Awhile ago I blogged about the challenge I’m taking on by moving into a 400 square foot house. I’ve never had to live in a such a small space before, and while living in the furnished bachelor apartment for the past six months was a good crash course on minimalism, I’m still learning loads every time I go to clean my house and find, yet again, that there’s no place to put everything. The one recurring theme to my house in the past month has been how quickly the clutter gets out of control.
This past weekend I dedicated to tackling the growing pile of stuff in every corner of my house. We’ve been completely unpacked for about a month now, but it seems like every trip we take, every time we go to get the mail, and every house project we take on, we manage to accumulate a few things that have no business being inside our house.
It took most of the weekend, but I’m happy to say that, at least for the moment, my small house is organized with the majority of the clutter out of sight. It took some creativity on my part, and while I was at it I learned a few tricks to keeping my minimalist space organized:
Use Storage Creatively
My small kitchen design has very little storage. There’re two shelves, six cabinets, and one drawer. My laundry room, on the other hand, has loads of storage. As a result everything that isn’t directly used for cooking every day or isn’t food is now housed in the laundry room. This includes dish towels, rags, phone books, light bulbs, my huge stainless steel simmering pot and my crock pot. Even the bulk dog food that I bought has been banished to storage in the laundry room, with only a small container making it into the kitchen.
The result is a much less congested kitchen (hello counter space!) and a moderately full laundry room. I know I’m not going to get sick of walking back and forth because even though they’re on opposite ends of the house, they’re still only about 20 feet away from each other. Keeping my kitchen minimalist is a challenge, but unfortunately one that I have no choice but to accept or risk losing my sanity.
I Only Keep On Hand What I’ll Use
Although the house is small, we’re very lucky to have a large garage/workshop in the backyard and a loft space above the kitchen. So another rule I came up with: if I don’t use it everyday, into storage it goes. This freed up a lot of space as I (ok well my fiancée) moved wine making gear (carboys take up a lot of space!) suitcases, books, and leftover electric fence gear into the loft space. I also did a quick sweep and managed to fill a box of odds and ends that have migrated from the garage to the house including three hammers, a box of nails, a lantern, and two tape measures. The few times a year we need that stuff, it’s not far away, until then, away it goes.
As for everything that I no longer use (and after having the entire contents of my apartment in storage for eight months, trust me, there was a lot), a few weeks ago my fiancée dropped off an entire Volkswagen full of boxes to our nearest charity. Everything we dropped off was in good condition, we just didn’t need it any more. Rather than dither about whether to get rid of it, we just bit the bullet and said goodbye. It felt great!
Think Vertically With Storage, Free Up Floor Space!
Nothing makes a small space look cluttered like stuff on the floor. Once all of those unused books were carted off into storage, I took the opportunity to banish some unusual items to my shelves, including a cat bed, a basket that contains remote controls and video game controllers, along with a big change jar and catch-all bowl. With those items tucked away into a book shelf instead of piled on every surface, the main living space just looked simpler.
Have a System for Day to Day Clutter
I haven’t quite figured this out yet but I know I need to address it if I’m really going to get into the minimalist groove. One of the biggest issues with clutter in my house (and I’m sure many others) is how to deal with the day to day clutter that creeps into my house. I’m talking about junk mail, letters, bills, magazines, leaf lets, and just general stuff that shouldn’t even make it across the threshold. It’s this kind of STUFF that makes me want to just pick it all up and chuck it onto the lawn for the crows.
I’m still working on that, but I suspect it has something to do with the “flow” of our house and some key bottle necks.
Staying organized in a small space is tough, but with the help of minimalism and some creative storage techniques, I’m proud to say that, for the moment, my house is organized.
How do you stay on top of the clutter? Have you ever lived in such a small space before? I want to know!