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Here are my top 7 tips to help you organize a small house – how to organize and create a cozy and beautiful home without drowning in clutter

Here are my top 7 tips to help you organize a small house - how to organize and create a cozy and beautiful home without drowning in clutter

We live in an older suburb in Minnesota – the vast majority of homes were built post-WWII, what many people would consider to be “starter homes”. Lots of cape cods and ramblers.

I think that’s why people are so surprised when they hear that our home has 5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. But then I quickly follow that with, “But it’s packed into about 1500 square feet.”

I’m not great at math, but this means that our rooms and closets are all pretty small. I mean, don’t even get me started on the debacle that I refer to as “Queen Mattress-Gate” that we faced on a 90+ degree summer moving day. Narrow corners and small hallways are NOT fun.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that I know all too well what it feels like to try and stay organized in a small home. Here are my top tips:

How to Stay Organized in a Small House

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1 – Less is More

The problem for many people – whether you live in a huge house or tiny apartment – isn’t the lack of space. It’s the amount of stuff in that space.

You don't need to get organized - you need less stuff

Make a habit of regularly decluttering, purging, and evaluating what you really need. It’s a whole lot easier to stay organized when you have fewer items to organize in the first place.

Minimize your meal prep and recipe rotation (and therefore your pantry essentials) and your beauty routine. Do you really need 6 types of rice in your panty or 14 types of hair products in your bathroom? Probably not.

Make room for space in your home – It’s virtually impossible to stay organized when every cupboard, drawer, and closet it stuffed full. Create some breathing room in your storage spaces – maybe even consider keeping an empty drawer.

So go purge, purge, and then purge a little bit more. Really think about what’s important in your life. The KonMari Method (though it does have its faults) is incredibly helpful when you’re purging. Take the time to really evaluate every item in your home. If it doesn’t bring you joy, find it a new home.

I know that this kind of ruthless purging can seem wasteful. I do my best to donate or recycle items. Just because you don’t have use for an item, doesn’t mean that someone else will not.

2 – Maximize your closet space

With a little bit of DIY effort, I have really been able to maximize our closet space. By building in an extra shelf and cubbies in our small entry closet, I was able to fit the same amount of stuff in the closet, but in a much more efficient manner.

DIY entry closet shelves and cube storage to maximize space in a small front entry closet

Now, we can actually find things when we need them, and I don’t dread opening our entry closet door.

Even if you’re not the woodworking type, there are plenty of affordable closet organizing systems that you can purchase and install. I am normally not one to encourage spending money on fancy organizing systems or bins – but when it comes to closets, I think the investment is well worth it.

3 – Organize vertically

When square footage is at a premium, you need to make the most of vertical organizing space.

In the kitchen, add shelf racks in your cupboards so that items aren’t stacked and toppling.

Make use of over-door hanging organizers or hooks – just be careful not to overload the backs of your doors with stuff. It’s a sure-fire way to make your closets feel even smaller and inaccessible.

Even think creatively in your closets. In our last house, I found it more efficient to use a dresser in place of some hanging space.

3 tips for small closet organizing - adding a dresser INSIDE of your closet to maximize clothes storage space
Small Closet Organizing 101

The four stacking drawers allowed me to pack way more clothes into that closet than I would have been able to do my just hanging items.

4 – Make the most out of your furniture pieces

Make your furniture work smarter. Our living room is a prime example – where both our coffee table and ottoman serve as storage space for games and books for the kids.

I’ve also made the most out of dressers and pantry cabinets to supplement our lack of kitchen cupboard and closet space.

I get a TON stored in this craft room dresser:

craft room dresser storage with drawer labels

And this pantry cabinet in our dining room has been a TOTAL life saver:

Organized Baking Storage Cabinet

5 – Keep flat surfaces clear

Do your best to keep flat surfaces clear – floors, the coffee table, kitchen counters, etc. This is for a couple of reasons:

(1) Flat surfaces take a fraction of the time to clean than cluttered ones do. Dusting, vacuuming, and mopping are a whole lot easier (and quicker) when you’re not working around a bunch of stuff.

(2) Small spaces feel larger. There is nothing that makes a room feel small more than cluttered tables, counters, and floors.

Hallways are an area that we really struggle with. It seems like things are always piling on the stairs and the upstairs stairway ledge. But boy does the whole house feel different when they are clear!

6 – Get rid of paper clutter

There is nothing worse than trying to manage mail and school paperwork that comes in on a daily basis – when you live in a small home. In our house, paperwork tends to gather in the kitchen and dining room. Then all that paper piles up, drinks spill, and cleaning the counters and kitchen table is virtually impossible.

Read this blog post to see how I have digitized and reduced our paper clutter.

7 – Limit what comes into your home in the first place

Back to point 1. It’s easier to organize when you have less stuff. Yes, purging and de-cluttering is important. BUT – you can limit the purging that needs to be done by being selective about what comes into your home in the first place.

I’ve recently taken a whole new approach when it comes to toys for the kids. We focus more on gifting experiences than toys, and I encourage the kids to donate old toys before their birthday and Christmas.

I’ve also limited my “impulse buys”. Before I buy something, I ask myself if I really need it and where I will store it. If I don’t have a clear answer on those two questions, I don’t make the purchase.

Other Sources for Organizing Inspiration:

Lately, my goal hasn’t been just to have an organized home, but to have a beautifully organized home. Follow along on my pinterest board for more organizing inspiration that is both functional and beautiful.

Favorite Organizing Books:

The Best Organizing Books - Recommended reading to help you get organized and declutter your life and home
Best Books About Organizing

1. The Complete Book of Home Organization

2. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever

3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing 

4. Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul Paperback

5. Time Management Mama: Making Use of the Margins to Pursue your Passions

6. New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else)

7. Make Room for What You Love: Your Essential Guide to Organizing and Simplifying

8. The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify

9. Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day

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