Small Closet Organization

I live with my partner in an approximately 700 square foot apartment in downtown Toronto. A bedroom closet. Coat closet. IKEA Malm dresser. That’s it for clothing storage. It’s not a lot of space and unfortunately, I’m also someone who likes my space to be clutter-free, neatly organized, and aesthetically pleasing. So tricks like using can tabs to double your hanging space, using plastic shower curtain rings to hang your scarves, adding a garment rack, or hanging things on the walls are not options I am willing to explore. Time to get creative.

Acknowledge that you can’t organize your way to creating more physical space.

The space you have is the space you can use and finding methods to optimize that space is priority. Whether I like it or not, our bedroom closet is 57-inches wide and that is not something I can change. If I’m remembering math—and I think that I remember math accuratelythe volume of a physical space is determined by multiplying its length by its width by its height. Maximum volume is immutable and that is a fact of science I cannot change. I also cannot change the fact that plus size clothing will always take up more space than straight sized clothing. That is also science. If you’re a fat babe with a small closet—I see you. I hear you. Your frustrations are valid. Ultimately you can choose to spend your life working, and failing, to change the physical properties of the universe or you could read my small closet organization tips. Completely up to you.

Customize your space.

When we moved into our current apartment the insides of the closets were a small disaster. The shelves and rails were either in precarious shape or completely falling apart. The first thing we did was tear every. single. thing. out of the only two closets in our apartment—the coat closet and the bedroom closet. Starting over from scratch seemed less daunting than attempting to use or repair what was there.

After patching and painting the walls, we installed Rubbermaid Customizable Closet Organization Kits in both closets and we couldn’t be happier with them. These customizable kits allowed us to choose how many shelves we wanted, where to place the shelves, and at what height to place the clothing rail. We chose to hang the rail 75-inches from the floor—as opposed to the more standard 60-inches—which gave us the ability to install two shelves above and still have room to place short dressers inside the closet without impeding hanging space.

Maximize your vertical space.

Originally our closets had a single shelf above the rail, which was a complete waste of our almost nine-foot ceilings. We used the Rubbermaid Upright Extension Kits and in both our bedroom and coat closet to really make the most of our vertical space. We store things on the top shelf that we hardly ever reach for—out of season shoes, shoe boxes, guest bedding. This simple addition easily doubled the amount of shelf space we have and cost less than $20 per closet.

Buy the thinnest hangers you can find.

I know what you’re thinking…how much space could you possibly save using those thin hangers? The answer is a lot. A lot, a lot. I went from having an entire room as my closet to sharing a 57-inch closet with my partner. Wooden hangers just weren’t going to cut it in the new space. I stifled a sob while selling those beautiful wooden hangers for pennies on the dollar on Kijiji. Ultimately, I bought a set of velvet hangers and like magic, my clothing took up approximately half of the space it had previously occupied.

Splurge on matching hangers.

The first thing I did when I helped my mother reorganize her closet was throw away all of the mismatched wire and plastic hangers she had been collecting for three decades. My only rule while shopping for new hangers—they all had to match. If all the hangers are the same height and width you will actually be able to see everything you own at a glance. Matching hangers will not only make your closet look good, but they will also make it more navigable and clothing more accessible.

Vertical folding is basically space-saving magic.

I’m always down to learn new folding techniques, but I know I’ve hit on a winner when even my partner Brad gets on board. Whether you call it the Konmari method or the filing method—just do it. It makes everything so much more accessible and gives you a really nice visual overview of what you have. Watch Lavendaire’s How to Fold playlist on YouTube for inspiration and instruction. There are small adaptations needed for plus size clothing—would you be interested in a tutorial on how I vertically fold my clothing? Let me know in the comments or message me on Twitter or Instagram @whatfatswear.

Don’t ignore the floor.

To be completely honest, I absolutely hate putting things on the floor. Dust and dirt pile up and before you know it you’re on your hands and knees cleaning the inside of your shoes. But on the other hand, our bedroom is small. Really small. 10′ x 9′ small. There isn’t a place to put a full sized dresser without seriously obstructing walking space, so we opted for Muji PP Storage Closet Drawers (they come in three sizes: small, large, deep) inside the closet. For additional storage, we added the Ikea MALM Chest of 6 Drawers that tucks perfectly and unobtrusively into the corner of our bedroom. I also bought four Iris Clear Shoe Boxes for the coat closet. They can hold up to two pairs of shoes per box, stack neatly on top of each other, and keep dust buildup at bay.

Utilize space under the bed.

Now that you’ve used the floor space in your closets it’s time to look at what under the bed has to offer. It is perfect for storing out of season items and/or occasionwear in storage bins specifically designed to fit under the bed.

Put out of season items in storage.

One of the easiest ways to have less in your closet at any given time is to put out of season clothing in storage. Do you have a storage locker? You’ve got it easy—get a plastic storage bin and put your out of season shoes, clothes, and accessories in the bin and put it in your storage locker. Don’t have a storage locker or you have one but it’s packed to the brim? I feel you. Try storing your out of season items inside luggage.

Purge. And then purge again.

Take every piece of clothing you own out and put it on your bed (or on the floor in your living room). Go through piece by piece with an eye toward editing. One of those most helpful prompts for me has been, “If I saw this in a store now would I buy it?” If the answer is no, let it go to a better home. I have decluttered countless items of clothing and only once did I ever think about an item again—and even in thinking about that item (a grey wool crew neck sweater) I still acknowledge that the piece just wasn’t right for me. Repeat this process every three or four months.

I’ll have more on what to do with the clothing you’ve decluttered in the next post—stay tuned!

A place for everything and everything in its place.

The most annoying of all advice, but if you assign a home to each and every item in your closet it is far easier to put those items away when the time comes. Don’t get me wrong—I have a near constant mountain of clothing on top of my dresser, obstructing my Frédéric Forest sketch while eternally waiting to be put away. It’s my only flaw.

Let me know in the comments if any of these tips helped you optimize the space in your closet or if you have any other space saving tips that might help me!

Photos by Yuli Scheidt.