How to Live With Less, From People Who Live in Tiny Houses

These tiny home interior organizing ideas can help you live with less.

Living Room with Gray Couch and Rug, Blue Table, and Lots of Natural Light
Bright idea: Letting in natural light makes a tight space feel larger, so steer clear of thick drapery. Photo: Weston Wells

Learn the Little-Home Commandments

Your small space can be a white-walled shrine to minimalism or a cozy den of personal treasures. Whatever your style, we have a few firmly held beliefs—commandments, if you will—that apply to every small space.

  1. You shall honor the space you have. Show respect and remain grateful for what you have—even if it's not much.
  2. You shall not covet bigger houses. Yes, you can keep your Pinterest "Dream Houses" board, but don't long for more than you need. Try dreaming about the ideal tiny home instead.
  3. You shall live with what you love. Edit the objects in your home so only those that are useful or adored (ideally both) remain.
  4. You shall use resources wisely. Living small is one way to reduce your environmental impact, but it doesn't give you a free pass to blast the AC, skip the recycling, or drive a gas guzzler.
  5. You shall value quality over quantity. "Want better, not more" are words to live by in any walk of life, but especially in a small space where your possessions are edited down to a minimum.
  6. You shall not have off-site storage space. The answer to your home's clutter woes is not an auxiliary space that's hard to access and expensive to maintain.
  7. You shall buy only what you need. Technology has made it easier than ever to borrow many of the things we use infrequently, from books to power tools to camping gear.
  8. You shall tidy and organize daily. A house does not keep itself: The secret to a happy home is for everything to have a place and to do the work to put those things back in their place.
  9. You shall cherish your home. Protect and care for the home you have. The satisfaction you'll feel when you do will reward you daily.

Before You Buy, Try Out Tiny Living

If you're considering downsizing, try these strategies to figure out how small is right for you.

  • Go slow. Overnight change isn't possible when downsizing a lifetime of stuff. As you start to feel the lightness that comes with fewer possessions, you may feel more confident about moving forward.
  • Give yourself a false sense of small. Close the door to infrequently used rooms and note how long you can go before entering those spaces. If you have spare bedrooms that are empty most of the time, it may be cheaper to pay for guests' hotel rooms twice a year than to maintain a home with a guest room.
  • Be an anthropologist. Observe friends and family who are living in smaller homes than yours. Try to glean what might work—and what won't—for you.
  • Rent tiny. Spend your next vacation in a rental house instead of a hotel to give a small space a trial run.
Tiny Home White Kitchen with Wooden Counters
Customize the kitchen: A pull-out cutting board and built-in spice rack stretch precious counter and cabinet space. Weston Wells

Products That Make Tiny-Home Living Easier

Aimee Arrow Baskets

Three Wicker Aimee Arrow Baskets in Different Sizes
Courtesy of manufacturer

Add a few bins to the underutilized space above your cabinets to store items you've bought in bulk, rarely used appliances, and party supplies.

To buy: From $35,

Schmidt Brothers Acacia 24" Magnetic Wall Bar

Schmidt Brothers Acacia 24” Magnetic Wall Knife Rack with Four Knives
Courtesy of manufacturer

A magnetic knife rack is a space-efficient way to store cooking knives and is safer than keeping sharp knives in a drawer with other utensils.

To buy: $60,

Over the Sink/Stove Large Bamboo Cutting Board

Over the Sink/Stove Large Bamboo Cutting Board
Courtesy of manufacturer

If you're pressed for counter space, a stovetop cutting board can give you a much-needed work surface (while you're not actually cooking, that is!).

To buy: $31,

Wire Three-Tier Hanging Basket

Wire Three-Tier Hanging Basket
Courtesy of manufacturer

A trio of hanging baskets clears the counter and provides a spot for fruit to ripen.

To buy: $8,

Magnetic Kitchen Storage Rack

White Magnetic Kitchen Storage Rack with Shelves and Paper Towel Holder
Courtesy of manufacturer

Put the side of your fridge to work with a magnetic paper towel holder, spice rack, or hooks for cooking utensils.

To buy: $52,

ORG Aluminum Expandable Over-the-Sink Dish Rack

Aluminum Expandable Over-the-Sink Dish Rack Full of White Plates and Metal Silverware
Courtesy of manufacturer

An over-the-sink dish rack will hold a meal's worth of dishes. Keep a microfiber drying mat tucked away for times when you have a bigger load of pots, pans, and plates.

To buy: $63,

White Bello Pegboard

White Pegboard Holding Spices, Olive Oil, Measuring Cups, and Kitchen Essentials
Courtesy of manufacturer

The pegboard has been a classic way to make use of vertical space in the kitchen ever since Julia Child used one for her batterie de cuisine.

To buy: $33,

A Not-Quite-Minimalist Kitchen Checklist

Virtually everything you want to cook can be whipped up with these.

  • 1 paring knife
  • 1 chef's knife
  • 1 serrated knife
  • 1 vegetable peeler
  • 1 can opener
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 rubber spatula
  • 1 set of spring-loaded tongs
  • 1 set of measuring spoons
  • 1 set of measuring cups
  • 2-cup liquid measuring cup
  • 2 wooden spoons
  • 1 Microplane grater
  • 2 cutting boards
  • 2 half baking sheets (18 by 13 inches)
  • 1 set of 3 nesting mixing bowls
  • 9-inch skillet
  • 11-inch skillet
  • 1 stockpot
  • 6-quart Dutch oven
  • 2-quart sauce pot (this can double as your “kettle”)
  • 1 colander
  • 1 hand mixer

Excerpted from The Little Book of Living Small ($19,; $24, by Laura Fenton with photographs by Weston Wells. Reprinted with permission by Gibbs Smith.

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