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10 Small Closet Organizing Hacks From Pro Organizers That Will Change Your Life

Plus, the tissue box hack that will keep your shoes in tact

No matter the size of your closet, it seems like there’s never enough room to keep things from turning into a chaotic mess. It can be tough enough to keep track of clothes alone, let alone once you start adding shoes and accessories! Trying to put together an outfit — especially in a hurry —  can be quite stressful when you can’t easily locate all of the elements you need. And, when you can’t see what you have and don’t have, you can accidentally overbuy. And this is all exacerbated when you have a small closet. So we asked top organizing experts for their best small closet storage ideas to ensure this prime space in your home stays as functional and tidy as possible.

Before you plan storage for your small closet, clean it out

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to organize their closet? Not doing a clean out first, says Shantae Duckworth, professional organizer and founder of Shantaeize Your Space. “It is only after you go through everything that you can decide what storage bins you need for the closet, how many hangers you’ll need, etc. If you don’t declutter the space first, you can’t properly organize it!”

So pull out any items that you know you’re not going to wear, and donate or sell them instead. (Click through to discover how to make money selling your clothes.)

The best small closet storage ideas for hanging clothes

1. Use dividers to sort clothing by type

plastic closet rod organizers in different shapes
Plastic rod organizers can help distinguish between clothing typeIllustration by Viktoriia Ablohina/ Getty Images

While there are a number of ways to hang up your garments, keeping them sorted by item type can ensure you can find something when you want to wear it. Pro tip: Use plastic dividers that slip over the closet rod (Buy from Amazon, $9.75 for a set of 30) and label them appropriately (dresses, short-sleeve shirts, dress pants, etc.). You can also create these separators out of small pieces of cardboard. 

“It’s not so much that I can’t see what’s in my closet, but just putting things back in a way that makes sense helps so much because we’ve all had times where a skirt got lost because it was put at the end,” explains organizer Kathi Lipp, author of The Clutter-Free Home.

2. Sidestep pants pileups with clips

Jeans hung on shower hooks is one of many small closet storage ideas

Bulky items like jeans and dress pants can take up more than their fair share of shelf space when folded, plus they tend to tumble when stacked in a pile. Instead, just go vertical, suggests organizing whiz Lucy Milligan Wahl of LMW Edits.

“The most space-saving method for hanging jeans is to clip them by the waistband like a skirt,” she says. “that way they hang flat in your closet.” No need to invest in fancy clip hangers — use a chip clip to secure jeans or pants to the bottom bar of any hanger. Shower curtain hooks can also be a great way to hang your jeans while taking up as little space as possible.

(Looking for a better way to store pants? Click through to learn how to fold pants to save space.)

 3. Opt for *these* hangers

Clothes rack with thin velvet hangers for small closet storage ideas
luanateutzi/Getty Images

Traditional plastic hangers take up far more room, so even the thinnest of garments can use up valuable real estate on your closet rod. One of the best small closet storage ideas? “Getting uniform, slim hangers is really helpful,” shares Lipp. “I love the Velvet covered ones, so things don’t slide off.”

Another perk to sticking with thinner, uniform hangers? “It will ease up the visual clutter too,” adds Duckworth. One to try: TECHZOO 50 Pack Velvet Hangers Heavy Duty Hangers for Coats, Dress, Jacket, Pants (Buy from Amazon, $29.99).

4. Store sweaters smarter with a hanger trick

Hanging sweaters can stretch them out and cause fabric bumps in the shoulders, and folding them takes up so much shelf or dresser drawer space. The easy save via professional organizer Seana Turner of the Seana Method: “Fold a sweater in half lengthwise so one arm is on top of the other, then drape it over the hanger’s bottom bar.”

Related: The File Folder Hack That Keeps Your Linen Closet Organized + More Brilliant Tips

The best small closet storage ideas for organizing shoes

Heels, boots, sneakers, flats and more can quickly become a chaotic pile in your closet. This is especially frustrating when shoes end up squished or you can’t find the other half to a pair you need to wear! Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep them tidy and in great condition even when tucked away between uses.

1. Double the space with tension rods

Creating a shoe shelf with tension rods is Jeans hung on shower hooks is one of many small closet storage ideas

No need to buy a shoe rack to keep your footwear off the floor. “Tension rods can really make a difference for using small weird spaces or building in shelves where there aren’t any,” shares Lipp.

Just place two evenly spaced tension rods parallel to one another, and set your shoes on top. Have a larger space? A shower curtain rod can work well too, she adds.

2. Help boots stand tall with pool noodles

Pool noodles keeping boots upright Creating a shoe shelf with tension rods is Jeans hung on shower hooks is one of many small closet storage ideas

Tall boots often flop over, taking up two times the space they need. Plus it can cause creases, keeping them from airing out and create a closet-floor mess. The save: “Cut a pool noodle to size and insert into boots,” says Joni Gonzales, founder of Life Unflaked. Also great: “It’ll absorb odors and keep boots like new!” (Click through for more brilliant uses for pool noodles.)

3. Create cubbies for small shoes

Storing shoes in tissue Pool noodles keeping boots upright Creating a shoe shelf with tension rods is Jeans hung on shower hooks is one of many small closet storage ideas

The next time you finish up a box of tissues, don’t throw them away. Those empty cardboard boxes are perfect for keeping pairs of smaller shoes together on a shelf or tucked away on the floor. Just remove one end of the box, then use duct tape to secure multiple boxes together for support.

“I didn’t find them great for tennis shoes or running shoes, but they’re great for those shoes that you don’t wear all the time but you want to have access to, especially ballet flats,” says Lipp. “Or if you take shoes with heels and you put them toe to heel, you can fit them in there.”

The best small closet storage ideas for accessories

Even when you have your clothes sorted in a way that makes sense to you, it can be frustrating to get all the extra items (like hats, belts and scarves) to fit and look tidy. Ensure they have a proper place and are easy to find with these helpful hacks.

1. Keep scarves in order with shower curtain rings

Hanging scarves on shower curtain rings

Finding the pretty scarf you want is easy with a few shower curtain rings clipped to the bottom bar of a hanger. “Just drape scarves through the rings, hang in your closet and voilà — you have an instant scarf organizer,” says Gonzales. “The rings keep them separate and untangled and easy to organize by color.”

2. Store belts on a carabiner clip

Hanging belts on a carabiner clip

Keeping your belts in a storage bin or on individual hooks can just take up extra room on the shelf or closet rod. A better way: Slip all of the belts onto a carabiner clip! “I use carabiners for everything—I use them for earrings even or really long necklaces,” says Lipp.

3. Take advantage of less used spaces

Your closet rod and shelves aren’t the only place you can store accessories. Consider adding hooks to your closet ceiling to hang items, says Lipp.

Another surprising useful spot? When you open your closet door, there’s usually a small space on the same wall on each side of the door. “There’s a couple of inches there that you can place hooks on and hang smaller items like jewelry, belts and gloves,”  says Lipp. 

And think vertically: If you have tall shelves in the top of your closet, choosing just a simple storage bin means you’re losing out on the extra space just below the ceiling. Opting for stackable drawers allows you to take advantage of the extra room. “I use the lowest drawers for things I use all the time, and the top drawers are for things that I only need to get to maybe once or twice a year,” adds Lipp.

Related: The Best Ways to Organize Containers With Lids — In Whatever Space You’ve Got

For more helpful organizing tips, keep reading!

5 Surprising Downsizing Tricks That Will Nix Clutter and Ramp Up Your Style

7 Easy Ways to Use Baskets to Store Things in Every Room of Your Home

The Tension Rod Shelf Secret — and 8 Other Genius Ways To Organize a Small Pantry

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