Jessica Sommerfield on November 6, 2015 1 Comment Closets are one of those areas in the house that seems to get neglected during renovation projects and the organizational frenzy of spring cleaning. The main deterrent to tackling these storage spaces is often how packed they are. Inevitably, they become dumping zones for everything that doesn’t otherwise have a place to go: seasonal clothing, sports equipment, Christmas and Halloween decorations, luggage and keepsakes. In all honesty, you might even be afraid of opening your closet up for fear of everything falling out on top of you! If you live in a small house or apartment where there aren’t many storage options, you know that having functional closets is especially important to making the most of your square footage. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to transform your closets from avalanche danger zones into neat, accessible places that meet your small space needs. 1. Evaluate the Number and Position of Shelves and Closet Rods The original design of your closets might be the biggest reason you can’t keep them organized. Having the right structure to work with is key to making the most of closet space, but builders rarely put much effort into them. If you’re missing shelves, only have a single closet rod, or otherwise lack closet structure, install it yourself. You can purchase lightweight, easy-to-mount shelving and closet rods from most department and hardware stores, or entire closet systems, for that matter. You should also think about where your shelves and rods are mounted. Is there room for another row above or below? Can you place another tension rod perpendicular to the one you have? Are there oddly placed shelves that can be removed to make room for more efficient ones? The better framework you have, the easier the rest of the process will be. 2. Maximize the Use of Closet Rods Let’s say you have plenty of closet rods but not many shelves. Before you tear them down in favor of more shelving, consider how versatile closet rods can be. For instance, you can use them to: Hang shorts, jeans, belts, scarves and ties with simple shower hooks directly on the bar or from hangers. Hang specialized hangers that utilize vertical space. Hang canvas storage systems that Velcro directly onto a closet rod for storing shoes, pants, sweaters, and more. 3. Maximize the Use of Shelves Closet shelves have a track record of getting overloaded, especially if you’re short on space. Instead of convenient, it seems that giant totes and boxes on high shelves are hard to access and handle, and are more likely to collapse on you, causing injury. Trust me, I’ve been there! The key to keeping shelved items safe and accessible is ensuring baskets and totes aren’t wider than the shelves they’re sitting on, or unnecessarily heavy. Do yourself a favor and purchase a number of equally-sized storage baskets that fit well on your shelves. Canvas baskets and boxes are perfect because they’re light and easy to label, retrieve, and open. Place items you won’t use as much on higher shelves, and don’t be afraid to install more shelving that goes all to the way to the ceiling, if necessary. As long as you have a stepladder that can reach, you’re good to go. Consider these other ideas for your shelves: Use shelf dividers to separate stacked clothes. Multiply usable surface with shelf organizers that create smaller shelves and cubbies when placed on an existing shelf. Take advantage of the space underneath shelves by installing under-shelf baskets. Some models even sit on tracks so you can roll the baskets out for easy access. 4. Utilize the Rest of Closet Wall Space We’ve talked about closet rods and shelves, but there’s still more usable space in a closet: the walls and floor. Unused wall space provides a great hanging solution for odd items like jewelry, ties, purses, umbrellas, scarves, and hats. Install coat hangers, utility hooks, baskets and towel bars, or string wire from one corner to another to hang items directly against the wall, but avoid overloading them to the point that they interfere with accessibility. Are you sure you’ve utilized all of your wall space? If you are able to, walk into your closet, turn around, and look up. The space above the closet door could provide more wall or shelf space for items like luggage, bags, sports equipment, and other occasional-use items. 5. Utilize Floor Space If you don’t have shelves underneath your closet rods, this is a great place to add more storage. Small 2-3 drawer dressers usually fit well under hanging items, and, as a bonus, free up space elsewhere in your home. If you can’t fit even a short dresser, consider small plastic or canvas drawers. Shoe racks and slotted canvas storage units fit nicely along the wall and can hold a variety of items in an organized and accessible manner. Clothing and bedding hampers, toy boxes, and storage chests can also be tucked into this space. It may sound like we’ve covered it all, but there are still a few more spaces you might not have thought of: The back of the closet door can hold a multi-pocket organizer or an over-the-door hanging rack for storing small or awkward items. Corners can be used to install corner shelves or house square hampers. 6. Think Outside the Box These tips are a great place to start, but there are many more ways to creatively and efficiently use your closet space. Don’t limit your storage ideas. Just because closets are usually places for clothes, keepsakes, and off-season décor doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with this hidden space. Do you need more room for your pantry items? Have you always wanted a personal library, but don’t have the room for bookshelves? Do you need a compact, private office? Closets are extremely versatile to your needs and dreams, so think outside the box and make the most of this under-utilized part of your home. With a little work, you’ll never have to be afraid of opening the closet again.