You live in a small space, but you don't have the money to buy a new set of dollhouse-style furniture. Beyond that closed-in feeling you get from tight quarters -- a petite home can seem like it's bursting at the seams once it's filled with all your stuff -- finding ways to organize your belongings can seem like an impossible task.
"When living in a small space, a common frustration is not being able to find what you're looking for and wasting precious time," Olescia Hanson, a spokeswoman for The Container Store, told WalletPop.
If you're feeling like you may have outgrown your tiny space, don't fret. We've come up with a few save-spacing solutions that are budget-friendly, too.First Comes the Purge
By making use of affordable storage solutions and organizational tips, you can make a small home or apartment seem infinitely more spacious.
But before embarking on a space-saving overhaul of your abode, Hanson says, "take inventory of what you own."
You'll inevitably find things -- be it that fourth pair of scissors or a stack of old t-shirts and cassette tapes -- that are meant for the trash or give-away pile. That's when it's time to purge.
"Whatever you can live without," Hanson suggests, "donate to charity, sell at a garage sale or discard."
Maximizing a Small Space Room by Room
In a small living area, one way to free up ample room is to make use of hanging space.
For instance, if bulky floor-to-ceiling bookcases play a starring role in your living room, replace them with hanging shelves, which will instantly make your space feel notably airier, Andrew Mellen, an organizational expert and author of "Unstuff Your Life!", told WalletPop.
That's because, unlike a bookcase, freestanding shelves are open on both ends, says Mellen, "and don't feel like a heavy piece of furniture." To further open up your space, Mellen suggests, install your shelves starting about six inches off the floor and go up to the ceiling.
You can buy what you need to hang them -- standards, brackets and shelves -- at home center chains such as Home Depot or Lowe's, for about $75. In general, that'll get you about nine shelves, though your exact costs will vary depending on where you live and what type of shelves you hang.
But what to do with those bulky bookcases? Consider selling them on sites such as Craigslist or eBay, which will bring in some cash to buy wall shelves. You call also tap Yardsellr.com, which gets the word out on what you're selling through Facebook and Twitter.
Then keep your shelves neat by adhering to the three-tsotchke rule: Besides your books, says Mellen, "there should be no more than three tsotchkes on a shelf."
If you have an LCD or flat-screen TV, you can free up additional living space by taking it off the media center or cart and mounting it on the wall. You can buy TV wall mounts at Wal-Mart, for instance, for as little as $25.
If your kitchen is tiny, think vertically: Hang pots, pans and kitchen tools from a ceiling-mounted pot rack, which you can buy for as little as $30 at a discount chain.
You'll not only free up cabinet and drawer space, but you'll also clear out valuable kitchen countertop real estate that you can used instead for cooking-related tasks like chopping or mixing.
You can also hang over-the-door racks in cabinets or pantries to store canned goods, spices and kitchen supplies. These can be purchased at such retailers as Amazon.com and Organizeit.com for around $15 to $20.
One of the most practical but under utilized spaces in the bedroom? The space under the bed, Hanson says. You can free up space in other areas, she says, "by using under-the-bed boxes, where you can store out-of-season clothing or other seldom-used items." The Container Store sells clear under-the-bed boxes, so you can easily see their contents, for about $10 each.
Most closet spaces are poorly organized, says Hanson. "Don't be limited by the standard hanging bar and shelf," she adds.
Mellen suggests re-purposing an old towel rod and using it to hang scarves or belts. Or installing additional rods, stackable shelves or rolling carts to add more space.
One other way to get the most out of your your small closet is to turn it into a vertical storage space with tiered slack hangers, which can hold up to five pairs of pants, suggests Hanson. These run about $8.99 at The Container Store.
A small space really opens up and feels less cluttered when surfaces are clear. Coffee tables and end tables strewn with stuff -- be it mail, magazines or remote controls -- "look like a jumbled, chaotic mess," says Mellen, "and really closes the space."
To help banish clutter, adhere to this simple tenet: All of your possessions must have a home. To that end, remove magazines and newspapers from your coffee or end tables, and store them in decorative baskets, bins or racks. Contain your remote controls in a decorative basket as well. Check out such retailers as Pier 1 Imports or Ikea for a wide selection of storage baskets that are both functional and decorative for as little as $10 each.
Mail doesn't belong on the coffee or kitchen table. You can find wall-mounted mail organizers on Amazon.com that cost between $20 and $30.
"Another way to increase storage capacity is to purchase ottomans that double as storage areas," says Hanson. For about $40 at The Container Store (or less, if they're on sale), these double-duty ottomans will give you additional seating as well as space to store everything from blankets and extra pillows to toys and more.
Free Space-Saving Tips
Clutter will rear its messy head more dramatically in a small space -- and make it seem even smaller. You can't get any cheaper than these free clutter-conquering tips:
• If you don't use it everyday, get it out of the way. Is the toaster, blender or food processor sitting on your kitchen countertop getting a daily workout? If not, store them away and free up some countertop space.
• Keep up with your filing. Do you need the car insurance documents, tax returns and takeout menus stacked up on your desk on a daily basis? Probably not, so file them away. You'll cut down on the visual chaos, free up space and feel more organized.
• Practice "stuff equilibrium," says Mellen. If you bring something new into your home -- be it a book, newspaper, body lotion or winter coat -- then a similar item should go. This simple rule remarkably keeps clutter at bay, he says.
• Develop an organization routine. "If you stay in the habit of putting things away immediately and not letting them stack up," Hanson says, "you'll be more content with living in a smaller space."
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