By Donna Smallin Kuper
Downsizing to a smaller home has its advantages, but storage space is not typically one of them. Imagine being able to double, even triple, your current storage space without adding on to your home’s square footage. It’s not only possible, it’s pretty simple. No matter what the size of your home, the secret to finding a home for everything is to rethink your space.
1. Declutter First
Look around. If you’re like most people, you’ve got clutter. Whether you moved it from your last home or it’s been building over time, all that stuff you no longer love or use is just taking up valuable space. Before you start trying to organize it, decide if it’s really worth keeping.
Tackle one room at a time. Go through closets, cupboards and drawers. Pull out everything so you can see what you have. Make a decision to let go of things that no longer serve a purpose in your life. Ask yourself: Would I buy this today? If your answer is no, donate or sell it.
2. Go Vertical
One of the most common mistakes people make in any size home is not making use of vertical storage space. Shelving is just one way to utilize wall space, but there are other ways as well.
In your kitchen, for example, you can clear paper piles off your countertop with a multi-tiered wall organizer. In your bedroom, free up drawer space by hanging a shoe organizer with clear plastic pockets on the back side of your closet door—use the pockets to store belts, scarves or even socks and underwear. Similarly, you can hang a shoe organizer to store cleaning products on the back of your laundry room door.
In your garage, hang bicycles on the wall or from rafters to get stuff off the floor. Look for storage racks that mount from the ceiling to create out-of-the-way storage space for holiday decorations and other seasonal items.
3. Eliminate Dead Space
If you look, you’ll find lots of wasted space in your cabinets—whether they’re in your kitchen or your garage. If the shelves are adjustable, raise or lower them to create more usable space. You can also eliminate dead space by adding freestanding shelves, under-shelf hanging baskets, stepped shelf organizers and double-decker lazy Susans in a variety of sizes.
Now take a look at the wasted space in your closets. The standard closet has a single shelf above the clothes rod. Adding more shelving will expand your existing storage space for things like extra blankets and pillows. Here’s an easy, no-tools way to add a shelf: Place three tension rods between the walls, positioning them a few inches apart and all at the same level. It’s a quick and easy place to keep storage boxes or guest linens.
4. Consider Accessibility
When deciding where to store things, choose the most efficient place based on accessibility. Store items you use frequently in the most accessible areas. Store things you use less often in the upper shelf of a closet, back of a cabinet or some other out-of-the way place such as the top shelf of a hall closet, a shelf in the garage or under the bed. This might include seasonal items such as clothing and holiday decorations, occasionally used items such as punch bowls and large roasting pans as well as files you need to keep but don’t need at your desk, like tax returns.
5. Utilize Hidden Storage Spaces
There are under-utilized places in every home that can easily become additional storage spaces. Under your bed, for example, you can store out-of-season clothing or shoes in long plastic storage bins. In a child’s room, make use of bed risers to create more room for toy storage bins.
You can even use the space under your sofa to stash an extra table leaf or a few of your favorite games. Put those empty suitcases to work for storing out-of-season clothing or use them to hide gifts.
6. Choose Furniture with Built-In Storage
Look for furniture that doubles as stylish storage solutions. Storage benches are perfect for entryways, at the foot of a bed, or as a coffee table. Just lift off the top and you’ve got a place to store throw blankets, shoes, files or anything else you need. Close the lid and you’ve got a comfortable place to sit down. In a smaller space, a storage ottoman or two can serve the same purpose while providing additional seating. They also give you a place to stash odds and ends when you want to tidy up quickly.
These are just a few ways to make the most out of your space. Get creative! You’ll be surprised at how much you can neatly hide away, even in the smallest of homes.
Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media and has appeared in Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman’s Day. Home Depot offers a number of different garage storage options online.