paper), and a third has a couple of baskets of toys.
The point, though, is not to overwhelm the shelf, but make it work for what you need. We don’t need all of those shelves for food. Nor do we need them all for additional office space. I looked at the shelf like a game of Tetris and chose what to put there in relation to the space around it.
Another example I have is in our son’s bedroom. He’s still in diapers, so we still have a changing table. This particular table has two shelves under it. Now I obviously can’t store things like diaper cream and baby powder under there anymore, or it would be all over the room. So I have since made one of the shelves for stuffed animals and the other for his toys like the singing dinosaur and his piano. Now, these toys all have a place to be put away, and I’m making use of that space.
Multiple Function Areas
Now to go back to that multiple function shelf I was talking about, I want to talk a little more about our multiple function areas.
Our kitchen, dining room and living room are all pretty open to each other. The dining room is also the largest of the three areas, and we’ve made the most use out of that room. About half the room is taken up by the table. We also have a cabinet with our cleaning supplies sitting inconspicuously in the corner. And the on the other side of the room we have my office and a play area for our son.
So the shelf that I was talking about is right in the middle of all of this, so it makes complete sense for it to be multi-functional.
Additionally, I’ve found that it is better to incorporate smaller play areas in a couple of different areas of our home because it makes better use of the space. To cram all of his stuff into his tiny room just isn’t feasible. Especially since we all usually hang out in the other rooms. So I have a small play area for him next to my desk and another small play area for him in the living room. There are certain toys that are put away in each of these places as well (in addition to the toys that get put away in his room). Now, all of his toys have a specific spot to go, and no one is overwhelmed by there being too many toys in one place.
Making Use of Vertical Space
Another necessity to make a small space work is to utilize all the vertical space you can. We do this with our different shelves and cabinets. I also have an area in the master bedroom that I have made into an additional closet with a tension rod and a curtain.
So when you are looking around your small space, make sure you are looking up as well. Do you have a corner that you could use for storage and hide behind a curtain? Do you have a big wall where you could add an extra shelf? Or maybe a wardrobe that could be multi-functional?
My best suggestion when it comes to using your vertical space is to make a trip to the Container Store or Ikea. Once you have some areas mapped out where you can build up, these places have some great options for easy to assemble solutions to add to these spaces.
I also love over the door racks and command hooks!
Making Use of all Closet and Cabinet Space
Once you have added the additional shelving or cabinets to make use of the vertical space, you also need to make sure that you are using all of the space inside of them, too.
One of my favorite items to use in closets are the hanging shelves. Make sure that you get one that is sturdy, or everything will fall out easily, and it becomes a total hassle to maintain. I get mine from Ikea, and I have one in three of our four closets.
So, for example, we only have one actual closet for our living room, dining room, and bathroom—and it’s so tiny! But I have maximized every single inch of that closet. I have made room to store our coats, winter boots, a step ladder, bathroom towels, linens, cleaning towels, winter scarves, hats, and gloves, exercise equipment (hand weights, medicine ball, etc.), an air mattress, and a tent. And I am not exaggerating at all. It’s just a matter of every single one of these things having a specific place to go. It’s not difficult to get any of these things out, either. I don’t have them all stacked in front of each other or on top of each other. They are simply put away strategically.
I then take this same strategy and apply it to all of our closets and cabinets. You can read more here on some of the tools I use to organize the kitchen cabinets.
But just take some time to look at your space. Look up the walls and inside of everything, and make a note of any wasted space. Then get creative and think of different ways you could make something fit into those spaces.
Tension rods are great for hanging bottles.
Small shoe boxes are great for utilizing drawer space.
Corner shelves are relatively easy to put up and add functionality to otherwise overlooked space.
Living in a small space isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but with a little creativity, making it an organized and functional space is absolutely possible!
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