I was very ready to right-size to a smaller home. I loved the idea of less maintenance and lower utility bills but I wasn't ready to downsize my wardrobe. This closet was significantly smaller than the closet I was leaving behind but after careful planning and incorporating the right organizational pieces, I am in love with this more compact space.
My previous closet was actually an extra bedroom that I converted into a large walk-in. It was great. The only problem is that the more space you have, the more things you hold on to and that is exactly what I did. So, like every closet organizer will tell you, I had to go through that whole ditch, donate, or keep routine. But then what? How did I make this smaller space work?
These are my ten tips for the most organized closet ever...
I was lucky enough to start with a blank canvas. From there I took my time to really evaluate my needs. What kinds of items did I want to have within easy reach? What things did I use less frequently? Did I want more hanging space or more shelving? Taking this opportunity to evaluate my needs and to come up with a workable layout resulted in an extremely functional, organized, and attractive closet space.
If you are fortunate, your existing closet setup works for you but if not, because you are renting or not ready to take on a complete closet overhaul, there are still some workable solutions for you here. If you are ready to invest in your closet space, this might be the time to consider changing out what is likely an old contractor-grade and usually bare minimum bar and shelf system for a more optimal and customizable closet solution. Perhaps you would want to hire a closet designer for that or you can take some of the ideas you discover here and head for a big box hardware store. Either way, just keep reading.
After editing out the clothes I no longer wear, I looked at what was remaining in my existing closet and measured out how many linear feet of bar space I was currently using and would need for those items. Then I drilled down further to determine how many feet of bar space I would need for longer things like dresses, long skirts, and pants (I prefer not to fold my pants over the hanger). Next, I figured out how many linear feet for shorter items would be required. These would be hung on upper and lower bars which of course doubles the amount of hanging space that the wall can accommodate.
Now, this is important. I hang the upper bar a bit higher than normal but not so high that I can't still store items on a shelf above the bar. I have two reasons for doing this:
- If the top bar, on a wall with a top and bottom bar, is hung a bit higher than normal for shorter items like blouses, it prevents longer blouses and shirt tails on the top bar from getting caught in the hangers below.
- Dresses, long skirts, and pants hanging together on a single bar hung a bit higher than normal will leave room for storage below. But be sure to leave at least twelve inches above the top bar to allow for totes or shoe boxes.
Hanging the bar a bit high gave me room for this Ikea storage piece below.
Go vertical to make the most use of your space. Use the area above your top bar for items you use less frequently or for off-season pieces. I use this part of my closet for off-season shoes.
I also created more room for storage on the adjoining wall by leaving enough room at the top of the shoe cabinet to accommodate these storage cubes. If there is room for a box, basket, or cube, invest in it and make every space work for you.
I'll be honest, I don't have room for all seasons in this closet. But I do have the luxury of a storage closet downstairs. So, the hanging things that have a definite season get changed out twice a year with that other closet.
I do, though, keep all of my shoes and accessories here in this one space. It makes the seasonal turnaround process just that much easier. To do that, I incorporate a few easy solutions. For example, I store my off-season shoes in clear boxes above hanging bars and I label the end of each box with a white marker describing the shoe it contains.
shoe boxes: here
The current season's shoes are in an open-shelved shoe case that allows for easy access. When it is time for the seasonal change, I simply bring down the shoes from the clear boxes. Each box has two shoe descriptions, one on each end. One for Spring and Summer and one for Fall and Winter. I just turn them around with the seasons. This keeps the boxes to a minimum and both seasons are within reach for those years when you think Spring has arrived but oh wait, it's snowing again. If I decide to retire a pair of shoes, the description on the end of these plastic boxes can be scratched off with something like an old credit card and will then be ready to be used again.
So off-season shoes go here,
and the current season and everyday shoes are here within easy reach. While those totes up high corral felt fedoras and turtle necks one half of the year and ball caps and summer tees the second half of the year.
In a standard closet, you will run your closet system from one end to another but when designing a walk-in closet you will need to consider the corners. Oftentimes, closet companies will use curved shelving and bars to make use of the corner space because the width of a clothing hanger doesn't allow for two 45-degree walls to both have hanging space all the way into the same corner. In my closet, I wanted a more open look so I only put hanging bars on two adjoining walls but I still had one corner where these bars would meet. If I ran the bars all the way into that corner, either one bar or the other would have to sacrifice about two feet of hanging space to the other. That didn't work for me so this was my solution.
With this corner cabinet, I am using the entire corner from floor to ceiling. I also planned to have the shelves spaced far enough apart to accommodate 12" tote boxes that would hold smaller categories of clothing such as leggings, sleepwear, and hair accessories.
Now all I need are some labels on those totes.
Adjustable shelves, like these in this shoe case, allow for both high-heel and flat shoe heights.
I was also able to put two shelves at just the right distance from one another to accommodate these Ikea drawer inserts that hold belts and my fur cuffs (which are a great accessory to have for dressing up a plain dress or sweater).
Drawer inserts are currently only available in grey: here
Matching hangers create a clean and evenly spaced look that actually motivates me to keep things hung up and looking tidy.
I prefer wooden hangers but they do take up a bit more space. So if bar space is at a premium you might want to consider a thinner hanger like these from Mainstay.
The hangers I am using are from Topia and I really like the clean look of them in white. You can purchase them here
It started with The Home Edit book my daughter bought me several years ago and their concept of grouping things by color. This works especially well in a closet. I hang like items together like skorts, tees, and jackets but within those categories, I have subgroups of color.
Not only does this system make things even easier to grab but it looks pretty too.
When maximizing a smaller closet you need to consider every space and how it can be used for organizing and storage. One of the easiest spaces to incorporate storage into your closet setup is behind your closet doors. With a walk-in closet, the door or doors will open into the closet. Use the wall space behind them and on the back of the doors themselves. I used clear acrylic hooks to hang long necklaces on the wall behind the door.
I like these clear acrylic hooks for an unobtrusive look.
necklace wall hooks: here
After that picture was taken, I decided to add hooks to the back of the door itself. I don't like the necklaces hung on the door because they bang against the door every time it is opened or closed. Instead, I use this area on the back side of the door to hang scarves and twillies.
If you have a standard wall closet and the doors open into the room, you can still use the inside side of the door for more storage.
photo via Pinterest
As I said earlier, I hung the clothing bar that holds my longer items a bit higher than usual to allow for this Ikea Alex storage piece below.
I love this storage cabinet for costume jewelry. Yes, I might need an intervention.
But this cabinet works perfectly for these small pieces.
I measured the interior of the cabinet drawer and then ordered drawer inserts that would best fit the drawers and my storage needs.
Ikea Alex: here
This is the fun part. Organizing your clothing by color, and matching hangers will definitely elevate the look of your closet but in this space, I also added an Ikea Lack. Not only does it serve to make use of a small blank wall but it is also a great way to display a few favorite pieces giving the area a curated look. It is a little unexpected and even though it is taking up closet real estate, it somehow makes the space feel more open and special.
Use it for fragrances or for those special party shoes, stylish hats, or favorite handbags. This is such a versatile, low-cost, and attractive option for additional storage.
I have a window on one wall of this closet and I didn't want to build cabinetry around it or have hanging bars come up next to it. Instead, I left the area immediately around and below the window open and brought in a vanity table.
This table is a low-cost addition that I found on the internet during Covid and at the peak of furniture supply-chain issues. It required assembly but it wasn't difficult. In full disclosure, this isn't a highly durable piece of furniture but I love the midcentury look and it is more than sturdy enough for how I am using it. This is not where I apply my makeup. This is more of a spot to touch up a manicure, jot down a to-do list, or set down my purse when doing the handbag switch out.
Vanity desk: here
The fur stool, a Home Goods find, is a feminine touch of glam and the perfect place to sit while putting on those multi-strap shoes with little tiny buckles. You know what I'm talking about. It also makes for the perfect place to sit and admire my totally functional and perfectly organized down-sized closet.
I hope you discovered something here to take with you as you design your own incredible closet. Take your time and consider how you want to use your space. I'm sure it will be amazing and every time you open that door you will get that ahhhh feeling that just makes us all happy.