There are reams of closet organization ideas, hacks, and tricks bouncing around the internet these days. But most of them are either eye-rollingly twee—turn your folded t-shirt stacks sideways and you can see them all at once!—or require full-scale apartment renovations. (You know: just install some track lighting, build some shelves, open up the wall over there!) For the vast majority of us with neither the funds nor the freedom under a rental lease to hire an architect, there are some gentler and less costly ways to re-organize your closet and bedroom areas, even if you’re constrained by space.
To help you tackle your closet in disarray, we spoke to two interior designers who work on a range of custom projects: Frances Merrill, founder of Reath Design, and Becky Shea, founder of Becky Shea Design. With their help, we’ve collected a list of tips and products to keep in mind before diving into a full closet re-organization. Here are 44 ideas, big and small to help make your mountains of clothing a little more manageable.
Before you buy anything new—shelves, racks, whatever—it’s a good idea to start from a clean slate. When Shea begins a closet redesign, she usually strips away everything that’s already there. “Removing shelves [is] our first choice,” she says. Then, you can step back and really assess the space you have. Pull out a tape measure and check the dimensions of your space. That way, before you’ve started thinking about whether to install an extra clothing rod, peg rails, or over-the-door shoe rack, you know if what’s going to fit.
It’s also important to know exactly what you have, and how it should be stored—Merrill sends all of her new clients a closet questionnaire for exactly this purpose. If you have a lot of dress shirts and suits, your closet storage should include more hanging space. If you mostly wear T-shirts and sweaters, you want shelves. If you collect shoes, you might need to take advantage of racks or under-bed storage boxes. Assuming you’ve already gone full Kondo, or at least as Kondo as you want to go, make sure that you’re buying storage solutions for what you have, not for all the stuff you want to acquire.
Even if you don’t have a walk-in closet, you can still find extra space you didn’t think you had. This will require getting creative with vertical space. Here are a few ways to do that.
Shea and Merrill both frequently install secondary closet rods underneath the existing ones built into your closet. As long it won’t interfere with your clothes—make sure you have a different place to keep those long winter coats—a second closet rod basically doubles the amount you can hang in your closet (just make sure you properly mount it to the wall).
When possible, Shea often recommends her clients position closet rods above the one that’s already built-in. “If you’re vertically challenged, there are some awesome options that allow you to either pull the upper rack down towards you manually, or even by pressing a button,” she says. This one, from Hardware Resources, is perfect for getting usable storage into small-but-tall spaces.
$55.00, Bed, Bath & Beyond
If you don’t have a rod in your closet at all, you might consider just getting a big organizational system like this one. It gets you two decently sized racks that you can stuff with clothes. They’re a bit less permanent-feeling than the above options, but are also easier to install and uninstall. If you’re a renter and plan to move at some point, that’s probably key.
Now that you’ve made space to hang your clothes, it’s time to update your hangers. The ones your dry cleaning comes back on aren’t just an eyesore, they’re actually ruining your clothes. A set of these wooden hangers will keep any jacket, shirt, or pair of pants in good condition for a long time.
For the stuff you can’t or shouldn’t hang (underwear and sweaters, respectively), consider a chest. This can go inside your closet, but something that looks as nice as this one (given that it’s from GQ’s collaboration with CB2) is likely better outside.
Keeping a chest organized is a lot easier with internal drawer dividers. These cedar ones are easy to adjust—and smell nice, too.
A simple organizer shelf like this is a capable substitute for (or supplement to) a good chest. Stuff it with sweaters and pants.
$13.00, The Container Store
If you have built-in shelves you don’t want to remove, getting a set of divider like these will go further than you expect. Creating sections for your clothes will keep them separated and organized—and help you both when you’re trying to pick out what to wear and when you’re staring at a pile of washed clothes that need to be folded and put away.
$54.00, Shaker Shoppe
Though you’ll likely put most of your clothes on hanging rods or folded in shelves, Merrill also installs peg rails and hooks throughout the closets she designs. “They help enormously in keeping closets tidy.” In other words: hooks are for the things, like coats and bags, that you hang on the back of whatever chair you see first when you come home. Merrill often uses these Shaker peg rails, which are handmade by artisans in Pennsylvania.
$88.00, Kept Home
These rails from Kept Home are a little bit less expensive in the larger sizes, and come already stained and finished.
$60.00, Prushkin Studio
Merrill also loves the metal goods from Pruskin studio: “Each piece is handmade and like a little sculpture.” You can use this either as a replacement door knob or as a hook to mount in your wall.
$40.00, West Elm
These wonky-in-a-good-way wall hooks from West Elm come in a pack of three, which means you can designate each one for a different item.
You can always just buy normal Command hooks, but these in nickel won’t immediately scream “college dorm.”
$22.00, The Container Store
This over-the-door rack does the work a bunch of hooks could do.
A coat ack has all the advantages of an over-the-door rack or peg rail, but it likely won’t fit in your closet. If you don’t want for floor space, this one looks sweet.
One foolproof way to keep your closet organized is to keep it pared down according to the season, dumping warm stuff in a box like this when it gets cold and vice versa. This gives your closet a bit of breathing room, and means you won’t have to dig through your winter coats to find the exact camp shirt you want to wear to the beach. Shea and her husband use this one. “They stack and have handles that fold around the end of the lid to hold it shut, important when you’re stuffing your holiday sweaters away,” she says.
$27.00, The Container Store
These long boxes from the Container Store serve the same purpose, but also have wheels to easily slide under your bed.
$220.00, Kept Home
The clothes you like most probably spend more time in your hamper than on a hanger or on a shelf, so getting something nice should be a priority. This one features a canvas bag hooked to a sturdy wire frame. When you need to wash your clothes, the bag snaps right off and is easy to lug around.
As with shirts, organizing shoes is mostly an exercise in finding and creating vertical space. There are tons of storage solutions available, but most cheap ones are wobbly and most high-end shoe storage requires a lot of installation. And unless your collection of sneakers is in the high double digits, you probably don’t need to look into a custom solution.
$85.00, West Elm
A shoe rack is the simplest solution to store the shoes you frequently wear. They’re easy to build and small enough to hide in your closet, but look inoffensive enough to keep in your entryway, if you need the space. Shea keeps this one, which can comfortably fit about nine pairs of shoes, at the base of her closet.
This shoe rack is a bit shorter and wider, but it’s stackable. If you need more space, you can just buy another unit and toss it on top of the one you have. You can go pretty high before you have to worry.
Shea likes to keep the shoes she doesn’t actively wear as much in the boxes they came in, which are already designed to stack well. When she doesn’t have the box, she usually puts them in a stackable plastic bin. “It not only ensures they don’t get dusty,” she says, “but reminds me that I don’t have more room to buy more shoes.”
$10.00, The Container Store
Bigger shoes, like hiking boots, need their own boxes.
Keeping your accessories organized can be pain: it’s hard to find the perfect space for a ton of little things. But unorganized accessories tend to get lost. And if you know exactly where each of your hats, scarfs, watches, ties, and pieces of jewelry are, you’re much more likely to actually wear them.
$32.00, The Container Store
Merrill generally orders custom velvet drawer inserts for her clients from the October Company. These from The Container Store are a little less elegant, but just as practical, and a whole lot simpler to score online.
A series of valet trays is a good accompanying accessory to internal storage trays. You can pretty easily use a bunch of them to organize a wide range of stuff—inside a drawer or on top of a set of drawers.
$40.00, Open Spaces
$25.00, Design Within Reach
Shea keeps some of her small accessories in this small cork box from Design Within Reach. It’s also stackable.
$86.00, Open Spaces
For larger accessories that don’t need to be hung—like hats and scarves—Shea uses these stackable felt bins from Open Spaces. They’re big enough to accommodate a lot of stuff, but not so large that you’ll get lost digging through them.
The tie rack: goofy, yet unimprovable.
$45.00, The Home Depot
Alternatively, consider installing a towel bar to the back of your closet door.
Your closet might have overhead lighting that makes it possible to actually see the clothes you’re grabbing. If it doesn’t, well: it’s time to fix that.
Shea has a pretty sophisticated smart lighting setup in her closet. She’s programmed the lights to turn on whenever she or her husband walk up to the doors. The easiest way to get this setup for yourself is with a Phillips Hue starter kit.
If you already have a lamp and outlet that you’d want to employ in a smart closet lighting setup, you can replace the outlet with a smart outlet like this one, as Shea did. It’s easier to do then you think—just make sure you know where your fuse box is before you get started.
If you have a lamp, but don’t want to mess with re-wiring, just buy a smart plug, an essential component of our smart home starter kit.
If you don’t have an outlet in your closet, you’ll need something that doesn’t constantly draw power. This rechargeable, portable light from HAY will do the trick.
The easiest way to incorporate lighting into your closet is by sticking a puck light like this one close to the door. The pusb-button function isn’t the most elegant solution, but you can’t argue with the results.
Once you’ve tackled all the basics, it’s time to think about design—the sort of adjustments that’ll make you feel good about getting dressed every day. “A well-styled closet is important, since it’s one of the first places you will see when you wake up each day,” says Shea. Plus, if you actually like how your closet looks when organized, you’re more likely to keep it that way.
$26.00, The Home Depot
An extremely easy way to spruce up a wall or the inside of a drawer is with adhesive contact paper. Wallpaper without the fuss.
You can’t perform a proper fit check (let alone take a fit pic) without a good mirror. It’ll also make your closet look a little bit bigger.
This mirror is too small to be something you bank on before leaving the house, but it’s a fun accent that can at least help make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth.
Shea thinks it’s important that your closet incorporate a “light, but stimulating” scent. She often uses Aroma360 reed diffusers to achieve this.
$600.00, Le Labo
Shea is also partial to these home diffusers from Le Labo, which include both a scent diffuser and soft Edison light bulb.
$9.00, World Market
Toss one of these (or some dryer sheets) into your drawers so that your clothes keep that just-washed smell.
This vase is a great element to add to the top of a shelf, even if you don’t have a bouquet of flowers to put in it.
$200.00, The Home Depot
If you have anything really expensive that you don’t often wear—watch, jewelry, granddad’s bolo tie—it’s not a bad idea to keep it in a safe.
Originally Appeared on GQ
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