If you've ever lived in a dorm or a small apartment, you know how hard it can be to cram in all your computers, books, and general stuff while still staying organized. This problem has reached epic engineering proportions in the International Space Station's "living quarters" on the the Zvezda Module. Three people use the 43-foot cylinder for sleeping, eating, relaxing, cleaning up, going to the bathroom, exercising, doing science experiments, and using their computers. What can you learn about space saving from people in space? Turns out there are three basic rules of organization on Zvezda that are useful on Earth, too.

Rule Number One: Make good use of wall space. As you can see from the picture of Zvezda's eating area above, every part of the wall has been turned into storage. Fruits and meals are strapped to the wall, along with utensils. The fridge is set into the wall over the table. Of course it's a little harder to strap things to the wall in Earth gravity, but there are still plenty of ways to make good use of wall space. You can put up shelves relatively cheaply, or get wall hangers for file folders and books.

Rule Number Two: Be sure there are a lot of windows and private spaces, even if they aren't very big. In the picture above, you see one of the Zvezda sleeping pods, which may be tiny but keeps the cosmonauts happy by having a closing door and gorgeous view from the window portal. The pods got a rave review from former NASA astronaut John Blaha, who slept in an identical space pod on the space station Mir:

You can kind of just lay there in your sleeping bag, look outside into space, and dream. You're either looking out at the stars, or you're looking at the planet (Earth), or you're looking at the horizon. It's like your bedroom. It's your place, and nobody else goes in there.


It's easy to see how this could be translated into tiny-space feng shui on Earth. Use curtains or wall screens to section off parts of a room to create privacy. And be sure you can see out the window from your bed!

Rule Number Three: Every space should have at least three uses. Here you can see one of the astronauts talking on a ham radio that goes through a ceiling-mounted laptop (sorry, ceiling mounting may not be as convenient on Earth). Behind him, underneath the pictures, is a treadmill. So this area is for communications, computing, and exercising. Again, this is almost a no-brainer for Earth-dwellers. You can, for example, use a kitchen table as an eating area, work space, and entertainment zone if you've got a sturdy table, a few chairs, and a laptop.


Of course, the ISS doesn't always look uncluttered, as you can see. Here's their laptop farm:

Images courtesy of NASA.