Clever Storage Ideas for Small Spaces (Hint: Look Up!)

Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

Small Space Storage: Organizing Small Spaces Cheap

The New Year is here; perhaps you’re cleaning house as part of some New Year’s resolution. If so, or even if you’re still just dealing with the aftermath of holiday gift-giving, you may be on the hunt for more (or better) storage in your home.

Whether you need small apartment storage solutions, small bedroom storage ideas, or other storage ideas for small spaces, my fave small space hacks involve a simple solution. One that’s in plain sight, but many people don’t use because they never think of it.

Of all the small apartment storage hacks, small house storage hacks, and general small space hacks I’ve tried over the years, this is hands-down the best storage hack for small spaces I’ve ever tried.

Need storage solutions for small spaces? Try looking overhead.

You’d be surprised at the nooks and crannies where you can add an extra shelf or two of additional space, where it’s out of little ones’ reach when you don’t need it, but at your fingertips when you do. And when it comes to DIY storage ideas for small spaces, this is one of the most wallet-friendly and time-efficient tricks I’ve tried.

Whether you need small apartment storage ideas or small room storage ideas, this versatile storage trick tops my list of storage hacks for small spaces. We’ve added a number of storage niches like this around the house, and they’ve made a world of difference.

Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

Originally published Jan. 17, 2015; last updated Feb. 2023.

High-Shelf Storage Options for Small Spaces

1. Closet Solutions for Small Spaces: A wraparound ceiling-height shelf


Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

I love customizing the space inside closets. While I was thrilled that our new home came with a small walk-in closet in the master bedroom, I wanted even more storage space than it already had.

Among the shelves I added, I installed a shelf at just-above-door level on all four sides. It’s a great place to stash out-of-season clothes and shoes, travel supplies (think sample-sized tubes of toothpaste and contact lens solution), and other things we don’t need to access on a daily basis.

2. Small Laundry Room Storage Ideas: Space for laundry & cleaning suppliesOur laundry room needed a space to store extra detergent, stain removers, and little-used cleaning supplies.


Our laundry room isn’t small; if anything, it’s too big. But it also doubles as our guest bathroom. So the last thing our guests need to deal with is tons of shelving out in the open while they’re trying to navigate their way to the toilet or shower.

So we took advantage of otherwise-wasted space by tucking several shelves behind the laundry room door, over the utility sink.

This shelf installation required a new drill bit for our electric screwdriver – one that is designed to go through concrete – plus concrete wall anchors. In return, we gained a ton of space for storing laundry detergents, stain removers, and other household-cleaning items way up high, out of the reach of curious kiddos.

The best part of these shelves is that they’re easy to access when doing laundry, but otherwise out of the way.  And using wire shelving means we can hang stuff underneath the shelves and over the sink, from recently-washed paintbrushes to a roll of paper towels.

3. Work from home small space ideas: Hallway home office + storage

Before: The wire shelving that was here when we moved in wouldn't work for storing binders and office supplies, so down it went; I repurposed it as the new shelving in our basement laundry-supply corner.
The wire shelving that was here when we moved in got recycled as the new shelving in our basement laundry-supply corner.

This was the most elaborate project, and involved more than just some shelves around the ceiling, which were the finishing touch. When I first saw the hallway tucked behind our kitchen and first-floor bath, I thought to myself, Hmm, what a perfect place for a family-headquarters home office!

So we put in a pair of file cabinets, a piece of countertop over it (instant desk!), some shelves, and a storage cabinet.  The cabinet and wall brackets were the only parts we had to buy; we repurposed the rest from my single-gal condo and my hubby’s bachelor pad.

After adding a new cubby-with-door plus shelves, file cabinets, and countertop recycled from my old condo, we have a functional home office with lots of storage.
From empty corner to home office with lots of storage.

But then I thought, hmm, still could use more high storage for little-used office products. So I added another shelf (featured in the pic at the start of this post), over a door that leads to our backyard.

More recently, I added an additional shelf, along the unused wall, to hold little-used baking supplies (food coloring, cupcake liners, cookie cutters, etc.). Then I added a few hanging under-shelf wire-mesh bins to store even more little-used supplies, and now I hang extra baskets from the wire mesh with S-hooks.

RELATED POST: Why Baskets Rock

4. More storage options for small spaces: Extra shelves under stairs

Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

Rather than filling up our trashcan or recycling bin, we save certain types and sizes of plastic containers from grocery items, then reuse them when preparing food items destined for outside our home. Whether it’s cookies for a school party, several meals for a friend recovering from childbirth or surgery, or a salad for a potluck or party, I’d rather have an assortment of disposable dishes on hand to choose from, and prefer not to spend money on these items when we can repurpose them for free in the course of daily living.

The only problem was, we didn’t have a good place to store them before – a place that was reasonably accessible, but not cluttering up our kitchen cupboards. Then I realized there was a perfect nook at the bottom of the basement stairs where I could tuck a shelf. Problem solved.

Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

Under a different part of the basement stairs, we have a small closet where I store painting supplies. With just a few nails, I have plenty of room to hang painting tools, colored duct tapes for crafting, and extra masking and packing tape.

5. Even more small house storage ideas: Over-door craft supplies shelf Shelves high up are especially useful for keeping non-kid-friendly items, like matting supplies, out of little ones' reach.


Several times a year, I have something I’d like to preserve by matting and framing it – a favorite poster, a birth or wedding announcement, a special photograph, etc. Often these are gifts for family members. However, the cost of having them professionally matted and framed was becoming prohibitive, and I was becoming increasingly frustrated at having to send things back for re-doing because they weren’t done the way I wanted.

So I did a little research on DIY mat-cutting; scouted out coupons for the local art-supply chain stores; and bought myself some basic framing and mat-cutting tools for far less than the usual cost of getting one piece professionally done. But I needed a place to store these sharp, delicate supplies where my kiddos couldn’t reach them.

Once again, I looked up, and found a perfect space over the doorway at the entrance to my craft area in the basement.

Getting started with storage ideas for small spaces on a budget

Even if you haven’t done a lot of home project before, organizing small spaces cheap is easier than you’d think:

  • Many home improvement stores and discount department stores sell a wide array of boards for shelves,
  • as well as basic wall brackets AND more decorative bracket options.
  • A leveling ruler will help you install a new shelf straight.
  • A stud finder will help ensure your brackets go into the wooden studs behind the walls (not the drywall, where they won’t stay put very well).
  • And if you have to drill holes that aren’t on studs, installing some heavy-duty wall anchors first will help your shelving stay upright.

RELATED POST: DIY Shelf Installation Tips

RELATED POST: Weekend Kids’ Closet Makeover with DIY Shelving

Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.

Stuck for ideas on where you could add an extra shelf around your home? Closets, basements, and garages are a good place to start. Even an out-of-the-way passage or narrow hallway can hold extra shelves near the ceiling, like the extra shelves I added around the hallway to our basement crawlspace. It’s the perfect place to tuck toy boxes and extra supplies for my kids’ consignment side hustle, so they’re out of the way until I need them, but easy to find when I do.

RELATED POST: Children’s Consignment Sale Quick-Start Guide

Evan's garage before

And even the tiniest garage can probably handle a shelf near the ceiling. For example, my brother Evan had a tight one-car garage where he used to live. With a few hours of work, he added a workbench with a shelf above, which is perfect for storing large plastic containers of little-used gear.

Evan's garage after

The options for adding in an extra storage shelf are only as limited as your imagination. If you like the idea but are intimidated by where to start, check back for some how-to tips for newbies that I’ll include in a future post.

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Overhead shelves are my favorite small space storage hack, and make for easy DIY organizing small spaces cheap.


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Clever Storage Ideas for Small Spaces (Hint: Look Up!)Clever Storage Ideas for Small Spaces (Hint: Look Up!)