Raise your hand if you’ve ever lived in a dorm room?
If you have, you know how it feels to fit a lot of stuff into a very small space. Living in New York, sometimes you’ll have to reside in a place as an adult that feels like you’re back in college as real estate is a luxury in this town. While I think the smaller the space you own or rent, the less clutter you tend to keep, I also know firsthand how savvy and creative you need to be in order for your home to function.
My current space is pretty itty bitty so trust me, I know how to use it in my favor. No matter where you live, if you're in the same boat, I want to help! Here are six space saving tricks that are tried and true straight from this girl.
Using vertical space
Being barely over five feet tall, it’s always been a challenge for me to use the walls for storage since I usually have to pull over a step stool to reach anything. (After years of stubbornly dragging one around, I finally caved, bought a folding step stool for each room, and found a place to tuck it away.) But if your home is small and you’re not utilizing the walls, you’re severely under utilizing your storage space.
Shelving is by far the easiest and best way to add more storage and most stores carry inexpensive shelves in a variety of sizes and materials. If you’re a shortie like me, make sure the items you store up high are ones you’re not going to use everyday or, at least, often. For example, I don’t love to cook (don’t let the Italian last name fool you) so the pots and pans go up in the kitchen. I do love to travel but (sadly) don’t do it every day so my overnight bags go up in my closet. Be sure not to overload a shelf with heavy items that could either break it or your head if you drop anything. And if you have smaller items that could make the space look cluttered, corral them to a bin on the shelf that you can just pull off and put back on easily.
Hooks are another great option for items such as jackets, sweaters, bathrobes, scarves, ties, backpacks, bags, keys, tools, mugs...should I go on? The point is, as long as something has a hook or can be hung, there’s no limit to being creative. The important things to remember here are:
1) Hang items where they make the most sense for you (keys and jackets by the front door, mugs by the coffeemaker, bathrobes in the bathroom).
2) Each hook should have its designated occupant, label them if you have to, but don’t just use them haphazardly or else they’ll look cluttered. For example, if you have a family of four and four hooks by the front door for coats, each member gets their designated hook and only uses theirs.
Using multi purpose furniture
This has been one of my favorite ways to save space and in a minute, I’m going to make it yours too. You need furniture and you need to store stuff. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
The most amazing thing I’d ever done for my space was invest in a standing mirrored jewelry armoire. Sure, I used to have the cute necklace tree and would DIY earring holders but they would make my dresser tops look cluttered and I still always needed more storage. Now, everything goes behind a closed door that holds the mirror I use to get ready in front of every single day.
Benches fit nicely flat against the wall and, if they have a lid that opens, can house anything from extra linens to toys, books to shoes. If not a bench, then an ottoman or a coffee table could give you that extra bit of space you’re looking for. This is where it’s fun to get creative and also feel a lil sneaky. How many people who come into your home would guess that end table they just placed their drink on lifts up to hide the remotes?
Using a double hang rod
Ok, so this actually may be my favorite space saver. I don’t know, I can’t choose. All I know is it works! I got tired of folding my t shirts and, no matter how neatly I did, I would pull them out wrinkled. I realized it wasn’t the way I was folding them but rather the material. Women’s t shirts can be super flimsy (at least the ones I buy are) so they needed to be hung. The problem was that the way I designed my closet didn’t leave room for t shirts until ENTER THE DOUBLE HANG ROD. This puppy saved the day. It literally did what it’s called - doubled the hanging space in my closet. If not t shirts, then consider pants, skirts, and even boots (on skirt hangers).
Paper clutter is the most tedious, time crushing kinda clutter there is so anything you can do to diminish it is a step in the right direction. Online bill pay and statements are your best options to immediately cut down. Getting yourself off of the junk mail or credit card offer lists are also a no brainer. Drowning in the kid’s homework or memos from school? Unless it’s special, get rid of it and if the timeliness of the memo no longer applies, get rid of it. Can anything work related switch over to electronic? All of my invoicing and contracts are done via email. Do I pay for these services each month? Yes but it’s a small price to pay for the peace that comes with living in a clutter free work space. The paperwork that I have to or want to keep is contained to one small metal file cabinet, separated by business and personal. If you have a large family or are in an office with multiple people, consider a taller or lateral file cabinet. (Psst! They also make benches with storage for files whaaat!)
Creating a command center
Do you run around at the last minute looking for your keys, sunglasses if it’s sunny, umbrella if it’s rainy, mail to go out, etc.? Creating a command center, no matter how tiny it is, by your front door solves this problem no matter how hectic the rest of your morning has been going. For me, I use a tray on a console smack next to my front door to house these items with hook above for my umbrella. Since I don’t take in or out a lot of paper (mail), I don’t need anything fancier than this.
There are numerous other options if you have more members of the house/stuff like wall organizers and desktop drawers. The idea is that anything you need on a daily basis should be within close reach and have its home. When you come in from a long day, the keys go back exactly in the spot you found them. That way, if you wake up late the next day (a common theme in my house #guilty), you don’t make yourself even later because you can’t remember where you put your keys down the day before.
HINT: This suggestion doesn’t just work in small spaces but any sized space!
Limiting your stuff
This is the trick my clients hate hearing the most but it’s also the most important one. You can’t organize too much stuff. Smaller spaces have less square footage to work with so it’s especially important to be very selective about what you bring into your home. I love Costco as much as the next human being but I do not have the space for a 37 pack of paper towels. Would I save some money in the long run by buying them? Probably, but the money saved is not even close to worth it for me if I have to trip over them. I reserve my bulk buys for smaller items I need and have the space for such as floss, deodorant, and coffee pods. I also do an inventory before I head out to make sure I’m not buying more than I need.
Not only is it beneficial to limit what you bring into your home, you should also religiously abide by the rule of “one in, one out”. I can’t tell you how many times I find multiples of big ass items (technical term, obviously) in my client’s homes and there’s never a good reason as to why. For example, if you get a new printer, why is your old one or, better yet, multiple old ones still hanging around taking up space? If it’s broken, you’re obviously not fixing it since you bought a new one so throw it out. If it still works, you’re obviously not using it since you bought a new one so give it away. Do not, I repeat, do not buy anything new (I don’t care if it’s big or small) until you decide definitively what you’re doing with the old one.
What would you rather have?
Multiples of things you don’t need or use cramming up your small space?
Calm and peace and function and a pretty home?
Whenever someone walks into my place for the first time, they always say the same exact thing: Wow, this is small but really cute! To which I usually respond, yeah just like it’s inhabitant ;) Ok, but seriously, my point is that you when you live in a small space, you have to be a little extra creative, vigilant, and organized in order to keep the clutter in check. It’s a very doable task and I hope some of the tips above help solve your small space issues. If you use any of them, I would love to see what ya got! Take a photo and tag @sortandsweet on social media to be featured on our page. C'mon I want to be as proud of as you as Michael Scott is of space saving flat screen.