Do You Have a Space Budget?

posted by Andrea | 10/10/2012

I talk a lot about budgeting…

The list could go on and on!

I’m a huge advocate for budgeting because I’ve seen first-hand how living within a budget helps us to simplify and organize our lives (not to mention stay out of debt).

I’ve shared my simple financial spreadsheet and I know many of you are currently using it to help track and manage your finances. In fact, even if you don’t personally use a budget, I think you would still agree that budgeting is a good idea.


Well today, I’d like to talk a little bit more about budgeting — but this time, I’m going to focus on creating and using a budget to manage your space. 

Yup, a space budget!

If you think about it, your bedroom, basement, closet, kitchen, office, or any other area of your home is a fixed amount of space… just like your finances are a fixed amount of money. It would be fabulous if we could magically make more space in our homes… but unfortunately, that’s not the case (unless you’re willing to knock out walls like we did — or build an addition!)

So just like we need to properly manage and allocate our financial resources, we should also try to properly manage and allocate our space resources as well.

This means, clearing the extra “stuff” from our homes and paring down to the basics. It also means not buying something if you don’t have the space (even if it IS a fabulous deal).

If you’ve never thought about creating a space budget before, here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Know how much space you currently have.

Have you ever actually measured your closet, your bathroom vanity, your kitchen pantry, or your “junk drawer” to know how much space you have?

My guess is probably not. (Don’t worry, you’re in the vast majority; only weirdos like me measure every tiny space!)

If you know exactly how much space you’re starting with, it will make the organizing process SO much easier.

2. Be realistic with how much you can fit in your space.

Once you know how much space you have to work with, you have to “get real” and be honest with yourself about how much you can realistically fit in that space.

So if you have a very small bedroom closet, I can guarantee that you won’t be able to fit as much stuff in your closet as we have in ours. And our closet won’t hold nearly as much as a large walk-in closet.

Yes, you can buy space-saving organizing tools — but in general, you really can’t make more space. So the best way to get started with your space budget is to realize how much space you actually have (or don’t have!)

3. Purge anything that doesn’t fit in your space.

So this is the hard part — because it involves work. Lots of work!

If you are (or have been) in a considerable amount of debt, you know it takes a lot of work to climb your way out of debt and start living on a fixed budget… right? Well, the same is true when it comes to living on a space budget.

If your home is filled to the brim with clutter and junk, it’s going to take awhile to get back to “ground zero” and start the process of living within your space budget. But don’t let this stop you. I promise that if you just do a little bit every day (15-30 minutes) you WILL make progress and start to see light at the end of the tunnel eventually!

If you need some encouragement and motivation, here are a bunch of my posts about purging 🙂

4. Think BEFORE bringing anything new into your space.

The next time you’re tempted to bring something into your house (whether it’s junk mail, new clothing, a fabulous garage sale find, or even a gift) stop and think ‘do I have the space for this item in my home?’ 

If not, then don’t let it come inside!

This might sound somewhat crazy and extreme — but I’m sure many of you have asked yourself ‘can I afford to pay for _______?’ and if the answer was no, then you didn’t buy it (at least I hope not.)

So why is it so weird to also stop and consider ‘can I afford to make the space for_________?’

Oh, and don’t feel like you have to use every square inch of space in your home — it’s OK to have an empty drawer or cabinet (we have several at our house!) I’m assuming you don’t spend every penny you make each month, so why do we always feel like we need to use every inch of space in our homes? Leave a little breathing room!

5. Continually reevaluate how you’re using your space.

Any good financial budget requires regular “check ups” to make sure the numbers balance out, the bills are paid, and there’s still a few bucks left in the checking account. The same concept holds true for space budgets as well.

Spend some time each week and/or each month going through some of your trouble areas (kitchen counters, junk drawer, bedroom closet, etc) and not only purging anything you don’t need, but also monitoring how you’re using that space. Is there a better way you could be using that space? Is that space still feeling very cramped and disorganized? Could you find an organizing tool that might help you to better utilize that space?

Keep asking questions and don’t be afraid to change/alter how you use a specific space. Try to think creatively and outside the box to come up with a new (possibly better) solution for your storage woes.

My all-time favorite thing about organizing is when I have an “ah-ha moment” and come up with a better way to organize something. I told you I was weird though!


If your home/closet/office/car/basement/garage, or any other space in your life is feeling crowded, cramped, and chaotic, a “space budget” might be just what you need to reclaim those spaces.

Obviously organizing (and budgeting) is a process that won’t happen over night. But if you get started now, you might be surprised at how much progress you make by the New Year… and won’t it be great to start out the New Year with a clean, organized home?

Do you have a space budget?

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Filed under: OrganizingStoragePurging

Leave a comment


  1. Susan


    You are brilliant, that’s all I can say!!! I know these space principles, but I’ve been having a hard time implementing them and explaining them to my husband. He is going to love your analogy and finally understand what I am talking about! Love your site, Andrea; you are an amazing person!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Susan — sometimes husbands are the hardest to explain our ideas to!


  2. Amanda


    We had a closet in our laundry room that went mostly unused except a huge pile of shoes just in chaos at the bottom. We then realized that we could buy a 4ft shoe rack and it’s width fit perfectly in the closet! Problem solved!! It’s a million times easier to find the shoes you want, and they all have a home, and it looks good too!!

    Now if only I could totally de-clutter our office… it’s my winter project this year.


  3. Michelle


    YES! For sure I have a space budget, we are a family of four living in a 1000 sq ft home! Our bedroom is approx. 10X10. I’m currently blogging 31 Days of Declutter because I so need to do it in my home. I’m dreading my bedroom series because it’s a sty and I am NOT good at budgeting space in there! But bookcases and baskets have become my best friends because it’s giving me more space up the walls, and bookcases don’t stick out far. Space budget…my never ending battle!


  4. Kelekona


    Well, still working out the budget, but space was one factor we used in choosing which house to buy.

    We knew that we needed a storage room, craft room with storage, library / office for hubby, and a social room. The library is in the social room, we have two storage rooms and craft storage is inconvenient to the craft room, which is currently doubling as kitchen overflow, but it should eventually begin to work.


    Kelekona Reply:

    Oh, and I just figured out how to store my tea. I have a cardboard bulk-pack that is the right shape, somehow the wooden or tin teaboxes aren’t. I can use bristol board as the inner liner and decopage a map to the outside for strength.

    Talk about an ah-ha moment.


  5. Victoria@Snailpacetransformations


    Yes I do! I have book shelves that I insist our books must all fit on and when they don’t I purge. I have a dresser that I insist must have all its drawers shut with ease, and when it doesn’t I purge. Right now I have a few too many clutter piles around which I am formulating a plan to do a 7 week clean and purge of the house starting in November and ending before Christmas so that when we get new things as gifts they will fit an hopefully the majority of those clutter piles will disappear then.


  6. Jeanine


    Actually, you’re probably one of the few sane ones among us – Thanks for sharing your great ideas!


  7. Ive


    I’ve never thought about it this way, but we have a very specific example of space budgetting in my home. My boyfriend is an avid boardgame and CCG collector. It is a BIG collection and he’s always looking to buy more. So the deal is this: he can’t buy anything that will not fit in the dining room closet. Everything gaming is there for now and if he wants to buy something that will not fit, he’ll have to get rid of something else. To this end, he’s devised his own system of taking note of when we play each game on a simple spreadsheet. So at the end of the year, he has a pretty good idea of which games are good candidates for elimination (i.e. the ones we haven’t played in the last 12 months). It has been working pretty well to date.
    My next project is organizing the DVDs (all 400 of them…) and setting a limit there too. I’m trying to eliminate as much clutter as I can from our home, but I still have a long way to go. Thanks for the inspiration!


    Kelekona Reply:

    That’s something to be said about all collections. One of my collections is electricity-free games, and most of them conform to nostalgia or tactile justification rather than playability, though I have a few that are purely playability keepers. However, any that can rob space from the books does not have to justify the space-usage the same as the lower-side-table dweScrabble would need the plastic turn-table converted into something useful and the board re-drawn onto drafting cloth.)


  8. Liz C


    We definitely have a space budget. Our little mid-20th century cottage is under 780 square feet, and there are six of us, so preventing the house from feeling cluttered is a prime exercise in knowing what can fit, and making some careful editing choices. 🙂 Lightening up to the key elements that make like easier, comfortable, and homey really helps. (It’s about time to re-budget wardrobe space for fall, and toys, and school books, and business storage… but my kitchen space fits together well!)


  9. Diana


    confession: I am an avid space budget freak. If I shop for furniture it is always with a tape measure in hand. 🙂 I’m also a time budget freak- your’s is one of the few blogs that I actually read. Keep em coming.


  10. Diana


    love it!


  11. Deni


    This post is exactly the guide I needed to get more organized. I always feel like I’m fighting clutter and moving it around all day. Especially the kids stuff. I never thought of it as a “space budget”. We are on the Dave Ramsey plan and have been very successful with it, and now I can apply the same principles with this plan. It’s brilliant!!! Thanks Andrea 😉


  12. Lisa


    I’ve never thought about it in terms of “budgeting”, but yet, it IS how I roll. If I bring something home and it doesn’t fit in the closet/cupboard or on the shelf, then I’m either going to return it or get rid or something else that’s in that closet. Along the same lines is a time budget. I’ve definitely been thinking more that that concept lately! If you budget time (that 15-30 minutes you talked about) to budget space, it’s a win-win-win, right? 🙂


  13. Kara


    I love this post! We have 3 kids in a townhouse and Idon’t want to feel cramped. I need to get the kids clothes more organized because with 3 boys reusing clothes is a must. But right now they are not as organized as I would like them to be. With xmas coming toys and clothes are on the top of my organizing to do list.


  14. Melissa


    What a great post! I will have to start to definitely look at my house in that fashion even when I am buying Christmas presents for the kids!


  15. Christine


    Great post! I’m a bit nutty about space as well. To me, the house feels good when it feels a little bit empty, but there are a few spaces where things just build up and it’s definitely time to go through those areas again! Got to love having some empty shelves and drawers.