How to Organize Coat Closets

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Today’s mission focuses on organizing the coat closet. If your kids tend to dump their jackets and backpacks in a heap by the front door, organizing the coat closet will help encourage them to put their stuff away.

Throughout this home organizing series, we’re following the same basic steps to purge clutter in our homes, organize what’s left, and stay on top of what we’ve accomplished.

Although the focus is clutter-control, we’ll also do a bit of light cleaning since it’s so much easier to do with the clutter gone.

Every day’s mission has four parts to it. We refer to the process as ROCKing our home, so it’s easy to remember the steps.
Rehome Clutter
Organize What’s Left
Clean the Space
Keep on Track

We refer to this system as “ROCKing” our homes to make it easier to remember.

The Purpose of Coat Closets

Adult and childrens winter coats and hoodies hanging from plastic hangers in a coat closet that needs organizing

What is a Coat Closet?

These small, shallow closets situated near the front door are typical features of suburban homes. If you live in an apartment or an older house, you may not have a dedicated coat closet at all.

What if You Don’t Have a Coat Closet?

If you don’t have a dedicated coat closet, apply the following steps to organize wherever you stash guests’ coats when they visit, or where your family hangs their outerwear.

Purging clutter from this spot makes it easier to find your gear in a hurry and put it away once you get home. Since guests often see (and use) this spot when they visit our homes, having an uncluttered and organized area for coats and other gear creates a good impression.

Organizing Coat Closets

Chefs begin cooking with mise en place — that is, having their ingredients ready to use. The same principle applies to any cleaning or organizing projects! By having your supplies ready to hand, you’ll work faster and avoid pesky distractions.

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So, gather the following supplies:

  • A box or bag for trash
  • A box for donation items
  • A box or basket to carry things that belong elsewhere
  • Cleaning rags or cloths
  • A broom or vacuum
  • A mop

Rehome the Clutter

Start by pulling everything out of the coat closet, one item at a time. As you do, decide whether each thing is trash, something which belongs elsewhere in your home, or if it is better off rehomed.

Be honest! It’s crucial you are honest with yourself as you decide whether an item is worth making space for in your home. All too often, we hold onto clutter out of reluctance to part with things we believe might be useful someday.

Don’t rationalize. We may not have thought about the thing for months, and we may not have used it for ages. Yet, the instant we consider getting rid of it, we dream up scenarios in which it just might be the exact thing we need.

Pay it forward. By thinking of decluttering as “rehoming” rather than chucking things, we can acknowledge they might still have some use left for someone else. Holding onto things that aren’t useful to our families means it can’t help anyone. If we rehome it (to a friend, a domestic violence shelter, or a charity), someone else will benefit from it.

1. Throw These Things Away

Grab your trash box or bag and fill it with things that aren’t useful for anyone. Charities operate with tight budgets and don’t have the resources to weed through your trash. Plus, it’s insulting. If you wouldn’t consider it good enough to give to a friend, it’s trash.

  • Obvious trash like old newspapers, empty bags, store flyers, etc.
  • Anything that is broken, damaged, or missing parts
  • Coats and other items that are permanently stained, torn, missing buttons, or threadbare
  • Shoes or boots with holes or worn-out soles

Put the bag or box marked for trash to one side, but don’t close it yet. You may find more things that belong in it as you continue to organize the coat closet.

2. Donate These Things

Items in good condition may still have a lot of life left in them. If you’ve got the time to turn them into cash by listing them on eBay or Craigslist, go for it. On the other hand, if you don’t have time for such efforts, rehome them to a local charity or give them to a friend.

Either way, get them out of your coat closet today.

  • Coats, boots, or shoes that don’t fit
  • Gloves, scarves, or hats you don’t use
  • Excess anything: how many baseball hats or windbreakers do you truly need?
  • Sports gear and backpacks your kids have outgrown
  • Anything else that is in good condition but which your family hasn’t used, worn or looked for in the past year

Put these items in the box or bag you’ve labeled for donations then set them aside until today’s mission of organizing the coat closet is complete.

3. Put These Where They Belong

Identifying what belongs elsewhere in your home is easiest if you keep the purpose of a coat closet in mind: providing easy access to coats, outerwear, and other gear needed when leaving the house. So, anything which doesn’t serve that function should go somewhere else.

  • Store returns belong in your car, so you actually take them back.
  • Library books you’ve read should go in your car for the same reason.
  • Shoes go in bedroom closets, though you might want to store one pair per person in the coat closet, too.
  • Excess clothing that your family still wears should go into bedroom closets or dressers.
  • And so on.

If it’s not something you put on or grab before going outside, or take off when you get home, it probably belongs somewhere else in your home. Add these things to the basket you’re using to hold such items, then set them aside until the end of today’s mission.

Organize What’s Left

Since coat closets tend to be shallow and narrow, there are a few tricks to organizing them to maximize space.

Add a Second Hanging Rod

A low closet rod is very helpful if you have small kids since it puts their coats within reach. You don’t even need special tools with this one. Hook it over one side of the upper closet rod to leave space for longer coats.

No Wire Hangers

As far as coat hangers, use the sturdiest ones you can. Strong hangers are a must if you have kids since they tend to yank coats out of the closet forcefully.

Wire hangers can’t handle the weight of a heavy winter coat or a kid’s enthusiastic tug, and they snag sweaters. Opt for heavy-duty plastic or wood hangers, and be sure to have several spare ones available for guests to use.

Be Selective with Shelf Space

Some coat closets feature one or more shelves above the rod. (If yours doesn’t, installing a floating wall-mounted shelf is an easy project and so worth it.)

Shelves that high aren’t meant to hold things used daily, like your purse. They’re the perfect spot for stuff you need now and again, though, like umbrellas or out-of-season outerwear.

Use the Door for Storage

Smaller items like gloves, winter hats or scarves, even pet leashes, remain accessible yet out of the way with an organizer that hangs inside the door. I keep a flashlight in our hanging organizer, too, so I always know where to find one in case the power goes out.

Hands holding small broom and dust pan to pick up paper from wood floor

Clean the Space

Cleaning the coat closet is a speedy task once you’ve removed everything. As always, work from top to bottom to keep dirt and dust from settling on surfaces you’ve already cleaned.

Specifically, you want to:

  1. Dust the ceiling, shelves, and walls.
  2. Clean the light fixture if you have one.
  3. Wipe the closet rod and hooks.
  4. Wash the door inside and out.
  5. Clean the baseboard.
  6. Sweep or vacuum the floor, then mop.
  7. Put coats, jackets, etc., back in the coat closet.

Arrange Coats and Jackets

Put coats and jackets away with the longest ones to either side of the closet, rather than in the middle. This arrangement makes it easier to see all of the choices in a glance.

Plus, since adult coats tend to be longer, it puts the kids’ gear front and center, which means they won’t have to tear up the closet to find the jacket they want to wear.

Keep on Track

Wrap up today’s mission by dealing with those bags or boxes that you filled while decluttering and organizing the coat closet.

Take the items that belong elsewhere and put them away. Or if the things are mostly your kids’ toys or belongings, have them do some chores that kids can do to earn them back.

Move the box of donations to your car. Next time you’re out of the house, swing by your local charity — most will even come out to the car to accept them. (Also take store return items and library books back while you’re out.)

Check your previous missions. If you’re following along with the entire 30-day home organization series, take a moment to check the areas you’ve already ROCKed. Toss any trash you find, put away stuff that belongs elsewhere, and tidy any messes.

Then come join our Do Home Better group on Facebook to get daily “cleaning snacks” and encouragement from others.

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