5 Space-Saving Home Organizing Hacks You Can Steal from Cruise Ships

published Mar 25, 2022
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With its cozy living spaces and multi-functional rooms, tiny living has its appeal. But even if you don’t want to scale back the size of your home, spring is a time to rethink your home and try a few new ways to get organized — and if anything succeeds in making the most of small areas, it’s cruise ships. From the stateroom to the galley, cruise ship designers work hard to make life onboard more efficient, and you can apply many of these principles to your home.

Whether you live in an urban apartment or are making plans to build a secluded tiny home, staying organized is critical to making the space feel less cramped and more efficient. Here are five cruise ship-inspired tips at-sea experts have applied in their own homes — and you can too. 

Use packing cubes or similar storage.

If you’re on the go a lot, packing cubes help cut down on time unpacking, especially within a small space. Boarding a cruise ship and tossing already stocked compartments into dresser drawers can help reduce clutter while keeping everything within easy reach. The same principle can apply to your home, especially when it comes to the change of seasons.

“Using packing cubes to organize shelves and drawers in a cruise cabin helps keep all your small items neat and organized,” advises Carrie Ann Karstunen, who has a blog dedicated to cruising. “They also work well to store seasonal items like hats and scarves, as the cubes slightly compress the contents.” Instead of sifting through seasonal accessories, having them separate is convenient and makes for easy storage.

Learn to live with less.

If there’s one overarching fact about lacking space, it’s that stuff is easier to manage if you have less of it. As the co-owner of Maple Leaf Adventures, Maureen Gordon has plenty of experience spending time on small vessels. “Living on a boat reveals to me how few items of clothing I actually need,” she says. “The space limitations help you focus on paring down. The focus is on quality, not quantity.”

Over time she has realized that she needs only one of a specific item, such as a rain jacket or pair of boots, as long as it stands the test of time due to quality and classic styling. So, when you search through closets for space, think about functionality and how many of a particular thing you need when deciding what items to keep and purge.

Utilize your vertical space.

You may have already used every square inch of space in your cabinets, closets, and bathroom vanity (if your home even has those areas). However, don’t discount using vertical space to your advantage, even if it’s as simple as using a hook. “On boats, you only have so much cupboard space, so you learn to stow things on the wall,” Gordon says. Her expertise goes well beyond the stateroom, and part of her reasoning behind using wall space is for safety. “You don’t want stuff lying around that could fall on the floor and trip you if the vessel heels,” she adds.

Although you may not have to worry about your home moving, hanging items can add a decorative element to your wall spaces. For example, use a magnet strip to hold knives, a hanging rack for drinking glasses, and hooks to place bowls. As a result, your room will be beautiful and functional, as necessities are within easy reach.

Karstunen takes magnetic hooks and clips on cruises to keep organized, as some stateroom walls are magnetic. “They’re great for hanging accessories and bundling paperwork like excursion tickets and itineraries,” she says, but she also applies this idea to her home kitchen. For example, she says, “I use mine to hang pot holders and dish towels on my magnetic appliances to save drawer space.”

Rethink your existing storage spaces.

Maybe the area under your bed goes unused, or you have an extra drawer in your bathroom. Although you would traditionally utilize these spaces for items that go into their respective rooms, think outside the box — or drawer — and reclaim those empty spots. Gordon sees a double-use in all of her vessel’s areas.

“There are space-saving options all around us if we look. We stow non-perishable food or other items in special compartments under seats and beds,” Gordon suggests. She also keeps simple dining accessories handy, such as baskets and a floor mat, to create dining spaces on a deck or other outdoor area. So, don’t be afraid to store games in totes under your bed or socks in your bathroom drawer.

This idea also works in non-traditional storage areas, such as on the back of doors. For example, many cruise ships have multiple hooks on the backs of closet and bathroom doors or utilize an over-the-door organizer. Ilana Schattauer, a cruise-centric blog owner, suggests using this tip at home. “In the summer, this idea can be used to store summer flip flops, sunscreen, aloe vera, hair ties, and more,” she says. She also adds that it’s an efficient way to store everything from office supplies to children’s toys and books.

Install a retractable clothesline in your shower.

Cruising often centers around warm destinations where you can swim, which is one advantage to already being on the water. Additionally, many ships have pools and hot tubs where you can relax during your days at sea. However, those water-centric activities lead to wet bathing suits needing a place to air dry. So, if you peek in your stateroom’s shower, you will most likely find a convenient, retractable clothesline.

“Most cruise ship bathrooms have a retractable clothesline in the shower for drip-drying delicate items,” says Karstunen. These easy-to-install clotheslines are also convenient for when you need to dry lightweight clothing, such as intimates, at home. Karstunen suggests purchasing a retractable line to save space while eliminating the need to store and set up a large drying rack at home.