5 Strategies for Decluttering a Small Space

It is a lot harder to keep an apartment or small house organized and tidy — but it is critical that you do so. It only takes one pile of papers and one box to overwhelm a smaller space. What to do?

We asked organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik in Washington DC what her top five strategies are for harnessing chaos in smaller homes and apartments. Here's what she said…

The Top Five Strategies for Decluttering a Small Space:

Embrace Storage Containers: People often think, "My apartment or home is so small, I can't fit a filing cabinet, bookshelves or a desk," but if you don't buy the appropriate storage products, things pile up quickly in a small space. In other words, embrace the fact that you have stuff and like to have certain things around — that's what makes you interesting. Just find a way to manage it all so you don't feel overwhelmed by it.

Furniture As Storage: Is there an ottoman you could also use to store blankets? If you're in the market for a new bed, consider looking at one that has drawers underneath or at least enough height to store some under-the-bed bins. Bedside tables are typically too small to hold all the things people want to use them for - magazines, glasses of water or tea, clock, newspapers, reading glasses, lamp, etc. If you're buying a new one, think about whether one with shelves and/or drawers might work for you.

Think Vertical: In small homes it is very important to maximize all of the space. Think vertical. Could you hang shelves above your desk for extra books, papers or pictures? If your desk is too small or you don't have a home office, maybe some hanging file folders would work in the kitchen to organize incoming papers. Bulletin boards and magnetic boards are also great places to display artwork, school reminders, travel plans etc. These don't require a lot of space, but can be super helpful for getting things off countertops and other surfaces.

A Little Bit Each Day: People often say that they don't have enough time to do any organizing, but everyone can find 10-15 minutes in their day to focus on at least one small space or project. I recently had a client say to me as we neared the end of our session, "I would love to clear off my desk, but 30 minutes isn't nearly enough time." Guess what? It was a perfect amount of time. We spent 30 minutes very focused on our project; she knew there was a limit to how much time we had, so we worked quickly, and were able to organize all of her miscellaneous papers into several categories very quickly: To File, To Toss, To Shred, and To Do. Done.

Get Rid of Things: Chances are you don't need most of the papers that you're keeping — shred them. If you haven't worn that sweater for three years, donate it. Expired food should be tossed. Clearing out even a few items will make you feel calmer.

(Image: Small Cool 2010: Whitney's Well-Organized Home)