Organizing a small space

People who live in small spaces have unique organizing challenges. There may be limited storage space (small closets and no garage, attic, or basement) and limited living space (small rooms used for multiple purposes).

The following are some suggestions for organizing in this kind of small space. The same ideas could be used in any space, but they are more important when space is at a premium.


Assuming you’re planning to live in the same tiny space for a number of years, it’s time to be extremely selective about what you let into that space. You probably don’t have room for stuff that’s just okay — as much as feasible, limit yourself to things you love. You’ll want to avoid (or limit) those unitaskers, too.

Remember the wise words of Peter Walsh in his book It’s all Too Much, where he recommends you begin your uncluttering/organizing project this way: “Imagine the life you want to live.” If you’re holding onto things that don’t fit with your current reality or your realistic imaginings, it may be time to bid them farewell. (You may want to take some photos of special items before you part with them.)

You’ll also want to give thought to how many of any one thing you need. How many sets of sheets? How many T-shirts?

Go vertical

If you have limited floor space, look to the walls. Can you use shelving (freestanding or wall-mounted)? What about hooks and/or wall pockets? Would a hammock for the stuffed animals make sense?

Consider vertical versions of standard storage pieces, too. For example, a shoe tree may work better than a horizontal shoe rack.

Try smaller versions of standard items

Many shelving units are 12-18 inches deep; for example, the Kallax system from Ikea (which replaced the very popular Expedit) is 15 3/8 inches deep. If you don’t need that depth, you could get a shelving system that’s only 10.3 inches deep.

Look for other situations where a smaller product will meet your needs, saving precious space.

Consider collapsible and folding items

You can get collapsible versions of many kitchen items: colanders, whisks, scales, dish drainers, etc. Another example: Gateleg tables fold up into a small space when not in use.

Look for hidden storage spaces

Not everyone likes to store things under the bed, but if this doesn’t concern you, consider getting bed risers to provide more under-bed storage space. Paper towel holders can be mounted on the bottom of the upper kitchen cabinets. Shower curtains can have storage pockets. These are just a few of the ways to make use of every bit of space you have.

Consider dual-purpose furniture

I’ve visited friends who have no kitchen or dining table in their small home, but their coffee table has an adjustable height and it converts into a dining table quite easily. Some of this dual-purpose furniture is on the expensive side, though.

Go digital

If you’re comfortable with digital solutions, you can save a lot of space that used to hold papers, books, CDs, DVDs, etc.

Avoid most bulk purchases

Even if it saves money, you’ll probably have to pass on many bulk purchases because you simply won’t have room to store what you’ve bought. Some people manage to find space for a few high-priority bulk purchases (toilet paper, paper towels, cat food cans, etc.) but forego the rest.

11 Comments for “Organizing a small space”

  1. posted by Andy Chow on

    Go digital is a great idea, but not always that easy. The book you list, “It’s All Too Much”, sells paperback for $11.71, it has a list price of $15. The Kindle version is $15.81.

    I see this again and again. In those cases, I refuse to purchase either versions. Which is a shame, because the book does look cool.

  2. posted by Mia Bell on

    Hi! Love the idea of the shoe tree, I may have to get one of those, my apartment is tiny, but well organized of course 😉

  3. posted by Pat Reble on

    Using the library is the ultimate in uncluttering. “It’s All Too Much” was not available from my local branch, but I was able to order it via inter loan, all without leaving my chair or spending a cent…..

  4. posted by Peggy on

    I’ve considered a hammock for my daughters’ stuffed animals but I just hate the way they look. And one of my biggest pet peeves of living in a smaller home is no room to stock up in bulk!

  5. posted by Pradnya on

    I like the idea of vertical shoe rack and hammock. I will see if I can get these things here in india. Nice suggestions!!

  6. posted by Danielle on

    I thought our apartment was too small for a salad spinner (we use it about 1x a week). Initially i tried the towel method of putting my greens in a kitchen towel and spinning it around… it did not effectively dry the greens… then I found a collapsable salad spinner! It fits nicely in our tiny cupboards, and is an extra strainer when I need one.

  7. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Put a clean dish towel in the bottom of the dish drainer or sink to drain the salad greens, then dry them with another clean towel. Eliminates the salad spinner.

  8. posted by Vicki on

    All the ideas are great, until you are like me, and have 3 pack-rat people living with you. I have thousands of magazines, books and folders of papers that they save and won’t throw out because “they might need them in 50 years”. Got a solution for bull-headed stubborn males who don’t mind living in rooms that are 90% filled with clutter?

  9. posted by Raman Singh on

    Nice tips.I myself living on a small apartment and these ideas will sure came handy.Also i find that using miniature electronics appliances can save up a lot of space.

  10. posted by antique furniture hyderabad on

    The suggestions are good and inspiring to create great homes.

  11. posted by Carpet Critic on

    Hidden solutions are the best. I hate looking at clutter.

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