How to Make the Most of Small Closet Space

cluttered closetLiving in an apartment or a small home can be a legitimate challenge when it comes to storage space. How often have you dealt with an over-crowded closet where you can never find anything, and half your stuff is just crumpled on the floor?

This is no way for a civilized adult to live. Plus, did you know that a consistently messy environment can have a negative impact on your mental well-being? That’s bad news for the chronically cluttered.

But if you’re on a budget- both for time and finances- it can feel like an insurmountable task to get everything organized in a way that makes the most of your space (and your money). 

Worry not! We’ve done your homework for you. Crowded closet spaces will soon be a thing of the past, if you’re willing to consider a few innovative ideas. 

Let’s take a look at the basics of closet organization:


Be realistic. What have you got stored in that cramped closet space, that you’ve been meaning to wear for the past five years? What’s in there that you just honestly don’t like, but maybe you feel bad because it was a gift?

GET RID OF IT. If you’re working with limited space, you have to be real with yourself. Go through everything- get a friend or family member to help if you need to- and toss what isn’t working. You deserve to have a closet full of items that actually work for you. Let go of everything else, and enjoy the relief- and extra space- it brings into your life! 

Using What You’ve Got

Maybe you don’t have a dime to spend on new contraptions to optimize your closet space. That’s okay! There are many ways to make the space and items already available to you work double-duty. Can off-season items be shoved tightly to the very back of your closet’s hanging rod? 

If it’s summertime, can you use one hanger to overlap two jackets? If it’s winter, can you use one hanger to support two or three dresses? Can those rarely-worn pants also be doubled up on a single hanger? Offsetting the way they hang/overlap can minimize the lateral space they’re using, making easier to optimize a smaller area. 

If you have hangers with clips, try folding your slacks/skirts, and hanging one from each clip. For normal hangers, try to use one to hang two foldable skirts. If you have a hinged closet door that you never close, drape some scarves, ties, belts, or bras over the top to optimize space. 

If you’ve got sliding closet doors instead, a single hanger can also hold several bras, scarves, ties, or belts. Additionally, a single scarf or belt can have several items either tied to it or hung from it. You can also stack your shoes on top of each other, rather than side-by-side. 

Suitcases and Upper Shelving

Speaking of using what you’ve got, how about those suitcases and giant reusable shopping bags that are crowding up a dark corner? If you’ve got a wardrobe large enough to need “switching” from one season to the next, use the storage receptacles that are already available to you!  

Winter sweaters, bathing suits, and other seasonal items can be rotated by packing and unpacking them into luggage, gym bags, or even a large purse you don’t carry anymore! Keep them atop those hard-to-reach upper shelves in your closet instead of cramping your hanging space. 

Vertical Shoe Space

If you have a hinged closet door, you can purchase an inexpensive shoe rack. They’re also great for storing socks, hand towels, shapewear, and other smaller accessories.

Additionally, if you’ve got multiple upper shelves in your closet, the lower and more reachable ones can help de-clutter your closet floor by holding larger shoes such as boots and sneakers. 


Again, if your closet has a hinged door rather than a sliding door, you can add a multi-hook hanger to both sides. This is a wonderfully efficient way to store jackets, hoodies, scarves, bras, and belts. 

If your closet has some empty wall space you can also add some wall-mounted hooks for the same purpose. There are even sturdy removable hooks for renters who don’t want to damage the walls. 

A Secondary Rod

cluttered closet rodsThese can be found at most big-box and hardware stores. Beware of using a shower rod, as they’re not meant to hold a significant amount of weight. However, many of them are designed to be smaller with hangers on top, so you can hook them onto an upper rod in your closet. 

They provide adequate space to hang clothing between the two hooks, while adding additional clothing to the lower rod. It typically sits 16-20” below the upper rod, and is about 16-20” long. This allows for about 8-12 additional articles of clothing in your closet, without crowding the built-in hanging rods. 

Shelves, Dividers, and Under-Shelf Baskets

Installing an extra shelf in your bathroom, pantry, or closet is a quick and affordable way to add some surface area without crowding your already-limited space. There are plenty of affordable kits at your local big box stores. Additionally, our friends at Plumb and Lined have some fantastic advice and tutorials for how to turn DIY jobs like this into manageable, successful home improvement projects.

If you’ve already got shelves in your closet, make the most of them by dividing the space in a way that makes sense for you. No one likes toppled piles of clothing and towels, but that doesn’t have to be the way your closet looks!

Dividers don’t literally add extra room, but they help neaten up the space you’re using by creating a spill-proof compartment. This is great for jeans, or foldable tops, that you want to keep visible but may not wear regularly.

Under-shelf baskets are commonly used in kitchen cabinets, but they’re also a great way to store towels, socks, and other smaller articles in your closet. They’re also cheap! Buy a couple to stash the smaller things, while keeping them visible and easy to reach for. 

 Stackable Cubes

These are inexpensive and easy to find at your local big-box stores. You can find cloth ones with a removable base (typically cardboard for sturdiness), or you may prefer the basket-woven ones that look more like wicker. 

If you’ve got a bit of extra room at the bottom of your closet, you can place them sideways- with the opening outwards- to store shoes, sweaters, towels, etc. This keeps what you’re looking for highly visible, yet off the crowded shelves and hanger rods. If you choose the cloth cubes, make sure you place the base at the “true” bottom when stacking them sideways, to make sure they’re sturdy and balanced when you stack them.  

Storage Compartments

Some of us just need our seasonal or rarely used items to GO AWAY until we’re ready to adorn them when the time is right. Your local dollar store will likely have some great deals on various sizes of plastic storage containers. 

If you’ve got room under your bed, get a few shallow ones to store seasonal items, spare purses, and extra blankets. For in-closet storage, smaller containers can be used to hold socks, undies, folded ties, wash cloths, and other pint-sized accessories. 

A Quick Summary to Capture the Main Points:

  • Be realistic, and donate what you can. Clear up your closet space for NOW, rather than hanging onto what used to work (but doesn’t anymore). 
  • Use what you’ve got. If you can give a hanger double-duty for off-season clothing, do it. If you can get creative with your resources, DO IT!
  • Pack your bags– literally. Pack up rarely used items into luggage and larger bags, and store them in your upper shelving where they’re out of the way. 
  • Get a vertical shoe rack to hang on the door (hint: it doesn’t even have to be your closet door!) They’re great for shoes, socks, and other smaller accessories. 
  • Hooks are your friend. Whether over-the-door or wall-mounted, they make for fewer items hanging from your hanger rods in the closet. 
  • Adding a secondary rod can be helpful if you truly do need extra hanging space. There are many varieties available that can work with your budget and closet area.
  • Dividers are wonderful for keeping things compartmentalized on your closet shelves. You can even use hanging dividers to add extra storage space. 
  • Stackable cubes are great for shoes, socks, and foldable items. When it comes to small closets, it’s important to maximize your floor space in a way that keeps things organized.
  • There are a lot of other storage compartments you can use to organize your closet or optimize other spaces. Find a few at your local discount store that will work for storing seldom-used items. 

Don’t let small, cluttered closets overwhelm you. There are always options to make your life easier and more organized. We encourage you to try out these tips, and let us know if you’ve got some space-saving secrets of your own!

Check out more fantastic ideas for optimizing limited space in your home!

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