Small Closet Organization

Our house was built in the 30s, so the closets are…. less than ideal and require some clever small closet organization. There is actually a ton of storage throughout the house between built-ins and the basement (I’m sure to compensate for the small closets!), so it’s actually not a huge deal. Except in the master bedroom. There are two closets, but they’re both fairly small. (Although I did maybe forcefully recommend that Mike take the smaller of the two 🙊)

Mike’s closet is conventionally shaped so I was able to have a professional closet installed no problem. It was super easy. My closet is a trapezoid though. The shape is GREAT for maximizing a small space as it allows for a deeper and longer closet than the door openings would allow. Unfortunately, the shape meant that if I did do a closet system, it wouldn’t be as maximized. I had a Container Store consultant come in to see what I could do, but with their small closet design a lot of the space that I can use now would be rendered unusable once they brought in their system. To be honest, I had zero desire to spend $2,000 and end up with less closet space in the end. Right??

So while I knew I didn’t want to waste my money or lose storage space, I set out to maximize storage. Especially since our room doesn’t have space for a dresser, I had to get creative. Until I came up with my current solution, my underwear, bras, socks, workout clothes, sweaters, t-shirts, pants, and sweatshirts were in the guest room. Even my pajamas. So basically, everything except dresses and blouses. That wasn’t ideal and I was losing my mind. Clothes storage for small spaces can be tricky, but I knew there had to be a better way. I decided to prioritize getting my closet in tip-top shape and I LOVE how it turned out.

Tips for Organizing a Small Closet


Small Closet Organization

So here’s the view from the front. You can see right away the door opening is so much smaller than the closet actually is. There’s extra room on both sides as the closet extends to the doors for the bathroom (on the left) and the hallway (the right).

Because of the four windows, radiator, and two closets, we have no space for a dresser. But I wanted some kind of dresser situation for the closet, kind of making it a “custom closet” without committing to a closet system that would affect the amount of storage. After measuring the space, I started to look online for closet organizers for small closets. It was really hard to find a set of drawers that was shallow enough to fit behind the doors and short enough to not interfere with the rod and also narrow enough so I could reach into the hanging space still. I started to think it was going to be impossible but then found this drawer + hutch on Pottery Barn, which has worked perfectly for small closet organization.

(I need to say though that the hutch came unassembled and was a breeze to put together. The drawers shipped fully assembled. Which seems great, except it weighs 94 pounds. It was ridiculously hard to get up the stairs.)

I have my skirts on the top shelf and pants/jeans on the second shelf. In the top drawer, I have my underwear and bras. The middle drawer is my in-season workout clothes (i.e. I have my summer-y shorts/tanks in the guest room storage). Bottom drawer are my most worn/seasonal sweatshirts.

Shoe Storage

My most worn more “everyday shoes” are to the right of the drawer system. I’ve had these stackable/expandable shoe racks since my NYC apartment. They’re my OG small closet organization!! I really like that they’re adjustable, making them the perfect shoe organizer for small closets. It allowed me to totally maximize the space. I stacked one on top of the other and have my ballet flats and sneakers just on the ground. (I do have more shoes, but my summer sandals are in storage and then the shoes I wear less frequently are in the guest room closet.)

Small Closet Organization Tips

This angle shows just how far back the rod goes. These are the dresses I wear the most often. My summer dresses are in storage, my holiday dresses are “on standby” (haha) in the guest room, and my special occasion dresses are also hanging in the guest room. That may seem a little excessive, but due to the nature of my job, this small closet organization works just fine!!

Sweater Storage

My most worn shirts and sweaters are kept in these bins that fit PERFECTLY on the upper shelves that were in the closet when we moved in. I thought this was going to be annoying, but it hasn’t been an issue at all. I love these bins so much for small closet organization. As I start to tackle more organization projects around the house, I have a feeling I’ll be getting more of these!!


I’ve never really found a good jewelry solution. 99% of the time, I wear diamond or pearl studs and I keep those in my nightstand in a little jewelry dish.

There was about a four-inch gap between the top of the hutch and the bottom of the rod, so I bought two of these Stackers bins. As the name suggests, they stack on top of each other. It’s a really simple solution for small closet organization and, ultimately, I like the way it looks as much as I like the functionality.

Stackers Organization

Small Closet

Are all of my clothes & shoes in here? No. But everything I need on an everyday basis is and that’s what I was going for with my small closet storage!!

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“There is actually a ton of storage throughout the house between built-ins and the basement (I’m sure to compensate for the small closets!), so it’s actually not a huge deal.”

Do you proofread? You used actually twice in one sentence, and it’s a lazy and meaningless word that means nothing.


Oh dear, now that you pointed that out, my whole day has been ruined! I think I too will waste my life pointing out flaws in Carly’s blog.


While you were busy critiquing the post, you forgot to proofread your own writing. Using “meaningless” and “means nothing” is redundant.


Lane aka the name of the moment,
You’re so heroic!
Watch the news and find a cause. This crusade you think you are on will lead nowhere.


Thank you for sharing, I love organizational posts! You did a great job with the space you have.


So helpful! Moving into a house that was also built in the 30s and the master closet is tiny. This post has great ideas!


I *love* this! I actually have nice walk-in closets in both my MBR and my guest room, but I did something similar with a hutch/cube system in my MBR closet to store all my folded sweaters! I’m a city dwelling renter, so (paying for and) installing custom closets isn’t really an option. I love the storage bins and the jewelry storage as well, so thank you for this great post!


Love this!! Yesterday actually my brother gave me his IKEA dresser he doesn’t want anymore which I’m so excited to organize. I love that IKEA has drawer organizers that fit their drawers exactly. This def inspires me to step up my closet though 🙂


I used to love(!!) reading your organize, please posts back in college. I, too, am in the market to buy a home/condo and there are lots of tiny closets in Chicago. Thanks for showing how you made your small closet work!

Haley Orton

Thank you for this! I recently moved and have managed to organize clothing in our small closet but I’ve been totally stuck on jewelry. Like you, I rotate between two pairs of studs most days. I think I might purchase the stackable storage!

Grace K.

Always a fan of your organization posts– I’m impressed with how much you managed to fit in the closet considering what you had to work with! And those bins are so easy on the eye.

Erin Lucy

Thanks for this post! I am struggling with a small closet right now as well. Our house is also old and the closets are pretty tiny. Mine is overflowing and I am in desperate need of a solution. Thanks for the ideas!



Can I ask where do you put your workout clothes and shoes? That’s something I use daily but have a hard time finding a place for.


I’ve been struggling to organize my small closet lately too so this is PERFECT timing! I love how everything is so neatly folded and love the Pottery Barn piece 😍


This is awesome! I love seeing how people organize their small spaces. It reminded me of a video you did in your BY apartment (?) Where you talked about sending clothes to your mom’s into an archive (I think that’s what you labelled it). I would love to see that if you still have it going. Great post!


I enjoyed this post as I too have a closet about this size- buuut I share it with my husband so I only have half. I like those stackable jewelry boxes as they’re much slimmer than What I am currently using.


Love the organization posts! Could you do another “Closet staples” post that would be updated with some newer finds? I always love those for investing in timeless pieces.


Carly, Closet ideas, tips, and tricks are I’m sure what you intended to share, but what I really gleaned from this was just an upbeat, optimist outlook on a situation that wasn’t your ideal. This gave me pause and made me reflect on my own closets and beyond and how I could see the glass half full. Thank you!