5 Simple Ways to Stay Organized in a Small Space

Please join me in welcoming our newest monthly contributor here, Kalyn from the terrific blog, Creative Savings.  I’ve been reading Kalyn’s blog for awhile now and even got to meet her in person at a blog conference in 2012!  She is such a nice person and the posts she’s done on organizing on her own site are just awesome.  I was so happy she agreed to share some of that awesomeness here with us.  Welcome Kalyn!

5 Simple Ways to Stay Organized in a Small Space

Early last year, my husband and I made the permanent move from Upstate New York to Southwest Florida. We couldn’t wait to start the search for our forever home, and in the meantime, we temporarily rented a very small 750 square foot apartment, with the intention of staying a max of 6 months. Definitely no later!

Our “guest room” was quickly turned into a storage room for all our extra stuff, {which was cheaper than a storage unit}, and housed about 30-40 boxes that we had yet to unpack. Partly because there was no room, but also because it seemed pointless to get out everything when we would just have to pack it up to move…again.

Yet, one year later, we are exactly in the same place we found ourselves when we first arrived. Yep, we still haven’t found a house!

While I can talk myself into and out of all the things we should have done differently, the fact remains – we have enough stuff crammed into this tiny apartment that would be better suited to a 1,600 square foot space. And we still don’t know when our forever home will turn up.

It hasn’t been easy living in a constant state of temporary, but over the past few months, I have learned how to function and stay organized in this tiny space.  Here are 5 simple ways to stay organized in a small space:

1. Have Less

It sounds so simple, but if you are a frugal who has a hard time letting anything go to waste, especially if it’s still in good condition, it can be really hard. I have an assortment of crafts supplies in 6 boxes, excess kitchen supplies in 4, and can we not even talk about how many books I’ve collected over the years?

For some reason we think we can’t live with all that stuff, but if I’m really honest with myself, I haven’t missed most of what’s packed away in that storage room. We truly can get by with just the basics, and thus begins my journey of purging through our items even more.

2. Label What’s Left

If you must hang on to a few boxes worth of items, keep them sorted and organized as specifically as possible. Use different color packaging or duct tape to organize by similar items – office supplies, kitchen extras, crafts, etc.

Take it an extra step by numbering each box, and keeping a list of what items are in each box. Then the next time you go looking for the garlic press that doesn’t fit in your small kitchen drawers, you will know exactly where to find it!

3. Invest in Double Duty Furniture

I absolutely love ottomans where the cover lifts off for unique storage inside, or pretty cabinets that also double as hideaways for movies, games, and seasonal outerwear. The top of my pantry cabinet is a great place for appliances and extra paper products that don’t have room anywhere else in my home. Same with the top of my fridge.

Even if it means getting rid of a furniture piece to acquire another, more efficient one, you will be able to fit in a lot more stuff than if you just had open spaces. Scout Craigslist everyday for some of the best deals!

4. Behind is Better

I’m always forgetting to utilize the space behind doors and cabinets, and they can be quite a gem!

Invest in some good hooks and hang coats, extra towels, canvas shoe racks, scarves on the back of bedroom doors. Kitchen beaters, spoons, and pan lids are great behind cabinets. You can even buy shelving units that fasten to the inside of doors to create even more space.

5. Keep Flat Surfaces Clear

I have a pretty big pet peeve about flat surfaces. The minute I clear them off, I turn around and they are covered in papers and bags again. There’s nothing more that makes a house feel more cluttered then when every surface is covered with something.

Make it a daily routine to clear off the table and countertops each evening before bed, and create file folders or dedicated office trays for stray papers if need be.

Living in a small space does have it’s setbacks, especially since there isn’t always a place for everything, but it’s totally doable. Reassess your situation weekly, and adjust as needed. Get creative and start making your small space feel like home!

What are your best tips for organizing a small space?

Headshot2014 Kalyn Brooke is a full-time writer and blogger at CreativeSavingsBlog.com, where she gives a fresh perspective on frugal living, and the kick-in-the-pants you need to create a budget from scratch. She lives in beautiful Southwest Florida with her news-photographer husband and the most adorable bunny you’ve ever seen. She loves making to-do lists, reading good books, eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream, and pursuing big dreams….all carefully planned out, of course.

 Linking up: House of Rose, Design Dining and Diapers, Thirty Handmade Days, Six Sisters StuffYour Homebased MomHome Stories A to ZA Bowl Full of Lemons

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Organizing Basics


25 Responses to 5 Simple Ways to Stay Organized in a Small Space

  1. 1
    Carol @littlecountryhouseonthelake says

    I also live in Southwest Florida – we just bought our house (almost a year ago) and it is itty bitty. We are having an issue with downsizing to fit the house (and it doesn’t help that we keep our 19 month old and 2 month old grand babies – and ALL the stuff that goes with them!). It will happen at some point I guess, but it can sure get frustrating! Good luck on the house search!

    • 1.1
      Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

      Thank you! Houses down here can definitely be smaller, and have way less storage space because we don’t have any basements {but you would know that}. :)

  2. 2
    Korilynn says

    We have a small house too (about 1000 sq. feet total) with four people in it. It’s super cluttered at times. What I have found is that if you maximize the storage you have, such as adding in more shelves, using door hangers, etc. you can get more stuff put away. I turned a coat closet into a pantry so we had places for small appliances and food. My kids rooms I’m putting up a lot of shelves — getting stuff off the floor to avoid clutter.

  3. 3
    Rae says

    I live in a motorhome and have less than 150 square feet of living space. As far as motorhomes go, my home feels light and spacious, much more so than my 750 square foot house ever did. Some of my rules include:

    1) everything gets stored in a cabinet (makes it easier to pack to move the motorhome, but also keeps surfaces from being cluttered)

    2) nothing comes into my home if I don’t know where I’m going to store it

    3) cabinets can be full, but they must be functional. So if the contents start to feel chaotic, it’s time to empty the cabinet it out and reevaluate if I need everything. You can open any cabinet in my home without me gasping about its state being revealed.

    4) things are stored where they belong, not where there’s room, preventing certain categories (*cough* clothes *cough*) from overtaking my home/there are limits to how much I can have of some things (all clothes have to fit in my miniscule wardrobe, cross-stitching supplies have to fit in bin that fits in the middle upper cabinet in the office, food has to fit in the cabinets I designated for pantry space, etc.)

    5) my clutter keystones are books and clothes, so no books or clothes are allowed in without some going out (eg. today I brought a large bag of donations to the thrift store and came back with a small bag)

    6) just because I have empty space doesn’t mean I have to fill it

    • 3.2
      JJ says

      #6 is brilliant. Kind of goes hand in hand with “just because I have money doesn’t mean I have to spend it,” which is at the exact opposite end of my why-I-have-so-much-clutter spectrum. :-)

  4. 4
    Heather {Woods of Bell Trees} says

    Um do we share the same mind? I do these exact things and my pet peeve is also the flat surface thing too! Oh it drives me INSANE! There is always something on your few flat spaces so when you need to set something down there isn’t a place to do so. ARGH! Great ideas!!! :)

  5. 5
    Marsha says

    Love the tips! I’m a saver, a crafter, annnd I volunteer at a thrift shop once a week, so u can imaaagine the stuff I find…and how quickly overloaded, and overwhelmed it can be!! I have got to revisit my pins on Pinterest, my worst enemy is not knowing how to hang shelves properly, in a bldg that has Metal as opposed to wood,studs without them falling out, being ridiculously crooked or falling forward!! The only shelves that haven’t fallen off yet are the ones the cable guy hung, after watching my best friend and I struggle for 20min w one shelf! He took pity & hung about 6-7 larger shelves that held things like my 100+ yr old hand made quilt, & my ‘Martha Stewart’ window box turned Dvd holders!! Most other shelves, that I hung, & yes, I used those molly thingys and still managed to do it wrong! Lol! The pints Rae made were great & I haaave to implement the nothing in unless I have a spot, and if something comes in, something must go out! Thanks for the tips!! I’m off to Pinterest land to learn something! Lol! ????

  6. 6
    Angela @ Angela Says says

    These are great tips! I love #1, if you have less stuff, then you have less stuff to scatter and put away. Early in my marriage, we didn’t have very many things so it was easy to keep our apartment clean. Now we have quite a bit more and it’s a struggle sometimes to keep everything put away. My one rule I usually follow is that once a drawer starts to over flow, it’s time to clean it out.

  7. 7
    Rachel says

    I’m a little confused by this post. Is 750 sq ft considered a small space? Anything much bigger than that is too big for my family of five.

    • 7.1
      carla mowell says

      yes, 750 square feet is considered a small space. I hope that clears your confusion.

      • Rachel says

        No. It doesn’t. How can anyone have that much stuff?

        • Laura says

          Yes I agree 750 sq feet is considered small. I use to live in a 900 foot home with four people (no basement) and it was really tight. It’s also where I developed my love of organizing though :)

          • Rachel says

            I still want to know how it can be tight. I live in about 650 with my dh, three kids, and cat, and it’s bordering on too big for us. Theres considerable space that we hardly use. I’m a housewife and I homeschool, so it’s not like we don’t spend time at home or don’t have stuff. What do you put in those couple hundred extra square feet that fills it up to the point of being a problem? All spaces have their own peculiarities, Ill grant, but we’re just talking about the size of the space, not the shape. I cant imagine the problem, so I would like an plantation.

  8. 8
    Lydia @ The Thrifty Frugal Mom says

    Great tips! I agree so much with #1. I’m like you and am a frugal person who hates to get rid of something for fear that I might need it later and then have to pay full price for it. (gasp!) :) But my husband is a minimalist and has slowly helped me learn to pare down our stuff. And honestly, I’m learning to love having less. It’s so freeing and like you I’ve realized that most of the things were things that I rarely used and I don’t even miss them.

    One tip to help motivate getting rid of stuff is to have a yard sale pile going at all times. For a money saver like me, it’s motivating to know that anything that I get rid of had the potential to make me money at our annual yard sale.

  9. 9
    Janet Barclay says

    I love furniture with built-in storage, as well as boxes and baskets that can keep small items close at hand yet out of sight.

  10. 10
    Mona says

    We moved from PA to SWFL not quite a year ago. We also did a major downsizing – 3900 sq ft to 1200 sq ft. I’m still learning how to organize in this much smaller space!

  11. 11
    rinnie says

    Good advice. Having lived in Japan & now in the US with 1500 sq feet and a family of four, I agree that multi-purpose appliances & furniture are key. Our main sofa is a sofa bed & these days they make really nice comfortable ones. Both kids have trundle beds, which we have used for guests often. The only other thing I would add is closet organizers!! Well worth it, you can DIY it. Closet organizers have changed my life! It is so much easier for the kids to keep things clean and off the floor, too. Also, we were able to eliminate our dressers and toy shelves freeing up more floor space. We, recently, installed an elfa shelf system in our 11 year old sons room, now legos are off the floor. Adding bay windows to our living room also gave us more space.

  12. 12
    Arlette says

    We also just moved from Newburgh to Miami :) going through the same thing! Thanks for your post, looking forward to more!

  13. 13
    Jillian @ Hi! It's Jilly says

    I need to remember these tips! We are in a tiny apartment, after moving from a decent sized house, and we have stuff everywhere! I’m going nuts! We are frugal, too, so it’s like you said…it’s hard to get rid of things that are still good “just in case”, especially since we will most likely be moving to a house next year.

  14. 14
    Bethany says

    Thank you so much for posting about a space that is *actually* small! My house is 650, and have a hard time finding tips that are actually helpful. :)

  15. 15
    Jill says

    When I moved into my 640 sqft apartment, I downsized from a 2 BR/2 bath 1100 sqft home. In order to purge all of the belongings I had accumulated over the years, my mantra became “it’s just stuff”. I disengaged my emotional attachment. I knew I could replace any of it from Craigslist, thrifting and yard sales. Most people don’t realize they can use large-scale furniture in small spaces without it feeling crowded. I have a large buffet that holds tons of serving & entertaining pieces. And we shouldn’t forget those wonderful flat, plastic bins that fit so great under the bed – perfect for seasonal clothes, extra blankets, etc. Oh, I store my shoes in a dresser!

  16. 16
    Gale says

    On #1 didn’t you mean we think we couldn’t live withOUT that stuff? This might sound ludicrous, but we’re “downsizing” moving from 1985 sqft to 2200 sqft in N FL. It’s all about the allocation of space and how I’d maximized storage in a kitchen and bathroom. Shedding stuff feels really good, but it is difficult for me to part with potential DIY projects. We do require more space because our oldest son is disabled and comes with extra accessories. : )

  17. 17
    Linda says

    Our family of 4 lives in a 695 square foot home. We have learned to use every available space for storage. The kids have bunk beds and store toys in bins under the bed, have a bookshelf with bins on two of the shelves and books on the other, and use hanging stuffed animal keepers from IKEA. In our room, storage under the bed, a small armoire for clothes and wall mounted t.v. are used. We do have a basement, which helps, but we are trying to make the house work for us as best as we can. When we do move to a bigger place someday, we won’t know what to do with all the space :)


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