6 Small-Space Organizing Tips, According to This Mom

published Oct 2, 2021
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Credit: Jude Green

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When we became parents a little over nine years ago, my husband and I were renting a small one-bedroom flat in London. We squeezed a crib into our room and cleared a drawer or two out for our brand-new daughter. With each subsequent move, we increased our square footage to give our growing family more room … until last year, when we sold our home and came full circle by downsizing into an apartment.

We’ve spent the last 10 months relearning the art of living in a smaller space as a family. Here are some of the organizational habits that have been helping us enjoy the space we have.

Give everything its own home

For our family, the golden rule of small space living is to give every single thing we own a designated spot in our home. In fact, that’s not a bad idea for any size of home, but it has been especially important since our downsize — we are very intentional about how we use our limited square footage, and giving everything a home ensures that we don’t have stray items piling up.

It also makes tidying up with the kids a lot easier. We try to do a quick reset of our apartment on a daily basis, but even when we let it slide for a few days, it’s easy enough to restore order and put everything back in place. (Bonus tip: our kids are a lot more motivated to clean up when they are promised some screen time after!)

Credit: Jude Green

Schedule time for seasonal decluttering

Every few months or so we set aside some time for a more thorough declutter. My children accumulate more stuff around birthdays and holidays, so that feels like a natural time to check in with what they own. Decluttering with kids can be tricky, but by getting ahead of the clutter and sorting through their belongings before their space becomes out of control, it definitely keeps it more manageable. It’s also an opportunity to find homes for any new items.

My 9-year-old is very receptive to the concept of letting go of things to create more room — she takes after her mother! But my 6-year-old takes a bit more persuading. We have learned that letting her make her own decisions about what is precious to her is more productive in the long run, and she’ll sometimes surprise us with a drawer that she’s cleared out. My goal is to help them develop habits that will benefit them in the future, as well as maintaining our current space.

Credit: Jude Green

Try the file-fold method for clothing

I learned how to file fold clothes in our last home, which had tiny closets. With limited hanging space, it was a more efficient use of space to fold and store most of our clothing in dressers. We have a lot more hanging space in the apartment (even though we downsized!) but I’ve kept up the folding habit as it frees up a lot of space. I’ll admit it takes a little bit of practice at first, but with the help of some YouTube videos I quickly got the hang of it, and now it’s something I don’t even think about when laundry day rolls around. It also helps me keep tabs on the kids’ clothing inventory, as nothing gets buried at the bottom of a drawer.

Credit: Jude Green

“Containerize” toys and activities

Our dining table is the hardest-working piece of furniture in our apartment. It’s used for arts and crafts, games, LEGOs, homework, and occasionally even for meals! To clean up quickly between activities, we’ve found it helpful to store often-used items in containers that can be moved easily from point A to point B. Markers and coloring pencils are kept in a caddy. For LEGOs, we set up trays so that if the girls are in the middle of building something, they can move it aside without breaking it apart. We use the IKEA TROFAST system for small toys as the bins are easy to take in and out. This setup also allows our kids to spread out and play in a quiet spot if they need a little space from each other.

Credit: Jude Green

Utilize closed storage

For storing papers or anything miscellaneous, I like to use closed storage like a dresser or cabinet, as it hides the clutter. We have a large dresser in the girls’ bedroom that they can use for whatever they like, as long as it fits. This gives them designated space to keep or collect items that are special to them. I’ll check it every so often (usually when I’m doing a deep clean of their bedroom) and if there’s a drawer that is getting full, we’ll sort the contents into three piles (keep, recycle, trash) to create more space.

Use every nook and cranny — even in unconventional ways

We try to make use of every square foot of our apartment, but not necessarily in the way it was designed. The girls’ closet doubles up as a playroom (we have space to spare, thanks to the file folding!) and it provides a cozy hangout for them. The bathroom has way more cabinet space than they need for their toothbrush and bubble bath, so we use it for arts and crafts storage. It may not be a conventional use of the space, but it works for our family.