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Secrets to Organizing a Small Space

by Regina Leeds, Zen Organizer

There is no question that a small space presents us with special challenges. Ironically it also presents us with an incredible gift: the need to pare down to the essentials. Think about the last time you took a trip: You didn't hire a truck and transport all of your possessions, right? Your world was reduced to the contents of one or two suitcases, or perhaps what you could fit into the trunk of your car. In much the same way, a small space invites us to separate the wheat from the chaff. Do you really need all those pots and pans? Do you have a closet full of outdated, never-to-be-worn-again clothes?

Before you begin, it's essential that you ask yourself these questions to get to the root of your exact organizing issue. It might be useful to write your answers in your journal

1. Why did you move to a small space? Was it an economic decision? Did it afford you more freedom? Are you an empty nester who left behind a huge home? Please identify the specific reasons.

2. How do you feel about living in a small space? Were you filled with joy until you were faced with a galley kitchen? Have you been filled with resentment from the moment the decision was made?

3. Did someone else make this decision for you -- perhaps a spouse instigated the move or circumstances in your life (e.g., the loss of a job) changed? If you are feeling resentment rather than joy, those tiny closets will pose an even greater challenge for you.

List at least three positive aspects of your new living space:

  • Describe the availability of closet space and storage (e.g., two closets, one large cabinet, three small cabinets).
  • Inventory your kitchen equipment. Which pieces are most essential (e.g., pots and pans)? Which items are least essential (e.g., asparagus cooker)? Where can these items live? You can do this with all of your possessions. Obviously some things will have to be eliminated. Start with your list of nonessential items.
  • Before you get rid of anything, ask yourself: How long am I going to inhabit this space? In the future you may move to a larger space, so you may want to consider a storage facility.
  • Donate to charity any items you are sure you don't want. This will give your appliances or furnishings a second chance at a new life. Investigate some of the charities in your area. Which ones pick up? Which ones allow you to declare the value of the donated items, etc?
  • Once you have pared down, take advantage of some space-saving devices. Here are four of my favorites:
    1. Space bags: Extra blankets will take up a fraction of the space in these storage packs.
    2. Shelves: Use shelves to safely stack dishes, create multiple levels of storage in a cabinet or use in a small pantry for cans of soup or vegetables.
    3. Over-the-door hanging bag or shoe rack: Shoes on the floor of a closet create instant chaos. This small organizer will make a huge difference.
    4. Containers: Grouping like items in small or large containers is a great organizing trick. For example, if you have a lot of hair-care products, keep them in a container with a handle under the sin
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