One of the sad realities of adulthood is having to deal with a teeny tiny closet that barely fits your collection of clothes. Although Carrie Bradshaw would have you believe otherwise, living in shoebox-sized New York City apartments means cramming your extensive shoe collection, plus all your wardrobe essentials and party outfits, into a closet made for a family of ants. Which is why I’ve become a bit of an expert in closet organizing hacks, especially for small spaces.
There are plenty of free DIY solutions to help maximize your space, including adopting Marie Kondo’s method of folding your clothes just so (officially known as the KonMari folding method) and rotating your wardrobe out each season. Other ideas featured on this list do require you to spend a bit of dough, but won’t, by any means, cost a fortune—including using shelf dividers to add more space, springing for a bunch of baskets in various sizes, and investing in a set of thin hangers.
Organizing your small closet is kind of like one giant game of Tetris, but losing just means you have to store an extra bundle of clothes under your bed. Which is to say that this whole endeavor shouldn't be scary, guys—organizing can be fun! And you’ll be so happy once your closet is Insta-worthy. So put on your favorite playlist and get going, you’ve got curtain rods to hang.
Swap out your bulky hangers for thin hangers
With a small closet, you’re obviously going to want to fit as much in there as possible—so don’t give any of that precious limited space over to wide clunky hangers. Thin velvet hangers not only maximize the clothes-storing square footage available to you, but the velvet grips the fabric so that your clothes won’t slide off the hanger onto the floor. Everything stays neat and tidy!Continue reading below ↓
Two words for you: Storage. Boxes.
I know what you’re thinking right now: Um, putting boxes *into* my closet kinda sounds like a waste of space, Laura. But it’s not! Promise. Separating your items (think: scarves in one, socks in another) into individual boxes will help you maximize shelf space and will keep everything easily accessible and thoughtfully organized.Continue reading below ↓
Double curtain rods = double the hanging space
If your closet is tall enough, add a second rod (you may have to move the original rod up or down a couple of feet) and voilà, you’ve magically doubled the amount of hanging storage space.
Set up a clothing rack somewhere in your room
Okay, I’m guessing this probably isn’t ideal, but! Say you have some pretty dresses—they could be formal gowns, they could be linen summer maxis, what have you—that you don’t wear all too often. They could live *outside* your closet on a portable clothing rack as a sort of decor element. Functional and cute!
Give your purses a proper home
Step 1. Take all the purses you have hanging on your closet doorknob off your poor closet doorknob. Step 2. Buy yourself a mod wire basket and store your purses *vertically* (nope, not in a pile). This will keep them compact and make flipping through ’em a breeze.
Your doors = secret storage units
If you’re handy (or if you know someone who is handy that you can bribe with the promise of a pizza), grab a couple of steel wire baskets and screw them into your closet doors. These extra storage spots are great for smaller items, including socks, hats, headbands, or clutches.
Use your wall space wisely
proudowner of a small closet, you know you have to get creative when it comes to optimizing every surface. Enter, that empty patch of wall, which is just begging to become a spot for you to display your fave pieces of jewelry. You can get as fancy with the setup as you want—thumbtacks or little command strip hooks can work for necklaces, or you can treat yourself to something a touch more attractive, like a bracelet hook rack or earring bar.
Store your shoes on (the front! or back of!) your closet door
This might seem like an obvious idea, but I still wanted to include it on this list for all my dear readers who have yet to actually do it. If you own one (or ten) too many pairs of shoes—like moi—I’m willing to bet that having ’em at eye level might actually inspire you to donate the pairs you don’t wear anymore. Plus, not having your shoes litter the floor of your closet will make your whole space feel a lot tidier.
Put. Your. Cold. Weather. Clothes. Away.
Another stupid-simple trick. I know taking all your sweaters down from their shelves and folding them up in a suitcase or a vacuum-sealed bag kinda sounds like a pain in the neck, but you know what’s not a pain in the neck? Being able to easily see all your warm-weather clothes hanging pretty in your closet. Dare I say this ritual is the key to proper adulting? Just try it, I’m begging you.
DIY Project: Scarf Holder
Having a ton of scarves is your dang right, but they can be bulky and take up a lot of shelf space. To solve that problem, hang a few plastic shower curtain hooks (you can buy a whole bunch on Amazon) on a hanger, and then loop a scarf through each hook.
Another two words for you: Shelf dividers
Bless the genius who invented these because they are seriously *life-changing*. Clear shelf dividers not only create distinct areas for each category of clothing, but they also create faux walls, so you can stack piles (of jeans, sweaters, etc.) a lot higher without fear of them toppling over.
Add a small drawer unit underneath your hanging space
So this won’t work for every closet (duh), but if you have room underneath your hanging rod, stick a small dresser or set of drawers for easy access to the items you don’t mind folding up, like T-shirts or chunky sweaters. Pro tip: If you’re currently thinking, “Um, hello, I have a *small* closet, what makes you think I have space for a whole set of drawers?!” stackable cubes intended for books also work, too.
Hang tanks and camis on a tie rack
If you haven’t picked up on the overarching philosophy of all these organizing tips yet, lemme quickly break it down: You want to put away the stuff you don’t need at the moment and make visible all the things you do wear on a regular basis. Hence, the idea of hanging your camisoles or shell tops on a tie rack so that you can easily check out your options and grab whichever one you’re feeling that morning. (Note: This isn't a good idea for fabrics that wrinkle or crease easily, such as silk.)
Add a few under-shelf baskets
These little baskets are MAGIC! They slip right onto your closet shelves, creating the perfect holding space for socks, belts, tights, scarves, hats, or pretty much any other small thing you can think of. Some of these baskets (like the ones pictured here) also come with hooks for more hanging storage.
Put all your pants on a multi-layer hanger
Ladder hangers come in clutch when you want to (a) group your pants by category and (b) store them in a way that won’t riddle ’em with creases. All your denim can go on one hanger, all your black jeans can go on another, etc. Plus, you’re able to fit way more on a multi-layer hanger than you can on a single hanger.
Downsize your wardrobe
I’m putting this tip last because I’m guessing you don’t want to hear it—which I understand and respect! Getting rid of stuff is hard. We develop attachments to things for illogical reasons. But when you’re dealing with a small closet, sometimes the most effective move is to channel your inner Marie Kondo and donate a whole bunch of clothes and shoes you no longer wear. You don’t really need three different pairs of black block heels, do you?
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.