Key takeaways: 

  • Atlanta, GA, Pittsburgh, PA, and Denver, CO, stand out as the top three metro areas for home storage space, featuring the best mix of on-site storage options and living space per person.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the Miami and New York metro areas leave residents stranded for storage space.
  • Looking at home sizes in relation to household size, the Memphis and New Orleans metropolitan areas are tops for living large as they both offer residents more than 1,000 square feet of living space per person. 

Home space has always been a hot topic when discussing housing choices, and it’s only grown in importance over the past year. Many of us had to turn our homes into multi-functional spaces and sought to maximize every inch of living space to make room for home offices, gyms and play areas as well as to accommodate possessions of the new boomerangsadult children moving back with parents in the aftermath of the pandemic. Aside from the aesthetic aspect, organizing a home well results in better living conditions, while neglecting this has a negative impact on our health and wellbeing.

Room for storing belongings becomes paramount in this context and can be a deal breaker for anyone seeking to live comfortably. American homes generally provide plenty of room to roam, with living space per person in new-built homes growing by 80% over the last 50 years, as Census data shows. But not all places are created equal, and some urban hubs do much better than others in catering to residents’ storage and organization needs.

We set out to discover where people get easy access to home storage options as a way to enjoy an uncluttered life. We defined “home storage” as a mix of on-site storage options, including basements and garages for single-family homes and parking garages and outside storage lockers for apartment renters. We then considered living space per household member, as more personal square footage usually equals more storage options.

The combined score resulting from analyzing these two metrics in specific locations across the U.S. told us how much of the local housing stock offers an ideal share of home storage options. In other words, it allowed us to see where residents can easily enjoy their homes without being overwhelmed by stuff and, on the other hand, where people are squeezed inside their homes.

Among the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., Atlanta offers its residents the best possibilities for leading an uncluttered life. Moreover, according to our research findings, it’s generally the inland metros that provide the best storage potential whereas coastal hubs such as Miami, LA and San Francisco leave residents stranded for home storage space.

Most and Least Squeezed US Metros for Storage Space

U.S.’s inland metros outperform big coastal hubs for storage space

Atlanta and Pittsburgh in the Mid-Atlantic region win overall thanks to their combination of spacious living quarters and good on-site storage options. Residents in both metros can easily live large, literally, as personal space in both locations is bigger than in many other urban hubs. Seattle residents for example get 22% less personal space in their homes than Atlantans. Atlantans enjoy over 1,000 sq. ft. of living space per capita and 85% of Atlanta single family homes come equipped with garages.

In a similar vein, 91% of Pittsburgh single family homes have basements and 76.2% feature a garage.

Out West, Phoenix has the 5th best home storage possibilities, fueled in large part by the availability of garages in more than 93.5% of single family homes there.

Denver’s home sizes have been trending downward over the last decade, but the city still offers considerable living space per capita – enough to allow residents to stretch out. But Denver-area homes boast not only generous living areas but also a nice mix of other potential storage spaces, with 90.5% of the single family housing stock being equipped with a garage and 75.1% offering a basement.

This is a far cry from the country’s large East and West Coast cities, with Miami coming last among the biggest 25 metros due to both limited living space per resident and poor storage possibilities outside those living areas. Los Angeles and San Francisco have similar issues with a lack of storage options that add to their reduced personal living space.

In fact, Los Angeles and San Francisco have the least personal space per capita among the biggest U.S. metros, roughly 30% less than the space a person can enjoy in New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta.

Space has always been at a premium but there may now be a greater emphasis on storage than ever before. The pandemic-triggered need to create multi-functional spaces at home put pressure on living space even in large residences. “In the past year and a half more people have been focusing on what they own and store as they’ve been spending a lot more time at home,” said Julianna Poplin from The Simplicity Habit. “More people are choosing to take back control of their homes and get them in better order.”

As for what’s next for the housing sector in terms of space needs, the trend that seeks maximization of the home environment looks like it’s here to stay. Whether or not it was intentional, people learnt how to love their homes in a whole new way this past year. In fact, a recent survey by The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies published in August 2021 shows that the amount spent by homeowners on improvements to their homes — remodels, replacements, additions and structural alterations — has doubled over the past two decades to more than $260 billion annually. Moreover, DIY projects, which were trending downwards before the pandemic, have now seen a major boost, with more than 80% of homeowners undertaking a do-it-yourself project in 2020.

Ultimately, after putting time and effort into using space well and getting used to an improved home environment, people may well want to keep things that way. And they may also have learnt where to find space in home storage options such as garages and external storage lockers, so this will be factored into their new maximizing space lifestyle.

What the experts say

We asked several experts who work as professional organizers or in related fields to give their opinions about the latest trends regarding home storage space.

Jessica Litman, Professional Organizer / Decluttering Expert

Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

Yes I have! I have found that people aren’t just storing things to use one day. They are holding onto items that they are actually using now. Like fine china. People are using it now instead of only for fancy occasions.

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Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

I definitely think it has. I feel like more people are investing in their outdoor spaces far more than they did before. Also rethinking formal dining and living spaces. They aren’t as useful as they once were and now I feel people are re-imagining those spaces.

Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

Be intentional with what you are holding onto. Only keep things you need, use or love. Everything else is just clutter.

Have you noticed any changes in people’s use of self-storage units recently?

I have noticed people clearing out their storage units far more than in the past. They want their possessions in their homes and on display instead of stored away. I think we are getting to be a society of living more intentionally!

Anne Blumer, Certified Professional Organizer at SolutionsForYou, Inc.

Strategy #1 Edit Your Belongings: Follow our proven and easy to implement 5 Steps to Organizing process to curtail your belongings to what you use and love.

Read more....
Strategy #2: Go Vertical
One of the easiest, most effective, tricks is to go up rather than out. By utilizing vertical space you save square footage.

Strategy #3 Accessibility: Placing drawers inside a closet as a dresser can free-up space in the bedroom. It also keeps all clothing in one central location. You could add wheels to a set of free-standing drawers to make a rolling cart for all types of uses such as a kitchen island and storage of frequently used kitchen tools, craft materials, office supplies, or projects.

Strategy #4: Close the Gaps
Use containers that fill a shelf space and different size containers from one container family that are modular and made to fit together.

Strategy #5: Double-Duty Furniture
Find a table that can function as a desk and dining table. Get a deep sofa that can double as a guest bed. Buy cubes that can serve as a coffee table.

Strategy #6: What’s Behind the Door?

Behind every door is an overlooked and hidden area with big storage potential. To maximize every centimeter you’re paying for, take advantage of the backs of doors in your room for bags, scarves, belts, hats, and more. This tactic also frees up drawer space for other items.

Strategy #7: Install a Custom Space

Built-ins tailored to your needs can utilize every available sliver of space. When they’re part of the walls, you don’t lose as much valuable square footage. For example, turn a wall into an office or craft space.

Michelle Hansen of Practical Perfection

Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

There has been a huge surge in home organization since the pandemic. People are spending a lot more time at home and they are making more of a concerted effort to turn their homes into more of a sanctuary. While there are many things in the world we can’t control, the atmosphere and design of our home is something that we can control! People are thinking critically about what items actually make them happy and they get rid of the rest. Some people are even moving items that they don’t want stored at their home to a storage unit to free up physical space and mental space.

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Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

I highly recommend purging the items that are no longer serving you. Be brutally honest with yourself and get rid of the things that don’t fit, are broken or that don’t make you happy. This will make things a lot easier when you organize your small home. My next tip is to make sure to use your vertical space. Many times when people organize, they leave a lot of vertical space completely unused. This is valuable real estate that can aid in helping you to organize your home to help you increase efficiency and happiness!

Julie Coraccio, Chief Possibility Officer at Reawaken Your Brilliance

Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

This really has been individual. The pandemic has affected people differently. Some were motivated to purge and declutter and get organized; some were too overwhelmed to move forward. As some people continue to work from home, I’ve seen an increase in maintaining a decluttered and organized space for work and for some it’s translating to other areas of the house.

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Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

What I’ve noticed is people nesting more. They’d like to have more spaces where they can do things they can’t go out for, such as watch movies, or have a space they can get away to–like a great backyard. And of course, many have set up offices that didn’t have one before.

Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

One of my favorite suggestions is furniture that doubles as storage, such as an ottoman to store shoes or beds that have built ins to store blankets, sheets, etc. Don’t forget to see if rearranging furniture can give you more space as well. Look to see if you can move and adjust shelving in closets, cabinets to maximize space as well.

Have you noticed any changes in people’s use of self-storage units recently?

I’ve seen some who are doing a larger remodel of the home use. Also, because it’s a hot real estate market, many are using to declutter to make the house look good, especially if they are having it staged, to store possessions.

Amy Trager, Certified Professional Organizer

Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

It seems that post-Shelter-in-Place, many people are craving less. They’re recreating their space to accommodate more time at home with their families – more house-bound activities like games and crafts.

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Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

See above answer. I have seen more of this! More craft rooms being made or areas dedicated to gaming and puzzles.

Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

Always remember to take advantage of the vertical space available. We tend to think of storage in the horizontal – counters, desktops and the like. But, there’s usually at least seven feet of vertical space we can use, whether with shelves, hooks or racks of some kind. This can really maximize the efficiency of our spaces.

Have you noticed any changes in people’s use of self-storage units recently?

I’m usually helping people downsize or completely get rid of off-site storage. Realistically, when something goes to storage, it’s very unlikely it will be used or seen again, unless it’s seasonal – like holiday decorations or camping equipment. Hopefully, as people are ridding themselves of excess belongings, they’re also realizing it’s been years since anyone has gone to the storage unit and used something. Time to release it all!

Ellen Delap, Certified Professional Organizer, owner of Professional-Organizer.com

Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

With the pandemic, there are people are either decluttering at a remarkable rate or paralyzed. If people are letting go of their stuff, they are proud to share their progress. If they are paralyzed, they are asking for help from professional organizers.

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Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

People are investing more in their homes to make these spaces what they want. That could be spaces that are more serene or spaces for more play at home. People are updating kitchens and bathrooms, and adding outside kitchens and pools.

Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

Always double up the use of storage. If you need seating, use an ottoman that also stores. Maximize closet space by using the back of the door with an organizing product. Be sure to store high up in a closet with additional shelving.

Have you noticed any changes in people’s use of self-storage units recently?

Self-storage continues to grow at a fast pace. Use of storage for renovation projects keeps your belongings organized and clean. With an increase in moving, storage is being used as an alternative to store items when a home is being staged. There is also an increase in using storage for recreational items such as jet skis, boats and RVs.

Julianna Poplin at The Simplicity Habit

I have noticed that in the past year and a half more people have been focusing on what they own and store as they’ve been spending a lot more time at home. This had lead to an increased interest in people decluttering items that are no longer serving them and then organizing what they want to keep. During the pandemic, there has been a lot of things that people could not control. More people are choosing to take back control of their homes and get them in better order. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time somewhere, you want to make it an enjoyable place to be.

Lisa Zaslow at Gotham Organizers

Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

With people spending more time at home in the past year and a half – working from home, kids having school at home, going out less for meals and entertainment – for many people, organization fell by the wayside as they struggled to simply keep up with all the changes and challenges that COVID-19 has brought. With the introduction of vaccines, people have had more mental energy to focus on organizing their homes to suit their current needs.

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Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

Many people still have the stockpiles of supplies that they thought they would need early in the pandemic – massive quantities of toilet paper, sanitizing supplies, masks, canned food, etc. People now want to re-claim their living space and find room to store these items out of the way. My clients feel it’s no longer okay to have boxes stacked in the foyer! There have been lots of pandemic-related purchases – from jigsaw puzzles to bread-making machines to puppies!

Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

Using your “vertical space” is the best way to increase your storage in a small home. Shelves and hooks let you use your walls for storage. Storing things in attractive boxes makes your shelves look attractive. Double-duty furniture increases your storage space, such as: ottomans and coffee tables with storage; storage cabinets with a pull-out desk/dining table/crafts space; beds with built-in storage. Under-the-bed boxes are great for stashing things like linens or even toys and kids’ artwork. Use them under couches and dressers too!

Have you noticed any changes in people’s use of self-storage units recently?

Folks are definitely paying more attention to storage inside and outside of the home, with an eye towards maximizing their space and being more mindful about what they have. People are getting smarter about organizing their storage spaces by adding shelving to make items accessible. I have my clients make an inventory of what’s in storage and have it accessible electronically so they don’t forget what’s there.

Julie Bestry, Certified Professional Organizer® and President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN.

1. Have you noticed any recent changes in how people organize their possessions?

I’ve seen two main changes over the past 18 months.
First, far more people have added entire categories of possessions as they’ve had to make various rooms perform double- (or even triple-) duty.
For example, office-based professionals may have kept a laptop at home or even had a small area set aside for workspace/desk space, but with the global changes of the last year and a half, breakfast nooks, spare bedrooms, and corners of living rooms had to be organized to accommodate remote workspaces and classrooms.

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Videoconferencing and video schooling exposes “private” home areas for public consumption, prompting people to create Zoom-ready desk areas that need to look tidy. Sometimes, this has meant being more attentive to actually decluttering and organizing; for others, it just means that clutter has moved off-camera/below camera, so those areas have become LESS functional as the captured in front of the camera get more streamlined.

Similarly, with people unable to go to the gym, they have sought to organize rooms to serve as home gyms, acquiring equipment (e.g., Pelotons, stationery bikes, or even just yoga mats) and rearranging furniture so that the equipment can face television or computer screens so that they can be entertained while they exercise.

Second, people have been feeling inclined to both declutter and reorganize according to “rules” they have learned from celebrity organizers on streaming programs, like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” or “Get Organized with The Home Edit.” These rules can be both helpful and constraining, as many feel obligated to purchase costly, matching, color-coordinated containers, focusing on form rather than function. It’s great that people want to get organized, but they shouldn’t feel pressured into following arbitrary rules and systems that may not fit their household’s situation or needs. Paring down possessions does far more than investing in a pricy container!

2. Have pandemic-related spending and recreation trends changed what people have in their homes?

Yes!
Unable to spend money on experiences (travel, entertainment, restaurant meals), individuals and families have embraced the trends of three types of hobbies: exercise, cooking, and binge-watching television (with the first attempting to cancel out the more problematic effects of the second and third)! As alluded to above, people have been purchasing more large-scale exercise equipment, as well as more speciality cooking tools and gadgets. They’ve also been upgrading their entertainment-related equipment (televisions, computers, tablets, audio equipment) and home-based programming services.

Because people having been spending so much time on screens, and have had more time to fill up, we’ve also seen an uptick in the acquisition of tangible books (requiring increased shelving to accommodate all those books).

3. Do you have any tips about how to store belongings in a small home?

* FOCUS ON VERTICAL STORAGE. The more you can store on or against the wall
(think: bookshelves, cubes, hooks on walls, pegboards, over-the-door shoe-organizers with pockets for everything from cleaning supplies to electronic/chargers/batteries), the less that will clutter your limited horizontal real estate on the floor, in cabinets/drawers, and on countertops and tables. Add vertical space in closets by adding a second rod, suspended by bungee cords.

* STORE HIGH AND LOW. Things you need often should be visible and accessible, but for less often needed items (off-season clothing, holiday decorations, items for entertaining), store in/on your highest cabinets/shelves, or in below-bed storage containers. You don’t have to opt for the old plastic standbys; there are lovely canvas and woven storage cubes and lidded bins.

* CATEGORIZE INTO ZONES. If everything is assigned a home, and similar/related items are grouped together, it will be faster for you to find what you need, as there will only be one logical place for it. That means a bill-paying zone (where all incoming paperwork lands, awaiting processing), preferably near where you can file it; in sub-categorized zones, that means one kitchen cabinet where all the coffee-making supplies live, another where your baking tools live.

* DIVIDE AND CONQUER. A large, undivided drawer or shelf is an invitation for chaos. Use dividers dividers in to keep rows of intimates
(bras/undies/accessories) separate. Tiny tension rods or drawer dividers in the kitchen keep kitchen implements and gadgets from tangling. In your desk drawers, use interlocking office supply dividers to group small sub-categories of essentials. In your bathroom drawers, use small, plastic, flat-bottomed baskets to separate items for dental care, cosmetics, hair care, etc. On pantry shelves, use dish pans to serve as drawers so you can coral related food items (pastas, rice dishes, spice or sauce packets, etc.)

* SEE CLEARLY NOW. You’re more likely to use what you can see clearly. If items are in drawers you’re looking down into, don’t use lids. If containers are on shelves in front of you, aim for clear containers so you can see what you’re seeking at a glance. (If that’s not possible, make sure you label everything on the user-facing side.)

* DO DOUBLE-DUTY. A cube-based bookshelf (like the IKEA Kallax series) can serve as a room divider, making one space serve two purposes. A padded footstool/ottoman with interior space can hide hanging folders for the office or extra throw blankets; with the lid on it, it adds to your available seating.

4. Have you noticed any changes in people¹s use of self-storage units recently?

At the start of the pandemic, people began blending households. Younger adults moved home with their parents; unmarried couples and single parents with kids moved in similarly-situated friends to offer the support of a “pod.” Unemployment due to COVID also meant many people had to downsize to smaller living arrangements.

In all of these cases, people have had to rely on self-storage units to store furniture that duplicates what the new space already has or what a smaller home has no room to accommodate. Prior to last year, people might have been more inclined to sell their excess, both to raise funds and to limit self-storage use, but COVID-related precautions made it difficult-to-impossible to have strangers visit to purchase or pick up furniture. Self-storage is often the safer option during these (financially uncertain and health-concerned) times.

Methodology

  • Population Data: This came from the US Census data for 2019 for all the metros.
  • Metric 1 — Home Storage: Data was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine how many properties had home storage, we used data about the presence of such options; no data about their square footage was available. We made our calculations in the following way:
    • For single family properties, we considered what percentage of them had a basement and/or a garage; the numbers came from 2019, except those for Dallas, Houston, Miami, Phoenix and Riverside, which were estimated using 2011 and 2013 figures.
    • For multifamily properties, we considered what percentage of them had outside storage options and/or shared garages; extra data came from Yardi Matrix, and only facilities with 50 units or more were considered.
    • For home storage at both single family and multifamily properties, as we did not have data about which properties had both types, we took a midway point between the lowest and highest possible percentages having at least one of the types.
    • The total home storage availability score for each metro is the combination of the single family and multifamily scores, weighted by the number of properties for each type of housing.
    • Any housing units for which we did not have data were not considered in our calculations.
  • Metric 2 — Square Feet of Living Space per Person: The data about average square feet per person in residential properties was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau:
    • The number of square feet per person is computed by dividing the square footage of each housing unit by the number of people in the unit.
  • Overall Metric: We normalized our two metrics, weighting them as having equal importance, and arriving at overall scores for the metros.

Fair Use and Distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

Author

Francis Chantree is a former programmer and researcher who has exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he spends his time gardening, reading and singing.

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