Tips for Downsizing & Staying Organized in a Small Space

Posted in Moving on Feb 10, 2020, tagged with decluttering, small moves

Tips for Downsizing & Staying Organized in a Small Space

There are several reasons why you may need to downsize to a smaller space, including:

  1. Your kids are out of the home for good and you have too much house for the remaining residents.
  2. You’ve split up with your partner and are moving into your own place.
  3. You can’t manage or don’t want such a large home anymore.
  4. You’re moving to a bigger city (such as New York) and space is at a premium.

Whatever your reasoning, there is no amount of organizing and tetris-izing your belongings that will make all of the items from your larger previous home fit into your smaller new home—unless you are very into minimalism. You will need to take some steps to pare down your belongings to fit the new space.

Follow these steps to get ready for your downsized domicile.

1. Figure out what you have to work with

If you can, visit your new place and measure out all the rooms (or see if your real estate agent/landlord can provide you with the specs). This will give you a good idea of exactly how much space you have to work with. Make sure you include all of the nooks and crannies of your new place—they often make ideal storage spots.

With the exact dimensions of your new space on hand, you can begin thinking about how to cull your current collections and which type of storage solutions will work. Now is the time to be brutally honest with yourself and set your priorities for how you want this new place to look. Figure out what is most important to you and design around that.

2. Research storage and organizational tools

When it comes to a smaller space, you will need to get more creative with storage. You’ll often find yourself limited by lack of closet space and fewer places to put organizational furniture pieces. Some of the most useful storage pieces in a small space include:

  • Shelves and other forms of wall storage - What your home may lack in horizontal space, it may make up for in vertical height. If this is the case for you, or if you have the room for it, add more hooks, racks, and shelves vertically (and maybe get a step ladder) to increase your storage space.
  • Furniture that does double-duty - When selecting large pieces like furniture, every choice matters in a small home. Try to find items that double as storage (coffee tables, chests, couches and chairs with concealed bins or drawers) to make every aspect of your limited space as functional as possible.
  • Stackables - Stacking is often a necessary component when it comes to organizational tools in small homes. You should select boxes and bins that can be placed on top one another to make the most out of any vertical space in closets, cupboards, and under beds and tables.

The trick to staying organized in a small home is to make a plan for the space, pick up the items that will help you execute that vision, and stick to it. When it’s too much work to put things back where they belong, more often than not it ends up not getting done. Then, one thing becomes two and before you know it a pile has formed. This is why it’s important to pick a storage method that actually works for you so that you will stick with it.

Whatever you do, don’t purchase your storage organizers aspirationally! Look into your heart of hearts and select the options that you will use, even if they aren’t the most attractive. You can always switch them out later once your system is finely tuned.

3. Start decluttering

Whether you tend towards maximalism or minimalism, the real challenge when it comes to moving into a smaller space is deciding what to get rid of. This process is best accomplished before you move (and, if possible, after you get the room measurements). It will significantly cut down on the amount of belongings you need to pack, and therefore the number of boxes you’ll need to move, thereby saving you time, physical effort, and money.

There are many renowned methods for decluttering and organizing your home, including:

Whether you subscribe to any of them or none of them is an entirely personal choice, but you will need to come up with a method that works for your situation. We recommend that you follow these rough steps to guide you through what can be a painful process:

  • Start by marking out the items you are sure you want to bring—they are often the easiest to identify. These can either be packed immediately or left where they are if they will be needed in the months, weeks, or days leading up to the move.
  • The next easiest to identify items are the ones you definitely do not want anymore.  Pick out the things that you know for sure you don’t want and place them in a designated pile or container of things to get rid of. You can even sort these down more granularly into piles like “trash”, “donate”, or “sell” depending on how you plan to dispose of them.

TSI TIP: Before you get rid of any items, give your family and friends an opportunity to pick out anything they want. What no longer fits in your life or feels important or necessary to you may be very sentimental to someone else.

  • Now it’s time to tackle the items you’re not sure about. Consider each piece. Is it useful? Do you have more than one? Do you still need it or will you need it in the foreseeable future? Are you holding on to this item just in case? Small spaces are not the place to hold on to items if you have more than one or for “just in case” scenarios. Unless it is a very small item, you typically won’t have the room for multiples or items you might need one day. If it is easy and inexpensive to replace should the need arise again, donate it.

TSI TIP: If you’re not sure about something, bring it with you. You will always have the opportunity to declutter later and will very likely end up having to anyway once you get settled and discover some items aren’t fitting in the way you hoped.

Need more help decluttering? Check out our decluttering guide.

4. Keeping it organized

After arriving and unpacking your belongings in your new organizational system, make an effort to stick with it until it becomes a habit, but be kind to yourself and build in some contingencies:

  • Finish the task - Put things away in their designated place as soon as you’re done with them.
  • Daily maintenance - Everyone slips up and forgets or is too tired to put things away occasionally. Make sure you take some time to tidy every day.
  • Put things where you need them - If you keep slipping up and putting an item back in a different place, consider permanently moving the item there. Your organizational plan should be flexible to accommodate how you actually live.
  • Catch-all bins - If you find it difficult to stay on top of the “finish the task” chore, have some storage bins or baskets in your most commonly messy rooms so you can dump items in there and keep the overall space tidy. A great way to keep your bedroom clean is to have two bins: one for dirty clothes and one for clothes clean enough to be reworn.

TSI TIP: If you are an impulse shopper or chronic-over-buyer, now is the time to work on that habit. In a small home, you don’t have the luxury of more space to house your collection. Limit yourself to items you truly love and can actually use.


Moving into a smaller home can be a welcome prospect, but also a daunting one, especially if you have a lot of stuff. Make the process easier by:

  • Having a clear idea of how much space you have to work within your new home.
  • Making a plan and picking up storage and organizational tools to execute it.
  • Culling your belongings.
  • Taking time to tidy each day and make staying organized as easy as possible for yourself.

If you are moving but don’t have a lot to move (you just successfully downsized, after all), it can be tough deciding whether to DIY or hire a professional household moving company to help with your relocation. Small moves are TSI’s specialty—we’ll work with you to create a customized home downsizing plan for your small move. We can also help ship furniture, heirlooms,

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