First and foremost: If you want an organized space, you have to eliminate clutter. Pull out everything in your closet and separate into three piles: keep, donate, and ditch. If you’re short on space, think compact when it comes to necessary belongings. For instance, downgrade a sizable stepladder to a low-profile wall-mounted version, or swap dirty mops and dusty brooms for one tool with three removable heads (mop, broom, duster).
2 of 17Bjorn Wallander
Select the Right Storage
Boxes that completely fill shelves are ideal, since they leave no space for a mess. (They do fill up, however, and need a purging now and then.) Use them to stash away items that don’t get a lot of play. Try open baskets that can slide out or sit on the floor to stow goods that get frequent use. Corral smaller items in a mini chest of drawers.
3 of 17Jonny Valiant
Invest in Versatile Pieces
A closet floor is where items get tossed (and lost). But fill that spot with a rolling bin and it stays debris-free and functional. In this linen closet, the cart holds paper goods and diapers, though it could just as easily function as a hamper for dirty clothes or a home for cleaning products.
4 of 17Jonny Valiant
Create “aisles” for sweaters, T-shirts, towels, or linens (like the neatly stacked sheets here) with clear acrylic shelf dividers or clip-on metal dividers.
5 of 17Jonny Valiant
Opt for Good Hangers
Putting clothing on identical hangers creates a uniform look; choose ultra-thin, flocked hangers to multiply your closet real estate (and provide far better support for your clothing than flimsy wire hangers).
6 of 17Frances Janisch
Upgrade Your Shoe Storage
Plastic boxes are shorter and trimmer than standard shoe boxes, so they stack compactly on the shelf. And because they’re clear, you can easily find what you need. (Don’t let your old shoe boxes go to waste, though. Put them to work as drawer dividers.)
7 of 17Jonny Valiant
Move It Out of the Bedroom
The pockets of a shoe caddy are just the right size for spray bottles, cleaning wipes, and small items like grout brushes, which tend to get lost on shelves in a utility closet.
8 of 17Jonny Valiant
Repurpose Hanging Organizers
Hanging a purse or sweater organizer is an easy way to create highly accessible vertical storage for not just, well, purses and sweaters, but also everything from hats to everyday tops and bottoms to baby blankets and diapers. In a utility closet, a sweater organizer offers deep cubbies to nest paper towels, recycling bags, and microfiber cleaning cloths, while plastic shoe boxes can hold lightbulbs, extension cords, and rolls of tape.
9 of 17Bob Hiemstra
And Plastic Boxes, Too
Plastic shoe boxes also make perfect pull-out drawers for underwear. Need more room? Try long, deep clear plastic boxes. A stack of five should easily hold all your underwear, socks, tights, and belts and still leave room above to hang tops.
10 of 17Annie Schlechter
Use Every Inch of Space
Make the most of that empty space behind the closet door. Mount a brass rod with sliding hooks to offer stylish refuge for hats, keys, or an armful of dry cleaning. Try an over-the-door rack to hold bats, balls, and helmets. Or put up a hanging shoe organizer to keep everything from spices in your pantry to hair ties, scarves, and sunglasses in your daughter’s closet.
11 of 17David Prince
Keep Brooms in Place
Another smart use for the back of the door: Mount mop and broom holders to keep your cleaning tools off the floor, out of the way, and somewhere they can easily air-dry.
12 of 17James Baigrie
Offer a Seat
A small storage ottoman offers a place to sit while lacing up or a boost to reach higher shelves. (You can also stash shoes inside it.)
13 of 17Jonny Valiant
Shed Some Light
Can’t see what’s in your closets? An easy-to-install illuminated rod is the answer for closets with no electricity. Motion activated, it lights up dark corners and turns off on its own after a few minutes. (Shown: 22-inch LED closet rod, $48, boutique.laclosetdesign.com.)
14 of 17 Noah Webb
Choose an Inspiring Color
When a storage spot is easy on the eyes, you’re more inclined to keep it neat. Pick a color—like the green on the back wall here—that complements the rest of your home, so when the closet door is open, it seems like part of the decor.
15 of 17Jeff McNamara
Create a Kid Zone in the Hall
To help children access their things with fewer “Mom’s!” (and closet dismantlings), assign them the lower compartments of hanging shelves, and suspend an expander bar from the rod to keep their jackets within easy reach. You can even hang clean sports uniforms there to eliminate last-minute scrambles for jerseys.
16 of 17Jeff McNamara
Rein in Your Linens
Try to limit yourself to three sets of sheets per bed and as few as three sets of bath sheets or towels, hand towels, and washcloths per person (more if you change towels daily). This gives you one set in use, one in the hamper, and one in the closet ready for action. You’ll need only one or two sets for guests (one on the bed and one in the hamper or closet). Anytime you get a new set, retire an old one, and resist the temptation to hoard extras for emergencies. To enhance the aroma of your linens, place sachet bags of pine, cedar, vanilla, or lavender in the back of the closet.
17 of 17Scogin Mayo
Once everything is in order, label the shelves to help you keep the closet that way. In the linen closet, use adhesive labels or tape a slip of paper to the shelf front to indicate “Master Bath,” “King Fitted,” or “Summer Blankets.” In your bedroom closet, use labels to differentiate, say, a stack of long-sleeved tees from short-sleeved.
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