Our Favorite Tricks for Organizing Small Spaces (For Good)

Boxes. Folders. Clutter. We’re all surrounded by it. The worst part is that it creeps up on us. One day, you’ve just got a few documents askew. Three weeks later, your home resembles an episode of Hoarders.

The worst part is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, fighting the ever-ongoing growing pile of stuff is a battle, but it’s one you can win. All you need are a few decent strategies and a healthy dose of willpower.

Watch some Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant/Internet sensation, and it’s all thanks to her surreally soothing Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Part of her success derives from the fact that she’s got strategies for everything, from sorting out sock drawers, to decluttering long-neglected garages.

Her motto is now famous: “Does it spark joy?” This one question informs her approach to housework, but it’s one you can apply elsewhere, particularly in your home office as you remove clutter.

As you pick up each item while organizing your office or bedroom, ask yourself if you really need it, and if you can live without it. Depending on the answer, you’ll know whether it belongs on your desk, or in the trash bin.

Think Vertical

If you’re working or sleeping in a small space, you’ll quickly find that storage becomes a scarce commodity. One possible solution is to place shelves and units in dead space within your room, adding utility to areas that otherwise have been neglected.

The best way to do that is to think vertically. Rather than place an object – like a shelving unit – on your floor, consider installing shelves above your desk. If you’re living in a rented apartment, or your office manager won’t let you take an electric drill to the wall, you can instead use a strong construction adhesive. You can pick this up at a hardware store for a few dollars, and can easily remove it later down the line with a blow dryer and a paint scraper.

And if you’ve got the budget, consider replacing existing pieces of furniture – like short bookcases and armoires – with taller equivalents. Yes, it’s a bit expensive, but so is moving to a bigger house, or renting a larger office.

Optimize your existing surface space

Clutter is unavoidable, but haven’t you noticed how it tends to congregate in the places where you spend the most time? Your desk, your kitchen table, and even among your feet in your living room while you watch re-runs of Say Yes to The Dress?

In many cases, the items that bog you down are unavoidable. The best way to handle that is to use your existing surface space in the most efficient way possible. For example, if you’re bogged down with documents and mail that you need to physically handle, you could invest in a letter tray. If your desk is askew with cables, a small blob of the playdough-like Sugru can help create an impromptu cable organizer. If you’re still hanging onto your old paper magazines, consider purchasing a cheap cardboard organizer.

Tackle that paperwork

Even in the digital era, paper remains a pervasive foe. You may still be receiving your bank or credit card paper statements, rather than environmentally friendly (and cheaper!) electronic statements. Most banks allow you to select electronic versions on the website.  You may have to print and sign forms for your child’s school, like field trip permission statements. And you may receive regular statements from your utility providers, like the gas and water companies.

Make no mistake, those documents are hugely important, but do you really need to preserve the dead-tree original? In many cases, you don’t.

And that’s a good thing, for two reasons: firstly, documents are one of the most common manifestations of the beast we know as clutter. Secondly, digitizing them is ridiculously easy. One of the best tools for digitizing your paper clutter is Fujitsu ScanScap line of cloud-enabled document scanners.

And if you’re looking for something compact, the ScanSnap iX100 won’t take up much of your scarce room, and will allow you to blaze through your paperwork in a matter of minutes, sending a pixel-perfect facsimile to your home computer or preferred cloud storage provider (like Box or Dropbox). You can create a digital copy, and then, without a pang of regret, securely shred the original.

Trust me, your office will thank you.