More and more people are living in smaller houses these days. Whether you just bought a cozy starter home, need to make room for a new baby, are downsizing to start your next adventure, or simply want to live with less stuff and more freedom – we have practical tips to help maximize as much space as possible.

Step 1. Decide what you really need.

You might not have enough stuff. You might have too much. It all depends on where you are in life. If you are looking to furnish your first home, it’s probably a good idea to do it slowly and thoughtfully. Choose pieces you really love and look for furniture with two uses, such as a coffee table that also has storage drawers.

If you are downsizing from a larger home, do an inventory of your possessions and divide them into three categories:

1. The things you love and want to keep

2. Things you don’t love and can sell or give away

3. Things you need but can replace

This third category is where you can get creative. For example, you might have a desk in your old home that is too big for your new one. So you could sell the old desk and buy another with a drop leaf that is a better fit for a smaller house.

Step 2. Measure the space and measure your stuff.

Every square foot counts and you don’t want to trust your eye to decide if things will fit. Use a measuring tape instead and check the dimensions of the rooms and the furniture you want to bring or buy. You may love a couch, but you might love it less if you are always stumbling around it in your new living room. Though it’s tedious, another good storage tip is to get the size of the closets and kitchen cabinets so you can figure out where household utilities and kitchenware will fit.

Step 3. Think about what you want to do in your home.

We have homes to do the things we love in them. If you like having friends over for dinner, then you’ll want a space and a table big enough to seat them. If having family visit overnight is important to you, then you might need the den to double as a guest bedroom – and investing in a comfortable sofa bed is a must.

Think about creating “areas” or “zones” in your home. For example, you can use a couch or a console table to separate your living space from your dining space. If your bedroom is also your home office, consider using an attractive folding screen to create two different spaces.

Simple things can also make a big difference – like painting one wall a different color or using a rug in one part of the room and leaving the hardwood floor bare in the other.

Step 4. Get imaginative about storage.

Two good storage tips are to “store up” and “store under” in small houses. A bookcase that reaches all the way to the ceiling takes up as much floor space as one that reaches only half way – and it doubles the number of shelves. You can hang pots and pans from a rack to get your kitchen organized. You can do the same with wine glasses.

Under your bed is a great place to store winter clothes in the summer and summer clothes in the winter. Use decorative boxes to keep things under side tables. They look great and they’re practical.

Don’t forget about furniture that has hidden storage space. We especially like ottomans with storage because they are handy extra “seats” that you can slide out when you need them and push back against a wall when you don’t.

Step 5. Make your space look and feel bigger.

There are many ways to make a small house seem more spacious. One simple technique is to paint rooms white – this makes them feel more airy. Hanging artwork high on the wall and fixing curtains above the window frame makes a room look taller. A strategically placed mirror creates the feeling of depth and brightens the room by reflecting light.

And lastly, keep your home neat by picking up after yourself. Even a little clutter looks like a lot in a small room.

Want to live in less space but don’t know how much less? Read our post on deciding How Much Space You Need When You Downsize.

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