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10 Real Life Ways to Make Tiny Closets Work

If you want to know how to use an itty bitty, microscopic closet in real life then you’ve come to the right place.

If there was ever a topic that I would be considered an expert on, it’s living with tiny closets. My former house was a delightful 1000 square feet of 50’s bliss, but 50’s houses have tiny closets! My grandma explained to me that this is because people had so few clothes back then, just some work clothes and a couple of nice church outfits.

Unfortunately, If you do a Google search for tips on organizing small closets, you will likely find big beautiful organization systems and substantial spaces that are barely filled. But that’s not helpful! I'm talking tiny house living here.

I am a huge fan of little houses. I grew up in a beautiful behemoth of a Victorian house and while my memories are very fond, the experience has pushed me in the opposite direction. I love how easy it is to clean, heat, and stay organized in a small house; it frees up so much time and money to enjoy the best things in life. Not to mention that they are the cutest, most charming, cozy houses in all the world.

Ok, let’s get organized!

10. Mount an attractive,  heavy duty hook to the wall next to your closet.  This is where you hang your pj’s and the clothes you’ve dissed during a frantic “i-have-nothing-to-wear” moment.  My hook is one of the most heavily used areas of my home.  When you don’t have a place to throw things, they end up stuffed willy nilly back in the closet where they don’t belong or scooted under the bed.  A hook gives you a pause to address these homeless clothes later when you have more time.

9. Make it visually simple.  Use matching hangers that hang in the same direction.  And hang all of your clothes facing the same direction. Paint every surface bright white.  And organize by color or use.  I always keep my clothes organized by use> sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve, sweaters, sweatshirts, dress clothes. Small closets can very easily turn into a perception puzzle or a Where’s Waldo game. Being able to see everything clearly makes getting dressed and putting clothes away much easier.

8. Don’t waste the bottom space.  Line the bottom of your closets with plastic drawers.  They are cheap and easy to move around.  And don’t forget to use the space on top as a nice shelf; this is wear I store my jeans and pants.

7.  Utilize the backs of doors… every door… in every room.  This is another incredibly cheap solution. I have these organizers on almost every door in the house.  They house scarfs, ties, belts, shoe laces, swim suits, and anything else that can be stuffed into a small space.  I even have one in my coat closet for shoes, and in my office for supplies.

6. Take jewelry, accessories, and shoes out of the equation. Jewelry and small accessories don’t belong in clothes closets, they get lost. Neither do shoes; they are just too dirty.  Find a new home for them, close to the front door, so that you’re pretty fabrics don’t get ruined. I found a hanging jewelry box at Pottery Barn Teen during the holidays on super sale.  I’ve seen them at numerous other online stores in every price range and style.

5. Steal space from other areas or relocate all together. Unless you’re prepared to live with a backpackers ration of clothes, you will have to succumb to the idea of your stuff being stored in several different places.  Under the bed, in the nightstands, a storage bench at the end of the bed, tall dressers, a spare bedroom closet.  I’m not a minimalist, I do have a few vices- one being dresses.  I stole part of my office closet to store dresses. The other option is to relocate your closet all together.  You could partition off part of a room with a nice curtain to use it as a closet or take an unused bedroom to turn into a top notch dressing room.

4. Go shopping. But not to buy more clothes! Go on the hunt for smart storage hangers that hang double or triple items, suits, or scarfs. Then Google extender rods, and shelf dividers, and explore all of the smart tools out there. Then add random little hooks and shelves to any nook or cranny.  Or consider purchasing a cool vintage style clothes rack or an organization system to make an open air closet, if you have the room.

3. Use the space behind the wall for rarely used items. Why is it that closets are bigger than the doors used to access the space?? Why didn’t they put bigger doors on?  Even though these spaces are mostly inaccessible, you can still use them for rarely accessed items like holiday clothes and suits. Be careful though, anything else that gets pushed back there goes off to never-never land, never to be worn again.

2. Be aware of wrinkles and stinky clothes. When your closet is tightly packed, you have to be wary of the condition of your clothes. Make sure your hanging and folded items are smooth and un-bunched when you put them in there as the tight pressure will set those folds. The sunny side of a tight closet is that you can use it as an iron!  In the same way a tight closet can set wrinkles, it can also eliminate wrinkles by smushing them tightly against their neighbors. Also be careful to avoid putting smelly or musty items into a packed closet.The air circulation is minimal so these smells will transfer and linger. Hello Subway, I’m looking at you.

1. Clean out and donate.  Of course this is the number one rule to living light. I have developed a few dynamite strategies over the years to facilitate this process.

– Get a couple of big plastic storage containers and load up everything that you don’t wear often, is on your ‘maybe’ list, or you’re just hanging on to because it was a gift from someone.  Put these bins in your attic, basement, or somewhere out of the way for several months.  If within those months, you go dig up an item, it can go back in your closet.  After a few months, look through those storage containers and donate everything that wasn’t missed or thought of. If you’re still not sure on some items, leave them there for a while longer, then reassess.

– Put a big paper bag or a laundry bin in a central area of your house. I keep one in the coat closet. Every time you come across an item that you’re just not that into, toss it in the bag. Be diligent about it. Trying on clothes for a dinner? When you come across that skin tight skirt that hasn’t fit since college, toss it in the bag. Once the bag is full, take it to your local donation center. I use this technique for all areas of the house- old alarm clocks, a crazy kitchen appliance that is far too specific for the task, shoes that were never comfortable to begin with, a book that’s been read.

I hope these ideas help!  If you have any other great suggestions, please let me know!  I’m always on the hunt for tiny living know-how.


Hi, I'm Micheline

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