How to Organize a Closet
When You Don’t Have One

By Kealia Reynolds
Photo by Michele Equitz

Organizing your closet is already difficult as is, but it can present more of a challenge when you have very limited, or zero, closet space to begin with. We talked to Katy Milton, design consultant at SF California Closets, a premium and luxury space management firm, and got her advice on how to maximize what little organizational space you do have.

What do you recommend for homeowners or renters who don’t have closets in their homes?

A wardrobe is a great solution for those that don’t have closets or have limited closet space. Wardrobes are designed to fit the specific space and look like custom furniture all while maximizing storage. Wardrobes can provide solutions for hanging items, folded items, shoes, hats, etc. The interior components of the wardrobe can be adjusted to accommodate different needs. Rods and shelves can be moved to allow for longer hanging items versus shorter or folded items versus hanging.

How do you suggest organizing your belongings if you’re short on closet space?

The type of hanger is key to maximizing space. Thin, microfiber-covered hangers will keep items from slipping off but will also take up the least amount of space. Pants should be hung on hangers that are minimal in height from the top of the hanger to the rod that the pants hang on. This will maximize vertical space in the closet.

How clothes are stored also makes a difference in how much space they take up. Bulky, structured items such as jeans and sweaters will take up less space and hold their shape when folded and placed on a shelf versus being hung on a hanger.

When space is at a premium, organizing items by type can help maximize space both horizontally and vertically. For example, short skirts and pants hung in half should be grouped and hung together as they are typically a similar height when hung. Flats should be stored on the same shelf to allow the shelves to be closer together.

What tips do you recommend for people who have to share a closet?

When sharing is necessary, it’s best to divides the space so each person has their own section. A set of drawers or shelf tower works well to delineate the space. When each person has their own space, it’s easier to locate items and keep like with like. Agree upon who has more storage needs for clothes, shoes, etc., and divide the space based on need rather than strictly in equal parts.

In your opinion, what are the three tenants of closet organization?

  1. Adjustability—Closets need to be able to transition as needs change.
  2. Visibility—If you can’t see it, you won’t wear it. Make sure you can see all of the items in your closet and [ensure] that things aren’t hidden away.
  3. Swap clothes seasonally—If it’s 90 degrees outside, there’s no reason to have wool trousers and cashmere sweaters in the main area of your closet. Move them to a different closet if that’s an option; if not, use a storage container to pack up for the season and place them on a high shelf.

Any other organizational tips for those pressed for closet space?

  • Edit regularly. This is key to having a truly functional closet. Use the change of seasons as an excuse to have friends over for a closet cleanout party. Friends are able to view the items in question without any sentimental attachment and will help you let go.
  • Practice Marie Kondo’s philosophy and surround yourself with things that spark joy.
  • Avoid hanging on to ill-fitting clothes or shoes.
  • Match hangers for all items. When clothes are all hung on the same types of hanger, the closet will feel more organized.
  • Keep often worn items in the most accessible areas of the closet. Infrequently worn items should be stored up high.

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