organizing · small home living · tiny house living

Organizing in under 500 square feet

Our house is almost exactly 500 square feet. We regularly walk into other people’s homes and mentally draw lines on their floors that represent our whole house fitting into their living room. This can be depressing, but other days, it can be kind of exciting… I mean, I’m learning a whole new set of skills by living in such a tiny space, right?

In reality, probably not. I probably should be learning a whole new set of skills. I should be striving for more efficiency. I should be learning to pare down. I should be learning to put away my laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. Instead, I’m counting down the days until I get more square footage.
The thing is? I know that even people who live in 3000 square feet have issues with organizing and the effective use of the space they have. I know that even if/when we double the amount of space we have, if I don’t learn how to be organized now, how to use the space I have now, the problem is just going to spread. And spread. And spread. 
So, let’s learn some things, shall we? It’s January after all. And January is about organizing.

How to organize all that crap you have

Get rid of it.

Apartment Therapy is right on with it’s ‘Outbox’ concept, I think. 
image via Apartment Therapy. Get it? The bike’s basket is the outbox!
I don’t have an outbox though. Maybe I should. I do believe that everyone, and especially small home dwellers need to think hard about everything they have in their homes on a regular basis and, if it doesn’t serve some kind of purpose, just get rid of it. Drop it off at the local thrift store. List it on Kijiji or Craigslist. Dump it on the curb. Just get it out of the house.

Work up.

Classic advice. If you don’t have a lot of floor space, work with what you do have – walls. Add shelves where appropriate. Use tall bookcases instead of those short stubby ones. Create full wall built-ins. All of these options take a mere 12-15 inches of depth from your room, but give you a whole wall of shelf space to use as storage. This concept is where the origin of our dining room shelves came from. This is also why I love our tall bookcase. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough tall storage space.
This is one of the issues I plan to rectify this month!

Label stuff.

I’m not so good at this, but I feel like I should become better. When I organized like crazy on the weekend, I may have thrown out passing comments to the Husband like, “My craft and sewing stuff is going over in this dresser, ‘kay?” and “I stuck your measuring tape in the basket on the shelf in the mudroom, in case you’re looking for it.” and “The old duvet is under the bed, but you should really make me those closet shelves so they can go there! Better yet, I should make me those closet shelves.” What do you think is going to happen? 
My knitting needles might end up with the office supplies and our decks of cards are going to end up with my paint brushes. Tucked away, out of sight, but well… not where they’re supposed to be. The ironic thing? It won’t just be the Husband, blissfully unaware and therefore easily forgive, who will be misplacing things. I do it too.
I would stop putting things in the most convenient place if everything was labelled, right? Right?

Buy some baskets.

I’ve known about this organizing technique for well, ever. But, every time I find myself standing in the basket aisle at Michaels, my brain does a mental spasm and I forget what I need them for. Which is pretty much everything. We have two baskets in the bathroom, but I’d like at least two more.
And then there’s the mudroom. We have three shelves back there, all of which could quite happily handle some neatly labelled baskets for things like dog toys, collars, leashes, and pooper bags, and all the human things that go with them like hats and mittens and scarves. The pantry, too, could use a few to corral all my pastas and rices. 
So, why do I forget about all these things while I’m standing in the basket aisle? And, along those lines: why do companies sell baskets in threes of completely different sizes? I don’t want a big one, and medium sized one, and a little one. I want three medium sized ones.


I used to be a terrible slob. I know it frustrated my mother, but as long as she didn’t have to go into my bedroom, she didn’t really care what it looked like. I can’t say that I’m totally cured of this in my adulthood, but I have come to appreciate how absolutely crucial it is to do the dishes and sweep as often as possible. I’m sure this is something that other small home owners can appreciate in a way that our counterparts with greater than 1500 square feet can’t fully understand. When you live in such a tiny space, you’re living with your mess. There is no shutting the door, no turning off the lights of the kitchen and ignoring it. 
Any other tips? How do you stay organized, whether you’re living in a big space or small?
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