How to organize a small house with no storage – 5 tactics I use in my rental

These five tactics have been a lifesaver in my storage-deficient home

wood sideboard with slatted front and white sculptural table lamp and monochrome artworks / Underbed storage ideas with cork underbed bags / A storage bench with cabinet doors and a cushion top at the end of a bed
(Image credit: Jan Baldwin/Katrin Cargill/Emma Thomas / Dunelm / Cotswold Company)

I live in a small, two-bedroom rental home and, while it is the perfect size for me and my partner, it is not the best size for all of our stuff. Especially given the fact that it has next to no storage. 

To paint you a picture, the house had one small cabinet in the living room, one set of shelves in the dining room, and a small closet in the bedroom – and that was it when we first moved in. As a result, I had to think of some bulletproof ways to organize a small house with no storage pretty quickly. 

Now, after living here for two years and finally getting a lid on my clutter, I thought I would share the five best tactics for small space storage so you can learn from my trial and error.  

How to organize a small house with no storage

When organizing small spaces, sometimes you have to throw aesthetics out of the window and focus primarily on function. This is where I compromised. 

1. Invest in storage cabinets

wood sideboard with slatted front and white sculptural table lamp and monochrome artworks

(Image credit: Jan Baldwin / Katrin Cargill / Emma Thomas)

While this certainly hasn't been the most affordable step in my process, investing in closed storage ideas has been a godsend when organizing my small house – especially because I cannot add built-in storage to the space.

The storage units I bring into my home have to be able to hold a lot of stuff, meaning it doesn't always look the prettiest on the inside. Using storage units with closed cabinet fronts allows me to shove as much as I can into one storage space to make the rest of my home look organized. 

Where possible, I then use individual shelves in the cabinet, or baskets and bins, to divide things up and make them easier to access. Just because there is a lot in there doesn't mean it should be cluttered or stressful to access. 

2. Don’t be picky about placement

mud room with screened closet and storage buckets

(Image credit: Chad Mellon at Studio Mellon / Styling Kara Perlis)

As someone who looks at pictures of beautiful interior design and home organizing ideas all day, every day, I often dream of having a big house with enough room to store everything beautifully and in the right places.

For now, however, I have to accept that I cannot be picky about where I store things – so long as they are stored somewhere. For example, my dining room sideboard contains our board games, but also my partner's gym bag as it is close to the entryway and it houses my essential DIY tools

This mismatched storage might be enough to send a professional home organizer into a frenzy, but it is practical and works best when organizing a house where storage space is at a premium.

3. Use external storage

Sometimes, you have to throw the towel in and admit defeat. For me, this came around six months into living in the new house. No matter what I did, not everything was going to fit into my home without it looking like a cluttered mess, and keeping a neat home was more important to me than having everything at my fingertips. As a result, I started storing certain seasonal items away from my home. 

I am fortunate to have a family who live nearby with loads of storage space who have agreed to hold onto things like seasonal clothing and decor and have me swap them out as needed. But you can always look to hire an external storage unit instead when things look bleak. 

4. Never underestimate under-bed storage

Underbed storage ideas with cork underbed bags

(Image credit: Dunelm)

Under the bed is one of the most underused spots for home storage. When we first moved in I was in the habit of just throwing things under there and hoping for the best. However, since upgrading to proper under-bed storage bags, I have been able to fit so much more in to make the most of that otherwise dead space. 

Much like my dining room sideboard, these have a collection of items in them too. One is dedicated to organizing linens, but the other is packed full of a mixture of gym clothes, beach bags, painting clothes, and a few seasonal items packed into a vacuum bag. 

2 Foldable Underbed Bags $12.97 at Amazon

2 Foldable Underbed Bags $12.97 at Amazon

5. Make things multi-functional

A storage bench with cabinet doors and a cushion top at the end of a bed

(Image credit: Cotswold Company)

Finally, I started using professional home organizers' advice to pick multi-functional furniture wherever I could fit it. Items such as my home office desk have plenty of drawer space that I can dedicate to stationary, organizing make-up, and even medicines, and my living room coffee table has built-in storage to keep books, magazines, and gaming controllers out of the way but easily accessible. 

Of course, to fit everything into a small house and keep it neat, you cannot ignore the importance of good decluttering tips, especially if you love to shop as much as I do. I aim to do a full house declutter whenever I feel like I have been bitten by the shopping bug. This either helps me find similar items to stop me from buying more or makes room for new items to live in before they enter my home.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.