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.
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!