Organizing small spaces? It can feel like a really. big. chore! Follow my tried and true productivity tips to get organized, so you can clean up any small closet, cabinet, drawer, or shelf in minutes!
Do you have a messy spot? You know the place… It's that small space that drives you bonkers because it's such a hot mess. Maybe it's a tiny linen closet or a bathroom medicine cabinet. Or perhaps it's the drawer in your nightstand. Maybe it's all of the above!
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The next time you have 10 or 15 minutes in between kids napping, coming home from school, or between calls, why not do a quick organizing session?
And seriously, guys — these small space organizing tips I'm about to share work wherever you are with whatever space you have. Once you get these easy tenets down, organizing and staying productive will be so simple and will even start coming naturally to you! So, are you ready to see how we do it?
Don't pull everything out at once when you're organizing small spaces. I know it's exciting to think about organizing a pantry and tossing everything out onto your kitchen counter to sort, but there's also nothing worse than running out of time (and energy) and then being stuck with a huge mess everywhere.
Instead, remember what I teach in my Productivity Boot Camp: tackle big projects in smaller sessions. It's unrealistic to think you can manage a big task all at once. Worse yet, if you get stressed out and procrastinate, you'll and put off finishing the project — even if it's small! So if you look at the analogy of “eating an elephant one bite at a time”, think in terms of those smaller bites. Maybe the bite is one bin at a time. Or one shelf at a time. Or one drawer at a time. Soon enough, they all add up! You can do this!
PULL EVERYTHING OUT
Start by removing items from the small space you're sorting. As you've seen in my closet reorganization post + video, I pull everything out so I can see what I'm working with. And then, depending on the room I'm working in, I pick the largest horizontal surface for organizing. Sometimes it's a counter, a bed, or even a floor. I also keep a handy dandy trashcan and donation bags at the ready for items I want to toss or donate.
Pro Tip: Want to organize a small space where there's no decent storage? Use your walls. The empty space is a great place to hang a wall organizer.
SHOP YOUR HOME FOR UNUSED STORAGE BINS
I know there are all kinds of fancy containers for organizing. I also know they can get really expensive. So when you're ready to organize, save money and time when you shop your house cupboards and cabinets for bins and other storage solutions.
Listen, baskets don't have to be beautiful to be functional. In fact, here are a few things you can use for storage:
- Shoeboxes – If the shoe box has a lid, you can leave it on the filled box or use it as a shallow tray organizer in a low-clearance drawer.
- Bins – Have any half-empty (or empty) bins anywhere? Now is the time to make use of them.
- Ziploc Bags – Ziploc bags not only fit odd items, but they also keep dust at bay and protect items from water — especially in an area where there's water nearby.
- Plastic Pullout Drawers – These drawers come in a variety of sizes and are a great way to organize similar items together under sinks or in cabinets. They're especially handy if your space doesn't have any drawers!
Pro Tip: A wet-erase marker can write on almost any smooth plastic surface — and all it takes is water to clean it off! This way when you change the contents of the basket or add anything else to it, you can easily re-label the basket.
SORT ITEMS INTO LIKE GROUPS
After I pull things out of cabinets, drawers, or closets, and I've looked for bins, I'm organizing small spaces by sorting similar items into groups. This saves you both time and money because:
- Sorting by type of item makes culling items you no longer need, want, or wear so much easier.
- Putting everything away becomes so much quicker.
- Storing similar things together in one easy-to-locate spot makes it easier to find what you need.
- Keeping like items together prevents overbuying.
Speaking specifically to that last point, you know how important budgeting is! If you've ever ended up buying multiples of something because you kept losing the others, this is a good time to pull that (now) mini stockpile together so you can stop buying for a minute (I'm looking at you, deodorant, cough drops, and toothbrushes).
TOSS OLD OR EXPIRED ITEMS
This might go without saying: If you have something that's worth donating (like that book in your nightstand you'll probably never finish) that's great! It's better to pass it on and not fill the landfill. That said if you can't use it, if it's not worth donating, or if it's really old, toss it out.
But what about old/expired medication? If your medicine cabinet has expired drugs or medications you no longer use, the best way to dispose of them is through a drug take-back program — this keeps medicine out of the landfills, the water supply, and out of the hands of people the medication wasn't intended for. Call your local pharmacy or law enforcement office to find out how to dispose of the medication you'd like to get rid of. They'll point you in the right direction.
Pro Tip: If what you're storing is within a child's arm's reach, keep what you store there safe, kid-friendly, and non-toxic.
GO FOR PRODUCTIVITY OVER PERFECTION WHEN ORGANIZING SMALL SPACES
Avoid perfection and embrace being productive when you're organizing small spaces. Look, no one expects you to end up with a perfect job, especially when you're crunched for time.
And while these tips aren't necessarily what a professional organizer will recommend, true organization doesn't have to be professional. True organization doesn't have to be perfect. Use what you've got, get creative, get innovative, and make it practical. It's not about how pretty it looks; it's about functionality and safety.
So whether it's a space in a tiny little bathroom that always drives you crazy or a closet that's become an avalanche hazard every time you open the door, you'll be so glad you tackled it. It really feels so much better.
So with that, I offer you a challenge: I challenge you to choose one little space. Is it one drawer? A nightstand? A medicine cabinet? Or a small closet? Choose one that drives you bananas. Take 10 minutes and do as much as you can. You can even come back and do 10 minutes more until it's done. You'll be so proud of yourself and feel so good!
NEED MORE HELP BOOSTING PRODUCTIVITY?
After a few years of constant Q&A about everything from time management, creating systems in the home, and chore charts, to meal-planning, keeping house, and everything in-between, I decided it was time to share all my BEST secret sauce into one easy to follow program.
Productivity Boot Camp is my time management and productivity course that will help you do life better. Learn to get organized, create “set it and forget it” systems in your home, get more done with LESS effort and energy, and most importantly, find more time for the things that fulfill you most.
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Need a few more organization tips?
- Check out these super simple pantry organization tips!
- Anyone struggling with paper clutter?? Here are a few of my favorite tips for staying on top of all the endless stacks of paper.
- Organize your closet with these smart tips that'll save you so much time and money.
Good luck getting organized and enjoy those clean, small spaces! 😉