People often think a large home is easier to keep up. After all, there’s plenty of room to store all your stuff, and you don’t need to know how to organize a small space.
But over the last few years, many people realize the importance of the tiny home movement. Returning to the simplicity of living in a small space means fewer possessions, less stress, less financial strain, and fewer obligations. You’re no longer a slave to the upkeep of a big home you can’t afford.
As my husband and I discovered last summer when we lived in a tiny house, the simplicity is lovely! However, some challenges come along with the tiny life (or life in any small space).
One of the best ways to thrive in a tiny home is to keep it organized. Here’s how to organize a small space, whether it’s your tiny house, apartment, or a modest-sized home.
10 Tips to Organize a Small Space
1. Create a Home for Every Item
Clutter is stressful. When items start to pile up around your house, it’s typically a sign you haven’t designated a home for your possessions.
Piles of clothes, toys, makeup, books, craft items, and kitchen tools stack up. Suddenly your space feels overwhelming, cluttered, and stressful.
Each item in your home should have a place. If you want to organize a small space, set a strict policy to return everything to its “home” after use.
I like to use a basket to carry items. When I’ve finished a project or activity, I carry the tools and supplies back to their home and put them away. When I do laundry, I fold it and put it away right away. I wash and dry dishes after eating, putting them back in the cupboard.
2. Pare Down to Essentials
If your small space feels stressful (or you can’t find a home for everything), it’s a sign you need to pare down to the essentials.
When I started to simplify and adopt a minimalist mindset, I cleaned out and pared down my possessions. Decluttering was hard at first, but it got easier as I got going.
- I moved toward a capsule wardrobe (get my free capsule wardrobe guide here), which simplified my closet.
- I started cooking simple, healthy meals and cleaned out my pantry and cupboards.
- I went paperless and decluttered my office.
- I donated any items I was no longer using.
I realized how freeing it was only to own the essential items I needed. My house was uncluttered, simple, organized, and much less stressful.
3. Look for Pieces to Do Double Duty
When you organize a small space, look for pieces that do double duty. This mentality goes for any item you bring into your home. Your kitchen appliances, your clothing, and your furniture should also function in multiple ways.
How many of us own a waffle iron, an ice cream maker, a food processor, and a panini press? Appliances like these clutter up your cupboard. They’re “one-trick ponies” only suitable for a single task.
Instead, a quality knife set, a good skillet, and a few compact kitchen tools are all you need to create delicious, simple meals.
In your closet may hang jackets, sweatshirts, jumpers, and dresses that only fit with one outfit or look. Instead, a capsule wardrobe is made up of pieces that all fit together. Everything matches and the pieces are interchangeable for many different looks.
Look for furniture with storage compartments and convertible options; for example, a table that doubles as a desk, a bench with built-in storage, or a sofa that folds out into a guest bed. When you live in a small space, convertible “double duty” pieces help you maximize your limited square footage.
4. Spend A Few Minutes Organizing Regularly
Set a time each day to run through your space and pick it up. If you do it daily, it takes only a few minutes to keep up.
A 10-minute organizing schedule looks like:
- Grab an empty basket.
- Walk around the house, collecting any item out of place.
- Return each piece to its home, straightening up as you go.
- Wipe off surfaces.
- Wash any dishes, dry, and put away or load the dishwasher.
- Fluff pillows and fold blankets.
- Quicksort any paperwork: to scan, to file, to mail.
If you do this every night for 10 minutes, you’ll be amazed at how easily your house stays organized. One practical aspect of a small space is less surface area to clean or worry about.
Making your bed daily and keeping up with laundry (daily or every few days) will also help you keep your small space organized, clutter-free, and clean.
5. Use Containers to Organize a Small Space
Baskets are a huge help when you live in a small space, but boxes are also great too. Any type of storage container is useful to corral small items.
The idea that every item should have a home means relying on containers to house and organize things. It’s often the small items that become unruly and take over your space.
Use containers to organize:
- Kids’ toys and books
- Office supplies
- Kitchen supplies
- Craft supplies
- Pet supplies
Remember to pare down to only the essentials. Just because you own a container for an item doesn’t mean it’s useful or something you should hold onto. Avoid the temptation to store items and forget about them!
6. Make the Most of Vertical Space
Sometimes a small house is challenging because there’s no room for storage. If you can’t find a great storage space, look up!
I’ve found there’s often unused space on the top of armoires, in the tops of closets, or across the tops of cabinets and cupboards. Install a set of hooks, a bar, or a small storage shelf in these areas to create additional storage, as needed.
When you see organized spaces (like the IKEA showroom), you’ll often notice how they use up vertical space. They often feature storage across the top of a door, above an entertainment center, or across the top of a bookshelf.
Using attractive vertical storage draws the eye upward and will even help a small room appear bigger. Mirrored cabinets and open shelving are attractive options for making the most of a small space.
Be sure to store lightweight items in high storage spots. Heavier items create a falling hazard, so store those items lower. Vertical storage is great for blankets, linens, and pillows.
7. Find Creative Solutions to Storage Challenges
You don’t need to rely on traditional storage solutions for every item. If you live in a tiny house or a small space, you need to take advantage of the area.
Think creatively when it comes to storage. This may mean storing items under the bed, across the top of the shower, or behind pieces of furniture. As long as an item has a specific home, it doesn’t need to be conventional.
Again, it’s so important to avoid storing too much. Cleaning out and decluttering is the most critical part of getting organized in a small space. But if you still need to find a spot for wayward items, get creative.
For ideas on creative storage hacks check out:
- House Beautiful: Genius IKEA Hacks
- Huffington Post: 5 Creative Storage Hacks
- Lighter Side of Real Estate: 25 Brilliant Storage Hacks
- House Logic: Creative Storage Ideas for Every Room
- The Spruce: Best IKEA Hacks for the Bedroom
Searching storage hacks and storage solutions on Pinterest will also yield lots of creative ideas for any storage dilemma you’re facing.
8. Seek Simple Designs with Clean Lines
If you want your small space to feel open, decluttered, and organized, look for items with sleek, simple designs. Busy florals, crazy patterns, and dark colors are lovely in certain spaces. In a small area, the dark feels overwhelming.
You don’t need to choose only modern, minimalist furniture or storage solutions, but opt for simple designs and choices. Extra detailing and features complicate the item and are unnecessary.
When choosing items for your home, keep it simple. Choose functional and high-quality pieces. Look for sturdy designs built to last. Don’t buy cheaply made, disposable items; they will wear out quickly.
If you’re simplifying and living with less, it’s important to choose well-designed, quality items whenever possible. Not only will simple designs help you maximize your space, but they’ll often last longer because there are fewer features to break.
9. Keep the Room Light
In a small space, light is your friend. You want to bring as much light as possible into the small space to keep away those feelings of claustrophobia when you’re in a tiny home.
Natural light is always your best option, but soft, white lighting will help brighten up the room if windows are limited.
Add lights to the top of cabinetry and install track lights in a small kitchen to instantly open up the area. A functional workspace needs a lot of light.
Choosing lighter colors will also help the room feel bigger too. Opt for white, pine, or lighter colored wood. Choose paint colors to brighten and lighten the room. Pick artwork with light motifs.
Using light and softer light colors will keep the space clean, simple, and open.
10. Adopt a One-In, One-Out Mindset
One of the biggest challenges of organizing a small space is changing your mindset. Many of us think we need more stuff. We feel we have to buy items to find happiness or feel good. We’re continually looking for ways to “treat” ourselves.
I’ve found adopting a one-in, one-out mindset has been immensely helpful for keeping me on the minimalist track. If I buy something, I get rid of something.
When I shop for clothes, I’m very selective because I know if I find a new top, it needs to be high-quality and fit with my capsule wardrobe. I also know it means I need to say goodbye to another blouse in my wardrobe. Because I’ve carefully curated my closet, I’m very cautious about getting rid of beloved items. This mindset helps me stay much more selective.
I’ve applied this same rule to every item in my house. If I buy a tool for the kitchen, it’s only to replace an existing item. I’m only buying what I need.
While the one-in, one-out mindset is tough at first, it ultimately simplifies your life. You never own more than you need. You’re no longer fighting clutter; your life is simple and organized.
If you live in a tiny house, an apartment, or a small space, don’t let clutter take over your life and weigh you down. Use these tips to organize a small space and reclaim your life!