With the real estate market still pretty hot and mortgage costs plus utility prices increasing all over the country, first time home buyers might be more interested than ever in starter homes. Smaller and more affordable, starter homes come with obvious perks such as lower mortgages and less upkeep. However, homeowners purchasing a starter home (usually defined as a home that’s 1,700 square feet or less) don’t have a lot of space to spare – so they need to use what they have at full capacity. Here are some ideas on how to organize your starter home so that you can live comfortably and enjoy your homeowner life:

Organize your rooms into “zones”

Oftentimes, when it comes to smaller homes, one room must fulfill several purposes. Your living room might double as a home office or as a playroom for the little ones. Such setups can potentially lead to clutter – and a simple fix for that is to create “zones” for each activity.

You might not have a separate room for a home office, but you can define an area dedicated to work. A secretary desk installed in one of the living room’s corners, plus some shelf room dividers, helps you contain all your work-related stuff and can also help you focus during the workday. It’s definitely better than working from the couch, with papers and whatnot spread on your coffee table and living room floor. Apply similar strategies for other rooms also, depending on your preferences – you can set up a crafts corner or a mini-home gym in your bedroom, for example.

Rent self storage

Self storage can compensate for the lack of storage space at home – we all have belongings that we don’t use on a daily basis, but we still need and want to keep, such as holiday decorations, sporting equipment, out of season clothing, and so on. Or maybe you inherited or bought some good quality furniture that’s too big for your starter home, but you want to save it for when you move to a bigger place. Young families might also want to hold on to their baby furniture, clothing, and other items, for the future.

For such situations, self storage is a far better solution than a home bursting at the seams with stuff. The national average rate for a 10’x10’ self storage unit hovers around $130, but the costs can vary depending on location. For example, the same type of storage unit in Columbus, Ohio (a city where residents have a good chance of scoring a starter home) costs a little under $100 per month. A 10’x10’ unit is about as big as half of a standard garage, so it can hold a significant number of belongings, helping you to maintain a tidy, uncluttered interior.

Avoid using the floor as storage

The only situation when the floor makes a good storage option is when we’re talking about under the bed storage. However, storing lots of items on the floor in plain view (for example, large boxes with toys in the living room or shoes on your bedroom’s or entryway’s floor) should be avoided. On one hand, it makes it harder for you to move around the house, and, on the other hand, it can lead to all sorts of domestic accidents. Also, keeping things on the floor makes your home look cramped and messy.

Instead, aim for vertical storage

There’s a far better alternative to using the floor as storage, and that’s maximizing vertical storage. Instead of purchasing boxes and baskets for storage, choose shelving units, whether it’s for your living room, garage, or pantry. Fitting at least a side of your garage with sturdy, floor-to-ceiling shelving is one of the best decisions you could make, storage space-wise, if you live in a small home.

Other affordable and creative vertical storage solutions are over-the-door organizers that work great for bedrooms and bathrooms or near the ceiling shelving (a smart addition to living rooms and entryways). Various types of mash organizers that can be hung from the ceiling or from furniture are perfect for kids’ bedrooms, as they can keep a huge collection of plush toys out of the way. Try to identify as many spaces as possible where you could install some sort of vertical storage solution – corner shelves, for example, can be included in most rooms, and they can really pick up the slack in terms of storage.

Be selective about what enters your home

Apart from maximizing the storage capacity of your home, it’s also important to be selective about the things that you decide to purchase and keep at home. Impulse buying, whether it’s clothing, appliances, tools, and so on, not only affects your budget but creates problems in terms of storage. Make sure that everything that you buy has a clear purpose and that it’s something that you actually need.

A common mistake people make is purchasing more than one of the same item: for example, a handheld mixer and a big stand mixer. In such situations, decide which one you prefer and use more frequently, and get rid of the other.

Gifts, particularly for families with children, can also create a bit of a headache. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends will all naturally want to offer gifts to the little ones, whether it’s their birthday, Christmas, or another occasion. To avoid filling your home with lots of toys that will end up mostly unused, be proactive and propose alternatives – such as all of you pitching in for a special gift that the kids really want or maybe offering an activity, or an experience, instead of a gift.

Small home living can be cozy and comfortable – just make sure you organize your home properly, use self storage for items you don’t need on a daily basis, and be discerning about the things you purchase and keep at home.

Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Smith

With a rich background in interior design, Charlotte Smith graduated with a degree from Yale. Her 15-year career includes working with elite home improvement brands. Her expertise lies in blending functionality with aesthetics, a skill she honed while working with top architectural firms. Charlotte became a part of our editorial team in 2018, offering readers practical yet stylish home improvement tips. A true DIY enthusiast, she spends her weekends tackling various home projects, further enriching her articles with personal experiences.

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