How to Organize Cluttered and Overflowing Spaces

January 17, 2020

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So, you have an area in your home that overflows with stuff. It might even be your whole home! You may have tried to organize it repeatedly, and it just won’t stick. There are some keys you need to know in order to organize cluttered overflowing spaces, especially if they’re small.

Assessing Your Cluttered House

Have you tried to organize your cluttered space over and over, and it just keeps getting messed up? It could be….

  • Where you put your mail or papers (or just where they end up unintentionally)
  • Where you put your shoes and jackets
  • Your bedroom
  • Your bathroom cabinet
  • Your kitchen cabinets
  • Your kitchen countertops
  • Your desk
  • Your garage, basement, or attic

The answer to this problem isn’t neuroscience. It’s actually insanely simple. But when it’s YOUR space and YOUR stuff that’s causing frustration, you’re probably too close to the situation to really see the facts.

What people usually think is, “Ugh, I need more space.” “I need a bigger ____.” Kitchen, closet, living room, whatever. I’ve told myself that before, and so has everyone.

And yes, having a big space is almost always easier to organize. However, organization is only a small part of the solution. The core problem when you have a small, overflowing space, is STUFF.

And if you don’t learn how to manage your stuff, having a bigger space won’t permanently solve the problem. You’ll just end up having a bigger space full of more crap.

I know, because I lived it.

I went from a small house to a big house, and I thought all my clutter problems would go away. But guess what–they definitely did not. In fact, the clutter problems expanded along with the house.

Once I learned how to declutter and how to organize for function, I learned how to manage my stuff and manage spaces better.

Then, when we moved to a smaller apartment with NO storage, it actually worked better and was easier to take care of than the big house!

If you don’t know how to organize for function, or you’re hoarding tons of stuff and constantly bringing in more, then you’re NEVER going to have enough space.

Two Solutions to Organizing an Overflowing Space

Since you can’t physically or magically create more space, this problem really comes down to one of two things.

  • There is too much stuff. Or,
  • There is not enough storage.

See? It’s not neuroscience. But it’s pretty dang powerful.

The good news is that both of those things are totally solvable. Even more, they are probably a lot easier than you’re thinking right now. There are two solutions, and you probably need to use both of them: declutter and organize.

Decluttering Tips in Overflowing Spaces

When you have one space that consistently gets cluttered and unorganized, the core of the problem is that there is too much stuff for that space.

Before we go on, I know there are a lot of you out there saying, “I’m really not a hoarder, I just live in an insanely small space!”

And I want to give you all some credit. There ARE cases where you don’t have a crap-ton of extra things, you just live in an unusually small space. I actually currently fit into this category.

When we moved across the country, we decided to rent an apartment for the first year. While an apartment isn’t ideal with a family of four and two small kids, we have really been able to make it work well. The biggest struggle, however, is the kitchen. There is ONE drawer in the entire kitchen, and a total of just a few feet of counter space. It is undeniably a challenge for four people to make that work.

So, those of who are in tiny apartments and houses, I want you to know that I relate. You are not a disorganized disaster–you just have more challenges.

But the cold, hard truth is that smaller spaces can hold less stuff. So you can choose to drastically get rid of things–which will lead to having an easier home, with less to keep organized.

Or, you can choose not to declutter past a certain point. There is no shame in this! This is not about what is right or wrong. This is about the reality of living in small spaces.

If you choose not to declutter past a certain point, you just have to accept that you will have more clutter and more disorganization because of those things. This is not a wrong choice–minimalists are not better than people who choose to have some extra spoons. Don’t let anyone make you think this is wrong.

However, it is the facts, and it is your choice. Functional organization can and will help you tremendously, but the core of a clutter problem is clutter.

Storage Tips in Overflowing Spaces

Organization is a huge, huge topic these days. And as good as that is, I think it also creates some confusion.

Organization doesn’t mean beauty. It also doesn’t mean design. If you want to hear my soapbox talk about that, read more here. But when you’re trying to organize a space that consistently gets cluttered and unorganized, you need to stop even thinking about beauty or all those Instagram and Pinterest pictures, and just think about function.

Organization means that everything needs to have a place. But if it’s a place that requires you use geometry and move 19 other things… it’s not the right place.

After you’ve decluttered as much as you can, it’s time to look into storage solutions.

To start, look at my post with my top 9 products for organizing small spaces. I use all nine of those items in my apartment, and they’ve made a huge, huge difference.

Here are a few more questions you can ask yourself when you’re trying to find ways to add storage:

Identify Available Space

I know this sounds counter-intuitive since we’re talking about not having enough space. But this is where you can think about different space that isn’t being used.

Do you have empty wall space?

Around the side of my kitchen, we had a weird wall that was totally empty. I used it to add two of these inexpensive tall kitchen cabinets. I ended up being able to fit all of our pots and pans in that space and use it as a full pantry!

Even much smaller areas of wall space can be used to add storage. I strongly suggest using my cheater version of easy floating shelves. If you have large wall space, you could buy some long lumber and attach much longer version of these shelves on a wall to make a full wall of easy shelving!

That’s probably the easiest and least expensive shelving you’ll find, but you can also buy fancy shelving like this to add storage.

I also love rope hanging shelves like these, but you can make them yourself with this tutorial.

Do you have vertical space?

You probably have tall space that you never even thought about. With just a little space above cabinets, you could get a set of shallow bins like these and store small things that aren’t used frequently. null

Do you have floor space?

Look for space under your bed, your kids’ beds, under your couch, under your clothes in your closet.

There is no shortage of storage containers like these for those small, shallow spaces. You can also get plastic, rectangular storage bins of all sizes to fit any other free spaces.

Do you have corner space?

You can use any corners in your house that aren’t already covered to add storage. In fact, there may even be vertical corner space that you can use!

You can use standing corner shelves, hanging rope shelves, or rectangle corner shelves–my personal favorite.

Yes, you may have noticed that I have an obsession with shelves. It’s been going on for a few years now, so I think it’s here to stay.

But last week we got a new bookshelf, and my husband told me I was using the word wrong. Apparently it’s not always “shelves,” sometimes it’s just a shelf.

What overflowing space are you going to start with? Let me know on Facebook!

And if you don’t live in your dream home, make sure you join my free 5 day email course to help you Love Your Home!

How to organize cluttered spaces


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Hi! I’m Kaylee–a mom of 2, business owner, DIY addict, and so much more. You’ll find some fun DIY tutorials, totally honest reviews, and lots of tips for making your home fit YOU. Welcome to Mama and More!