Even if you don’t have a walk-in closet, you can still find extra space you didn’t think you had. This will require getting creative with vertical space. Below, a few ways to do that.
Closet Rods and Racks
Shea and Merrill both frequently install secondary closet rods underneath the existing ones built into your closet. As long as it won’t interfere with your clothes—make sure you have a different place to keep those long winter coats—a second closet rod basically doubles the amount you can hang in your closet (just make sure you properly mount it to the wall).
When possible, Shea often recommends her clients position closet rods above the one that’s already built-in. “If you’re vertically challenged, there are some awesome options that allow you to either pull the upper rack down towards you manually, or even by pressing a button,” she says. This one from Hardware Resources is perfect for getting usable storage into small-but-tall spaces.
If you don’t have a rod in your closet at all, you might consider just getting a big organizational system like this one. It gets you two decently sized racks that you can stuff with clothes. They’re a bit less permanent-feeling than the above options, but are also easier to install and uninstall. If you’re a renter and plan to move at some point, that’s probably key.
Woodhouse often encourages her clients to add wardrobe rods to their closets, even though they don’t give you more space to actually hang your clothes. “It’s helpful to have a spot for picking out outfits or hanging up your dry cleaning that just arrived back from the cleaners.” It is certainly a huge improvement over just laying your clothes on your bed.
Now that you’ve made space to hang your clothes, it’s time to update your hangers. The ones your dry cleaning comes back on aren’t just eyesores, they’re actually ruining your clothes. Cattano prefers to use sturdy wood hangers, like this set from Ikea, to hold heavy coats and jackets, because they can “take the weight and preserve their shape.”
If you’re low on space, several of our experts suggested velvet hangers. Their texture will certainly keep clothes from sliding off, and the slim silhouette helps you pack a lot more clothes in there.
We’re getting into the nitty gritty of hangers, and you do, in fact, need a variety of types. These padded hangers make an excellent pick for delicate and lightweight knit pieces, so that your clothes don’t lose their shape.
Your pants and shorts need their own dedicated hangers. Metal hangers with clips are a great way to keep your bottoms in check, but Cattano is a fan of these Kirby Allison trouser hangers, which she says have a “felt bar [to] protect the fabric and a design that saves vertical space.”
For the stuff you can’t or shouldn’t hang (underwear and sweaters, respectively), try hanging shelves. “Hanging shelves make items more accessible in a closet where you just have the dreaded single shelf and rod,” Decker says.
If you have the floorspace, consider a chest. You’ll get a lot more room for your things and they’re easier to use than small hanging cubbies.
Keeping a chest organized is a lot easier with internal drawer dividers. These bamboo ones are easy to adjust—and smell nice, too.
For deeper drawers, these’ll do the trick.
A simple organizer shelf like this is a capable substitute for (or supplement to) a good chest. Stuff it with sweaters and pants.
If you have built-in shelves you don’t want to remove, getting a set of dividers like these will go further than you expect. Creating sections for your clothes will keep them separated and organized—and help you both when you’re trying to pick out what to wear and when you’re staring at a pile of washed clothes that need to be folded and put away.
Storage Rails and Hooks
Though you’ll likely put most of your clothes on hanging rods or folded in shelves, Merrill also installs peg rails and hooks throughout the closets she designs. “They help enormously in keeping closets tidy.” In other words: hooks are for the things, like coats and bags, that you hang on the back of whatever chair you see first when you come home. Merrill often uses these Shaker peg rails, which are handmade by artisans in Pennsylvania.
These rails from Kept Home are a little bit less expensive in the larger sizes, and come already stained and finished.
Merrill also loves the metal goods from Pruskin studio: “Each piece is handmade and like a little sculpture.” You can use this either as a replacement door knob or as a hook to mount in your wall.
Hooks in general are underrated—especially for belts, bags, and umbrellas—Cattano says. Scout’s hooks just look so much better than your generic Command hook, and they come in a variety of colors.
“I recommend using an over the door rack to maximize storage for smaller items, which will help keep them organized,” says Woodhouse. This modular rack does the work of a bunch of hooks and actually looks pretty good doing it.
If you just need a bunch of hanging pegs, this is a much cheaper solution.
A coat rack has all the advantages of an over-the-door rack or peg rail, but it likely won’t fit in your closet. If you’ve got plenty of floor space, this one looks sweet.
Storage Tubs and Containers
One foolproof way to keep your closet organized is to keep it pared-down according to the season, dumping warm stuff in a box like this when it gets cold and vice versa. This gives your closet a bit of breathing room, and means you won’t have to dig through your winter coats to find the exact camp shirt you want to wear to the beach. Shea and her husband use this one. “They stack and have handles that fold around the end of the lid to hold it shut, which is important when you’re stuffing your holiday sweaters away,” she says.
These long boxes from the Container Store serve the same purpose, but also have wheels to easily slide under your bed.
For off-season or non-essentials, consider a storage bin. Muji’s has a zipper to keep pests away, and the drop-front sweater box still gives you easy access to items you don’t need all the time.
If you own a bunch of plastic storage containers, consider embracing the label maker. “I love when things are clearly labeled. It cuts out so much confusion when you’re looking for specific items,” says Woodhouse.
The clothes you like most probably spend more time in your hamper than on a hanger or on a shelf, so getting something nice should be a priority. This one features a canvas bag hooked to a sturdy wire frame. When you need to wash your clothes, the bag snaps right off for easy transporting.
A cheaper, still-stylish option from the Marie Kondo collaboration at the Container Store.
An even cheaper option, the kind you might see in a stylish college dorm.
As with shirts, organizing shoes is mostly an exercise in finding and creating vertical space. There are tons of storage solutions available, but the cheap models are wobbly and the expensive models require real installation. And unless your collection of sneakers is in the high double digits, you probably don’t need to look into a custom solution.
A shoe rack is the simplest solution to store the shoes you frequently wear. They’re easy to build and small enough to hide in your closet, but look inoffensive enough to keep in your entryway, if you need the space. Shea keeps this one, which can comfortably fit about nine pairs of shoes, at the base of her closet.
This shoe rack is a bit shorter and wider, but it’s stackable. If you need more space, you can just buy another unit and toss it on top of the one you have. You can go pretty high before you have to worry.
A sturdier, more colorful entryway rack from Open Spaces. It doesn’t have as much room for shoes and doesn’t stack, but it looks the best of the bunch.
Yes, this is a bookshelf. But poet Hanif Abdurraqib told us he stacks these on their sides to store his massive sneaker collection.
These ingenious little organizers allow you to effectively double the amount of shoes you can fit into any given space. According to Decker, more importantly, they prevent your shoes from being squashed.
Shea likes to keep the shoes that don’t get much play in the boxes they came in, which are already designed to stack well. When she doesn’t have the box, she usually puts them in a stackable plastic bin. “It not only ensures they don’t get dusty,” she says, “but reminds me that I don’t have more room to buy more shoes.” With these Uline boxes, the more you buy, the cheaper each box comes out to.
Bigger shoes, like hiking boots, need their own boxes.
An over-the-door shoe organizer is great for saving space to hold your shoes, but Cattano uses hers differently. Cattano’s is cut vertically and hangs on the side wall to hold knit hats, gloves, face masks, and a lint roller.
Organizers for Watches, Ties, and Jewelry
Keeping your accessories organized can be pain: it’s hard to find the perfect space for a ton of little things. But unorganized accessories tend to get lost. And if you know exactly where each of your hats, scarfs, watches, ties, and pieces of jewelry are, you’re much more likely to actually wear them.
Merrill generally orders custom velvet drawer inserts for her clients from the October Company. These from The Container Store are a little less elegant, but just as practical, and a whole lot simpler to score online.
A series of valet trays is a good accompanying accessory to internal storage trays. You can pretty easily use a bunch of them to organize a wide range of stuff—inside a drawer or on top of a set of drawers.
Shea keeps some of her small accessories in this small cork box from Design Within Reach. It’s also stackable.
For larger accessories that don’t need to be hung—like hats and scarves—Shea and Kalita use these stackable felt bins from Open Spaces. They’re big enough to accommodate a lot of stuff, but not so large that you’ll get lost digging through them. Kalita also likes this basket from Muuto.
The tie rack: goofy, yet unimprovable.
Alternatively, consider installing a towel bar to the back of your closet door.
Other Nice-to-Have Closet Items to Consider
Once you’ve tackled all the basics, it’s time to think about design—the sort of adjustments that’ll make you feel good about getting dressed every day. “A well-styled closet is important, since it’s one of the first places you will see when you wake up each day,” says Shea. Plus, if you actually like how your closet looks when organized, you’re more likely to keep it that way.
An extremely easy way to spruce up a wall or the inside of a drawer is with adhesive contact paper. Wallpaper without the fuss.
Actually taking care of your clothes should be an important step in maintaining your beautifully organized closet. “A sweater shaver is a cut above (pun intended) the rest when it comes to sweater care,” says Decker. “It beats out the pumice stone and other types of de-fuzzers to keep sweaters pill-free. ”
Your closet might have overhead lighting that makes it possible to actually see the clothes you’re grabbing. If it doesn’t, well: it’s time to fix that. Shea has a pretty sophisticated smart lighting setup in her closet. She’s programmed the lights to turn on whenever she or her husband walk up to the doors. The easiest way to get this setup for yourself is with a Phillips Hue starter kit.
Another extremely affordable way to incorporate lighting into your closet is by sticking a puck light like this one close to the door. The push-button function isn’t the most elegant solution, but you can’t argue with the results.
You can’t perform a proper fit check (let alone take a fit pic) without a good mirror. It’ll also make your closet look a little bit bigger.
This mirror is too small to be something you bank on before leaving the house, but it’s a fun accent that can at least help make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth.
Toss one of these (or some dryer sheets) into your drawers so that your clothes keep that just-washed smell.
This vase is a great element to add to the top of a shelf, even if you don’t have a bouquet of flowers to put in it.
If you have anything really expensive that you don’t often wear—watch, jewelry, granddad’s bolo tie—it’s not a bad idea to keep it in a safe.