A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Organizing Small Spaces

Published: Mar 26, 2019

Find a Spot for Your Chair

The first thing you want to do is decide where your chair is going to be whenever you’re not it in. It should be a spot that doesn’t block any major walkways, but is within easy reach. I recommend either the foot of your bed or pushed under a desk like a standard chair. It’s important that you choose a location and use it consistently since your chair is likely to be the largest piece of “furniture” in your room and will greatly affect how the rest of your space is set up.

Lower or Replace the Shelves

If your space has a closet with shelving, you can easily unscrew them and remount them to a lower position. If you’re worried about extra holes in the wall, you can use spackle or wall putty to fill them. If the shelves can’t be lowered, remove them from the closet and replace them. A dresser or any number of IKEA‐esque storage solutions work great. You can store the existing shelves under a large piece of furniture like a couch, sofa, or bed.

Keep Every Day Items In Your Bag

I’m a big proponent of having an Every Day Carry (EDC) bag. Instead of keeping your EDC items scattered about your living space, keep them in your EDC bag when you’re not using them. Not only will this save space, it’ll make it easier to just “grab and go” when you need to leave.

Think Small and Collapsible

Choose smaller, collapsible versions of every‐day items instead of full‐size. For example, use a smaller, collapsible laundry basket instead of a full‐size one. You might have to do laundry more often, but you won’t have to find a space for both your chair and a giant laundry basket.

Keep the Floors Clear

As a wheelchair user, you can’t step over stuff. If you let the floor get cluttered, you increase the risk of your stuff or your chair getting damaged. This includes clothes: chair tires can leave some really rough stains on fabric.

Have a Place For Everything

Everything should have a designated spot in your living space. That way, you don’t have to spend energy navigating around your own stuff. If you have to frequently move something in order to get around it, it’s in the wrong spot. For example, if you have to move the laundry hamper to the middle of your bedroom in order to park your chair, it’s time to find a new spot for the hamper.

Have a System

Be consistent with how you move through and use your space. When you’re out in public, you’re constantly juggling a million tiny variables:

Can I fit through this door?

How steep is this curb ramp?

Is my bag screwing up my chair’s balance?

By having a system for your personal space, you reduce the amount of “background thinking” you have to do and give yourself a chance to really relax.