How I Finally De-Cluttered My Tiny Bedroom

Harling Ross organized her room.

I have a very, very small bedroom. It’s nothing out of the ordinary by tiny-New-York-bedroom standards, but that doesn’t make it feel any less cramped. I also have a queen-sized bed, which takes up such a disproportionate amount of space it looks like a helicopter landing pad. To complicate things further, the room isn’t perfectly square and has a radiator permanently affixed to one of the most awkwardly-shaped “corners,” thus relegating the placement of said helicopter landing pad to the least space-efficient configuration possible. The cherry on top of all this is that I’m not exactly Marie Kondo.

Note: While Tova didn’t say anything about my bedding, I decided to remove the wool throw at the bottom of my bed and swap in white pillowcases for a cleaner “after” photo. I still love and use the tie-dye silk pillowcases pictured in the “before” photo, though.

I hit a wall (literally — I stubbed my toe against my bedroom wall while trying to navigate around a pile of stuff) about a month ago and decided something had to change. The contents of my tiny room were starting to crowd in on me, like that scene in Star Wars when they’re in the garbage compactor. I needed to find a way to rearrange the puzzle pieces so everything fit in such a way that I no longer felt on the verge of suffocation. But savvy organization does not come naturally to me, nor does spatial reasoning. I’m more of a “squish things into any available cavity” kind of person, which I’ll admit isn’t optimal when it comes to matchbox living.

To make up for my lack of talent in this regard, I reached out to professional organizer Tidy Tova (who came highly recommended by Amelia). I immediately knew I was in good hands when she responded to my email and referenced her “wellspring of tidying knowledge.” A wellspring was exactly what I needed. We arranged a time to meet up at my apartment, where she examined every nook and cranny of my room with the practiced precision of a surgeon. Like all doctors with good bedside manners, she broke the news to me gently: “It definitely needs some work. But it’s nothing we can’t fix.”

To remedy the situation, Tova prescribed a targeted organizational regimen, which I’ve subsequently christened the “Small Room De-Cluttering Protocol.” If you, too, live in a tiny bedroom and find yourself overwhelmed by the task of figuring out how to make it look as spacious as possible, I suggest giving it a shot. Read Tova’s advice and how I implemented it below, and peep the before and after photos for proof of progress.

1. Put as Much as Possible Behind Closed Doors

“Exposed items look cluttered so do your best to always shut your drawers and cabinet doors — and invest in closed storage as opposed to open shelving,” Tova told me. For me, the main obstacle to this suggestion happened to be the second biggest piece of furniture in my room: my chrome shelving unit. The unit was a leftover purchase from my previous apartment. My roommates and I used it to store cereal boxes and Tupperware and other kitchen items, but when we moved last winter, our new kitchen had a pantry, so its original purpose was rendered obsolete. I decided to hang onto it as a temporary storage facility for my folded clothes until I had time to find a legit wardrobe. Spoiler alert: the legit wardrobe never manifested.

A kick in the proverbial glutes courtesy of Tova was what I needed to finally make it happen. I swapped out the chrome unit for a white cabinet from Ameriwood. It fit perfectly in my weird little nook, supplied a lot more space for storage and made my whole room look less cluttered thanks to the fact that I no longer had open shelving.

2. Maximize Your Space With Hooks

“Don’t go overboard, though,” Tova warned. “Hooks are storage meccas, but piling layers of clothing and accessories onto them will create a pile of things that not only looks awful but also isn’t easy to access.” To which I replied: “I feel like you’ve known me all my life.”

Tova visibly shuddered when I mentioned I had a spare pack of those stick-on plastic hooks you can buy at Duane Reade, so I took things to the next level and installed a real, honest-to-goodness, metal hook rack from The Container Store with a real, honest-to-goodness power drill. It’s the perfect thing for hanging my ever-expanding collection of mini bags, which were previously relegated to the confines of a poorly-organized bin. Who needs art when you have bags! Speaking of art…

3. Keep Small Wall Decor Down to a Minimum

“Less is more, and a wall covered in photos or postcards can look super cluttered,” said Tova. Fortunately I was not a major perpetrator of this de-cluttering rule, although I did have a framed illustration of my grandmother I’d been meaning to hang on my wall for…oh…about a year. Tova performed the honors within five minutes of stepping foot inside my room.

4. Keep Windowsills and Countertops Bare

“If you can, avoid putting tons of loose, trinket-y things all over windowsills and countertops,” Tova instructed. “They will always look cluttered.” I only have one windowsill in my room that isn’t blocked by my helicopter-sized bed, and sure enough, it was absolutely covered in things — beauty products, allergy medicine, jewelry, sunglasses, candles, safety pins — you name it. Tova suggested purging as many non-necessities as possible (or at least putting the less attractive stuff in my nightstand) and installing a shelf on my wall for extra counter space. I put up an acrylic one from The Container Store.

5. Take Advantage of Hidden Storage Areas

I already take AMPLE advantage of the space under my bed (I don’t even want to tell you how much stuff is under there), but Tova came up with the genius idea of putting my foam roller and exercise mat — two necessities for my tightly-wound hamstrings — behind my bed on top of the blocked windowsill. The perfect sneaky hiding space for something I absolutely need but absolutely can’t stand to look at all the time.

6. Be Realistic

“Strive for a version of tidiness that is attainable in reality,” Tova emphasized. “You live in your space, so to some extent it will look lived-in. Keep your expectations realistic and be kind to yourself! The best thing that you can do is truly hone in on the items that you love and get rid of the rest. I dare you to create a ‘one in, one out’ rule. I do it in my own life and it’s challenging but thrilling.” This sentiment was comforting when I admitted to myself that even though I was serious about making the visible areas of my bedroom look neat, the underside of my bed was a whole different potato. I decided my realistic version of tidiness is one in which the monsters under my bed roamed free, and that’s okay.

What are your best tiny room organization tips? I’m all ears.

Check out Tidy Tova’s website here, and follow her on Instagram here

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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