How to Organize Coat Closets for More Storage

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Eliminate clutter, maximize storage, and make your coat closet both functional and easy to use so it stays tidy.

Interior of a suburban coat closet with a wood rod, colorful coats hanging from plastic hangers, and woven bamboo baskets on the shelf above them.Pin

When your coat closet’s a mess, your family is more likely to leave jackets, school backpacks, and shoes all over the house. The next morning, you’ve got to search for everything, and maybe even turn around when you realize you’ve forgotten that day’s homework or your laptop. Guests coming over? Hope they don’t wear jackets, because you don’t want anyone to see what’s behind the coat closet door. Instead of starting your day frazzled, read on for how to declutter your coat closet, organize its contents, and make both functional and easy to use.

Before You Begin

The time required for this project depends on the size of your coat closet and how crammed full of stuff it is. Even a tiny space can take a long time to clean, declutter, and organize if it’s packed full of things. Plan to spend a couple of hours on this task for average-sized closets that are messy but not packed tight. If your closet is on the large size, or is so full that the hinges are groaning, you’re looking at an entire afternoon’s effort. It’s time well-spent, though, when you think of how much easier it will be to leave or return home once your closet is tidy.

Steps to Organize Your Coat Closet

Equipment and Materials You’ll Need:

  • Boxes or bags for items you’ll donate and discard
  • An extension duster
  • Cleaning rags
  • Warm, soapy water or an all-purpose cleaner
  • Vacuum with crevice attachment
  • A mop and floor cleaner (optional)

Step 1: Empty It.

Organizing any space begins by completely emptying or clearing it, so you can see the amount of stuff you’re trying to store compared with the space available. As you work, throw away trash in one box and add anything you want to donate to another. Consider labeling the containers so you don’t confuse the two. You can get a head start on Step 3 if you put things in categories as you remove them. For example, put all coats in one pile, sporting gear in another, and so on.

Step 2: Clean It.

Once you’ve completely emptied your coat closet, it’s time to clean it. This is an excellent chance to address the causes of musty odors. Use your extension duster to clean the ceiling, shelves, walls, baseboards, door trim and door. Then grab a damp, soapy cloth and wipe the shelves, closet rod, door trim, and door — including the doorknob. Vacuum the floor, starting with the crevice at the base of the wall, then also mop if you have hard flooring.

Step 3: Divide Things Into Categories.

To get an idea of how many items you need to make room for, sort the contents of your coat closet by type. You may find it easiest to do this on the floor or sofa. For example, make separate piles of winter coats, lightweight jackets, hoodies, and rain jackets. Repeat the process with other things you’ve been storing in there, like sports equipment, shoes, gloves and scarves, baseball hats, and so on. Continue adding things to the trash and donation boxes as you find them.

Step 4: What To Donate or Discard

With the contents of your coat closet separated into categories, it’s time to get serious about decluttering it. Add coats that no longer fit or which no one wears, and things no one actually uses, to the donation box. If you’re tight on closet space, consider giving away duplicates, too: no one needs three rain coats. Do not donate torn, stained, mildewed, or broken items—add those to the trash bag instead.

Step 5: Hang Coats By Length

Once you’ve reduced how much you’re trying to store in your coat closet, it’s time to put things back. Start by hanging the longest coats to the sides of the closet. This makes it easier to see shorter items and keeps the long coats from hiding things on your floor. Hang up everything else by category, grouping together all winter jackets and all rain coats, for example. Doing it this way, you’ll have only one spot to look to get yourself and the kids ready to head out the door.

Step 6: What To Store On The Shelves

Be strategic about what you’ll store on the shelves of your coat closet. Coats are bulky, so reaching above them to the shelf isn’t always easy. For that reason, it’s best to use the shelf for things that are out of season or items you don’t need very often, like ski boots or picnic gear. Keep the things you store on the shelf from getting too dusty by putting them in clear bins or bags.

Step. 7: What To Store On The Floor

If you keep shoes in your coat closet, make sure there’s a mat or tray on the floor. This helps remind family not to kick off shoes just anywhere, and catches drips, mud, and dirt so it doesn’t spread through your home. The floor is also the best spot for sports or outdoor gear, or anything heavy that could pose a danger if it fell from the shelf.

Maximizing Space in a Small Coat Closet

Is your coat closet on the tiny side? You don’t need to a major remodel to double or even triple what you can store in there. Try these tricks.

Too many coats? Add double rods.

If your small coat closet is wider than it is deep, hang a second rod three feet below the first one. Do this with 1/2-inch chains and 2-inch eye-hooks screwed into the ends of a wood closet rod cut to fit your space, or buy a pre-made second rod system. Now you’ve got twice as much hanging space.

Need More Storage? Add Easy DIY Shelves.

Check the space above your closet rod and add more shelves if there’s room. Or, if your coats are on the short side, add shelves beneath them. To build an easy DIY shelf in your closet, use 2-1/2″ steel flathead screws to attach a 1×2″ board into the studs along the back wall. Add two more on the sides to create a U-shaped platform. Now, top that with a piece of melamine or plywood cut to fit your closet and you’ve got a shelf. You don’t even need a saw—many hardware stores will cut wood to your measurements for free.

Lots of Small Things? Add Drawers.

If your tiny closet needs to serve as additional storage for other things besides coats, consider a closet insert like the Pax system from IKEA or even a small nightstand or bureau. Having additional drawer space for things like sunglasses, baseball hats, and sports gear is handy and helps keep your coat closet tidy.

Use the Door

The inside of your coat closet door can serve as vertical storage space for small things like gloves, keys, wallets, and dog leashes. Install hooks (use Command Hooks if you want them to be temporary), or hang a clear pocket-style shoe organizer on the door. If your area is prone to severe weather, this is a great place to stash a flashlight, spare batteries, and a lighter for candles if the power goes out.

Store Out-of-Season Coats Elsewhere

An easy way to maximize space in your tiny coat closet is by storing out-of-season coats, shoes, and sports gear somewhere else in your home. You can store winter clothing in containers under your bed or in another closet, or use vacuum-style garment bags so they take up even less space.

Add Lighting

The harder it is to see what’s in a closet, the faster it gets disorganized. That’s because you’ll have to rummage around to find things, and can’t see clearly to put away stuff after use. Add a simple battery-powered light to your wall with Command Strips if there’s no outlet in your closet, or ask an electrician to install a ceiling light. Once you can see clearly, it’ll be easier to keep your coat closet organized and find what you’re looking for in the morning, too.

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