If modern life is defined by anything, it’s stuff. We all have a lot of it, and we will acquire more of it. The moment you move into your first grown-up apartment, you start to experience firsthand how stuff just creeps into your living space, eating up your shelves and your drawers and eventually spilling out into unseemly piles on the floor, or migrating to expensive and inconvenient storage units.
And the way things are going economically right now, buying or renting a larger house is probably not in the cards for most of us, which means you’re going to have to get clever in terms of finding ways to store all that stuff. If you have some extra floor space, there are plenty of furniture pieces you can buy, from freestanding cabinets to ottomans that double as storage cubes. but what if you’ve already used every possible inch of your tiny home and it still doesn’t feel like enough?
The good news is that no matter how small your space is, there are almost certainly ways to magically create storage space out of thin air. Here are some of the easiest and smartest ways to cram more stuff into your space.
Shoving stuff under the bed is the first panic move of the inexperienced stuff-challenged person, but if you’ve done this, you know that it’s not all that effective. If you just stick stuff under there, it quickly becomes a dusty mess, and while you can find bespoke storage containers designed to fit under there, it’s still not a lot of storage space — unless you literally raise your bed up a few inches.
A set of adjustable bed risers will give you some precious extra inches under there. The additional height won’t be obvious or noticeable, and as long as you’re in reasonable health, it won’t affect your ability to get in and out of bed. But it will free up a lot more room to squeeze in more storage, while also making that storage easily accessible.
Stuff always looks more hoarder-y when it’s piled up on the floor, so getting it up onto shelves is a classic storage strategy. If you’ve already gone down this road and your home looks more like a boutique than a house, you might think you’ve squeezed every bit of shelf space out of your space, but you’re wrong — because you have doors.
Putting a shallow shelf over the casing at the top of your doors gives you instant storage space. If you choose your shelving to match the casing style, it will be an attractive addition to the decor. This is an ideal way for bibliophiles to show off their books without taking up any more precious floor space.
Extend your headboard
Beds are where we escape our stress and recharge for the next day, but they also offer opportunities for extra storage. If your bed is pushed up against a wall and has a headboard, this is an opportunity. Extending the headboard with some matching shelving gives you extra space to store books, linens, jewellery — anything at all, really.
If you’ve got a relatively high headboard and the bed is not flush against the wall, you can also add hooks or hanging storage to the rear of the headboard. This storage will be hidden away from prying eyes but remain easily accessible.
If you’re a decent carpenter or know a decent carpenter (or have the cash to hire one), you can turn any staircase in your house into a wonderland of extra storage. The risers on your steps (the flat vertical part in front that you stub your toes on) are really just wasted space, if you think about them — and they’re probably hollow. Tearing them off and inserting drawers is an incredible way to magically make more storage appear.
It’s not the world’s most difficult project, but it does take a pretty high degree of carpentry skill (or drunken confidence) to tackle. But the reward is a huge amount of storage space.
Hang dishes on the wall
You probably don’t think of plates and other flatware in your cabinets as wasting space. They sit stacked up neatly in your kitchen cabinets, out of sight and out of mind. When things are stored in the places designed to store them, we don’t think of it as a missed opportunity — but it kind of is. Because plates and saucers and such are flat, we stack them up, taking up shelf space in our cabinets. But hanging some vertical storage on a wall (or the inside of a cabinet door) allows you to slide the flatware into place, freeing up that precious shelf for something else (bowls, magazines, shoes, whatever — it’s your house).
Kitchen cabinet toe kick drawers
If you have a kitchen with floor cabinets, you have wasted space. Cabinets are designed with a toe kick at the bottom — the space where the cabinet doors overhang so you can step up close to the counter. Behind the trim on those kicks is empty space where you could install drawers, adding yards and yards of storage to your kitchen.
This is a project that requires a bit of carpentry skill, or the ability to hire a carpenter to do it for you — but it’s not a terribly difficult or challenging project, or an expensive one. And no one will even notice the change unless you want them to.
A narrow rolling pantry
Another place you can create some magic storage in your kitchen is in between things. If there’s a gap between your refrigerator and your cabinets, for example, or open wall space between the last floor cabinet and a doorway, you have an opportunity to add some narrow, portable storage. While these sorts of units are typically used as pantry space or spice racks, they can be used for just about anything. Look for one that matches up well with your cabinet style and it will blend in and vanish when rolled into place.
Break out of the closet
Small spaces usually have tiny closets, which means your clothes are probably spreading throughout the place. Lean into this and buy some nice clothes rods that can attach to the underside of bump-outs and soffits in your rooms to hang your favourite pieces, opening up the closet so you can actually see the rest of what you’ve got. One piece of advice: When we say lean into it, we mean it — don’t try to hide this open closet with curtains or room panels. Leave it exposed, keep it neat, and it will look like an industrial choice.
Add a sponge holder inside the fridge
It’s a small win, but when you’re fighting the storage wars, any win is worth it. Buy a suction-held sponge holder or something similar and stick it to the inside of your fridge. Bam! Instant spot where small bottles, condiment packets, or anything else can go, opening up some shelf space for larger items. And there’s no need to stop at one — add several and revel in the tiny advantage you just created for yourself.
Store sheets under the mattress
If you’ve got a bulging chest where your spare sheets and bedding are spilling out, take out the sheets and lay them flat under your mattress. This will have zero impact on your bed’s comfort, but it will open up some precious inches of space in your closet, chest, or shelves. Meanwhile, your sheets will remain crisp and neat and dust-free.
Supersize your hangers
If you’re still hanging one item of clothing per hanger, you’re a sucker. Modern technology has given us many options for multiple clothes hangers that allow you to hang a surprising number of things on a single hanger. This essentially leverages vertical space to increase your clothes closet’s capacity, allowing you to move piles of clothes off the floor and back into the closet where they belong.
Tension rod spice rack
Tension rods are pretty useful things. These sturdy metal or plastic rods expand or contract with a twist, and are held in place between two flat surfaces via — you guessed it — tension. The most common versions you’ll see are intended to be shower curtain rods, but you can find them in a wide variety of sizes and colours. And they’re really useful — use one in a kitchen cabinet to create a narrow shelf for spices, allowing you to reclaim the drawer space those tiny bottles were taking up.
Add washer/dryer pedestals
If you’re lucky enough to have laundry facilities in your living space, you’ve got an opportunity to create some storage space with an appliance pedestal. These are just sturdy platforms with built-in drawers that your washer and dryer units sit on top of. Adding two roomy drawers to a tiny space is magic — just make sure you match the size and look of your washer and dryer, and that the pedestal you choose is weight-rated for them (most manufacturers offer one specifically for their models, so start there).