7 things people with organized small spaces never do, according to professional organizers

Avoid these organizing mishaps and your small space will look so much better

A brown and beige bed with a nightstand next to it
(Image credit: @sundayharris)

Knowing what things people with organized small spaces never do is useful to know, so you don’t make these mistakes in your home. These homes can get cluttered easily if you aren’t careful, which can make living in them uncomfortable.

We’ve spoken to professional organizers to find out what people with well-kept small homes don’t do, why they don’t do them, and how you can apply the logic to your own home. They have experience in helping people transform and maintain their rentals, apartments, and smaller first homes, so they know exactly what to look for.

If you’re looking through small space interior design ideas and want to make your home neat, we’re here to help. These are the top things people with organized small spaces never do, plus useful shopping picks to help you get yours in order.

7 things people with organized small spaces never do 

When searching for small space organization ideas, knowing what not to do is just as beneficial as knowing what you should do. 

1. Don’t overbuy

A white shop with colorful clothes on a rail

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When shopping in places like Costco, it can be tempting to buy everything at once and think about where to store it later. In a small space, this isn’t a good idea, though. “People who live in small spaces never overbuy, as their homes are not meant to be stores,” says Laura DeJohn, professional organizer and founder of All Checked Off. “They don’t buy in bulk, and know their limits and stick to it.” If you are going grocery or toiletries shopping, it’s a good idea to make a list of how much you need beforehand.

A picture of Laura DeJohn in a blue shirt in a garden
Laura DeJohn

Laura DeJohn has been a professional organizer since 2019, forming her own company All Checked Off in 2020. She helps busy people get through their stuff that is weighing them down, creating customized systems in their spaces.

2. Don’t leave items everywhere

A brown and beige bed with a nightstand next to it

(Image credit: @sundayharris)

People with organized homes follow the OHIO organizing system. No, we’re not talking about the state — we’re talking about the organization system Only Handle It Once. “People with organized small spaces use this to help keep their belongings off of the counters and put away,” explains DeJohn. “Instead of walking in the door and dropping their shoes, coat, and bag on the floor, they go to their closets to store these.” This allows their small entryways to appear bigger, thanks to the clutter not being there.

3. Don’t hide everything in boxes

Two cardboard storage boxes with plants and items in them

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Buying multiple plastic bins and hiding everything you own in them isn't organizing — it is simply getting your surfaces clean. “If you just bin up your items without deciding if it should be donated, tossed, recycled or put in a different category, then you are just kicking the can down the road,” says Ben Soreff, professional organizer at H2H Organizing. This is why people with tidy homes instead review what they’re putting in these organization products and label them accordingly.

A picture of Ben Soreff in a blue shirt sitting against a gray wall
Ben Soreff

Ben Soreff is a professional organizer at H2H Organizing, which offers organizing services in the Fairfield, New Haven, and Westchester communities. He has experience working with Level 5 hoarders.

4. Don’t wait to move to a bigger space

A white living room with a couch and table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While you might have dreams of buying your first home or upgrading to a bigger space at some point, you shouldn’t leave it until then to organize your space. “People who live in organized small spaces are making plans for the future, but they're also creating systems which work for them so they can enjoy life now,” says Lucy Milligan Wahl, professional organizer and founder of LMW Edits. Instead, work with what you’ve got, and add a date to your calendar to declutter your small space.

A picture of Lucy Milligan Wahl with a pink blazer on
Lucy Milligan Wahl

Lucy Milligan Wahl is the owner of LMW Edits, which is a boutique professional organizing company based in San Francisco. For over nine years, she has helping busy professionals and their families create organized spaces they love. 

5. Don’t wait for the perfect organizing system

A pink closet with a box of folded clothes being taken out

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scrolling through Instagram and dreaming of having a perfect The Home Edit or Marie Kondo organized home just doesn’t work practically. “People sometimes have a vision of what their space can look like, but those ideas may not be able to exist in the real world,” explains Sorreff. “This is why they leave clutter in their homes, because they don't have the perfect closet system or container.” People with organized homes don’t do this — instead, they find an organizing system that works for them and the rooms they have and maintain this. 

6. Don’t go for more than a year without decluttering

Etsy

(Image credit: Etsy)

Whether you mean to or not, everyone generates clutter. “An amount of clutter that would be undetectable in a large space can be very distracting in a small space,” Milligan Wahl tells us. “People with organized small spaces declutter regularly to keep their systems working smoothly.” If you’ve accumulated too many items to deal with at once, try our 30-day decluttering challenge

7. Don’t use large storage furniture

A gray shelf with white bedding and wicker baskets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While storage ottomans and lift-top coffee tables can be useful, they might not always work in a smaller living room. “Even if something technically fits in your space, this doesn't mean it's a good idea,” Milligan Wahl explains. “Instead, those with tidier spaces use smaller, more flexible storage containers so they can both maximize their space and feel like they have breathing room within it.” 

3 useful buys to help you organize your small space

For those of you who have read through this and felt inspired to tidy up your home, these three buys will help you do just this.

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

FAQs

What things do people with organized small spaces not do?

Things people with organized small spaces don’t do include not overbuying items, throwing all their items into storage boxes, and not using large storage furniture.

What’s the most important thing people with organized small spaces don’t do?

The most important thing people with organized small spaces don’t do is not be unrealistic when setting expectations of how they want to organize their space.


Once you have organized your small space, it’s important to maintain the system you’ve brought in. “Typically, what will happen is people won't trust the new habit or new space,” says Sorreff. “For example, some people keep paper out as a reminder to do something and when the paper is filed correctly they panic because they can't see it.” This is just one small space organization mistake many make.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.

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