Organization is all the rage nowadays. I’ve been a compulsive cleaner and organizer basically straight out the womb, but these last couple years it’s kicked into overdrive. You see the aesthetically organized pantries and closets, and it naturally makes you want to rethink your whole organization system. And this desire is especially real with closets. But if you’re in an apartment or smaller house, small closet organization may not seem so sexy.
But trust me, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the space that you already have. Whether you have a small walk-in closet, a reach-in closet, or no closet at all.
In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about small closet organization. From tips to save space, to ideas for categorization, to fun decorative details to add, and more.
Read from top to bottom, or click around on the table of contents to get just the answers you’re looking for!
Space-saving methods for small closet organization
Even if you have the smallest space ever, you’d be surprised with the amount of stuff you can fit if you just implement some space-saving hacks.
These tips can help you make the most of your space and make it look really neat and organized.
Folding to save space
Not only do things look a lot neater when you fold uniformly, but you can fit a lot more too! I would recommend neatly folding both things on shelves and in drawers. I’m even a stickler for folding my underwear. I swear those couple extra minutes spent folding pay off when I can open my drawers and things aren’t jumping out at me chaotically.
There are tons of different methods of folding that you can test out to see what fits you best.
My favorite method for folding for drawers actually came from a travel tip. They say that when you pack your suitcase, you should roll your clothing to make more space. So I adapted that to my tshirt drawers, too! I love how everything looks rolled, and I find that it leaves less wrinkles than harsh folds. But that’s just my preference.
There are tons of other methods as well. Like the HGTV tips below for all types of clothing.
If doing all that folding will make you avoid laundry more than you already do. No worries, I’ve got a solution for you. For shirts at least.
You can grab one of these handy t-shirt folding contraptions that make it super easy to get store-quality folding in no time at all. All you have to do is flip some flaps and you’re good.
Whatever folding you you choose to do, if you implement it uniformly, you’ll save so much space and create a much cleaner looking shelf or drawer.
Use your vertical space
Closets don’t have to be and shouldn’t be just a horizontal space. You have some things that are shorter and others that are longer. So take advantage of those length differences and fit your closet sections together like a tetris.
If you have a section of your closet that houses tshirts and crop tops, leaving an empty space below, hang another bar underneath, install some shelves or drawers, or nestle your dresser in there. You’d be surprised at how much space this consolidation can save you.
You can free up more space with the right hanging mechanisms, too. If you have more skirts or pants than you know what to do with, consider a collapsible hanger that fits 5+ items but takes up about the space of 1.5
Create separate zones outside of your closet
This one is one of my favorite tips. Not everything in your wardrobe has to be in your closet!
If your closet is simply overflowing no matter how much folding and collapsing you do, you may want to look into pulling out a highlight section for a room nearby.
In my bathroom vanity area, I extended my closet space by putting some feature pieces on my spiral clothing rack that I love. This not only gives me more space, but it also makes me grab for some pieces that I really want to incorporate in my outfits more often.
You could do this with new clothes, seasonal favorites, a certain color scheme, or whatever feature section you want.
If you don’t have a bathroom vanity area nearby, this could also be a really fun opportunity to create a dressing zone in your bedroom. Throw up a clothing rack, a mirror, a comfy rug and maybe a stool and some jewelry hangers on the wall and you’re all set. (coincidentally, this is what I did before I moved my rack into my vanity area).
Creating your own closet
Sometimes, you may not even have a full closet at your disposal. Whether you’re in a tiny studio apartment, share your room with a partner, live in a really old house, or your closet is converted into something else. But fear not! As always, I’ve got some good tips for you.
Carve it out with a wardrobe
This is precisely what standalone wardrobes were made to solve. And there’s no shortage of great wardrobes to choose from. You can find plenty of incredible options on places like Amazon, Wayfair, or CB2. But Ikea reigns supreme in the (relatively) affordable wardrobe market. (The Container Store obviously dominates the little bit less affordable market).
Ikea’s famous Pax wardobe is a tried and true solution for creating a beautiful and concealed closet. And they can be super customizable. Check out these Ikea Pax hacks that will definitely give you a little burst of inspiration for how to seamlessly work it into your space.
More affordable and customizable option: curtains + room dividers
If you want to save a little money – or just want a more unique look – you can always go the curtain or room divider route.
This option offers a lot more flexibility. You can hang some shelves, push some cubbies against the wall, or scooch your dresser into a separate area – or some combination of the three. You can do whatever configuration you want, and then just throw a curtain or room divider in front to block or just divide it from the rest of the room.
I personally think this is the most design-savvy option. You can let your imagination run wild and think of any kind of configuration you want.
Methods for small closet organization
Now what you all came here for – some clear organization methods! I’m gonna walk you through the nitty gritty of how to accomplish small closet organization in the most beautiful way possible.
Start by purging
Of course, the first step to organization is to get rid of any shit you don’t need.
In the closet, the rule of thumb is to get rid of anything that you haven’t worn in the last year, doesn’t fit you, or has damage. Feel free to donate these items to a shelter near you, make a lil money by selling them on Depop, turn damaged clothes into rags, or even using unwanted clothes for scrap fabric for sewing!
You can go full Marie Kando if you want and physically sit with each item to see how it makes you feel. But at the least, I would recommend taking everything physically out of the closet for your big yearly purge. This makes it so that you have to actively put everything back into the closet. I find that this helps you use more discretion in deciding if you really need something than if you are deciding to take it out or leave it in.
Grouping + categorization
Before you put anything back from your big purge, decide on what zones you want. If you have ever watched Getting Organized with The Home Edit (which you 100% need to), you’re familiar with the idea of a zone. We’ll get into the zone possibilities in a second, but first I just want to stress the importance of deciding on your zones before migrating pieces back into your closet.
If you sort items into distinct zones first, you can see the amount of space needed for each one. And that will help you decide where in your closet to place it.
Okay now to get into what your zones/categories can be. The best route is to go with what’s most intuitive for you. Think of how you pick out an outfit and the searching steps you take. Do you look for items based on type (i.e. shirt, pants, skirt) first? If so, you may want to sort by that. Or do you typically start your selection process based on color? Or, if you’re like me, it’s an equal mixture of both.
The way I organize by closet is by color overall, and then within color, I sort by type – i.e. crop tops then tshirts then long sleeves, etc.
There are so many different options, though. You could sort by season, style, how new something is, or whatever is most intuitive to you and the way that you use your closet. As I always say, the best design is determined by how well it fits the person it’s designed for.
And yet another zone that you may not think to include but I guarantee will be life-changing is an “in-between” zone. This is for exercise clothes that you may wear multiple times, PJs, or anything else that you’re never really sure to put in the laundry or back in their spot.
This in-between zone gives you easy access without digging through your laundry or putting semi-dirty clothes back in the clean drawer. This could be as simple as a basket or free drawer.
The breakdown of all small closet organization especially, but even the biggest closets, is a lack of distinction and separation. This is what causes all your zones and pieces to flow together into one big, disorganized mess.
I’ll get into some specific product recommendations in the next big section, but you’ll definitely want to invest in some pieces to create this distinction. Things like bins, dividers, and cubbies are great for making it visually really clear where things go.
Overall, you want these products to make it easy for you to grab things and put them back really easily and seamlessly. You don’t want to be spending all your time fixing messed up sections or searching for where you need to put things back every time you take care of laundry.
Although I am a huge believer that you can wear some of your winter clothes in the summer and summer clothes in the winter, there are some things you just won’t be able to wear year-round. And when it comes to small closet organization, rotating out the things that you know you won’t wear will be in your best interest.
Pull out these select pieces and pack them away in a box or bag to throw in your linen or coat closet, under the bed, or wherever you can fit them. This will give you a lot more space and make it easier to pick out an outfit, because you know everything is a viable option.
This separate storage can also cover the “featured pieces” zone that I mentioned earlier. Although these clothes will still be in rotation, you can get them out of your closet and to a different place, freeing up more space in the closet.
Organization products – what do you need to buy for your small closet organization project?
So we’ve got the organizational methods and tips down to a science now. But now let’s get into the products and systems you can get to make it happen.
No matter what kind of hangers you go for, make them all the same. If your hangers are uniform, it automatically looks more organized and intentional.
But that being said, there are some specific hanger recommendations I do have to help save space and make your closet look incredible.
Velvet hangers are a classic because they are so thin and give your clothes a nice grip. Collapsing hangers like I mentioned earlier are great for saving a ton of space – and you can find some really great looking ones to match the color + finish of the other ones in your closet.
To me, thin wooden or plastic hangers with rubber grippies are always going to win out.
Pro tip: if there’s ever a Forever 21 going out of business in your area, GO TO THEIR CLOSING SALE. I got 2 massive boxes of their hangers for a total of $2. It was enough to fill my whole closet and then some, and they look so good.
The little things
Like I mentioned before, separation is the key to good organization. And these little organizational doodads will keep your small closet organization in tip top shape.
- baskets + bins – These bins or baskets can hold scarves, workout clothes, loose t-shirts, bathing suits or anything else that may be hard to fold all by themselves. This is a great alternative to drawers.
- dividers – These will be your saving grace. If you haven’t yet seen those clear dividers that can go between folded items on shelves, your organizational life is about to change. But in addition to shelf dividers, drawer dividers are equally as important. You can separate your underwear from socks, your bras from camis, bathing suits from shorts, etc.
- hanging closet organizers – There is so much wall space in closets that goes unused – including the door space. Hang some hooks or wall organizers to hold things like belts, scarves, bags or hats. This will free up some room in your drawers or your shelves and make these things more easily accessible.
We all know what happens when you throw all your jewelry in a drawer. You forget about it and/or it all ends up in a tangled mess.
Jewelry organization solutions keep your jewelry visible, untangled, and organized.
My sister made me this jewelry organizer a few years ago for Christmas, and it remains one of my favorite things ever in my home. And it’s super DIY-able if you want to give it a go yourself.
If that’s not your style, there are tons of other fun jewelry organizers. Take a look at some options below and see what stands out to you.
If you keep your shoes in your main closet, they very quickly become a massive pain in the ass. A closet shoe organizer will help you keep this mess in check.
I love the Open Spaces shoe organizer for a select amount of feature shoes. But if you’re looking for organization for a bigger shoe collection, there are lots more extensive options.
Total overhaul – full storage systems
Ready for a total overhaul? If you own your home, you may be considering tearing down all the current shelves and just starting over from scratch with a new organizational system.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, definitely consider getting a closet kit. These give you tons of customization abilities, without the massive price tag. Martha Stewart gave some recs of the best closet kits, and I’m inclined to trust her opinion.
Fun decorative details
It’s not all about organization, of course. You want things to be neat and orderly, but you also want your closet to match your personality, right? That’s ultimately the goal of the design of your whole house in my opinion.
So here are some ways you can add a little extra flair and funk to your closet:
- a mirror to check out your outfits in
- a fun pendant light or floor lamp
- colored graphic wallpaper for a statement wall
- a rug to add some interest to the ground or to distinguish separate zones
- a seat or stool to pose at or sit on to put your shoes on
- artwork! Because artwork is a great addition to literally any space.
Bonus tip: what you should/shouldn’t hang
Because I love my homey homies so much, I wanted to give you a little bonus tip for making it all the way down to the bottom of this post. If you’re looking to really go all-in on your small closet organization, you’ll need to know what’s best to hang and what’s best to fold. So below I present you with a guide that you can easily refer to if you’re in doubt.
Always hang: in general, things that can get wrinkled
- pieces made of really flowy fabric
- pants other than jeans
- most dresses (unless it’s a heavy sweater dress)
Always fold: in general, things that may stretch out
- workout clothes
- shorts (just because there’s really no need to hang them
You decide whether to fold or hang, depending on personal preference and the amount of space you have:
And here’s some fun and creative closet inspiration photos to get you pumped to kickstart your small closet organization process! Happy purging, happy organization, and happy decorating!
Hey my name’s Hannah Michelle Lambert, the voice behind homey homies. I’m an LA-based designer, writer, and content strategist. I’m passionate about the intersection of productivity and creativity. I love talking about creative habits, technology, processes, and everything in between that helps me blend the Type A and Type B parts of my brain.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links, so I may make a small commission if you make a purchase. But this does not increase the cost to you at all – it comes out of the seller’s pockets.