How to organize a small apartment, according to the professionals

You don't have to be mis in your tiny digs

An apartment living room with blue and pink furniture and decorations
(Image credit: Getty)

Trying to organize (or manifest trying) a small apartment? It can feel super overwhelming to get started — but trust me, it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, there are plenty of easy, clever ways to make it look neat and tidy, that don't require a lotta effort, especially with the right organization products.

Whether it's clothing, kitchen items, or makeup, it can be hard to find the right place to put it all, when options are limited. After all, you can’t just store those off-season sweaters or swimwear in a garage or in that extra guest room closet you don’t have.

I've spoken to a few experts to find out the best ways to organize an apartment. By following along with this list, you can evaluate exactly what you have, declutter, and then move everything to the right place.

Scroll on down for everything you need to know when organizing a small apartment...

10 expert-approved ideas for organizing a small apartment

Whether it's one room or the whole apartment that you're looking to revamp, this list of top tips will help you get things looking neat AF. I've also put together some buys, so you can start getting organized ASAP.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

1. Be ruthless with the declutter

Professional organizer Shantae Duckworth tells me the best way to organize a small apartment is to start with a ruthless approach to decluttering. “Pull everything out of every space and really analyze everything you own.” From here, you can ask yourself if you will actually use an item. If something doesn’t fit, isn’t in working condition, or you forgot you had it, it's probably time to say goodbye. “Think about how much stuff you actually own compared to the size of your apartment and living situation. For example, if only two people live in an apartment, do you really need ten dinner plates?” Items that are in good shape can be donated to Goodwill — otherwise, take 'em to the trash.

2. Donate what you don't need anymore

Instead of disposing of things and adding them to a landfill, Duckworth highly suggests giving your unworn or unused items a second life by donating them instead. This can be a bit of a challenge if you live in a city or don’t have a car, but there are ways around this. She tells me, “If you don’t have a car to transport donations there are a lot of companies that will come and pick up clothes and furniture donations for you. There are a lot of free options that will require some research in your area. All you would have to do is schedule a time that works best for you.”

3. Get creative with hanging solutions

While it’s easy to organize a large home, smaller spaces require out-of-the-box thinking. Duckworth advises getting creative with hanging shelving, such as using over-the-door organizers to store shoes or clothing. “Stackable shelves in your cabinets will also help maximize some space for dishes and glassware.” As well as these, she also recommends Command Hooks, which are Amazon best sellers. “I use them to hold up my broom and mop on the back of my linen closet door.” This type of hook is ideal for apartments because they stick to the wall or door and don’t require a hammer and nails.

4. Organize with baskets and bins

I’m a huge lover of baskets and bins, of all different shapes and sizes. Whether I’m storing away my cozy blankets or want my stationery to be organized but accessible, they’re always useful for keeping items close by in a stylish way. “Small spaces can quickly become cluttered,” explains Lisa Cantu, owner of An Organized Home OC. “Baskets and bins help you group similar items together, preventing clutter and making it easier to find what you need. Labeling is your friend!” Hook-on labels, hand-written stickers, or a label maker (such as this Phomemo one which is Amazon's Choice) are all great ways to do the latter, BTW.

5. Go for seasonal rotation

Yes, you might be absolutely in love with your furry winter coat — but it def doesn’t need to be on display at all times of the year. Cantu says, “Store away thick winter blankets in summer, and put away beach gear in winter.” She continues, “A great way to achieve this is by storing items in places out of sight, such as under-the-bed storage or in ottomans.” By keeping them away but still accessible, you can then always grab them if the weather magically shifts (as it often does, TBH).

7. Create zones

I’ve lived in apartments before and always found it hard to separate out the different zones (especially when I was living in a studio). It was only after moving out that I found out this hot tip, which I totally love. “If you live in a small space that needs to double-duty as multiple rooms, but lacks a structural separation, start zoning,” says Shivani Vyas, interior designer and owner of Studio Vyas. “For example, if your bedroom and living spaces connect, build out a partition via curtains, mountable sliding doors, or panel room dividers.” When doing this, just be sure to check your apartment rules about mounting/hanging — you don’t want to get on your landlord’s bad side, trust.

8. Look vertically 

When you haven’t got much horizontal space, you’ve gotta look in the other direction — this is a major game-changer in small spaces. Vyas explains, “Visualize your apartment from a vertical eye to free up your horizontal real estate. To start, consider wall-mountable furniture like floating nightstands or shelves — solutions that will help you regain your floor space (and make your apartment appear larger visually).” She also suggests thinking vertically about your television solution, too, such as trading in your media center for a TV mount instead, or using a floating media console if you can’t go without entertainment storage

9. Limit items on surfaces

I’m totally guilty of this one, so no judgments from me if you’re reading this and side-eyeing your messy side table. “Keeping countertops and other surfaces clear is one of the most important steps in maintaining an organized home,” Cantu tells me. Although a relatively easy task, this really does make the space look organized and gives you more room for cooking, working, or other activities. “This also encourages you to find a proper home for every item, reducing clutter.” Less mess = less stress. 

10. Keep the space tidy

While organizing a small apartment is one thing, maintaining it is a different story. However, with a little bit of planning, it isn’t too difficult. “I would suggest setting up a consistent schedule to go through each space of your apartment. Every month, go through one particular space to really determine if these are items that you really want,” says Duckworth. It’s also crucial to be mindful of what you bring into your home. “If you know it is not your vibe, or that you're not going to use it, don't even let it come through your apartment door.” Basically, picture that girl with the X arms emoji every time you're debating rehoming useless pieces.

Up next: 15 apartment decorating ideas that majorly deliver on style

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!

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