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5 tiny house storage solutions to make more from less

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | March 3, 2016

A red, tiny houseIf you've ever lived in a studio apartment, traveled by RV, or spent time sailing, you may already have a good idea of what it's like to live in a tiny house. Storage solutions can be enhanced by good design.

To make tiny house living work, you have to utilize all available space efficiently, but you also have to learn to live with less. Making the move to a tiny house requires a special mindset, good planning, and clever storage solutions. Here are five ideas to help you live small:

Scale down the amount and size of your possessions

Anyone downsizing to a home that's 400 square feet or less must fully grasp the concept of "You can't take it with you." If you're accustomed to storing unused items in your closets, garage, or attic because you think you might need them one day, now is the time to sell, donate or throw them out. Get acquainted with the minimalist lifestyle before you build or buy your tiny house. Practice using only the bare minimum you need to function. If you're the kind of person who typically fills two suitcases to go away for a week, you might be overestimating your ability to live in a tiny house. Learn how to get by with less, and that goes not just for clothing and personal care items but also things like household cleaning products, sporting gear, food and kitchenware. Take a soul-searching look at everything you own and eliminate anything you don't use regularly, as well as big, bulky items you can do without or replace with more compact versions like half-size refrigerators and e-book readers.

Create storage areas in the walls and stairs

If you are designing or building your tiny house, plan ahead for built-in storage solutions: shelving between wall studs; a skinny pullout pantry; a large medicine cabinet embedded in the bathroom wall; platforms with drawers under mattresses and under the living area seating. Most tiny houses have sleeping lofts. If you have room to build a railing on your loft, outfit it with open or curtained shelving beneath -- or build shelving below the open end of the loft. For hidden storage make use of sliding doors and curtains instead of cabinet doors that open into your space. If you have enough room for a staircase, outfit each step with a drawer or use the area under the highest end of the stairs for a cabinet or clothes washer.

Make use of see-through structures, natural light, and cathedral ceilings

The smaller your home, the more you may yearn for at least the illusion of spaciousness. High-pitched roofs and cathedral ceilings with loft sleeping areas create additional living space and an airier feel. They also create more wall space for vertical storage options and decorative touches. Skylights and judicious use of windows can provide ample natural light and a connection to the outdoors. Open spiral staircases and ladders that fold up, pull up, hang on the wall or have rungs on either side provide more light and a view of the rest of the home. They also take up less space than a full set of stairs. Customize the depth of standard cabinets and shelves so they don't protrude as far into your kitchen space. Eliminate interior walls as much as possible.

Use furniture that folds or slides out of the way when not in use

Use folding chairs for dining and hang them out of the way on the wall just beneath the ceiling when you're done with them. Install a fold-down dining table for additional work space. If you need guest sleeping quarters or want to use your loft space for storage, install a wall bed, also known as a Murphy bed, or storage platforms with cushions that double as living room seating during the day and can be rearranged at night to form a bed.

Search high and low

Use your vertical space -- install wall systems such as pegboards or rods with hooks to hang cookware and mugs. Hang baskets on closet walls -- or from the ceiling -- to hold folded clothes and accessories. Build lift-out trays or compartments under the floor accessible by trap doors, and utilize the kick space under the cabinets for additional drawers.

Regardless of the limited space, your tiny house becomes a home when you personalize it. Add a few special touches like a unique light fixture or under-shelf, LED rope lights, some small rugs and throw pillows. By creating vertical space with varying ceiling heights, you'll have room to hang shelving to display decor and some of your favorite books or other cherished possessions. No matter how small your living quarters, you may never be ready to part with some things.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.