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Method For: Small Homes

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I believe that organizing a small home is one of life’s great satisfactions. It’s like putting together a puzzle where every piece needs to fit in perfect harmony with the others. And when you’ve completed the puzzle it hums along like a well-oiled machine. It’s easier to keep track of what you have in a small home, and once things are organized the systems are easier to maintain. Small homes are challenging at the outset because of the preconception that you won’t be able to fit everything you need (this is why downsizing is so intimidating to many who have lived their lives in large homes) but following a few guiding principles will put you on the road to success.

start with a blank slate

This principle applies no matter what size your home is but it is critical in a small space that you begin with a possession purge before you do anything else.  Even if you think you don’t need to declutter or believe that you’ve already edited enough to begin, I promise you this isn’t the case. Every square foot of space matters; it’s not just about fitting in everything you need but also achieving a feeling of lightness. That is only possible when you have gone through your possessions with a fine-tooth comb and looked at everything through a clear set of filters.  I work with many clients who get through this part of the process and already feel 80% better than they did at the start, and this is before we’ve gotten to any organizing!

Decluttering can feel really intimidating, which is why hiring an objective third party is helpful, not only to keep things moving but also to be a soft place to land when hard decisions have to be made. Whether you engaged help or have successfully accomplished decluttering on your own you are now able to begin the organization process with a ‘blank slate’, so to speak.  This doesn’t mean you’ve gotten rid of everything you own but it does allow for a view of your home’s space with fresh eyes.  Once you have the ‘blank slate’ view you can use any of the strategies below to maximize the available space in the home while making it more livable at the same time.

Built-in storage

Adding built-in storage not only maximizes your square footage but also adds to re-sell value. The obvious place to begin with built-in storage is closets. In a small home closet space is usually at a premium so it’s important to ensure that the closets in your house are optimized to leverage their highest storage capacity. Having an intentional design for a closet space that takes into account what will be stored there is a big first step toward maximizing storage space in a small house.

Closets are important (and satisfying!) but they aren’t the only examples of using built-ins to cleverly fit more storage into your house. One of my favorite recommendations that increases storage capacity while at the same time taking up minimal visual space is a floating media cabinet. Of course you can customize anything if you are working with a builder or carpenter but there are now some options available to purchase from retailers as well. My favorite combination for media cabinet storage is shelving + deep drawers. The shelving holds books and cable boxes, modems, etc. and the drawers house blankets, puzzles and games. So efficient!

Another idea for built-in storage is a window seat or banquet in your kitchen. Adding drawers or shelving to a seating area can provide storage for a whole host of categories (I have both a banquette and a window seat in my house and store silver, serving platters, a punch bowl, throw pillows and table linens, the list goes on…)

Obviously built-in storage is not a quick fix and requires some significant investment. But the benefits are well worth the cost!

furniture with storage

Furniture choices are another place where a little thoughtfulness will really serve your small home. When you live in a small space your furniture should be versatile, serve multiple functions and include storage in the design wherever possible. What this looks like: end tables should always have drawers, coffee tables shelving and the right bookcase can serve as both storage and a room divider.

There are even opportunities to maximize space with furniture that doesn’t double as storage: beds with enough clearance to slide a drawer underneath, Murphy beds that fold up into the wall, or desks that tuck into an unused alcove. Make furniture decisions that increase storage capacity and minimize visual space. This will not only help you keep your home organized and clutter-free but also make the space feel bigger and less burdened by furniture.

Leverage Vertical Space

Often there is plenty of vertical space in a home that isn’t being leveraged for storage. If you think about it, most furniture’s width well exceeds its height so sometimes you have to take a purposeful look (at your blank slate!) to find the opportunities and exploit them.

Here are a few examples of using vertical space to maximize storage in your home:

  • Book Towers – You can fit a lot of books in minimalist towers like this one and they fit almost anywhere

  • Bathroom Hooks – Towel bars take up so much wall space! Switch yours out for hooks and see how much space you gain

  • Wall-Mounted Racks – Bring things like yoga mats & rollers up off the floor by using a rack that mounts on the wall

  • Over-The-Door Racks – This is one of my favorite-all-time solutions in small homes, it has so much capacity and in virtually invisible on the back of a (pantry, bathroom, laundry room) door.

These are four of my most-used but there are many other examples if you look for them. All of them fit my criteria for a small home: increase storage capacity and minimize visual space. All are easy to implement.

The joy of living in a well-designed and organized small home is that everything you need is literally at your fingertips. There is no space wasted and all spaces are appreciated for what each contributes to the lifestyle of the inhabitants. I could go on and on but I’ll end with that, it really says it all!

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