Feng Shui for Small Spaces

By Erica Sofrina, author of Small Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World

If you live in a small place you must be committed to becoming a minimalist or you will forever feel overwhelmed by your living space. With a little planning you can pull it off and enjoy the deeper satisfaction a life that is not encumbered by stuff, allowing you greater mobility and the comfort of knowing you are leaving a much lighter footprint on the planet.

First, I would like to say that Feng Shui is about much more than organizing — but in dealing with small spaces, organizing becomes paramount. Please see my past articles on Yin and Yang, The Five Elements, Charting the Energy Centers, Feng Shui for Offices, Kitchens, Bedrooms and Family Rooms. All of these same principles will apply to small spaces, with the addition of a little adapting.

When you live in a small space you want to carefully access every object you put into it. Pretend you are living on a boat and think- efficiency! The one bowl you choose to keep in the kitchen should be something you love that can serve multiple purposes. A vegetable peeler doubles as a zester. Edit your plates to six favorite ones and have them double as serving platters. The goal is to create a peaceful space where every object you select brings joy and moves your life forward. It should fall into the category of useful, absolutely necessary, or something that inspires and uplifts. Become committed to the three R’s – Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, and I would add a fourth-Revitalize!

I asked my Professional Organizer friend Jeri Dansky what kind of advice she gives to clients who live in small spaces and she shared these great ideas.

Pearls of Widom from Professional Organizer Jeri Dansky:

1. Be very thoughtful about what you save.

Is everything you own worthy of a space in your home or office? Is it useful – like a toaster, or a shredder, or a great pair of shoes? Is it something that you find beautiful or inspiring – something you love? Or is it something with great sentimental value – one of a selected number of things you keep because of the sentiment? If it’s not any of these things, then perhaps it’s something that you can part with, and let it go to another home.

If you have limited space, you probably don’t have room for things that are just OK. Try to surround yourself with things that make your life easier, or make your heart sing.

2. If there’s something you use very infrequently, do you need to own it? Could you borrow it or rent it when you need it ?

3. You can limit the amount of space you’re willing to give to any type of item: only the books that fit on the bookshelf, only the toys that fit in the bins, only the greeting cards that fit in the box you designate for that kind of memorabilia.

4. Regarding the sentimental stuff: Sometimes it works to take a picture of an item, and let the original go.

5. For children’s art projects and schoolwork: Be selective in what you keep, or this stuff can overrun even a large space. Your children may have opinions on what they want to keep, too. In general, keep the essay about “My Family” – but maybe not the ones about less personal topics. Keep a few wonderful original drawings, but perhaps not the ones where your child colored in a form.

6. Make use of all the space you have. Sometimes that means adding a shelf to a cabinet, so the space can be used better. Sometimes that means putting artwork on the inside of cabinet doors. Sometimes that means using the walls – adding hooks, for example.

7. Pick your storage containers wisely. Square or rectangular pieces make better use of limited space than do round containers.

Wicker Baskets are attractive storage containers that can be slipped under things and stacked on shelves. Cubes double as storage, extra seating and as a coffee table. Found at Pottery Barn.

8. Keep the clutter from ever entering your space. Again, this matters for everyone – but even more in a small space. Get off junk mailing lists. (See http://www.recycleworks.org/junkmail/residential.html) Stop taking free samples of products you don’t really want. And leave the hotel toiletries in the hotel.

9. You may not have room to be a Costco shopper. If you don’t have room to easily store large quantities of products, limit how much you buy – especially for things you don’t run through quickly. (But do make sure you have emergency supplies: sufficient water, appropriate food items, etc.)

To Jeri’s pearls of wisdom I would add a few more tips…

Next: 8 more tips for living in small spaces

10. Make sure all furniture serves a multi-function.You may only have room for one table, which may have to double as a coffee table, task table, office workspace and meals table. If this is the case you need to be very organized. Put all objects for each use together in stackable baskets that can be pulled out and easily laid out when needed. Square wicker baskets are attractive organizers. Clearly label each basket and discipline yourself to put away when not in use. Square cubes are great for seating, storage and as coffee tables when entertaining by adding a serving tray on top to place drinks and appetizers. When choosing furniture always use lighter colored furniture and lighter wall colors. Small spaces with dark furniture, lots of clutter and dark wall colors will feel oppressive. (See my article on the Power of Color.) Sofas and chairs should also be convertible to sleeper beds.

One table should serve many functions. Store articles for each in storage bins or baskets. Attractive mats or table cloths come out for dining, beloved objects come out when work is put away

11. Display your inspiring objects, just keep them to a minimum. Always have one basket for the objects you love that can be taken out and displayed when work or meals are not in progress. Perhaps you take out just a candle a favorite shell and a beloved crystal. Rotate these objects and display different ones each time. If all you see is work, you will constantly feel guilty that you work too much or aren’t working enough.

Put away work and replace with objects you love. We need to surround ourselves with things that have a personal meaning and inspire us!

12. Place “work stuff” in an attractive piece of furniture that can be closed up such as a work armoire or secretary. Always house computer monitors and televisions in cabinets behind closed doors (see my article on FS for Offices). Or cover them up when not in use with an attractive throw.

Arrange all work in an office Armoire and always close it up when not working. Office Armoire by Ballard Designs.

Being able to delineate work from play is crucial in small spaces or our lives will feel constantly out of balance. When the work is done, the fun, relaxation and/or inspiration should come out to take its place.

13. Be merciless with the clothes you keep. When our space is limited we need to be very selective with clothes accumulation. We will often need to use part of the closets for stackable organizer bins. Nix the skinny clothes you are keeping for when you lose that ten pounds, either lose it now or make peace with the size you are. Give yourself a limit and try to stick to it, when you want to bring in something new, out goes one in the same category. For a female, this may look like four good pants, three casual ones, six tops, one warm coat and one dress one, four favorite skirts, four fun-trendy pieces such as scarves or vests and six pairs of shoes. Shop selectively and make sure the main pieces are basics that can be dressed up with the trendy- fun clothes to add interest and variety.

14. Organize entrance areas. Pottery Barn and IKEA have an inexpensive piece of furniture that is great for organizing the entryway. It has hooks to hold book bags and coats with drawers, cabinets or cubbies below to hold multiple articles. Shoes for a shoeless home can be stored there, as well as books and homework that needs to be addressed later. Train yourself to unload all objects here first and you will be well on your way to keeping your space organized.

Pottery Barn has an attractive entry-way organizer

15. Bathrooms should have only what you use each day. Keep what you do use in an attractive basket that can be pulled out of a shelf when using these articles. Makeup arranged in one, blow dryers and curling irons for another. Discipline yourself to have only one shampoo and conditioner and a razor in the shower. No unwieldy plastic shelves hung askew and burdened with hair supplies crowding your small shower space! Only buy what you need and replace it when it is empty.For small bathrooms, go up! You can find inexpensive shelving at Target and other places that fit around toilets and are tall and thin for small spaces. Put baskets on these and intersperse with some decorative items. Place glass shelves up bathroom walls to store hand lotions, bath salts and other necessary items. Store in pretty containers to add color and interest to the bathroom decor.

Target has free standing organizers that are perfect for small bathrooms without any drawers or shelves.

These organizer ladders from Target are great for small bathrooms

16. If you share a small space with others, you need to have group talks and set strong boundaries. Set time for noise and time for quiet. Having someone else’s blaring television or music going all the time will drive you to distraction. Take up a meditation practice and arrange with roomies to respect your hour of silence each day. Find a corner of your space, light a candle, bring in an inspiring meditation object and put on soothing music. A daily nature meditation as described in my last article will balance your energy and rejuvenate your soul and give you much needed time just for you. Unless they are infants, children can be trained to respect your quiet time. They love to do things adults do, so make a ritual for them to have their own inspiring time drawing or reading while you have yours.

17. Always inspire yourself!

Find Pictures of Nature that Inspire and Uplift. Carl Amoth Photography www.carlamoth.com

Once our place is organized and functioning, we need to inspire our souls and revitalize our space. Your wall space will be limited but always make room for at least one inspiring piece of art; nature art is especially powerful. (See my article on Inspiring Nature Art). Make sure the last thing you see before going to bed and the first thing you see in the morning is something that makes your heart sing!




Coming soon……Pets and Feng Shui living in harmony….I will address how to live in a small space with our beloved four leggeds!

Cover photo credit: nicolas.boullosa with a tiny home from tumbleweedhouses.com

For more inspirational photos of nature visit Carl Amoth’s Photo Gallery at www.carlamoth.com

For Jeri Dansky’s great organizing newsletter go to http://www.jdorganizer.com

Related Links:

Clutter and Depression

Tiny Houses Create More Freedom

24 Rooms in a Tiny Hong Kong Apartment


Silvia Gonzalez
Silvia Gonzalez6 years ago

thank you

katarzyna phillips

interesting ideas. if you are unfortunate to be in a small space, you should question if you could upscale if it's really causing problems [we were renting a 2 bedroomed small bungalow and have been able to buy a 3 bedroomed house=so much more space!] but it's the way you deal with space. we have an attic, so all boxes are packed and up there. rucksacks and camping stuff up there too. basically anything i don't want in the shed. and in the shed, i have plastic shelves for storing items on.

our kitchen and bathroom need serious modernisation not only for aesthetics, but because i am disabled, i'm not able to use a lot of it properly. the bathroom and toilet is separate, so we are going to knock down the partition wall and put in a hot water shower as it's more efficient than an electric one. the extra space will mean we can put things in the bathroom as there is no space in there now. the door takes up the floor space and there is a window on the other wall, so no room to put up shelves.

so sometimes it's down to doing what you need to do to get more space; and shop at ikea!

Jenna W.
jen b7 years ago

Thanks for sharing!!

Joy Wong
Joy W7 years ago

Thanks for all the great tips.

Stäni Steinbock
Stäni Steinbock7 years ago

Thanks for the idea of having a picture of a landscape in front of me! I switched places for two pictures so that the one from my childhood summer paradise (my Granny's place by the Oulu river) now is in front of me. What a difference! Breathtaking is the first word I came to think of!

Louis Olivencia
Lou Olive7 years ago

You are...how you live ;-)

Carole R.
Carole R7 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Monica D.
Monica D7 years ago

Thank you

Lisa D.
Lisa Plunkett7 years ago

Very cool ideas. Definitely will be useful when I move into my new apartment!

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

These are great tips to keep in mind. I have a small living space so it's important that I keep streamlined and organized for the sake of comfort and to help keep the door open for positive energy. Thanks Erica!