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text by Alyssa Clough illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Walk-in closets, while dreamy, are not in every home. Especially those tiny New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. apartments where you’re lucky to even have a closet at all. Often, even if you do land a sweet closet, it might be oddly shaped and annoyingly not optimized for maximum storage. If you’re suffering from unused (and unusable!) closet space, read on for our tips on how to best organize your rods, shelves, bins, and space!

First, identify what you have AND what you need. Where is your empty, unutilized space located? Then, what do you need more storage for? Once you’ve answered both of these questions, you’re ready to start figuring out a solution.

1. If you have a deep closet…

This is the toughest negative space to tackle, but you have a few options to achieve optimization.

Option 1 Tier your clothing rods. The one towards the back of the closet should be higher. Hang your long dresses, coats, and jumpsuits there. Stagger another rod in front in a lower position. Hang shirts, skirts, and shorts there.

Option 2 Store out of season clothing in plastic containers behind any shallow storage units you already have in position. It will be a hassle to pull out your clothing when the seasons change, but it’s a viable storage option.

Option 3 Install deep drawers that reach the back of your closet. Store shoes or folded clothes and enjoy the extra, hidden space.

Option 4 This is by far the most radical option. If your closet is very deep—like you could walk in deep—move the rod to the very back of the closet and create your own super-mini walk-in. Install shelves or bring in skinny bookcases for either side and bask in your new and improved space.

2. If you have too many shoes… so basically everyone.

There are many different ways to store your various pairs of shoes. Over the door hangers and low-lying or floating shelves are the most popular ways to store shoes— for good reason. Keeping your shoes are in a pile on the floor of your closet is no way to live.

3. If you need more hanging space…

Simple: buy a double hanging rod. Hook this inexpensive contraption to your already existing clothing rod for added hanging space below.

4. If you have a closet with a high ceiling…

Option 1 Install a shelf. This might sound hard, but it’s really not. Measure your closet width and lengthwise and head to the nearest home store. Buy a few brackets, recruit an employee to help you cut a board to that exact size, and install within no time. YouTube tutorials are your friend!

Option 2 If you need more hanging space and have nowhere to go but up, check out this cool contraption. Rev-A-Shelf makes a side mounted, pull-down closet rod that stores your hanging clothes out of reach while still leaving them easily accessible.

5. If you have empty wall space…

The sneakiest way to store belts and scarves is to install hooks inside your closet. If you have space inside your door, consider an over the door hanger—facing in—to keep the colorful clutter inside closed doors.

6. If you simply need ideas…

Browsing Ikea’s closet storage systems or California Closets’ site might make you green with envy, but it will also provide you with creative ideas on how to best arrange your belongings in your space. Figuring out what should go where is like a puzzle and these huge, professionally constructed closets will provide all the inspiration you could possibly need.

7. If you have a larger closet…

Throw a bookshelf in there and fake a custom closet. Store shoes, bags, or additional folding clothes. Install rods according to your hanging needs and enjoy your new, fancy closet.

8. If you don’t have a closet…Hey, a girl can dream, right?

We have you covered on that front, too. Read our rules to live by if you have an exposed closet (aka a hanging rack in your room).