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How to Organize a Small Closet with a Lot of Clothes

The first expert tip is to make sure every piece of furniture in your bedroom has storage options. I personally used a small chest of drawers as a nightstand in my small Chicago apartment. Should you invest in a bed with drawers or can the bed be raised enough to fit under-bed-storage underneath? Do you have space for a storage ottoman to use practically to sit on to put your shoes on and it doubles as necessary storage?

Start with a clothing declutter. You need to pull every item out of the hanging area and drawers and under the bed/in bins from upper closet shelves. Decide if it’s keep, donate; repair; sell, or store elsewhere for your seasonal swap. Try your best to put out-of-season clothing in another space or tucked away in upper closet shelves or under the bed. It makes sense with a limited closet to avoid having heavy wool sweaters next to beachware and tank tops in the heat of the summer months. Another category not mentioned is aspirational. It’s ok to keep one bin if you have room containing items you think you might fit into if they are classic styles and will still be in fashion by the time you wear them again. And, keeping a small bin of memorabilia items clearly labeled but not in “prime real estate” is ok too. I’ve kept a few camp and concert t-shirts and a tie-dyed dress that reminds me of a wonderful time in my life!

Organize clothes in a way that makes sense to you with the goal of finding what you need to make getting ready to leave your house daily more fun and less stressful. Many people categorize their clothes with all tops together and skirts, pants, jackets, etc. grouped together. Then within the categories you can group all the short-sleeved tops together and long-sleeved tops together. And color sort as well if you prefer.

Practice folding with a vertical fold in drawers. The experts say tops, jeans and sweaters often take up less space if they live in drawers vs being hung up. Master the folding trick to store clothing vertically to be able to see everything you own instead of stacking them — similar to the ease of finding papers in a labeled hanging folder vs in a huge stack when you don’t know what’s in the middle or the bottom of the stack. There are many online tutorials regarding the vertical fold. And then divide drawers with drawer dividers or in baskets to contain unwieldy socks and underwear.

Change the height of shelves to maximize storage options. I did this in my Chicago apartment. I got a piece of board cut at Home Depot and covered it in decorative shelf liner and with 4 shelf pegs, I installed an extra shelf giving me additional space for folded clothing items.

Use the back of doors for over-the-door hooks to hang purses, robe/nightwear, sweater/hoodie to keep you warm in the house, scarves, caps/hats, etc. Or mount Command Hooks on the back of a door for hanging necklaces, belts, or other accessories so you find these items easily to incorporate them daily into your wardrobe.

Clear the floor space so you feel good every time you walk into your closet and you’ll have maximum accessibility to your rods and drawers. If you need the floor space for shoes, invest in racks to keep them neat, tidy, and in their place.

A good rule of thumb is to never keep empty hangers on your rods as they take up a lot of space. Consider investing in thin velvet “huggable” hangers to help keep clothes from getting tangled and save space and look more visually appealing than bulky wooden hangers and wire dry cleaner hangers.

Make better use of vertical space so it’s not wasted, unused space. You’ll need to get a tall stepstool, possibly add shelves, and purchase clear or decorative bins to keep seasonal, aspirational, memorabilia items contained. Or perhaps it’s clothing younger children will grow into. Don’t forget the label so you know what’s in them.

And you might need to do an overhaul of your closet to configure more hanging rods if needed or take them out to put in more shelf space.

Reprinted with permission from

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