Living in a small space can be liberating, believe it or not. Reducing the amount of stuff you own to a point where you just have the necessities and a few of your favorite things can not only save you money, but save your sanity. The benefits of living small are numerous —from increased energy efficiency to improved family closeness. But how do you put it all together? The key to living small is being organized, especially when you have young children. We have eight children, five of whom still live at home, and our home right now is a 200-square-foot school bus that we drove here from Alaska. Here are a few tips that’ll help you organize your own small space:
1. Think Vertically
The best way to get organized is to think vertically. We ‘re so used to everything being stored in closets or at ground level that it’s sometimes hard to see the advantages of “up.” Whether you live in a small apartment, tiny house, or school bus, built-in shelves that can hold containers full of your essentials works wonders. We use large plastic storage bins for our clothes: everyone in the family gets one bin labeled with their name, and inside goes all of our regular clothing (not jackets or shoes). Each bin has a lid and they can be stacked up to the ceiling of the bus in one area, out of the way but easily accessible. This same idea can be adapted with smaller bins and shelving or garment racks to hang clothes.
2. Create a Floor Plan
Before you move in, create a floor plan. Do this on paper first and then go into your space and actually walk around it. Use masking tape if you have to. One of the hardest things about living small is that often you only have one or two rooms with which to work, so you have to create your own rooms. Stand in your kitchen area and pretend to look for certain items. Reach for the salt. Look for a cookie sheet. Can you bake a batch of cookies while someone else walks in the door? These are important things to know before you put your things away.
3. Hang Stuff
You would be surprised by the amount of items you can hang. In the bus, our ceiling is metal, so we use magnetic hooks to hang everything from privacy curtains to LED battery-powered Chinese-style lanterns. You can hang pots and pans from a pot rack in the kitchen; your essential utensils on the wall (or from magnetic hooks!); and you can use small hammocks (like the kind sold for boats) to hang your fruit, hats, or whatever else you like.
4. Slide It
Whether you find room to slide a bed beneath the couch, trundle style, or can put drawers inside your kitchen cabinets, sliding items out of sight is crucial in a tiny home. You can have your kitchen cabinets outfitted with drawers or you can head to a big box store like Target or Home Depot and purchase sliding, wire drawers that will fit on a shelf. Drawers keep you from having to root around inside cabinets and enable you to maximize your cabinet’s square footage.
5. Multipurpose Furniture
When you live small, furniture that has a variety of purposes can help out a lot—especially if you have a lot of people in one space. An ottoman with storage, a couch with sliding bins underneath for craft supplies or winter coats, and a kitchen table that becomes your workspace can all be incorporated in the tiniest of homes.
6. Make the Outdoors Your Friend
If you have outdoor space available to you, use it! Relocate most kitchen operations outside when the weather is right. If you live in a four-season climate, you could do this most of the time. Eat outside as often as possible and create an outdoor living space where you can do your work or hang out. This keeps the dirt outside and makes almost every day a little more relaxing and fun. You can get stylish indoor/outdoor rugs and durable outdoor furniture to take advantage of the space, and an outdoor, tent-style canopy can keep the weather off and can create both shade and an outdoor playroom for the kids.