13 Ways to Maximize Closet Space for More Storage

Make the most of any size closet with these smart storage ideas.

pink organized closet open doors
Photo: Marty Baldwin

Your favorite blouses and sweaters deserve room to breathe in the closet. It keeps them in better condition, makes them easier to find, and keeps everything organized. But when you’re working with a small closet, this can feel almost impossible to accomplish. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to create more space or, at the very least, maximize the space you already have.

No matter the size of your closet—or the amount of clothes you own—these smart storage ideas will help you get the most out of the space. From simple folding tricks to clever sweater storage ideas, we're sharing our best closet organizing tips to show you that maximizing storage space in a small closet is actually an attainable goal.

1. Declutter Your Clothes

Start with the most obvious way to create more space: Letting go of things you no longer wear will make a massive difference in the closet. Set aside a few hours to pull everything out, sort it into categories, then make decisions. Have donation boxes on hand for things you're ready to part with, and ask a friend to help you decide what to do with items you aren't sure about. If you haven’t worn something in over a year, chances are you won’t wear it enough in the future to justify taking up space on the rack. Consider storing special occasion items (such as sentimental t-shirts and fancy dresses) somewhere else, such as a guest room closet that has extra space. Go through each and every item, including belts, bags, and hats, to make sure every piece you put back into the closet is something you truly love.

2. Contain, Contain, Contain

Aside from shoes and handbags, everything else on the closet shelves should be contained to maximize the space they take up. File fold sweatpants and shirts into matching bins and make sure they’re labeled. Tuck clutches and belts into their own bins, so they stay together. Any loose items will stay more organized if they're all stored in one place, rather than floating around on shelves (or on the floor). When you're choosing baskets and bins for the closet, try to avoid wicker, metal, or rattan baskets as they can easily snag soft materials.

closet wire shelving shoe organization
Marty Baldwin

3. Install Simple Shelves

If you have the space, hanging a few shelves in the dead space in the closet can give you significantly more space to store your stuff. Whether it’s a single shelf above the hanging rod or a thin, vertical shelf in the corner, make the best use of the space you have. Bulky items like sweaters and pants will take up less space when folded on shelves rather than hanging on the rack, and you'll be able to see everything better when items aren't squished together on hangers. If you install a tall shelving system, be sure to keep a small foldable step stool close by for easy access.

pink organized closet open doors
Marty Baldwin

4. Choose a Closet System

One of the most surefire ways to get the most out of your closet is to have a customizable system installed. Many companies come to measure, not just the square footage of the closet, but also its contents, so they can draw up a design that works for your space and your stuff. For example, if you have a lot of longer items to hang, they’ll make sure there’s a rod long and tall enough for them. This is why it’s important to know what you have and get rid of what you don't want, so you - and the closet designer - are working with accurate measurements.

The other neat thing about closet systems is that they can grow and adjust with you as your things and lifestyle change. Shelves and drawers can move higher, lower, or be added as time goes on. Depending on its size and material plus installation, systems can run you a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but the payoff is worth it if your budget allows.

5. Consider the Corners

If your closet has an underutilized corner that hasn't been optimized for storage space, consider corner shelving. These shelves typically come in metal, wire, or wood finishes, so you can easily match the aesthetic of whatever is already there. The size of the corner shelves will dictate what’s best to store on them, but ideally you'll be able fit two pairs of shoes per shelf (one on each side of the corner) making it the perfect shoe storage wall.

clothes hanging in closet
Marty Baldwin

6. Choose the Right Hangers

With the amount of reasonably priced slimline hangers on the market these days, there’s no excuse to keep your old, bulky hangers. Thick hangers, even the plastic tubular ones, take up more space than they need to and make it more difficult to optimize hanging storage. You’ll be amazed at how much more room on the rod you’ll have, even if you didn’t declutter a thing—although you shouldn’t skip that step. If you're really tight on space, there are other space-saving hangers to look for, such as cascading pant clip hangers that allow you to store a handful of items in one straight line.

drawer organization

Adam Albright

7. Learn to File Fold

File folding was made popular by Marie Kondo and is one of the easiest ways to maximize closet space. Folding your clothes using this method can save a considerable amount of space and will allow you to see everything you own in one quick glance. If your closet has drawers or bins, make sure clothing is folded vertically so items are easy to grab. Add spring-loaded drawer dividers to keep things even tidier.

8. Stack Your Stuff

Stacked open-front bins are ideal when you have a lot of height to work with and don’t want to add extra shelves. They’re a simple solution for busy mornings when you want to reach in and grab what you need in seconds. Stacked bins are also an easy way to separate your clothes by season because they're easy to swap around. For example, a bottom bin can house heavy sweaters in the winter, and the one above can have thinner sweaters that you’ll wear the rest of the year. Drop-front shoe boxes are easy to stack as well, since you won’t need to disturb the whole pile to grab one pair.

Yellow closet door with hanging objects

Jay Wilde

9. Use the Back of the Door

If you have a standard closet door, try a customizable rack organizer. Baskets can contain small purses and fabric care items, like lint rollers and shoe repair kits. Hooks on a pegboard can hold cross-body bags, scarves, or your favorite hats. If you have bifold or sliding doors, this method won’t work, but racks like these can sit flush on any wall, so consider that option if you have a patch of slim empty wall space inside the closet.

10. Alternate Your Shoes

If you're storing shoes on a shelf, you can easily save space by simply switching their direction. Instead of all toes and heels facing the same way, leave the right shoe in its place and then turn the left around. This can gain you a few inches on each shelf or rack, potentially allowing you to squeeze in an extra pair (or two!) of shoes.

bed with storage underneath

Adam Albright

11. Utilize Under-the-Bed Bins

If you've optimized your closet as much as possible and space is still tight, it's time to think outside the box and find another spot to store excess items. A few under-the-bed storage boxes with lids create an ideal place for off-season clothes such as bathing suits and sundresses in the colder months, and bulky sweaters during the summer.

12. Add a Double Hang Rod

Double hang rods are adjustable and inexpensive, so they can be an ideal solution. Place the hooks on either side of a short section of clothing—such as shirts—and create space below to hang another shorter category, like shorts. This will instantly double the amount of hanging space you have while making it easy to see everything.

If you don't have space for a double hang rod, opt for a hanging sweater cubby instead—but keep in mind it's not just for sweater storage. You can use the cubbies to store jeans, scarves, hats, clutches, and more while only taking up a small bit of hanging space. To avoid visual clutter (and to better contain smaller items) spring for a few matching drawer inserts too.

clothing rack in a kid's room

Brie Williams

13. Consider a Garment Rack

Another creative option is to create more storage space outside the closet. Place an additional wardrobe or garment rack somewhere in the bedroom, guest room, or laundry room. It can be an open storage solution or something with doors to keep your things hidden. If you choose an open shelving unit, place your most prized items on the shelves and display them as if they’re in a boutique.

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