An organized coat closet with bamboo baskets above a row of hanging coats

Steps to Make Your Coat Closet Feel Bigger Than it Is

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Sometimes, clutter in one spot leads to clutter taking over other spots in your home. The coat closet’s a great example. When it’s a crowded mess that hurls things at anyone who dares open the door, who’s going to put away their jackets or umbrellas?

If you’re tired of everyone dumping their stuff rather than taking the time to put things away, read on for my solutions to this space-time dilemma. I’ve even got organizing tips to small coat closets feel bigger on the inside than they look.

Step 1: Uncover the space.

Start organizing your coat closet by emptying it, so you can see how much space you have to work with. As you take things out, toss the trash and add things you’re ready to donate to a separate box. (Label the containers so you don’t confuse the two.)

Step 2: Give it a quick once-over.

This isn’t a closet deep-cleaning so much as getting rid of grime. Use your extension duster on everything from the ceiling to the floor, including the door and baseboards. Vacuum the floor and mop if you have hard flooring—it’ll never be easier to do than now.

Step 3: Create separate piles.

Now that you’ve got a big pile of stuff, sort the contents of your coat closet by type. For example, make separate piles of winter coats, lightweight jackets, hoodies, and rain coats. Repeat the process with other things you’ve been storing in there, like sports equipment or shoes, baseball hats, and so on. Keep adding to the trash and donation boxes as you go.

Step 4: Thin the contents.

With the contents of your coat closet separated into categories, it’s time to get serious about decluttering it. Donate things that are in good shape but which no one wears or which no longer fit. Be ruthless about duplicates, too: no one needs three rain coats. Do not donate worn-out items, though—add those to the trash bag instead.

Pro Tip

For seriously cramped closets, use clear plastic bins to store out-of-season coats and gear. Put them on the coat closet floor to act as a shelf for shoes, or move them to your garage.

Step 5: Hang the long then the short.

Now, 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 in groups, for example all of your winter coats separate from your rain jackets. That way, you only have to look in one spot to find the coat you need.

Step 6: Use shelf storage strategically.

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. But, the shelf is ideal for things you don’t need very often, like ski boots or picnic gear.

Step 7: Use the floor for safety.

If you keep shoes in your coat closet, make sure there’s a mat or tray on the floor to catch dirt. 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.

Tips to Maximize Storage

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

• Multi-level hanging rods: Place a second closet rod three feet below the first one. You can find premade systems at Walmart or Target, or DIY it by using eye-hooks and thin chains to hang the second rod from the first.

• Multi-level hangers: Use tiered clothing hangers to stash several scarves, shawls, or sweaters in the space ordinarily occupied by one.

• Expanded shelving: If there’s a lot of space above your closet shelf, add more with a row of organizer cubes. Or if you’re handy, attach L-brackets to the studs and top them with a 2-inch piece of pine cut to your closet width by the hardware store.

• Side strips: If your coat closet is deeper than your coats, install hooks on the side walls to hold purses, backpacks, and your dog’s leash.

• Use the door: A pocket-style shoe organizer turns the wasted space on the door into convenient storage. We call ours our launchpad and stash the stuff we often need in a hurry, like keys, wallets, and a screwdriver. You never know when you’ll need one of those.

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