What is Your BEST Small-Living Hack?

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I'm running out of space in my house. Rather than get a bigger house, I'm looking for clever ways to organize my stuff. What's your best small-living hack?

The simplest answer? Own less stuff and do more with what you have.

The wife and I will go through and purge the things we find ourselves not using every 3-6 months or so. For example, we can be especially bad with buying cheap books and leaving them everywhere...so we try to use resources like the library more often or we'll donate our excess.

I love this topic - we bought a small house before kids, expecting to move after 5 years.  Still in the small house 12 years later, we have maximized every square foot of space.  We find that regular purging is a necessity, 'if we haven't used it in a year' then it goes.  We have also done as much creative storage as possible.  I've built racks in the joists of the garage to keep wood, shovels, or miscellaneous tools up high and out of the way.  We've done a lot of built ins.  My favorite thing is to build shelving into the walls - for example, our stairway to the basement has shelving for cleaning supplies, which we built into the stud space of the walls.

My wife and I are in the process of selling and giving away a lot of stuff so we can move into a camper on the water. She's so excited about "glamping" and has all these ideas about renovating the inside to make it "cute"... I'm just along for the ride, lol, but I'll be watching this thread for some ideas of my own!

I rent out a storage unit for my small business ventures and toys. I always have some new business/side hustle I want to try and it turns into a lot of stuff. I also like a lot of water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, diving, fishing, foraging, and motorcycle stuff.
I can justify the expense because I call it a "business facility" and I always love going in there to organize and play with my toys or work on my ventures. Over time I find plenty of attempted business tools that I have lost interested in so I get to sell them to free up space and get a little lost investment money back, and my girlfriend doesn't have to stare at broken lawn mowers and boxes of shoes i'm trying to flip.

Hi Mindy,

Double closet rods are helpful, and so are hooks on the interior side of all doors. Another trick is to add shelving above doors and / or windows. You could even use the oven for storage (not joking) if cabinet space is at a premium.


Originally posted by @Knute Haglund :

Hi Mindy,

Double closet rods are helpful, and so are hooks on the interior side of all doors. Another trick is to add shelving above doors and / or windows. You could even use the oven for storage (not joking) if cabinet space is at a premium.


Pro tip: Only store things in the oven that can tolerate high heat. My sister-in-law turned on the oven and melted my mandolin, my father-in-law melted my cutting board. Smelled amazing both times...

Having just closed down one of my business locations, I was forced to get rid of a LOT of stuff. A 3400 square foot warehouse full of stuff to be exact.  You really have to let go of your attachment to junk, even useful or seemingly valuable items or equipment. Are you gonna use it anytime soon in the near future?  More importantly even if you are going to use it a year down the road is it even worth the cost of your time and the cost of storage space? Is it even worth trying to sell?

 Lets say your time is worth 100$ an hour and your paying $1.00 square foot to store that stuff. Is it really worth spending an hour of your time to sell that piece of equipment with a resale value of 75$ or furniture that takes up 8 square feet and sits around on craigslist for 3 months before it sells? What about that box full of items worth 10 bucks each that will take hours to sell on ebay or craigslist and you'll only use a few of them "someday". 

Once you run the numbers it becomes a lot easier to just load it all into a truck and take it to donate or to the recycling center/dump. 

Some of my "tricks":

1. I try purchasing only things that are either multi-purpose or can be folded or collapsed. 

2. I only use laptops in my house - no towers. That takes care of monitor & computer all in one, and if space is really at a premium you can use the dining room or kitchen table as your office desk - which I did for many years, only recently finally dedicating an office in the house.

3. I only buy TVs that can hang on the wall. No TV stands or similar. Any boxes that go with TVs - Tivo, cable, etc - are grouped with some existing piece of furniture, i.e. under an end table - rather than having a dedicated TV stand.

4. All music is transferred to USB. Because I'm a musician, I do keep my CDs, but if you are not you can then get rid of the CD.

5. Dining room/kitchen tables come with leaves that either fold into the table (preferred) or can be stored. Spare chairs are fold-up or stackable.

6. Install shelves under your kitchen/bathroom sinks, even if you have to make cut-outs around the plumbing. It gives you double the space and discourages you from stuffing big things in there that might dislodge the plumbing. 

I am sure I have a ton more, as I've been in the same ~2000 sf house for 25 years that used to have 2 kids along with us 2 adults, and the house has always felt like it had more room than we needed. In fact, I believe I'm the only one on my street with a 2 car garage that has 2 cars parked in the garage (and my garage also has a workbench and all my power tools despite only being about 20 feet long). All of my neighbors use at least one of their garage bays to hold all their crap, while the car sits outside. And I don't have a basement or an attic. 

I use a magnet bar to store knives, scissors, etc.  I transferred spices to those magnetic canisters and store them on magnetic strips.  I have a 2' x 3' wire grid on the wall and hang kitchen gadgets from it.  Wine glasses hang in a hangy thing under the cabinet and on the wall.

I live on a boat and have a storage unit which I use for garden stuff (I have a boat garden in pots), boat stuff, tools, paint stuff, etc.

Build up. 

Even if it can only be done in a simple way. Think of a college dorm, things are against the wall and pop down (like a kitchen table), or how a raised Bed makes for more floor space. 

After I moved from Austria to Latvia, I had a small storage space full of stuff. A year later, I realized I didn't really need all that stuff if I could live without it for a year. I went back and filled the back of my car with the "essentials" (old photos, books, etc.) and spent 2 hours at a flea market selling what I could. Then I took the rest and donated it to a Free Shop. I agree with Anthony Burroff: my time is not worth selling all that on E-bay, Amazon etc. 
There were new books left over from courses I had taught, camera lenses, etc. that could have brought some good money, but the time invested was just not worth it.

I have a 450 one bedroom apt that I rent and I created an eat-in kitchen by cutting out the top portion of a wall that divided the kitchen from the dining room to the living room and put a bar top on the remaining stem wall.  

Under bed storage drawers are nice.  Build everything custom even if it's more expensive.  Out of the box furniture just never seems to quite fit everything like custom built ins do.  Do yearly purges.  Get rubbermaid bins that stack.  Manage food ins/outs respective to what you use in a week or month.  Use attic space or crawl space if you can.   Utilize outside storage or out buildings.  We have 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs in a 1100 sf. 3bed/1bath place and still don't feel cramped.

Read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Changed my perspective of "stuff" in my house and now I keep the thing in my house pretty minimal and I enjoy everything that is there. It's a lot more "comfortable" as well.

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

@Kevin Phu, that's next on my book list.

 Fair warning, the reader for the Audible version sounds like the Windows speech robot. That put me off from listening to the book for months until I discovered that playing it at 2x speed made the person sound a bit more bearable lol