How to Organize a Small Closet
Learn how to organize a small closet with some simple tools to maximize space and store all of your clothes neatly!
If you’ve been around this blog for very long, you know that our house is not huge. We live in a three bedroom townhouse, and while we love it, we also have to be very intentional about how we use our space. I try to think of this as a positive thing because it pretty much forces us to reduce clutter and be choosy about what we let into our home.
One area I’ve always felt like we could improve is our primary closet. There’s only one, Donnie and I share it, and it isn’t the largest thing ever. It had the typical builder-grade single shelf + rail combo, and I knew there had to be a better way of organizing a closet than that, so we set out to upgrade it!
I learned several things during this process, so I thought I’d share them in case you all were dealing with small closets too.
Grab our free guide, 7 Strategies for Getting Organized When You Live in a Small Space!
After living in a tiny townhouse for many years, I learned tons of helpful tips and tricks for getting organized when space is at a premium, and I share my favorites in this quick guide!
Organizing a Small Closet Step by Step
1. Declutter as much as possible.
Oh how I love to declutter! A few weeks ago I went through all of my clothes and get rid of everything that didn’t fit or was out of style. (Apparently the clothes I wore 10-15 years ago in high school and college are not “in” anymore. Who knew?! 😉 )
When I was finished going through everything, I bet I had gotten rid of over half of the clothes I owned.
That’s a lot of empty hangers! Just this first step was so gratifying, and do you know what I learned? It’s easier to get dressed when you have less clothes. It’s true.
It was so helpful to remove all of the pieces I never wore because only the “good stuff” remained. The only choices I had left were clothes that I liked and that fit. Win!
2. Make a list of what you need your space to do, and then pick the tools to make it work.
Like I do many times when I’m trying to organize a space, I popped over to Pinterest to see some of the things that others had done. I oooh-ed and aaaaah-ed over all of the gorgeous organized closets. But I realized that the owners of those closets had different needs and spaces than I did. So what I had to do was figure out what we needed our closet to do for us.
After looking over our “stuff,” I knew there had to be space for pants, shirts, and shoes. I needed room for some dresses and longer items. I had some sweaters and sweatshirts that I preferred to stack rather than hang, and we keep a few board games and small pieces of luggage in this closet as well. It was a tall order for such a small space, but I knew we could make it work, so I went off in search of the perfect pieces to make it happen.
Honestly, when we started down this closet organizing road, I thought we would probably hack up an existing bookshelf or build something ourselves, but when we discovered the ALGOT system at IKEA, we decided to rethink our original plan. (This is not a sponsored post for IKEA, btw. We just really love this closet system!)
[FYI… IKEA recently discontinued their ALGOT system and replaced it with BOAXEL, which is very similar.]
It met all of the requirements for things we needed, and it was really affordable. I’m not sure we could have purchased the wood and supplies we needed to build something ourselves for much less than what we paid for this system that we just had to put together.
In true IKEA fashion, you choose each shelf and rail individually, so we could completely customize our closet to meet our needs. Exact materials will vary based on the size of the closet.
Need more details about how to measure for an IKEA ALGOT/BOAXEL closet system? See this post.
3. Fix broken systems.
This space had a lot of broken systems. Shoes were piled up on the floor, getting mixed up and gathering dust. My sweaters were up so high that I had to grab a step stool to reach them. There were so many hangers squished into one row that we could barely find what we needed. We definitely wanted to fix all of these things with the new closet.
One of the other broken systems I wanted to make sure I corrected was my scarf storage. For years I’ve been using that tip that we’ve all seen on Pinterest where you take shower curtain rings and put them on a hanger to hold your scarves…
…except it didn’t work. The scarves would always slide to one end instead of staying nicely balanced on the hanger. #pinterestfail
Instead, I found an old pants hanger that we were no longer using:
And it worked like a charm!
No more lopsided scarves! (It really is the little things… 🙂 )
4. Utilize the whole space.
The biggest problem with our old closet arrangement was that there was so much wasted space. When we were picking pieces for the new system, then, we really tried to utilize every inch possible.
It was a little tricky trying to figure out exactly what we needed and how it would all fit together, but we were able to look at a lot of the options on IKEA’s site to see what we liked, what we didn’t, and what pieces would best fit our needs. Once we had decided on our plan of action, we purchased our pieces, brought them home, and installed them.
We put up all of these vertical strips first, and then we had a lot of different options of what we could put on them. We knew we wanted a top shelf, so we started with that. Then, keeping our needs in mind, we did some maneuvering and rearranging and rethinking and eventually settled on our final arrangement. Here’s what we came up with:
There are shelves, shoe racks, and pants hangers! There is room for long dresses and a place to put sweaters and even store items like luggage and games! Woohoo! I was super excited about it when I saw it empty, but once I put all of our stuff in, I was completely in love.
Since, admittedly, I tend to hang onto more clothes than Donnie does, he got the smaller side of the closet. He still had plenty of room for his pants, shirts, suits, and ties, and even had room left over to store some games and a small piece of luggage. (Hey, I gave him 1/4 of the shoe rack for his shoes. That was nice of me, right? 😉 )
My dresses, longer sweaters and scarves hang in the back, longer section on my side of the closet, and there are shorter areas for my shirts and pants as well. Right now I just have my sweaters stacked on the shelf (one I can actually reach!), but I may get a little basket or bin to hold them eventually.
And the shoes– so neat and organized! They are no longer in a messy pile on the floor of the closet. Hooray!
I am so thrilled that after 6 years of living here, we have finally found a closet system that works for us! We still have to put up the new doors, of course, and add a little bit more trim work, but it’s totally functional right now, and we are loving it!
(Looking for more closet ideas? This small closet makeover uses a modular system and utilizes the space to perfection!)
What to Do If You Have Too Many Clothes for Your Small Closet
Sometimes with small spaces, we can declutter like crazy and still feel like we don’t have enough room for our items. If this ends up being the case in your house, here are a few ideas to try:
- Try file folding using the KonMari method if you have extra space in your dresser to gain some extra space in the closet.
- Consider rotating your clothes seasonally. Storing out-of-season items under the bed or in a storage area like a basement or garage can free up some much needed closet space.
- Can you relocate certain categories of items? Maybe blazers could be hung with coats in an entry closet or shoes could be relocated to the entry or garage.
- Use this free printable decluttering calendar to get rid of clothes the easy way.
- Read over this resource if you have trouble letting go of things.
Small spaces can definitely be tricky, but they’re not impossible to organize! I hope this post has given you some ideas of how to make the most of your own small closet!
Small Closet Organization: Frequently Asked Questions
[Psssttt… Organize every room of your house with our 100 best home organization tips!]
Hope you’re having a wonderful day!
You did a great job utilizing the space. If you want even more room, try the felt hangers from Marshalls or you can purchase them from Costco. They take up less room in the closet and your clothes don’t fall off the hangers.
Oooh thanks for the tip, Kathy! I will check them out!
I am so happy when I saw your closet, exactly like mine. I didn’t see the sides either at first. My boyfriend will never hear the end until I have this….Mine is packed with shoes I never wear and I just keep moving things over and over and it just looks the same except everything is in a different place. I cannot wait I’m so excited.
Great post! We are getting ready to do this in ours. Love the ideas! I’m working on the “purge” part. 🙂
Thanks so much, Lindsay! I think the purge part is the most important, so good for you for tackling it. Good luck with your closet!
You used the space really well – I bet it feels so good to part with those clothes. I’m with you on the feel good clothing purge, and need to do one here soon! xx, b @ being-blanca.com
It definitely does! I thought I would feel like I had nothing to wear, but I’ve actually come up with more combinations of outfits because I actually like everything that’s in my closet. Who knew?! 🙂 Hope you’re having a great day!!
I love your closet system!! We need to redo ours. Our closet is about the same size and I love how the new system uses the space so much better.
I’m definitely going to have to check out the Ikea site for ideas.. I’ve never been to one, but they are in the process of building one about an hour and a half from where I live. Can’t wait!
Oh girl, IKEA will be a game changer for you! Ours is about 35-40 minutes away, but I’m always thankful I made the drive. There are so many great storage and decorating solutions! Have a great week, Laura!
Did you use a certain closet set? Or did you just mix and match? Trying to find the one that you used because it would work GREAT in our closet, but I can’t seem to find it online.
The Container Store has staff members who specialize in designing these types of closet systems for you. They do it on the computer and use your exact dimensions and ask you what your real needs are. Then you can order what shelving pieces you need and they ship it right to your door… they will even contract someone to install it for you (added fee). They have designed two closets and a kitchen for me and I love it all! Its best to take advantage of their twice a year Elfa Sale though! It is not cheap!
In the end how w expensive was it?
I love all the room you have gained in the closet. We have the same problem in our closet and we plan on fixing it this year! Can not wait! Thanks for sharing because now I want to move our closet up on our list…
It is a fun transformation– I think you’ll love it! Good luck with your closet!
I love what you did with your closet! Inspiring me to do the same! Thanks for your help! Also thank you for your amazing ebook. I’m newer to the blogging world and I’m reading it and trying to put all of your advice in place while I do so! Thanks for all you do!!
This looks beautiful, Abby! What a difference a little bit of organizing makes! I wish an IKEA would open up in my state! I have the same issue with space in my closet. My hubby seems to take up most of the space! (Shouldn’t it be the other way around? =P)
You did a great job! Fantastic use of your space.
Looking really good Abby! We just moved house so I’ve been having fun purging and sorting out my wardrobe 🙂
I had to laugh at the Pinterest scarf hanger because I’m totally rocking the same thing with my scarves. Except I get lazy and don’t even use the rings anymore. 😉 The closet looks SO great! I’ve never seen that IKEA organizational system before, but I wish I had last year when our whole closet system randomly came crashing down! I’ll be looking into this to help contain our mess of a closet. 🙂 Thanks for the tips!
You did an amazing job!!
I especially love those pants hangers; I’ve never seen that option!
Love how your closet organization turned out, Abby! It’s so nice to have a space for everything and I truly believe every closet (small or large) can be utilized to it’s fullest potential with a little planning. You did a great job!
Thank you for the wonderful post! I live in a very small home as well and it is quite difficult to find real solutions to organizing small spaces that don’t just look pretty but they are actually efficient. I like the scarf hanger idea that you posted as well, I had never thought to use a pant hanger. Hope you have a great weekend!
This is amazing Abby!
We’ve almost finished building our house and I’d love to install something like this in our wardrobe BEFORE we move in haha!
Here’s hoping the IKEA here in Sydney has the same product line you guys used or at least something similar!
Love this! I am currently in the process of moving and spring cleaning my closet. I want the closets in the new place to be really organized like yours! I definitely need to do some more serious closet purging.
Felicia | Beloved Style
We also live in a 3 bedroom townhouse and I feel ya on storage! I am constantly purging and recently read a book about excess and it made me want to get rid of even more!
We recently redid our closet too! Except we hired it out- since the space was so stinkin’ awkward we really needed an expert eye. BUT we saved a lot too (and added value to our home). You can read about it here: https://www.createprettyblog.com/2014/10/our-new-closet-labels.html
I love how all your shoes have a place. That’s just one area that we couldn’t fit. Great re-do! And isn’t purging FUN?!?! 🙂
I like it so much! You said you might put your sweaters into baskets later but I like the look of them just on the shelf. It looks real, not staged that way. Plus you get to see that plush fabric which warms a space made of cold metal shelves.
I love this organization system! I have a very similar sized closet and think all these elements would work great. I’ve looked online at ikea but I didnt see any of the track systems like this one. Do you happen to know the name of the line? Its always a name with different accents/pronunciation than english uses but it would certainly help!
Hi, Samm! We used the ALGOT system for the closet organization. (https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/bedroom/11468/) Hope this helps! Happy Organizing!
So I found the ALGOT system at IKEA online but I was curious…what pieces did you get exactly? I don’t see any in the product line that look exactly like yours, and Im thinking the pieces you used would work perfect in my iddy biddy closet. There’s so much to choose from on there! Unfortunately, I don’t have an IKEA here at home so my ordering would be done online…so I’m hoping to get it right without the hassle of trial and error! Haha, good luck with that, right?
Hi, Kerri! There isn’t a pre-collected set that we bought. We just had to measure our closet and figure out which pieces would fit and what we would need. It’s a mixture of shelves, rails, and pants and shoe racks. It will be different for every closet. It took some trial and error and we ended up taking a few pieces back, but it all worked out in the end!
Those baskets are so cute and practical where are they from?!
Thank you, Lily! They are from Home Goods! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
Are those really all your shoes? That’s my closet storage roadblock. We have so many shoes between the two of us and I genuinely feel like they’re all worn enough to keep them. I got rid of several pairs when we moved but still have a tub just full of my shoes and another full of my husband’s!
They are, lol! I am the opposite of a clotheshorse– I am constantly getting rid of clothes, and Donnie has even less than me! If shoes are your thing, though, I totally understand; that’s how I am with throw pillows! 🙂 One of my friends uses a small closet in her guest bedroom to hold all of her shoes, shelves upon shelves upon shelves of them. Maybe there’s another spot in the house you can steal space from? Good luck!
Just curious if you put on a new door system after.
Beautiful job tho, this will be my next DIY
Great question! We did replace the old metal doors with new wooden doors. The old doors would still have worked, they were just ugly. 🙂 Have a great day, Brenna!
Thanks for posting this! We are planning to use this option from Ikea. Would you mind sharing a rough idea of what your total cost was? Your “before closet” looks just like ours.
I think it ended up being a little under $200. We just did a smaller pantry closet with the same system for $100-ish here too: https://justagirlandherblog.com/how-to-organize-a-kitchen-pantry/ . We love both of them! Good luck with yours!
I found this post through Pinterst and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you sharing it! I just received a “coupon” from my husband for a closet makeover (great bday present!) and and 100 felt hangers. I’m so going to use your ideas. I’ll have to travel two hours to an IKEA (oh darn!) but it’ll be worth it! Thanks again!
This post couldn’t come at a more opportune time. (I found you through Pinterest!) We are expecting our first child due to arrive in the Spring. I currently use the closet in our bedroom and our guest closet is used by my husband. We need to combine closets once the nursery is complete and your closet is almost identical to ours down to the space behind the wall and the narrow corridor. Looks like we need to make a trip to IKEA soon! Thanks. It looks so organized and will seriously declutter our bedroom.
What did you use for a door for your closet?
Hi, Brittany! We put up new white bi-fold doors. Have a great week!
My husband and I just organized our closet using your ideas. I am so happy with the completed project. We drew a picture before we started and bought the pieces next. The hardest part was putting up the rails. We had to use the anchors from Ikea and could not get all of the rails into studs. Measuring was very important during this step. Note: we had to buy the screw and anchor set separately from the shelves and rails (not clearly shown in the Ikea directions). The pants hangers and bins are my favorite part of the whole system. The closet looks beautiful and we have more room, something my husband was doubtful about at the onset.
Thanks for you vision!
Thanks so much for your sweet comments Mary! So glad it was helpful for you… I’m sure your closet looks great! Hope you’re having an awesome week! ~Abby =)
Great idea but I am just curious as to if you could do this to a rented apartment closet. Do those shelf strips just screw into the wall? Could they be taken down and refilled in, if we ever moved?
Hi, Ashley! We haven’t removed the closet system in any of our rooms yet, so I’m not exactly sure what the damage would be. But yes, they are screwed into the wall (with drywall anchors), so presumably you could remove them and fill in the holes. Hope you have a wonderful week!
I love this and your craft closet transformations and am inspired to try my hand at our small guest bedroom and office closets with the same Ikea organization system! I’m curious how you went about the planning/arrangement process. Does Ikea’s website (or in-store) have any options where you can configure different arrangements, or how did you go about this? I’d like to make sure we maximize our space as much as possible and it looks like you did a great job of it.
Hi, Stephanie! As far as I know, they only have a planner for kitchens. I just did a rough sketch of my space and included measurements. Then I looked at the pieces they offered and tried adding different lengths together until I came up with the arrangement that was closest to the length of my closet without going over. There’s a little bit of math involved, but I’m not a math person at all and I was able to figure it out, so it must not be too difficult! 🙂 I hope this helps! Have a great day!
Abby – purging my closet is hands down one of the best things I can do for myself to make myself feel better, and this post is a great example of why! Just look at your before and after pics. That must’ve felt so wonderful (and gratifying, as you said). You’ve inspired me to jump on the guest room with this (my scarf rack currently looks exactly like your before pic, sadly leaning to the side!) Thanks for another awesome post girl, I have such a crush on your blog!
Hi Abby! My fiancé and I just bought a house and out closest looks exactly like yours! We are trying to figure out what combo of ALGOT we would need to buy but can’t figure out how you got everything you need with nothing extra for around 200$. Would you mind sharing the combo of ALGOT you bought? We love your closet so much! Thanks so much!!
Thank you so much, Lauren! So online they show the ALGOT in groupings, but when you actually go to the store, each piece is sold individually. We measured our closet and then did the math to figure out how many uprights we would need, how many shelves, etc. I believe the shelves only come in 3-4 length options (with some choices for depth as well), so it wasn’t too terribly hard to figure out how many our closet would accommodate. I hope this helps!
Thanks so much Abby! We went to Ikea after looking at your blog and realized that they were sold as individual pieces, and instantly felt silly for asking you my question above. We are going to get started on the closet project this summer! Thanks for your great ideas 🙂
I love your post and I think this will work perfectly for our closet! Do you mind sharing the size shelves you chose from Ikea?
Hi, Erica! So on the IKEA website, they sell the shelves in “bundles,” but when you go into the store, each little piece is sold individually (in true IKEA fashion :). We just measured our closet and chose the shelves that would cover most of the length of the closet without being too long. I believe the majority of our shelves were the 15″ wide x 22″ long measurement, but needs will differ for every closet. Have a great week!
What was the width of your closet? Did you end up using the 15 inch or the 22.5 inch shelves? I can’t decide which ones I like better, and was hoping you had a preference. 🙂
Hi, Alex! I’m not sure of the exact width, but I know we used the 15″ shelves. The 22.5″ ones wouldn’t have left us enough room to get into the back of the closet when we needed to. I hope this helps! Have a great week!
Your advice helped us a TON and we got our closet set up after about 5.5 hours of work (and play!)
Apparently our closet was pretty deep, because we were able to use the 22.5″ shelves and there’s still plenty of space for me to hide in the closet in front of the clothes. 🙂
So, thanks again, Abby!
Yay! So glad it was helpful for you!
my biggest frustration is still the space on the side of that kind of closet. I don’t know who ever thought of making the length of the back wall of the closets longer then the opening! we don’t ever wear or think of the clothes that hang deep hidden on the sides of the closet and if we pull them to the middle that space seems wasted. What do you put on those shelves way on the side of the closet?
Amen, sister! That is a tough space to reach. (Clearly designed by a man, right?! 😉 We ended up using it for some board games and some of Donnie’s outdoor gear that he doesn’t use often, but still needs to keep around. Hope you’re having a great week!
Exactly which Algot pieces did you use from IKEA? I looked on the website and there are so many options!
There are a lot of choices! In the store you actually choose each piece individually; they aren’t packaged together in sets. I explain exactly how to measure and choose the pieces for your closet in this post: https://justagirlandherblog.com/ikea-algot-closet-system/ . I hope it’s helpful!
Hi. I’m thinking about putting Algot system in my closet. After having it for some time, what do you think about it? Is it sturdy enough? Any wobbling? How happy are you with it? Or should I go with something from Rubbermaid or Elfa instead?
Hi, Julia! We have actually moved from the house shown in this post, but the ALGOT system held up perfectly the whole time we were there. We loved it so much that we’ve actually installed it in 2 closets in our new house already! I hope this helps! Have a great day!
How did you remove the old rod and shelf fixture? I have the same thing in our closet right now and am in the middle of gutting the whole closet and getting a system.
My hubby just ripped it out! He may have used a crowbar and hammer to help, lol! Best of luck with your project!
so you just took off the doors?
Lol! We had taken off ugly metal floor-to-ceiling doors, built a header, and put up new standard sized doors. These photos were just taken in the middle of that process, so the new doors weren’t back up yet. Good catch! 😉
HI! Love the closet and I am doing the same system shortly. Question for you. In the shoe area, is that two of the racks mounted one in front of the other or is that one whole piece? When you are plotting it out on the website, its not clear. Thanks for your help!
We did this project years ago and no longer live in this house, so I can’t check, but I’m like 95% sure that we used two shoe racks, one mounted behind the other, to create the shoe storage. If you double check with the employees at the store, (or even just look at the brackets and shoe rack together while you’re there) they should be able to confirm. Best of luck with your project!
Thank you so much for sharing your blog! I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to organize my closet as well as my kids. Your closet idea is brilliant! I live in a rented apartment so I’m not sure if I can put up these shelves for I sure am going to ask my landlord if that would be okay. We all just have way to much stuff and no where to put them. Do you have any ideas on how to organize a girls closet, I have two daughters who share a room and a closet and would love some tips on how to organize their shared closet!
Hi, Michele! We have a post on our kids’ shared closet, again using the ALGOT system, here: https://justagirlandherblog.com/ikea-algot-closet-system/ . We have boys, but the same thing could be done for girls! 🙂
Are the shelves decently sturdy? My only concern with the ALGOT is if it could really hold our clothes. Did your husband use certain anchors when installing to help secure it when there wasn’t a stud available in the wall?
They are really sturdy! We’ve now used ALGOT in 7 closets and our garage between our two houses and have not had one issue with the shelves giving out on us. He just used standard wall anchors during installation. I hope this helps! Have a great day!
Great post! I have the Algot system in my closet and I need to add to it but it’s been discontinued. Do you know if the Boaxel is compatible with the Algot?
I don’t believe BOAXEL is compatible with ALGOT, unfortunately. Sometimes you can special order additional parts for systems that they have discontinued, so you could check with your local store on that. Sorry I don’t have a better solution!