What to Do When You Only Have One Small Closet

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Make One Small Closet Work

Do you have any ideas for organizing clothes when the closet is too small in an apartment, but one cannot afford a larger apartment?


Virginia, I am in the same boat as you. One of my houses was a 750 square foot log cabin that came with no closets at all. The house I live in now has two closets, both of which are 18 inches deep and four feet wide and I have no chest of drawers for clothes. That’s it. I have no linen closet for sheets, blankets, towels and only a small medicine cabinet in my bathroom.

Here are some things I do or have done to make it work:

  • Get rid of as much as you can and, after you do that, get rid of some more. I once read where someone had written that a good way to decide whether you should get rid of or keep something is to ask yourself, Would you like your boyfriend to see you in it? For some of us, that goes way too far back but, essentially, do you feel really good or beautiful when your wear it?
  • I have a shoe bag I hang on the back of my bedroom door and I only allow myself to keep as many shoes as will fit in it.
  • Keep seasonal clothes under the bed in narrow boxes. All my winter clothes go under the bed in the summer and vise versa.
  • Measure the amount of space you really need for your hanging clothes. I found that I only need eight inches for my long dresses and pants, which I hang by their cuffs on small wooden hangers.
  • I fitted a small open back shelf underneath where my tops hang. It has 4 shelves so I can get quite a few things on it. I store my t-shirts, pajamas, shorts and sweaters on it. 
  • I have a long shelf going across the top of the closet. On it, I keep a small basket of belts, a hat box to hold all of my purses, my one set of extra sheets and then a couple of large totes at the end.
  • Don’t forget to use the inside of your closet door to hang things. I have a divider bag hanging on the inside of my closet door, which has my scarves and some jewelry on it. You can also put your underwear in one of these bags.
  • In one closet I had, there were hooks across the back wall behind the clothes. I was able to hang things that I didn’t use often on those large hooks including some things on clothes hangers.
  • Find other places in the room to store things. For example, blankets can be stored under a bed or in between the mattress and box springs of a bed in the summer when they’re not being used. I have a tall skinny coat/hat rack I can put in one corner of my room to store my cuter purses scarves or necklaces.
  • Towel rods are great. Use them in the closet to hang scarfs, belts or put S-hooks on them to hang purses.
  • Go up. If you have room, buy a tall cabinet with doors to place in your room instead of a chest of drawers. Because it is taller, it will hold so much more and I find the things easier to get to, too.
  • Keep it neat. You really can get twice as much into any space if you fold and stack things neatly instead of smashing and stuffing.

These are just a few of the things you can do, but I hope this helps to get you started.



photo by: valeriebb


  1. Jen says

    We had the same problem in our first home. Only 1 closet for the entire house. Not even a cabinet of any kind for towels in the bathroom. We invested in some cheap stackable cabinets from Target and painted to match the rooms we used them in and stuck them in corners for storage. An old bookshelf also worked well in the corner of the room to neatly stack sweaters on the top shelf and shoes on the bottom.

  2. says

    We had the same problem in our 1st home that was built around 1930. At some point, a previous owner had enclosed the back porch and made it into a laundry room, that ran the entire length of the back of the house but was only about 6 feet wide. We bough a coupleof clothing racks and turned it into a family closet.

  3. says

    With 2 kids + a wife who likes to shop, I think I can sympathize! :) I’ve recently created some shelving in our garage though and while it is not suitable for clothes, it has opened up some space for shoes and bag storage. Some of the bigger items that we don’t use regularly have gone up into our loft (attic) also.

  4. says

    I found that if you roll your towels, washclothes, dishtowels and dishclothes you can stack them and use more of the room in your closet or drawer. Same goes for your clothes when you are traveling. You’d be surprised how much more you can get into a suitcase this way.

  5. says

    I have a small apartment and a tiny bathroom. Recently, I bought a shoe storage bag with clear plastic pockets that can hang on a door, and I hung it on my bathroom door. Now, with this on the back of my bathroom door, I have places to tuck miscellaneous lotions, brushes, hair accessories, etc. And now that they’re out where I can see them and not stuffed in a bag or box somewhere, I’ll be able to find them and actually use them!

  6. barb~ says

    I love your idea for a plastice shoe holder for bathroom items. I have a smaller one with many small pockets that I keep my jewelry in-I also have it hanging. I can grab different earrings or necklaces to match any outfit very quickly. I love anything that reduces frustration when you can’t locate “that special thing” when you really need it!

    Jill-all of your tips are wonderful. I have one, smaller closet now in my new house. I’m going to use your suggestions!! Thanks, creative lady!

    • says

      I have to laugh Barb because sometimes I don’t know if I am so much creative as just plain desperate on some of these things. :) :)

  7. Lucy says

    I store off-season clothes in our luggage, in the garage. You have to store the luggage anyway, so it might as well serve a purpose. Makes changing over seasons easy, too.

    • Ashley says


      I use our luggage for all our bags (totes, back packs, camel backs, beach bags, etc.). This helps me feel like there’s no wasted space.

  8. barb~ says

    Remember, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”! You had the necessity, and you invented solutions! People who are opposite from you would just let things pile up and become a mess! Give yourself credit….a lot of credit. You would not have survived the trials of your life so well if you weren’t so clever. I thank God you, and now Tawra too, share all that you have learned and created!! You are a HUGE blessing to so many others now, and I mean that from the heart:)

  9. Jennifer says

    Another use for the shoe storage with clear pockets that hang on a door – hang one in the coat closet to stuff hats, mittens/gloves and scarves in the pockets. Keeps them near the coats and easier to find. : )

  10. Kallie says

    Some things we have done when we were short on closet space:
    -We kept my husband’s out-of-season clothes in a big plastic rubbermaid tub in a corner of our room, put an old curtain over it, then nice pillows on that. That way it looked nice and was out of the way! (I hate having to switch and store clothes for different seasons so I limit myself to what the drawers and closet can hold for all seasons.)
    -I’ve always used those little screw hooks for necklaces and bracelets, but nails would work too. They hang in the closet just inside the door.
    -We keep bed linens in the bedroom, either in a drawer or on the shelf in the closet. And I really think you only need two sets of sheets per bed.
    -Right now our entryway closet only can hold coats, jackets, recycling, and snow boots. We have a shelf in the entryway (not in the closet) that holds our frequently used, in-season shoes, two baskets with our mittens/hats/scarves, and the top holds my purse and mail and misc. stuff that needs to come or go. We have a large cabinet over the closet that holds plastic grocery bags and tools.

  11. Karin says

    Do not forget over the door shoe racks for the bathroom door. Its great for storage other than shoes. In my last house, I had one on almost every door in the house to help keep me organized and store without clutter.

  12. Liz says

    I’ve stored just about everything behind our couch in a pinch. Just be sure the clothes/fabric items are in a narrow Under-the-bed box (tipped up on it’s side to fit), or in plastic bags as they get dusty. Also, the recliner is in a corner, so I have my scrapbook totes that pull out on wheels back there or tote bins. They are fairly easy to retrieve and put back. Having lived in a tiny house for 24 years, I’ve had to learn to be creative to find storage spaces.

  13. Heidi says

    I don’t have a coat closet, so we have two coat racks, one near each door. (four boys use one; daughter, husband and I use the other).Racks are just pine boards with lg hooks screwed into them and then hung on the wall. One is in a hallway. I have an old picnic-type bench under the coats. We can store stuff on and under the bench.
    We all wear crocs almost everyday. I have a wire basket near the door that we throw them in since it doesn’t hurt or scuff the rubber shoes and it takes much less space than lining them up.

  14. NancyJ says

    I haven’t done this myself, but have seen people use baby gates (the ones held in place by pressure) above doorways in the hall to create storage space. This works great in apartments because there are no nail/screw holes in the walls to repair when you move out.

  15. Diane says

    These tips are great. We live in a log house and have very limited space to store things. I’m on a mission to get rid of a lot of clutter that has mindlessly accumulated over several years, but for the things I plan to keep your suggestions are most appreciated. For those of us who seem to be chronic “clutterers”, I can recommend a great book that helps change a person’s mindset about having so many “things”. The name of the book is: It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys” by Marilyn Paul. It’s amazing how your mindset affects how much clutter your create.

    I love your website. It helps me every time I read it.

    • says

      I know what you mean Diane. I moved from a 2500 sq ft house to a one room 750 sq ft log cabin with one closet, no garage. I didn’t even have room for a hot water heater we had to lift it up into the rafters. Even though I had few closets in my 1917 house I had to really scramble for space in my log cabin. I am now in ruthless mode.

  16. Sherry says

    I lived in a very small apt where the bathroom was tiny. The landlord had hung up one of those 5 shelf plastic units behind the toilet. I put towels, washcloths, etc on it. Was very sturdy because he mounted it on the studs in the wall. Hope this helps :)

  17. says

    We lived in motor home for 3 years. It was 27 ft. long, and we had two children, and then the third. Ever since then, anything seems big. It was good training for paring down, I thought.

  18. Debbie R. says

    Great tips! Thank you so much.
    You have given me hope and inspiration to do more, be more creative in my 100 yr old home. So often I see or read about organization for large closets or walk-ins and I tune right out. It always discouraged me.
    Jill, thanks to you and your readers, I not only know that I am not alone but I am encouraged to make it work!

    • says

      I do feel your pain Debbie I have either lived in houses with no closet or very small closets all my life. The house I am in now I have 2 – 4×2 closets for the whole house and those have to be my linens closets too – blankets, sheets, towels and my clothes. I roll my eyes at shows where the people are buying a house that they walk into a closet the size of my whole bedroom and say “I don’t this closet is big enough for me.” I mean seriously???? : ) : ) But if there is a will there is a way. Holler if you have any questions.

  19. Sonja Johnson says

    I once decided to save money by getting rid of my storage unit, but had limited storage space in my apartment. Some of the furniture were family heirlooms. So, I got creative! I sold the mattress to my parents bed, but stored the head board behind my dresser, and put some decorative items in front of the bed posts. I also took apart my dining room table, and stored the table top in the back of my closet. I was able to put the legs together and topped it with a small table top and cover. It became a nice night stand. I was able to use one chair as a desk chair, and another one for a seating area.

    I currently have limited storage space, I have used an over the toilet rack to store my towels. I have stored blankets and quilts in a living room cabinet. I placed a book shelf in my dining area to display some attractive cookware, cookbooks and gardening books, and nicely displayed my flour, sugar, and tea jars, and other decorations. Plus, I was able to store some small kitchen appliances on the lower shelves that I do not use too often.

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