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Easy Ways to Get More Closet Space

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 14, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

You don't have to live in an old house or a small apartment to suffer from closet deficit disorder -- although it does raise your risk. If you never seem to have enough closet space, you may recognize symptoms such as these: avoiding your closet; approaching your closet cautiously, grabbing what you need, and quickly slamming the door to avoid the jungle within; or finding shoes jumbled on the floor, clothes that have fallen off hangers, and belts and hats twisted together in forsaken piles.

A cluttered, overstuffed closet can even be a safety hazard -- as anyone who's opened the door and been bonked on the head by a falling box knows too well. The answer, of course, is more closet space -- but how can you create it without knocking down walls or moving to a new home? Here are some easy steps to closet deficit relief:

Evaluate What You Have to Work With

Before you get started, take a good look at your closet. What is the configuration? Could you be using the space, no matter how limited, more efficiently?

Donna Smallin, who has written eight books on organizing and simplifying life, says many people waste the space at the top of their closets, where they can easily add another shelf or two. She advises those pressed for space to "go vertical," pointing out that even if your new shelves are hard to reach, they can be used to store items you don't use often, like dress shoes or clothes that are out of season. (For help planning your dream closet, see the online tools below.)

Declutter

The next step is to go through your closet and ruthlessly purge the items you don't use.

Smallin adheres to the maxim that if you haven't worn an item of clothing for a year, give it away. "Identify the clothes you love, and get rid of everything else," she says. "If you haven't worn something for a year, there's something wrong -- it's not your style, or it doesn't fit right -- and there is no point in holding onto it."

Kimberly Beyer, a professional organizer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, agrees. Beyer often has to press her clients to get rid of clothing that doesn't fit them anymore. "Our bodies change with time, and a lot of people who've lost or gained weight hang on to clothes for years in case they someday fit again," says Beyer. "I tell clients, 'If an item of clothing hasn't fit for a year or more, you're probably never going to wear it. If you used to be a size two and now you're a size eight, you're probably not going back there. And if you used to be a size sixteen and now you're an eight, you don't want to go back there!'"

Beyer also recommends getting rid of miscellaneous hangers. "If you hang all your clothes on the same type of hanger, it streamlines your closet and makes it easier to find what you're looking for," she points out. Beyer recommends felt-covered hangers, which are thin and lightweight. Plus, the felt prevents clothing from sliding off onto the floor.

Store Clothes That Are Off-Season

Make more space in your closet by putting away clothes and shoes that you won't use until the weather changes. You can buy containers for storage, or use cardboard boxes if you're on a tight budget (cover them with wrapping paper if you want to brighten them up). Pack sweaters, purses, and shoes in separate containers and label them clearly so you can easily find what you're looking for when the temperature changes. Storage boxes can be placed out of the way on a high closet shelf, or out of sight under your bed.

Make the Most of the Space You Have

Now that you've purged your closet of items you never wear and put away off-season clothing, you should have more space to work with, and it's important to make the most of it.

An easy way to do this is to add a second closet rod. These rods, available at many hardware and storage stores, hang from the original rod, and extend partway across the closet so you can double the space you have to hang shorter items, like blouses and slacks.

A hanging sweater shelf that attaches to your closet rod can be used to hold purses, scarves, and belts as well as sweaters. Depending on the configuration of your closet, you may have a corner to store a small chest of drawers or plastic bins for shoes and other items.

Smallin points out that many people don't take advantage of closet wall space or the back of their closet door. "There are all kinds of ways to use that space: a rack on the back of the door or pegs on the wall are great for hanging ties, scarves, hats, or shoes," she says. "You can also hang items you use a lot, like your bathrobe, your PJ's, or a favorite sweater." She recommends adhesive plastic wall hooks, which can be purchased at any hardware store and attached without even getting out the toolbox.

Move Shoes off the Closet Floor

If you keep your shoes on your closet floor, you're likely to wind up with chaos, no matter how neatly you line them up -- especially if you share your closet with your partner.

A hanging shoe rack is one way to get shoes of the floor, but it may take up too much closet rod space. Smallin prefers storing shoes in plastic boxes, shoe dressers, or shoe racks that hang on the back of the closet door. Kimberly Beyer notes that storing shoes in bins has the added benefit of keeping them dust free.

Smallin suggests another function for hanging shoe racks: "I like to use shoe racks in kids' rooms to store toys or other easily lost items like socks, gloves, head bands, and scarves," she says.

Shelf Dividers

These dividers attach to existing shelves and are easy to install. They don't actually create more space but they'll add to the order in your closet, which creates a feeling of spaciousness. The dividers allow you to store scarves, sweaters, hats, and extra purses in separate sections on your shelves, so they don't topple over on each other and create an avalanche.

When All Else Fails, Call In the Pros

If the mere thought of tackling your closet overwhelms you, you may need to consult an expert, and that's where professional organizers like Beyer come in.

"Some people just can't do it themselves," says Beyer. "There's nothing wrong with them, they just can't get their head around their organizational problems. Since I don't have the same attachment to their things that they do, it's easy for me to give them a hand."

Beyer adds that for some people, simply having another person there makes the job easier. "Other clients need my help because they can't envision a different design for their closet, and I help by offering a fresh eye and new ideas," she says.

Beyer always reminds clients that creating more closet space isn't a one-time job. "It's an ongoing project," she says. "Your life and your needs and interests are going to change and in six months or a year, you are probably going to have to do it all over again."

To find a professional organizer in your area, contact the National Organization of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Donna Smallin, author, A to Z Storage Solutions and The One-Minute Organizer.

Kimberly Beyer, professional organizer, Novato, Calif.

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