Staying Organized in Small Spaces - Tiny House Blog

Staying Organized in Small Spaces

Guest Post by Martha Keagan

Many will agree that disorganization is a pet peeve; for some, a cluttered space means a cluttered brain. Disorganization can be overwhelming, chaotic, unattractive and highly distracting, but unfortunately this feeling is common, especially for those living in a small spaces or tiny apartments. Oftentimes, people feel compelled to hold onto certain things without even having the space, meaning the “stuff” ends up in heaps and disorganization becomes the theme. Of course the opposite is true for minimalists who enjoy living in limited living space specifically because it keeps hoarding under control. An organized home seems lighter and fresh. There are several easy tips you can utilize for organizing your apartment, office or any other small space—even your car! Then, once the disorganized becomes organized, the hard part is keeping it that way.

Learning to Let Go

The first step to organizing a small space is simply letting go. You may have some hoarding tendencies that you’ve allowed to become a bad habit, but for some people, hoarding is a chronic and disabling disorder that may require the assistance of a trained professional. No matter what your circumstance, the first step to organizing is separating “need” from “do not need.” The task of letting go may feel easier with friends or family to help, as identifying which items are needs and which are not is more effective when you have no emotional attachment to the items.

Assign Storage Areas in Every Room

Once you have freed your space from the stuff you do not need, the next step is to assign storage areas in each room. Instead of throwing things “wherever,” there should be a specific places for items like mail, shoes, coats, books and toiletries. Inspired by the demand for clutter free, manufacturers have all types of furniture and storage units for different rooms in the house, many specifically for organizing small spaces. Purchasing coffee tables with inner storage, decorative baskets and stylish wall shelving are all easy ways to store your items in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion.

House Goods in a Garage Storage Unit

Some people may have garage storage units either attached or detached from their living space. These units are typically available for an additional fee and are helpful for those who have items not needed on an everyday basis, but still necessary to keep. Objects like bikes, out of season clothing and large furniture can fit in the garage storage area and free up space inside the home.

Clear Storage Options

Clutter busters that include clear plastic bins, vacuumed storage bags, vinyl shoe racks and glass wide mouth bottles (perfect for items like crafts, food, bedding, toiletries, jewelry, etc.) are perfect for all kinds of items and might even add a bit of décor to the space. Typically, these options fit compactly under kitchen cabinets, beds or on the top of certain furniture. You may want to store and label items for quick and chaos free locating.??

Big Storage Spaces in Tiny Living Areas

Many small studios and apartments for rent are equipped with large storage areas, like walk-in closets, large kitchen cabinets and extra bathroom space. Using these key storage areas wisely will help you maintain organization. With deep cabinets, the trick is to store the items you use less in the back while keeping the everyday items in the front and in the case of a walk-in closet: plastic storage bins can help keep your stuff off the floor.??

Go Digital

Technology has made it possible for us to read books and magazines without needing a bookshelf, not to mention daily calendars, to do lists, and appointments. Going digital is a great way to keep organized, because doing so can cut down on paper waste drastically and uphold a clean and tidy home.

Clean and Re-organize Often

It is so easy to fall back into the un-pleasantries of disorganized living, especially when the living space is on the small side. Re-evaluating accumulated stuff and getting rid of the items that you do not use or need is highly recommended for keeping tiny areas constantly clutter free.

Just because you live in a small apartment doesn’t mean you should force yourself to live uncomfortably; there are plenty of options out there for organizing, all you have to do is find the right one to fit your apartment, your budget and your stuff.

This guest post was written and provided by Martha Keagan who is a full time mother, freelance writer and part time real estate and local apartments broker.

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Sally - September 30, 2011 Reply

Great tips. I make a point of trying to get rid of stuff every week. I always find that I can get rid of at least a shopping-bag’s worth of things I need to store if I really think about it.

Texana - September 30, 2011 Reply

Great ideas and tips. I love looking at these tiny homes. Some clever decorating ideas. I’d love to have one someday.

alice - September 30, 2011 Reply

It can help to keep an inventory list of items and locations, especially if you live out of town and forgetting something important could cause problems. My large tool chest has an Excel file of what item is where, and a printed copy sits inside. It also helps when putting things back after a project. You can keep a list of canned and preserved food and their expiry dates to make sure you’re using the oldest first without having to dig deep into odd locations to check every time. I also have a list with me at all times of various things I’m on the lookout for and their exact measurements (also basic home measurements like doorways, shelves, etc) so that if you’re looking for something to fit a specific space or purpose you can easily pick it up spontaneously on sale, at the thrift shop or off the sidewalk and know it will fit. I also keep a tiny tape measure on hand. There have been many occasions where something looked perfect but was just too big and I saved the trouble of dragging it home by having the list. Not everybody is into minimalism but that doesn’t mean your life has to be a chaotic mess. If you have a lot of tools and supplies to pack into a small space some of it is bound to be tucked away and forgotten without a list. No sense buying double if you already have a set of hinges or whatever that would work and not much fun knowing you have it but not being able to find it.

Mike Glodo - September 30, 2011 Reply

Another alternative is to be clever about “stuff”. I don’t need, say, a reciprocating saw except for when I need a reciprocating saw. Likewise, I get a tractor with a chain for fallen trees in exchange for regular fresh baking delivered to my better-capitalized neighbor.

“Save money and resources by sharing stuff with your friends”

Disclosure – this is an acquaintance’s startup.

Michael in SoCal - September 30, 2011 Reply

My only complaint here is the culturized motto of ‘Go Digital’. Part of the reason for living in a Tiny House is to mitigate our effects on the planet by living in a smaller space, using less energy, and buying fewer things. Of all the things one can buy, electronic gadgets have the most profound effects on the natural environment. I say this is a ‘culturized’ motto because it’s always the answer provided by the corporate-bought leaders around us. Buy More! Consume More! You’re life will be better! We’ll figure out this climate change thing with MORE TECHNOLOGY!

There is nothing wrong with having some gadgets that help simplify your life. Just remember that every purchase you make has an effect on the natural world. Think twice about buying that Nook. You could just go take actual books out of the library and then return them when you’re done.

I think the article is filled with great ideas, I just want to open the discussion on digital gadgets up a bit more.


    Rebecca - October 1, 2011 Reply

    And yet… I took 14 books with me on a recent trip,, all on my iPad. It was awesome. They all came from the library too.

      cj - October 10, 2011 Reply

      Not to mention the energy/oil needed to transport the books to the libraries initially and then the consumption of same for you to go back and forth to the library; coupled with the trees, dioxin produced, emissions, etc. to produce the books.

      Bought the very first Kindle and never looked back.

    Charlotte - November 7, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for this comment…I’ve been poking around on this blog and noticed a lot of tech use. You’re absolutely right that this is something of an unquestioned philosophy: technology is an unalloyed good. I also dislike the “buy stuff to put your stuff in” approach…while I understand that there are devices that can help with organization, I appreciate approaches that use containers/tools one already has.

      alice - November 7, 2011 Reply

      Some of my favourite storage containers are the square white plastic buckets our local bakery occasionally has for free. They stack well, clean easily, look fairly decent, don’t hold so much stuff that it weighs too much and they’re food safe so good for just about anything. I get a lot of slightly larger than 5 gallon pails with lids from a wine making neighbour too, those are great for everything from container gardening to tool storage to outdoor seating. Also perfect for sawdust toilets since the Luggable Loo lids fit on them and they’re a bit taller than the average bucket which is great for bad knees. The thrift shop is a great source of containers too, everything from interesting tins to vintage canister sets to totes with (or without)lids. Old restaurant steam table pans are good too.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - October 1, 2011 Reply

I live by the philosophy of if it’s not in active use, then I don’t own it.

Ted Manner - September 26, 2012 Reply

Last year I lived in the tiniest room I’ve ever lived in. Plastic bins are great advice. I didn’t have room for a dresser to keep my clothing. So I put them underneath my bed in plastic bins. Worked out great.

Susy Atterson - October 3, 2012 Reply

Shoe racks that are made from hardened steel are great and i always use them on my home. They really last longer compared to wooden shoe racks. ;::.,

Have a great day!

Celia Pettinella - November 21, 2012 Reply

Shoe racks that are made from brushed aluminum are really the best. they last very long. `

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