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Design 101

Two People, One Tiny Closet – A Small Space Storage Agony with 5 Problems & 5 Clever Solutions

It is chaotic evil that two wardrobe/fashion-loving people have such alarmingly limited closet space. Of course, like most things in life it is not the end of the world nor is it a deal breaker, but it is difficult to manage. To top it off, I am a disorganized person by nature and am quite positive this won’t change over night (but if you have any tips or magic spells, let me know). But regardless of lack of natural ability, even the most disorganized among us love to bear witness to a closet with every article of clothing neatly sorted and tucked into its place. Closet organization is unbelievably satisfying and we all crave it.

Unfortunately, my lack of organizational instinct goes hand in hand with my design agony. Here’s the scoop: My boyfriend Rocky and I moved into a new place last August and we were smitten. Now some 5 months later, we still love our tiny little home as much as we did when we first saw it, besides one design flaw: there is only a single (5’x3’x8′) closet in the entire place. To be fair, the place itself is small (800 sqft) so there really isn’t room for another closet, but boy are we feeling spatially challenged. I probably don’t have to tell you it causes unnecessary tension but most importantly it causes clutter and mess by an already cluttered and messy girl. Guys, the fun is just getting started. 

You may be wondering who the heck I am, and who this Rocky fella is and I hear ya. Let’s get properly aquatinted. Here’s us:

Ryann Storage Agony Header

Now, before we continue (and now that you can put faces to your design agony victims), it’s only right to give you a peek into our closet (did we just become best friends???). Feast your eyes on the “before” and please forgive me for not having a satisfying “after” to show you… yet: 

Ryann 02

It’s your standard (STUFFED) single door closet, so there are things in there that we haven’t seen in months. Part of the problem should be alleviated once a larger dresser is purchased because hanging clothes up is unfathomable to me after a long day (again, disorganized person here), but I think we require a little more help than that. So now that you’ve seen the beast let me explain our biggest problems and pose some professional EHD approved solutions.

Problem #1: Ineffective use of space – aka WASTED SPACE

There are no built-in shelves or hooks, and the top shelf is super high up so it’s hard to stack clothes up there without them falling. Plus, it’s incredibly hard to reach anything when clothes are exploding out. Aside from hanging our clothes (and the fact is we simply don’t have the space hang everything) this closet has no intuitive or easy storage options.

The Solution: Invest in products that will maximize space.

Closet Storage Products

1. MALM 3-Drawer Dresser | 2. SKUBB Shoe Box | 3. Two Shelf Horizontal Cube | 4. 8 Bin Shoe Organizer | 5. Over the Door 26 Shelf Shoe Organizer | 6. 10-Compartment Hanging Shoe Organizer | 7. Drop Front Box | 8. 10 Pack Hooks | 9. 5 Tiered Pants Hanger

We want to add in a small dresser like #1 to store socks, underwear, swimwear, and possibly other foldable clothes (like t-shirts). You may have noticed a lot of these are shoe storage options but I think they can be used for other purposes too. Like #2 can easily store clothes or shoes, and same with #4.

We are not done. Not even close, my friends. Now I am going to invite you to my very unfinished home. Here goes nothing.

Ryann 03

By the way. showing thousands of people a photo of my unfinished bedroom feels like I am baring my nude self for the world to see. There is something so intimate about it so know that if you feel uncomfortable looking it at, I feel 10000x more uncomfortable thinking about you looking at it. But here we are! Now onto our next problem…

Problem #2: Bulky clothes hogging all the space

I’m talking to you, sweatshirts and sweaters. Have you noticed how men tend to own a lot of sweatshirts? It’s because they are lucky and can wear sweatshirts and look very cute in them all the time. The thing is, I too, have a fair amount of sweatshirts and sweats (a lot of them from sports I played in high school) and these things are BULKY and hard to store. And before you ask, yes we do donate clothes but we also know that donated clothes often end up in landfills. So we’ve decided to stop donating so much and instead sell them or gift them directly to people we know. We are also trying to simply buy less 🙂

The Solution: Under bed storage

Well guys, it’s been three years and I guess it is finally time to get a bed frame. I went back and forth on whether I wanted a storage bed or not but ultimately decided against it because of the layout of our place. It is already so boxy, so a boxy bedframe seems visually stifling. Instead, I am opting for a bed frame with enough space underneath to implement some storage solutions. The key for us is to have under bed storage that we can easily access, as I will be wanting to pull out a sweatshirt from time to time when I get chilly (and I am also a monster that wears hooded sweatshirts to sleep when it’s cold). Here is what I am thinking:

Closet Storage Products Under Bed

1. Peva Sweater Bags | 2. Underbed Fabric Bin | 3. Long Underbed Box with Wheels

Simple enough right? I like the idea of #1 a lot because it is see-through so I would be able to see whatever is in there, but I am not confident I will love having to keep things perfectly folded. Sounds like a lot of work. #2 is something EHD has used before (remember this incredible satisfying org post??) and I am really into how it folds open at the top for easy access. Same goes for #3, so I think we have our winners, folks.

Problem #3: Lost or misplaced clothing (overflow insanity)

It’s a shame that the only time you can flaunt your favorite clothes is when they are on your body. OR IS IT?

The Solution: Use a cute clothing rack or wardrobe for your pretty clothes.

I personally love the idea of an open clothing rack so I can actually see my most beautiful clothes and shoes. I am an extremely visual person, so I imagine being able to see certain pieces will help me get ready in the morning. Here are the ones I am considering:

Closet Storage Rack

1.  Red Oak Folding Garment Rack | 2. Freestanding Industrial Garment Rack | 3. Levy Clothing Rack | 4. Whit and Light Metal Garment Rack | 5. Cameron Clothing Rack | 6. Metal Clothing Rack

Now it is living room time with a very special surprise guest…

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That’s our dog Gus and as you can see he is a good very good boy.

One thing you should know before we move on (besides that Gus is a very good boy) is every piece of furniture we have will be replaced at some point. When we moved out of our last place we purged all the furniture we did not absolutely need and all we had left was either thrifted or free. The couch was gifted to us by the previous renter of our apartment, Rocky made our coffee table out of a wood pallet, our dining table is from Craigslist, our chairs were found at Goodwill, and both dressers we have were also free. I think the only thing we bought brand new are the nightstands (both from Target). This is coming off as a “humblebrag” but really I am overcompensating for the fact that I know my place is nowhere near “done”and thus giving you the freedom to hate its current state. No worries, we hate it too!

Problem #4: Two people with different morning routines and only one tiny closet.

You’ve probably guessed by now that we have a lot of clothes collectively. I won’t deny it. We are fashion-loving people who like to express our personal style, so we invest in clothes (clearly more than we invest in furniture which I am trying to change. Bear with me).

The Solution: Utilize media cabinet or credenza for clothing in the living room.

It is not lost on me that it may seem bizarre to want to store clothes in the living room but it actually works out perfectly for us. Rocky gets up way earlier than me, so having him getting dressed in the living room rather than in our bedroom is the ideal situation. It’s what he does now, only at the moment his clothes are draped over various pieces of furniture. It’s just lovely.

Closet Storage Furniture

1. Harvey Probber Bar Cabinet | 2. Bookshelf Cabinet | 3. Mid-Century Modern Henredon Gentelmen’s Chest | 4. Cane Sideboard | 5. 1950’s Danish Sideboard Hutch | 6. Large Acorn Wood Storage Cabinet

All these picks are aspirational and out of my budget, but I find it super helpful to search online so when I am at flea markets or scouring craigslist I have a sense of what I am looking for. I chose some vertical and horizontal options here because I am open to either but let’s be real, #4 has my heart.

Problem #5: So many shoes, zero shoe storage

Do you guys do that thing where you walk into your house and immediately kick off your shoes and in doing so create hazardous obstacles? I am sure I am not alone here and if you’ve learned anything so far, it’s probably that I am the type of person who needs EASY ways to tidy up so I don’t put myself or my loved ones in danger.

The Solution: Get a small space friendly (and pretty) shoe rack or basket.

I really love the idea of having a shoe basket for my everyday mules, boots, and sneakers. Right now those shoes are thrown in a cardboard box and I have been loving the ease of this system so much, but I think some of our shoes should be kept on shoe racks so they don’t get ruined. You get it.

Closet Storage Shoe Products

  1. Oak Shoe Stand | 2. 31″ Stackable Shelf | 3. Shoe Shelf | 4. Storage Basket | 5. Alina Storage Ottoman | 6. Mid-Century Shoe Rack

And just like that, almost 2,000 words and one awkward invitation into my home later, I am a smidge closer to becoming an organized person. Ha. Now that it is over, look out for my Makeover Takeover likely coming to you around the year 2030. See you then 😉

Now, what do you think of our small closet storage solutions? Does it seem ridiculous to keep clothing in such odd places? Do you have any secret organization tips you are dying to pass on? Tell me everything.


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96 thoughts on “Two People, One Tiny Closet – A Small Space Storage Agony with 5 Problems & 5 Clever Solutions

  1. I store my underwear in the bathroom rather than the bedroom, because it makes me sense for me! For me, a shoe cabinet (like Ikea’s Brusali) has been a life saver.

  2. Good organization is all about realizing whatever your habits are (getting dressed in the living room) and working with them instead of against them (ie. putting a “dresser” in the living room). I used to have my wardrobe in my bedroom but pretty much always got changed in the bathroom, subsequently the bathroom floor was carpeted in clothes from the previous days… I eventually had to move (for non-wardrobe related reasons) and now live in an appartment with a bathroom corner/alcove in the bedroom which solved my problem 😀

  3. get that guitar onto the wall somewhere as art! instrument art is the best.
    I hate folding clothes too, so the only help I can offer — I recently put a beautiful, colorful, big round pot on my dresser and that’s where I jam my scarves. The dresser is low enough that I can see into it, but scarves are pretty fabric so i’m cool with seeing them on the daily. A more concerned person would roll them or fold them, but I jam them and it works great. The beautiful pot brings me joy, the pretty scarves bring me joy, and the drawer that is no longer stuffed with scarves brings me joy!

  4. The shoe basket game works great for me! Also, I just got some of the Ivar sets to help with my own closet woes and while I like them so far, I definitely recommend buying either attachable wooden feet and felt pads (or just the felt pads) to raise them off the floor just a bit. The bottom drawer sits almost on the ground and with my old, unlevel floors, catches a bit.

  5. Our guest room is lined with six Malm dressers and one Pax wardrobe from Ikea. We still have plenty of room for a very comfortable full size bed and in any event, we have a much larger guest space (complete with a king size bed, crib, and two comfy chairs around a flat screen tv), so the guest space in our home is quite adequate. Turning one guest space into a dressing room (directly across from our cozy but small master suite) was about the best thing we ever did! It probably cost about $2500 to purchase the components, and in addition to the two double door closets in our bedroom, we have more than enough storage. If small children will be spending any time in an Ikea room, make sure to secure the furniture to the walls!

  6. Another idea is to put out of season things on that top shelf, even in the suitcases that you are storing at the bottom of the closet. And switch them out 2x a year. If you have a open clothes rail, you can put a 2 tier minimal shoe shelf underneath, for boots/heels on top and flats on bottom. Extra shoes can go under the bed, too – making it easy to reach, and also you can switch shoes out for continued inspo.

    If Rocky gets dressed in the living room, depending on his needs, a tall boy dresser, or a credenza with drawers could work. Who needs to know that its socks and what-nots in there and not china? Also, put a full length mirror in the m living room to help with that. It would open up the space in the living room (our last place was the same size as yours and I feel you on the space crunch), and serve as a place for last looks before you leave. We currently have a tall shoe rack in a closet in the basement, and only keep two shelves worth of shoes upstairs in a closet by the front door. You could also have foldable shoe storage by the front door that has a ledge at the top. It would double duty as shoe storage and landing strip – like the Ikea shoe cabinets or the like. B

    1. Love all these ideas, thank you! And yes, at the moment we have a small vintage dresser in the dining area where some of his clothes live, and I actually like the look of it a lot – we just might need to replace it with one slightly bigger!

  7. Not a groundbreaking idea, but an IKEA pax closet would maximize storage, options, space and dollars. In place of a different dresser, a tall pax would take up the same footprint but double the storage (the tallest size is designed to work with an 8’ ceiling, we had no problem installing but measure five times and check all the specs). If there’s no space for the 22” deep then consider the 13” deep and install shelves on the top half instead of a rod. We each have our own so we can organize however we want individually (and not see each other’s messes). I recently bought my first home and before choosing pax I got quotes for custom closet systems. Pax has more options, can be modified easily when storage needs change, is just as durable, and it’s less than 1/4 the prices I was seeing from high end closet places. While it doesn’t present a styling opportunity like the top of a dresser, there are so many DIY ideas for customizing the doors/cabinet. I‘m painting the whole thing the same color as my walls for a more built in look. With a smaller dwelling, the benefit of vertical storage is priceless.

    For clothing storage up to 42” from floor, pax or not, drawers are ideal. With any bins, use the smallest size that will work so they’re easier to move around and keep organized. For example, it would be better to have two smaller bins, one for sweaters and one for hoodies, then one mega bin. Try to keep shelves no more than 16” deep or they can be a hassle to keep organized (for clothes and shoes you only need 12”-14”).

    1. I love this info! I’m going to remember for when I have the energy to really “look” at the closet I share with my husband.

      Thank you, Ryann, for letting us in! I was also unpacked and using freebies for years after moving and am so grateful I got to learn my space and slowly integrate items. I didn’t know to do that, but my budget required it, and it feels like a happy accident.

      The only thing that’s gotten me more organized is minimizing the shit out of life. I do a capsule wardrobe now where I wear shirts (3ish) and dresses (2ish) for three months and then store them and pull out different clothes that I wore year ago. When I pull them out I give away pieces I no longer love and get replacements from my local consignment shop. I know it’s not for everyone but for me, getting rid of 75% of my clothing and having a lot less to “organize” has made a profound change.

    2. Great advice. Pax units often can be found on Craig’s list on NextDoor already assembled and cheaper than at Ikea.

      Similar idea – vintage armoires can be found in the same places. I have a 7′ wide French deco armoire with three sections in a 10′ x 12′ bedroom. It works well because the middle and widest section of the armoire has a full length mirror on the door; once you are in the room it looks double the size thanks to the mirror.

      I would look for a dresser/bureau for the LR, not a credenza. We have a 6′ wide, nine drawer dresser in the LR of our small bungalow as the tv stand. The drawers provide great storage for our office supplies, CDs and DVDs that we haven’t let go of yet, etc. It would work just as well for clothes.

  8. Have you considered putting Pax closets (or similar) on either side of your bed, with curtains over them? There are a million hacks for this, but I know Young House Love did one in their first house with a detailed DIY tutorial. You could end up with the storage of a whole walk in closet to the left of your window.

  9. If I had twenty dollars or less, here’s what I’d do in Ryann’s shoes in the meantime to improve my current quality of apartment life from a functional standpoint: 1) use leftover packaging or shipping boxes to enable folding vertically like Marie Kondo and to enable some stacking without a toppling hazard (cover with leftover scrapbook paper or wallpaper if so inclined), 2) find an old dresser no one wants, buy casters and handles (not free, I know), and use the drawers as under-bed storage (find free taller bed frame on Craigslist), 3) use leftover crates from grocery store or fruit boxes (like for clementines or mangoes) to store shoes, stacking them if need be, 4) re-hang closet shelf and rod higher up, making DIY lower rod in order to have a second rod, 5) store bulkier seldom used items inside the luggage, and stack the luggage at the foot of the bed as a “bench” (draping cute fabric over it to disguise it if desired), 6) use mesh travel storage compartments to coral and slightly compress smaller everyday items like socks, 7) ask friends for their unused wall-mount hooks and create a hodgepodge array of intentionally mismatched hooks for things like coats, 8) find an old-school TV unit on Craigslist for free (free because it’s bulky and fits the older squarer TVs) and hack it into some clothing storage, 9) use the soda tab trick to “combine” two coathangers, and 10) possibly find a free used CD/DVD tower (free b/c no uses CDs anymore) and turn it into shoe storage. None of these ideas are fancy, but all are quick, low-cost and could increase functionality between now and the future.

    1. oooh I love me some budget solutions. I just started Marie Kondo-ing my clothes this past year and it has been LIFE CHANGING. I will definitely try the leftover packaging/shipping boxes idea as I am always so annoyed with how much packaging is used anyway. Thank you for all of this!! xx

  10. I would advise against sweater bags under the bed, unless they’re for seasonal storage. You are not going to want to have to wrestle things in and out of there on the regular. Use a bin with a top instead, much easier. Same for the IKEA shoe bins in the closet. If they’re for shoes you hardly ever wear, OK, but for something you’ll be getting in and out all the time, open storage is way easier.

    And yes to the clothing rack if you have room for it! Great for pretty things and things you wear all the time so you don’t have to go into the closet to get them.

    1. I agree with avoiding the zipped sweater bag. For everyday clothing, your storage must be easy to use. No “I should put away that stack of sweaters.” My favorite organizing rule is, “Don’t put it down, put it away.” Choosing easy-to-use storage helps support your organizing goals. I look forward to seeing the results, and thank you for sharing.

  11. I just want to say that I have the clear, double opening under the bed storage from Container Store, and I love it. I generally hat using under the bed storage, but storing my tall boots in my closet became difficult, because they take up a lot of space, and I didn’t want them to get dusty. The Container Store storage rolls easily on my soft fir floors without damage, and I only need to pull out half way if I’m accessing something on one side. I’ve tried a lot of under bed storage, including one like the double opening fabric one you link to, and the clear double opening one is best.

    1. Suzanne you are making me so happy!! I just purchased two of those clear bins so it’s good to hear they work so well for you xx

  12. I heartily agree with the PAX suggestion. Take off the closet door and fill the wall where the MALM dresser now stands with 100+50 cm wide frames (maybe even 100+100 cm will fit?), 236 cm tall and 35 cm deep (sorry, writing from Scandinavia so will stick to cm:s to not make mistakes). This will mainly provide you with a lot of room for folded and smaller stuff but with the KOMPLEMENT pull-out clothes rail you will also be able to hang clothes in the upper part. Then replace the closet door with a pretty fabric or keep it open and let the pretty stuff be visible through the opening.

  13. I heartily agree with the PAX suggestion. Take off the closet door and fill the wall where the MALM dresser now stands with 100+50 cm wide frames (maybe even 100+100 cm will fit?), 236 cm tall and 35 cm deep (sorry, writing from Scandinavia so will stick to cm:s to not make mistakes). This will mainly provide you with a lot of room for folded and smaller stuff but with the KOMPLEMENT pull-out clothes rail you will also be able to hang clothes in the upper part. Then replace the closet door with a pretty fabric or keep it open and let the cute stuff be visible through the opening.

  14. If you put up curtains behind your new bed you could fudge a bit on how they are hung and so have your bed still look centered under the window (when, in fact, it wouldn’t be – but could look it) and then have a nice size night stand on both sides of the bed. Don’t let that off center window push you around. I lived far too many years in apartments where one side of the bed was against a wall and you had to crawl over to the far side (or rather, my partner had to, as I’m up three times a night going to the bathroom).

    Also – I’m going to see about moving my underwear to the bathroom now. Thank you Sam in the first comment! I think you’ve changed my life/daily routine for the better!!!

    1. Agree 100% about curtaining the entire wall behind the window and centering the bed! It’s such a great trick and a centered bed will really make the room feel more balanced.

  15. I use shoe bags for rolled up jeans and t shirts. that pant hanger is a fail, you’d have to take it out every time, get one that is open on one side. put up shelves above the tall one and use baskets for socks and undies, you can easily pull down or keep out. give clothes to shelters? if you love seeing clothes, use them as wall art and put hooks on wall., over the door hangers r great too. shoe bags on inside of door.. AND WALL BEHIND CLOTHES . wwops

  16. I use shoe bags for rolled up jeans and t shirts. that pant hanger is a fail, you’d have to take it out every time, get one that is open on one side. put up shelves above the tall one and use baskets for socks and undies, you can easily pull down or keep out. give clothes to shelters? if you love seeing clothes, use them as wall art and put hooks on wall., over the door hangers r great too. shoe bags on inside of door.. AND WALL BEHIND CLOTHES . woops

    (sorry, but limp article,asks for more than it offers)

  17. We used to live in a 500sqft apartment in Europe and had to get used to no closets. I only kept summer clothes out in summer and switched out when winter came. I stored the clothes, I didn’t need that season, in our suitcases. Or used plastic bins, that fit under the bed, for winter coats and other items I didn’t need to access often. I also bought a cheap, but good looking, tall bookcase from Ikea and used that as my shoe storage. It fit in our hallway and was plenty of room for our all our shoes since it was floor to ceiling. When we got a larger apartment, still with no closets because Europeans don’t do that I guess?? I had the PAX closet and LOVED it. Was able to store so much in there and pick great doors that felt special. The quality was really great and didn’t feel like something cheap. You can even stick a full length mirror on the door so you don’t take up any floor or wall space.

    1. Okay, kudos to you for making no closets work. That sounds TOUGH. And I love the bookcase used as shoe storage Idea. Might have to steal that one! x

    2. Thank you! Some US closets are the same size as Parisian apartments! The rest of the world has somehow figured out how to own a reasonable amount of clothes and store it well (and dress better than the Americans btw), we can too.

  18. So, I found this hanging clothing rack that is super minimal and I would love to use (except I don’t have the space!) but I think it (or a DIY version) could work in your room especially because it lets you have storage in the bottom, possibly a cute shoe rack, a low dresser, or one of the organization pieces that were intended for the closet and then lets your closet have even more stuff.

    Here’s the link:

    Good luck! It will feel so gratifying when everything is in its place 🙂

  19. A word of caution to those with partners with larger feet…those cute storage baskets, Ikea shoe solutions – not a chance! Size 14 tennis shoes, flip flops and cowboy boots just won’t fit…we’re still working on a solution. Sigh.

    1. I feel your pain – my husband wears a size 13. I’ve stubbed my toes on those giant shoes so many times! We actually were able to fit two pairs of his shoes in each of the ikea pax komplement drawers we recently installed – we used the ~20” wide and ~23” deep units. Not sure what the length difference is between sizes 13 and 14 but maybe it could work!

  20. I have a good answer for small closet problem – get rid of stuff! If you’ve got a box full of shoes that you’d like to unpack one day that means you’re never wearing them and it’s safe to just donate them.

    1. I hear you! However, I know that most things that are donating often end up in landfills so we try to sell directly when we can. I am also the type of person who will not wear certain pieces for 6 months and then all of a sudden will wear it again religiously as if it’s brand new. It’s how I don’t get bored with my clothes I guess:)

  21. i would suggest a real dresser over a credenza in the living room. i currently have a large dresser in my living room (with my TV on top) and i love the way it looks! the dresser didn’t fit in my last apartment’s bedroom, so i moved it to the living room. now in my current apartment it could fit in the bedroom, but i’m leaving it in the living room anyways because i’ve gotten so used to it! a real dresser might be more versatile than a credenza as well given if you move some day you could use it in a bedroom (or become like me and keep using it in the living room forever!)

  22. We use the Ikea 3-drawer Hemnes dresser as nightstands providing tons of storage–it looks like you may have space on at least one side of the bed. During our condo life, we loved (and got many compliments) on the hemnes shoe racks.

    1. This is a great idea. Small dresser(s) as nightstand for storage. Storage bench at the end of bed. Storage ottoman for coffee table or xtra seating in living room. Dresser in living room. When space is tight you have to put storage everywhere you can. Once you have all the new pieces you will figure out the best way to organize. Out of season clothes stored under the bed is a great plan. (I don’t recommend those bags that you suck the air out of with a vacuum because your clothes will come out SO WRINKLED you’ll spend tons of time or $ getting them pressed). I also think hanging a bunch of hooks on your wall to throw things on is a good idea if you like to look at your clothes and are on the messy side. Why require hangers if you can use a hook? If it’s easier to hang on a hook it will probably get put on that hook – as opposed to the pile of clothes awaiting being put on hangers/put onto the garment rack.

  23. I added a second shelf above the upper shelf in my guest room closet and it doubled the usefulness of that closet area because things don’t get stacked to ridiculous heights anymore. Sure, it’s hard to reach, but it’s a great spot for lesser used items like special occasion shoes or seasonal wear (or in my case, spare throw pillows ha). Keeping either a cute out-all-the-time or an easy to hide foldable step stool handy makes getting stuff down no big deal.

    I copied the look of the lower shelf so it felt like it was part of the original closet design. If you buy pre-painted wood, it’s a solution that takes under an hour to install. Eventually I’m going to do the same in my master bedroom too.

    Here’s what it looks like if you’re having trouble picturing what I mean:

    I also agree with everyone who says to avoid zipped storage! The easier the access, the more likely you’ll use it. I also suggest for under bed storage, avoid the fabric options and go for a more durable material. I have fabric underbed lidded boxes and they’re pretty, but after some time of regularly pulling them out and pushing them back under the bed, they start to lose their structural integrity.

    1. Just yesterday I bought these cool shelf dividers from the container store. Instead of one long shelf above the hanging rod it helps divide that shelf into sections. I plan to use it to stack sweaters and sweatshirts in my daughter’s closet (which is actually a pax wardrobe with drawers on the bottom, a hanging rod in the middle and one shelf towards top). Maybe some of these for your existing shelf and then another shelf on top for stuff you don’t wear all the time. I thought they were pricey at $10 a piece but with buying 2, I will create 3 sections, so I think it’s worth it to spend $20 and get more usable space.

  24. The IKEA closet idea is the best….and I’m sure would solve a world of storage issues. I could help out by re-homing GUS! (I owned his “twin” bro Rascal, for 15 years, best boy ever!)

  25. If you’re going to have exposed storage (the hanging rack, shoe shelves) then I highly recommend getting a storage bed. You’ll see all of the storage boxes and bags under the bed, which will look cluttery amongst open-storage.

    There are lots of storage beds that don’t look chunky and clunky! Look into the beds that don’t have drawers (which can be tricky to use in a small space), but the kind where the mattress lifts up. It’s a great solution to store things you don’t use much or off-season items.

    (I also only have 1 closet and have had to get VERY creative with storage, so I feel your pain!

    1. How fun to be starting out! I was my most creative when I had little moola, but lots of ideas. I keep a small folding stepladder in my closet to reach the high shelves. It takes up little space and is super convenient, I use it often. Amazon?has 3 and 4 step stepladders. I live in a small condo and all my furniture has drawers or lids ie trunks. Going vertical helps too. Have fun and good luck!

    2. That is a great point! I do like the idea of a mattress that lifts up as a storage solution as opposed to drawers. Thanks! x

  26. Command 3M hooks have changed my organizational life. I also have a small house and had to think hard about organization. Every door, back of door, random wall space now has a hook . Great for bulky hoodie sweaters. This has helped free up space for both clothes and kitchen stuff. Shaker style pegs are another great option . The shakers really knew what they were doing with thier pathological need to hang things.

  27. HUGS for sharing something un-ready. AND OH the agony . . . . what will Ryann do with all of these ideas. I want to see the magic makeover now now now!

    This is fun. Also, when you pick a bed check underneath carefully. We too have a teeny cramped home and wish we could put nice tidy bins under the bed but our bed has weird legs in weird places plus a few support bars that are too low. BE sure that all of the bed has clearance under – not just the edges.


  28. Hello, fellow shoe lover here. (Raises hand.)
    I store my shoes on a tall bookcase in a hallway, inspired by old Domino. It’s a full size Target book case which my husband added shelves to, and it started out as storage for my husband and me but has morphed into just mine. It’s great—my shoes don’t get banged around, there’s breathing room for everything, and I can see all my pretties when I walk by and it makes me happy.
    Oh, and I love shaker rails and pegs.

  29. Thanks for inviting us all in to your space! Two suggestions 🙂 Maybe two small dressers as night stands? They would serve both the bedside table and storage need. And I’ve seen Harlowe James use two Ikea Billy bookcases with doors on them for storage in her room and I love it. It almost looks like a built in and in my opinion more ‘chic’ looking than the Pax wardrobes.


    1. Any ideas for chic looking nightstands? I LOVE this IKEA Billy piece and I am so excited to purchase this for my master bedroom! Thank you!

  30. Hey Emily,

    I must say these are some amazing ideas to organize everything and look cool doing it. Honestly, organizing stuff is sort of a chore but its worth the time and effort, only if you have the discipline to keep it all sorted.

    I just love everything that The Urban Port has to offer, their products are really stylish, it would be awesome if you could review one or create a complete interior around it.

  31. I have some design agonies on deterring what color to paint my open concept kitchen and living room. Any help would be greatly appreciated! I’m going for the modern European look with a nod to classics since I have a renovated craftsman In Nashville. How do I contact?

  32. If you like the aesthetic, I would recommend the metal parsons bed from Room and Board – it comes in a TALL style that has underbed clearance of 15″ (!!!!), is really well made (it will stand up to multiple moves in the future if needed) and not outrageously expensive. It saved us in our small NYC apartment. I keep 8 large plastic totes under there! I have a king size duvet that hangs over the sides so you can’t really see everything as you peak in from the living room.

  33. Let’s remember that Carrie stored her sweaters in her oven (and she had a dream of a closet!). You do what you gotta do. There is no shame in your apartment game, Ryann – we have all been there! Y’all will figure out your storage, and one day these will be the sweet memories of being young and in love and still kind of broke, and you’ll be so thankful for them (and for not being in this particular place anymore…)

  34. Of all the clothes and shoes you have right now, how many do you actually wear in a year? I find that I wear the same 5 things all the time (change out 2x per year for seasons) and the rest sit in the closet, forgotten or unwanted.

    I was a “summer girl” for a family in Chicago when I was 17. The lady I worked for was AMAZING. Twice per year, she gave all of her clothes to her cleaning lady and bought all new clothes. And that was only- 5 casual outfits and 1 dress-up outfit. Her house was spotless and organized and she opened my eyes to new possibilities, organization-wise. I still strive to be more like her in this category. Genius! Everything she wore was new and stylish, and it got reused by the recipient of her generosity.

    If I had to go looking for my clothes in various cabinets throughout the house, I would never wear those clothes. Especially if they were in a trunk with a lift-up lid where I had to remove everything on top to get to it or crawl on the floor to pull it out from under the bed. (I would only think of doing that to store out-of-season clothes.)

    Anyway, if you also only wear the same few things over and over, why not consider losing 2/3 of your clothing so your space will be more open?

  35. Hi checking in, I have been traveling what happened to the twice a day blog? Our little afternoon treat…… I also notice the morning post isn’t up yet……getting withdrawal symptoms here. Thanks

  36. Hi Emily,

    (yes I am aware this is not directly related to the latest post– but I have not seen any recent posts of relevance I can add this to)

    I am a long time blog reader, of a slew of other blogs, and your blogs as well (hello Brass Petal!). I started law school in 2007 and catching up on my blogs became my nightly ritual, a much-needed break from my dry, heavy content. You have referred to the “beginning” and “heyday” of blogging, and I too remember following my blogs, religiously and with delight. My love for all things fashion (and whatever knick knacks I could then afford as a student) eventually morphed into a love for décor, styling, and interiors. Blogs like yours have had a tremendous influence on my style, my life habits, and my aspirations, generally. I live in a very expensive, urban city on the Westcoast and your aesthetic for clean, scandi-mountain resonates so strongly with me. There was a time when all bloggers were channeling some form of farmhouse chic and inevitably, clunky, chalk-painted pieces made their way into my space- despite the pieces being all the wrong scale for the size of my home and truly, the wrong style for me, personally. I could never pin-point why I never felt at ease in the space, but it was hard to admit to my husband that after years of time and far too much money, I did not enjoy what I had put together. The vibe was simply, not me. Luckily, we found our dream home 2 years ago – she was a 70s lady dripping in mauve from top to bottom, but had a decent shell and good basic layout that I knew would be workable into something clean and modern. And my farmhouse chic space? What about the farmhouse chic home? Well, all was not lost and while I did not love it the way I had wanted to, my realtor and numerous prospective buyers who came through, felt the house was tastefully decorated and asked who had helped to design and stage it. The home sold in a single weekend, with multiple offers, in a market that was on decline in my area. Was all that time on the internets paying off? My husband would tell our friends and family that I was very “talented” with spaces- but really, I owe it all to blogs like yours and in particular, the generosity, time and thought you put into creating content so that creativeless souls like me, could fool lay people into thinking that I had style?

    As for my big reno- it of course went at least 50 percent over budget despite my every effort to plan ahead as much as possible and to inform myself as best I could. I read, then re-read all your reno posts, to ready and steady myself, but you truly do not know until the walls or open, or the issue materializes, how much it will cost to remediate or address. It makes me ill to think about how much our initial budget even was, let alone the cost of overruns. I see many readers are unduly harsh in their criticism— “how could something cost SOOOOOO much” or “I can’t believe you went THAT much over budget”, as though to suggest that as a creative person, you were being frivolous with money, or that you did not carry out the due diligence necessary to cost various aspects of the project. Everyone will have opinions, but we are driven to your blog because we are expecting a caliber of design and a certain quality of finish in your projects. I am by no means comparing my house to Mountain House, but even to have it properly designed, with decent finishes, ended up costing us FAR, FAR more than my husband and I had anticipated. I understand the embarrassment one feels when describing to their friends and family just HOW MUCH above budget we ended up- I feel your pain. It is only made worse when people “guess”- and they usually guess that the entire project cost maybe 25 percent of what we had actually spent.

    What I realize is that the ‘average’ person will not be able to afford a reno that is over half a million dollars, which I agree is simply a ludicrous amount of money- but things cost what they cost, because labour is expensive and good design takes much more time and effort than the ‘average’ person is willing to pay for. I spent money on a designer, though on a limited retainer due to cost, to help draw up my kitchen and bathrooms. She was also my sounding board for nearly all finish decisions, and I think she was worth every single penny- and truthfully, deserved more. I do think that I have it in me (though my husband is not aware of it yet), to go through a new build likely 20 years from now- and what I can say, is the next time around, I will allocate more money to the design due to how critical and time consuming it is, to get it right the first time.

    Sorry for my endless verbal diarrhea. I guess what I am saying is:
    1) THANK YOU- despite my cost overruns and the numerous fights with contractors and subtrades, we LOVE the end product. My house is finally a space of ‘zen’ that I am truly proud of and enjoy. Mountain House was a huge inspiration for me. Scandi, minimalist, and small hints of midcentury/weird is my jam.
    2) I know blogging is slowly fading and your ability to monetize it is becoming increasingly difficult, which in turn, affects content and readership. I wonder if you might consider taking on client projects, just so you can showcase more of your actual creative side, which is what drew many of your readers to you in the first place. I understand this is not your current model, but as a long time reader who has in fact ended up spending a lot of money on products, design, and tips you have recommended, I find myself simply not engaged with the present content because the products being promoted have no genuine connection to an ACTUAL project or home. A round-up of “things” is precisely that- it does not prompt me to click to even find out more, let alone buy the item.

    I am truly grateful to lived in such a weird and wonderful time when the internet had sooooo sooooo much to give. You deserve the success you’ve had and I wish you, your family, and your new leaner and meaner team nothing but success (and an epic comeback) in this new decade.



    1. Great comment! Almost a blog post in itself!
      I just wanted to echo the sentiment about missing the client projects. Even though they were aspirational, they were just gorgeous and always so creative — such a source of inspiration for me!

  37. Thanks for being so vulnerable Ryann! That takes guts. 🙂 I’ve loved reading people’s ideas below and wanted to offer a couple myself. My dad helped me build a platform for my bed that allowed enough clearance for my suitcase to fit underneath, clearing up space in the closet. I love the clear, stackable shoe containers from the Container Store on the top shelf of that closet (the kind that aren’t fully enclosed) that way you can see and reach your shoes! Finally, I thought you might like this piece from Target for the living room. It’s a similar style at a much lower price point, which could help offset some of the other costs!

  38. I’m missing regular morning posts too. You guys okay without Arlyn keeping you on a schedule?

    1. Hey Cris! We are in the middle of a site redesign (coming SO soon) so it all hands on deck over here. Because of that, we are focusing on creating really great content instead of worrying about posting every single day. But we still are posting basically every day 🙂

  39. I just moved to smaller apartment AND I’m also messy AND visual. I SO agree with everyone who says put in a big wardrobe from ikea to make a closet. I think that while a great closet would look great I think that the pics always show three shirts. 2 dresser which if you like clothes isn’t going to be you. Think more about having it be fun/easy to super easy to put everything away, then acquiring habits to keep it that way. It’s helped me to think about putting away my stuff at night as part of my calming bedtime ritual.

    – I had a friend who was a professional organizer and she taught me the following:
    — try things first before buying the nice thing – for example, see if you can rig up a clothing rack and then see if it works for you. Before buying a new one.
    — when it comes to learning new habits, do one at a time. So she told me to keep the floor of my then – walk in clean by keeping a chair there for a week.

    Here is what has worked for me.

    – hanging stuff works for me only if you have a ton of room around the clothes, otherwise, they end up rumpled.

    – huggable hangers – or any velvet hangers – have cured me of my hanging things issue since stuff doesn’t fall off of them. So yes to those!!!
    – pants hangers are the devil they never quite work, I fold my pants and organize my copious jeans by type 0 skinny, baggy, etc…
    – I am a scarf fiend and after so many ideas I use an over the door shoe holder for those. mine hangs on the inside of a closet so it’s not that pretty: . but you can use a nicer one on the wall.
    – a big basket has been great for putting clothes in when I don’t feel like putting them away and that is ALL I am allowed. when it is full I need to empty
    – An end of bed storage bench has been a lifesaver ( perfect place for your sweatshirts? I chose this one because it seemed lighter in my small room.
    – a storage ottoman may be annoying to use daily because you have to clear stuff off the top – the stuff that sits on a coffee table daily.
    – a storage bench like the one above might be fantastic in the living room for Rocky’s “smalls” you could use shoe boxes to organize. Then it’s great seating otherwise!
    – I use under bed storage and I love it but find it annoying for daily use. you have to kneel down and then pull it all way out and you have to have clearance around it on the floor. Great for sheets and towels, really specific active wear, stuff for guests not too great for the things I use each day.
    – One small space trick that has helped me so much is to put painters tape on the floor whenever I think about buying something. I can see if it just fits or is actually usable – like can I walk around it? for example, it made me realize that I need a far smaller desk then I thought. I basically laid out different desk sizes in washi tape and tried to work for a week within that space now the desk we have is PERFECT.
    – I hear everyone who says to rotate seasonal clothes but she lives in LA. I live in Northern California and need to keep my sandals AND my coat out. (To be fair I can put away rain gear in March until November)
    – I use cork stuck to the wall for earrings and map pins for the hanging ones (I use these: . you can also do this with necklaces. they look great and I can see them all.
    – IKEA small cloth and woven baskets work great on hooks up hung high in the closet for things I don’t’ use all the time like tights, travel toiletries, I just pull them down and then hang them back up when I’ve grabbed what I need.
    – I roll up my leggings from the waist and store them in one section of those cloth hanging shelves.

  40. I have that closet in my vintage bungalow. Forget how the closet is set up – take down the shelf and the clothes rail. Put new clothes rails in running from the front to the back of the closet. At three feet deep, one rail is more than half of your current hanging space. But don’t stop at one rail. Put two on one side, one up high, one lower, to give you six feet of hanging space for shirts, pants folded over a hanger, jackets, etc. Put one rail up on the other side of the closet for long clothes, like dresses, coats, pants. Put shelves above this rail to hold folded clothing, like sweatshirts, sweaters, or, if you are like me, hats.

    This gives you nine feet on hanging space, plus six or more feet of shelf space. And a walk-in closet! On the back wall of the closet, hang narrow shoe bags or racks from floor to ceiling. Or put them on the back of the closet door.

  41. I am awaiting the Cameron rack from UO presently and will let you know what I think! The comments on it range from “Wonderful & sturdy!” to “Sad and rickety garbage!” I’m hoping it is fabulous, because it incorporates THREE shelves along with its bar. Good luck!

  42. Here is my two cents worth…. typing from a home with hardwood floors and small closets in small bedrooms. Our teen girls used the IKEA Vesla (hope that is the correct name) square rolling plastic cubes found in the kids department. They stack if purchasing the lids. We did not use the lids. Instead many of these rolled under the girls’ beds and were used to store items by category: sandals and flip flops in one, purses in another, leggings in another…. you get the point. Maybe these cubes would be an inexpensive way to store your items not used daily.

  43. Would love to see a post on top (affordable) storage ottomans! Having a kid, frequent house guests, and a small space are making me realize we probably need to get one, but I think most are hideous. If you find a good one for this space, I’d love to see it!

  44. I can’t tell all the window door openings in the room but it looks like if you flipped the bed to the opposite wall, you could gain space for a small chest with storage on either side of the bes…bonus is a larger nightstand surface area and looking out at your window. And this type of storage bed is a game changer. We mounted an upholstered headboard and used a tailored bed skirt with it. Finally, I’d look for a taller storage piece with shelves and glass doors on the top half. Fill the shelves with baskets to contain unfolded items at eye level (socks, undies and so forth). Then use double rods in the closet.

  45. I keep my favorite shoes by the door (organized; maybe you could do a basket or something like you mentioned) and the rest in my closet. I swap them out as needed. It’s time-saving but also helps me reduce clutter. It’s like the shoe version of the clothes rack.

    Thanks for sharing your home and your ideas! I can’t wait to see what you end up doing.

  46. Wow. I wish I lived in LA so I could help you with this. I faced a similar situation in our first home, so I feel your pain.

    1) Marie Kondo your clothes & shoes. Yes, you said you both have purged some, but it never hurts to take a second look at *everything.* Keep only what sparks joy or is truly necessary.

    2) Go vertical whenever possible. If you’re renting, talk to your landlord and find out if you can add shelves or renovate the closet space.

    3) Analyze what types of storage you need and how much of each (after you have purged) you needed: long hanging, short hanging, shelves, drawers, hooks. Invest in storage pieces that match your need.

    4) Step out of your norm. IKEA catalogs and other European design sources are excellent inspiration for non-traditional storage solutions. Space is a luxury, and they aren’t bound by American “rules.”

    5) Don’t waste your money on temporary solutions–if you don’t love it, you won’t use it.


    A. Tear out the existing rod and shelf. Split the closet into sections: long hanging, short hanging, and shelves or drawers. Use vertical space! You may have the height to do two short-hanging rows on one side, and/or add shelves above or drawers below the long hanging section. Keep a footstool in or near the closet for items normally out of reach.

    B. Store your shoes on ordinary wall shelves. All you need is brackets and boards of the right length and depth, which you can find at a home improvement store. Most will cut wood to a specified length for free, and you can paint or stain them to match your decor. You could do several rows of shelves above your couch and pick your prettiest shoes to store there. To determine spacing, measure the tallest shoes you plan to display there.

    C. Use the space on the side walls and above the door of your closet. These are perfect areas to put for accessories like belts, jewelry, ties, and hats. Again, you can reach above the door with the right step stool, and hats store perfectly on hooks here.

    HONESTLY–I WOULD LOVE TO HELP IF YOU LIKE WHAT I HAVE SAID HERE! Some of this stuff is hard to describe, but I might be able to find pics of my old closet to show you what I mean (my current one would make you cry with envy).

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