For myriad reasons, urban residents in cities across around the world are finding themselves progressively living in smaller homes. If the era of the “McMansion” isn’t entirely extinct (some will always be more inclined to live in a spacious environment), the past few years have at least demonstrated there are a growing number of individuals both consciously and as a matter of necessity embracing more minuscule living spaces.
If you’re as obsessed as we are by TV shows like Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Builders or articles chronicling the phenomenon of 40-square-foot cubicle apartments in Hong Kong people actually reside in, you get our fascination with how people can pull it off. While there are many factors that go into successfully joining the “Tiny Home Movement,” this extreme downsizing calls for effectively utilizing internal and external storage space.
If you’re currently in a cramped condo, are considering trading it all in for a little cottage in the woods or up a tree, or just looking for tips for finding more space by decluttering your living space, consider these creative storage ideas for small homes and apartments.
Optimize Available Storage
The mental shift you have to make to live in less space is to choose everything in your home with intention. Apartment dwellers understand that if something comes in, something else is going to have to go out. But if you’ve lived in a big space for a while you’re going to have to think hard about what you use, what you need, what you love -- and what it all looks like. No use building a cute little corner bookshelf-- if all your books are too wide to fit! That’s why many who choose to downsize find value in external options like self-storage. Once you’ve determined what stuff you’re going to live with and what you’re going to store, you can start configuring your space.
Think about it like living on a boat. Boat interiors are always transforming to suit the needs that change through the day.
There’s a lot you can do within your home from installing closet and drawer organizers to using hooks, shelves and wall mounted storage cabinets to create more room to harbor your essential possessions. Some of our favorite small house storage tricks include built-in drawers in staircases that turn awkward spaces into super storage. If you own your space, take a look at what the Japanese do with floor storage -- they even install refrigerators in the floor! If you live in a small apartment, lofts are a classic solution -- and use the space under the ladder, too! Look for furniture that serves double duty such as a footlocker for a coffee table or a file cabinet as an end table. Hang a flat screen TV, use a laptop, and get to know your nearest copy shop so you can skip the home printer.
Another great idea is investing in convertible furniture such as folding tables, stacking chairs, and ottomans with removable cushions and inside storage. For the bed, look at foldable futons, daybeds and pullout couches and convertible ottomans, or even a Murphy bed to truly transform spaces on the fly to maximize utility and aesthetic appeal. Beds that roll up or flip down from a wall are quick and appealing. If you need the support of a ‘real’ bed, look for a design with storage like built-in dresser drawers under the mattress platform. These can make a huge difference in how much your tiny home can comfortably hold. Just be sure you’re physically prepared to move things around or climb into crawl space as needed. Tiny houses require flexibility in more ways than one!
Pare Down Pots, Pans and Appliances
In a tiny home or a small apartment, the kitchen is often among the most difficult spaces to get organized in a way that’s functional and visually appealing. And when you only have a few square feet to work with, or the area is actually open to the rest of the living environment as is the case in many modern layouts, an over-crowded cooking area just won’t do.
Perhaps one of the best known and least utilized kitchen storage essentials is a hanging pot rack or wall control storage organizer, which for around $50 and five minutes of work will help you reclaim precious cabinet space. Placing baskets or installing shelving above cabinets and appliances works great for keeping cookbooks, teapots, cookie sheets or even serving dishes you don’t use every day.
You’ll find you can fit more inside your kitchen cabinets by utilizing stackable shelves or inserting under-shelf wire baskets that provide an added layer of storage. Other quick and easy fixes include using tension rods in the area under the sink or hooks on the interior walls of the cabinet to hang towels, spray bottles and other cleaning supplies. Try using a wall-mounted drying rack to free up the counter next to the sink. A multi-level kitchen table (perhaps one on wheels you can move around) or an island with drawers and cabinets not only provides an additional counter space, but also offers substantial storage in the space below.
Chef Alton Brown hates specialized kitchen equipment (he calls them “unitaskers”) and with good reason -- they take up space and don’t earn their keep. That’s especially important to keep in mind in a tiny home. The truth is most of us don't use all the pots and pans we own -- we have favorites. So pare down to a few pots. Let an iron dutch oven double a deep frying pan that reduces splatter, and holds soups and stews. Look for a pasta pot with its own strainer. Whip eggs with a fork and you won’t need a whisk. For the pots, pans and plug-in appliances that only used on special occasions like Thanksgiving or 4th of July, pack them up with any other items you can reasonably predict won’t be used for at least a few months and drop them off at your storage unit. You may even be able to organize boxes by seasons and simply switch them out periodically throughout the year!
Cycle Your Seasonal Furnishings
While you’re heading over to the self-storage facility, reclaim even more room in your closets, cabinets and drawers by rounding up other seasonal home furnishings. The big box of holiday decorations is an easy place to start, but also consider anything and everything that’s a necessity for a few months and then collects dust the rest of the year. From snow shovels and snow blowers to lawn mowers and weed wackers, we’re talking about major amounts of space you can easily make available. Even items like the bedding you alternate between warm and cold weather or the beach towels that are strictly for summer fun are taking up valuable tiny home terrain. Pack it up, label it and place it in your storage unit near the door where at a moments notice you can go in, grab it and go.
Get Your Recreational Equipment Into Shape
Small living spaces often work best for those who lead active lifestyles and love the outdoors. The only trouble is you need a place to keep all that extra gear. If you put your mind to it, you can find all sorts of ingenious ways to store your recreational equipment ranging from hanging your bicycles on wall mounted hooks or surfboards and skis on ceiling height rack systems. However, if you want to maintain a clutter-free environment that doesn’t appear over stuffed, you can take all your seasonal accessories such as camping furniture and supplies, snorkels and wetsuits, winter snow boots, summertime sandals, beach chairs and umbrellas and stow them away while not in use in a nearby storage unit.
Button Down Clothing and Apparel
Let’s face it, if you’re like many Americans, your wardrobe and outerwear likely take up the largest percentage of storage space in your home. This is especially true when you’re in a location where the weather changes dramatically throughout the calendar year. If there’s one small apartment storage tip to take to the bank capable of killing two birds with one stone, it’s separating your clothes into a warm weather and cold weather wardrobes and packing the one you’re not currently using away in the luggage that’s already talking up room in your closet or mini storage space. Along with your clothing and winter coats, don’t forget gloves, wool caps and scarves, your collection of floppy sun hats, beach towels and other small items that clutter up drawers, foyers and hall closets and wreak havoc on your feng shui. For specific tips and guidelines, check our post on Storing Winter Clothes.
Final Thoughts Small House Storage
The idea that bigger is always better is easy to dispute, however downsizing only works if you have a strategy for creating an environment that’s organized and enjoyable to live in. By trying these storage ideas for small homes and coming up with a few of your own, the dream of living large in a tiny home might just be yours.