Unique Ways to Add Storage Space (Especially in Small Homes)

Michelle Hopkins
January 12, 2016

As seen in...

Westcoast Condominium


A decade ago, Elinor Warkentin said goodbye to a spacious apartment and hello to a 380-square-foot character charmer in the West End.

“I definitely speak from experience when it comes to finding new ways to store my stuff,” quips the owner of Goodbye Clutter, a company that helps people de-clutter, organize and find solutions to their lack of space issues – big or small.

It’s safe to say that Warkentin has become an expert in helping her clients look for distinctive and functional ways to store their things.

“The very first thing we do is sort, purge and organize,” adds the professional organizer. “Then, we find ways to utilize the space they have more effectively… it’s really about taking the time to critically look at your condo and to find more storage space and ways to use what you do have more effectively.”

She went on to talk about what she calls “looking for those empty pockets” in your home. “One of my favourite space-saving pockets is your luggage,” she says. “Keep a large garbage bag in your suitcase so when you need your suitcase for a trip, all you do is empty all of the stored items into the bag and place it where you store your suitcase until you return home.”

If your décor is vintage, head to your favourite antique shop and look for those traditional mail-room cabinets or the old storage lockers – you know the metal ones from your high school gym? Stack them and display some of your favourite keepsakes and treasures.

Another idea is a vintage ladder – perfect to organize blankets.

“Antique breadboxes look fabulous and provide storage for your table linen or candles,” adds Warkentin. “Another is a second-hand library card catalogue. It can double as a recipe card holder or for bills and statements.”

Here are some more of Warkentin’s top storage solutions:

  • Repurpose things. She has another idea for the suitcase. Warkentin’s antique travel luggage doubles as her linen storage and as her bedside table. This idea is great to stow those off-season items.
  • Go vertical. If you have a shelf in your closet, add a second one that isn’t as deep to store those smaller items.
  • Foot stools offer great storage space for games or Afghans.
  • Create a bookcase in your staircase – you can have some bookshelves built into each stair, if they are deep enough.
  • Hanging fabric shoe boxes can also be a great place to stow all sorts of items. They are only about seven inches deep so they can fit practically anywhere. Ikea has some in an array of colours.
  • Consider a Murphy bed with a desk that folds out when the bed is up.
  • Wall-mounted desks or side tables (both with drawers) in the bedroom are great space savers.
  • Add shelves to the back of your cabinets.
  • No space for a towel rack? Hang some on the back of the door.
  • If you have dead space below your bathroom sink, you can create extra storage with a decorative curtain.
  • Add a large shower caddy for your bottles of shampoo, conditioners, body products and razor thus freeing up some valuable cabinet space in the bathroom.
  • Get creative. You know that old dish rack you don’t use anymore… well, it makes a great place to hold your mail, file folders, pens and other sundry papers.
  • Who doesn’t have any mason jars kicking around? They take up way less space than your typical Tupperware containers and they look great and can be hung underneath cabinets.
  • Baby boomers will remember the Lazy Susan. Now it’s called a “turntable.” These 12- to 18-inch turntables can be placed in your refrigerator to add precious square footage.
  • Even if you don't have a ton of spices, those little spice racks can be extremely functional for storing small things all around your condo. Use them to create extra storage in unlikely places – on the side of cabinets, on the bathroom wall – and keep your small things enclosed.
  • For a little extra storage, mount a shelf just below the ceiling along the length of a room. If your ceilings are tall enough, you'll barely notice it. This works especially well in a hallway.
  • Under your bed is a goldmine of usable space. Stuff numerous boxes filled with seasonal items, such as blankets, clothes or your yoga mat. “I always caution my clients not to place paperwork or bills under the bed as it can interfere with their sleep just knowing they are there,” says Warkentin.  
  • You might think a lattice wall is only for your backyard. Warkentin has a designer friend who uses one in his home to hang his sporting gear.
  • If you have children, avoid mixed zones. Keep the toys in one area instead of having them scattered everywhere.
Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.