Small-Space Storage Tips from People Who Live in Tiny Homes

published Jun 14, 2018
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In any home, large or small, storage issues tend to be among the top gripes. There’s a good chance that your basement — if you even have a basement — is filled with needless items that you’ve collected over the years. You’ve probably lived through the experience of donating several small appliances, so you can, um … make room for new small appliances. And let’s not even discuss the clutter in that kitchen drawer.

It happens to the best of us, which is just one of the reasons why more and more people are turning to a minimalist lifestyle. The frontrunners of this movement? Tiny house owners, who have had to part with many of their possessions in favor of no mortgage, a simpler life, and the freedom to pick up and go whenever they like.

If you’re struggling to fit one more thing into your small space, look no further than these words of wisdom and minimalist practices shared by longtime tiny home owners.

1. Make “stick to the essentials” your new mantra.

Before moving into their tiny homes, many people purge their belongings, bringing only the necessities and things that give them joy. And typically, they don’t rent out storage units before making the move. “We travel with basics: clothing, kitchen items, books, and some toys. We do have ‘decorative’ items in our home, but they all have a purpose or meaning behind them,” says Kate Oliver, Founder & Designer of The Modern Caravan. “Live with what you need and brings you happiness, or get rid of it. This is one of the best things about living tiny: You really learn to edit what is in your life.”

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

2. Try and blend storage into the room.

Storage can be blended seamlessly into a room through vintage finds or providing hiding places for your belongings. This is what Rebekah Carey, stylist, designer, and freelance writer, has done in her own tiny home. She says: “Our Murphy bed hides our mattress when it’s up, our cabinet next to it holds clothes and is painted the same color as the bed and walls, and our vintage metal locker is our pantry.”

3. Consider something custom to maximize every inch.

Sometimes in order to have storage that really, truly works, you have to go the custom route. Tiny house designer and builder Shalina Kell constructed her own storage solutions in her tiny home, but you can always hire a contractor if needed. She explains: “My couch is a storage unit, as well as my table. I built drop-down cupboards in the ceiling of my kitchen and there are drawers in all of the stairs. I built pull-out pantries on castors in the kitchen which hold all of our food, larger kitchen items, and our TV trays and folding chairs.” She also suggests breaking up storage spaces into smaller compartments with dividers, boxes, or small bags.

4. Weave function into your decor.

As Whitney Leigh Morris of The Tiny Canal Cottage knows all too well, space in a tiny house is precious. She also loves décor, so she’s cleverly brainstormed ways to bring storage and décor together. She firmly believes in decorating with practical items, like reusable shopping baskets, books, linens, kitchen goods, guitars, and herbs.

See more of her space here: Whitney and Adam’s Live/Work Canal Cottage

5. Be mindful and keep things above or below eye level.

Jenna Spesard of Tiny House Giant Journey has a rule when it comes to storage: “If I bring something new into my home, I have to get rid of at least one thing to make space for it.” It’s paid off in the form of a streamlined collection of stuff — but for storing the items that do take up residence in her home, she’s gotten creative. She suggests, “Store items high and low. Keep your belongings out of your eye line,” which is what she has done here with her difficult-to-store snowboards.

(Image credit: Pat Piasecki)

6. Thrift and think unconventionally.

As the owners of a film, theater, and set design company, Chloe Barcelou and Brandon Batchelder have some atypical items in their tiny house — like props, tools, and costumes. Chloe recommends thinking outside the box and using unconventional materials. “Admittedly, I find most of my favorite storage solutions, like hat boxes and stacking trucks, at thrift stores or flea markets,” she says. You can use vintage lockers to hold pantry staples or hang baskets on the wall to stash cookbooks, for example.

7. Use every square inch.

Joshua & Shelley Engberg, owners of Tiny House Basics and authors of the best-selling book Tiny House Basics: Living the Good Life in Small Spaces, have stretched every available spot in their home to accommodate for storage. Joshua says their top small-space storage solutions include mounting decorative storage items on the wall, using lazy Susans to access the corners of the kitchen, and adding “multipurpose furniture like an ottoman that serves as storage to hold gear, games, or even blankets.”

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Small Space Storage Tips—From People Who Live in Tiny Homes