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9 Proven Storage Ideas to Fix Your Small Cramped Closet

I have too much room in my closet said…NO ONE…. EVER!

Cramped closets are the norm and I’m here to tell you it’s not all your fault (or your husbands, partners or significant ‘utters either).

Perhaps the storage space in your vintage home was built ‘back-in-the-day’ when no one owned (on average) 31 pairs of shoes (this is what the average woman owns today). Back in those days 2 pairs of shoes was common. One for everyday and one for Sunday church.  

Perhaps the original home builder ‘cheaped-out’ (imagine that!) and slapped up single rod wire shelving where you’ve got tons of dead space at the top and bottom you can’t do anything with.

Or perhaps you fight through the ‘jungle’ of your closet’s ‘Bermuda triangles’ where clothes butt up to clothes. Your corners are as dead as a ‘doornail’ (whatever that means).

You’re sick and tired (as Mom used to say) of your cramped closet. You desperately need closet storage ideas to fix the mess bad design and cost-cutting contractors got you into. But how, you may ask?

Well you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll dish up 9 proven ideas I’ve used in my Columbus custom closet business (and no, I don’t look at thing like Jay Pritchett from Modern Family). These ideas have helped owners who have wanted to pull their hair out with closets from ‘H-E-Double-Hockey Sticks,” as your kids used to say.

Enough chatter. Let’s get to the ideas.

Cramped closet storage idea #1 – Stop hanging so much stuff

I remember ‘back-in-the-old-days’ sharing a small reach in closet with my ugly older brother Frank (OK – he’s not really that ugly – or at least Mom doesn’t think so!). This closet had a simple single rod at the top. Mom would harp on us to ‘hang up your clothes.’ So what did we (sort of) learn to do? We learned to hang up our clothes.

This routine of hanging clothes (because the only option in our original closets was to hang) still lives with many people today.

However, when you understand you can get 2-2.5 times more clothing folded neatly in drawers vs. seeing the sloppiness of hanging clothes, you’ll benefit from cutting down hanging and using more drawers or shelves.

industrial style columbus closet with drawers | Innovate Building Solutions | Innovate Home Org | Upper Arlington, OH | #ColumbusClosets #ClosetDrawers #ClosetDesign

Cramped closet storage idea #2 – Just ‘get vertical, vertical’ as Olivia Newton John might say

OK – if you remember the following song from Olivia Newton-John to just ‘Get Physical’ like me, you’re going to have to admit you’re OLD (sorry about that). And, sorry about how ‘cheesy’ this video is – but I’ll be it will make you laugh.

However in closet design while it’s (hopefully) not about getting physical in there – it is critical (and solves a multitude of storage problems) to ‘get vertical.’

The single biggest problem in closet storage is the ‘volume’ of the space isn’t used right. A single closet rod wastes storage volume, unless you’re living in a crawl space.

You can double your hanging storage immediately (and free up area for shelves and drawers I brought up in tip #1) by creating double hanging sections (if you’re an adult) or triple hanging sections (if you’ve got a small child). You’ll immediately ‘2x’ your storage in the same square ‘inch-age.’ (note: most closets should be measured in square inches – because they’re too doggone small to be measured in square feet).

double hanging dublin ohio closet | Innovate Home Org | Innovate Building Solutions | Dublin, OH | #DoubleHanging #ClosetStorage #HangingStorage #WalkInCloset

Cramped closet storage idea #3 – As the ‘Father of Closet Storage’ would say, “Pants on the top, shirts on the bottom.’

Eric Marshall (from DEA Kitchens and Closets) was a pioneer in the early-early days of the closet storage biz. He’s been around (I would say the block), but it’s more like he’s been around the closet rod for 30 years. He knows storage design and has lived it.

If you ask Eric what he does for a living he may respond with a funny comment and say, “Pants on the top, and shirts on the bottom.” This is not only Eric’s humorous way to get your attention -but also sage advice he’ll give to anyone who’ll listen.

You see most people put the pants on the bottom and the shirts on the top. However, when you switch this ‘conventional not-so-wise-wisdom’ on its head by putting the pants at the top you’ll be able to ‘see’ to (and use) the shelf at the bottom of a hanging section.

Cramped closet storage idea #4 – Design in ‘non-bakers’ dozens

Most clothes when folded are 10-11” wide. So, to maximize the efficiency of your folded clothes (and drawer box or shelf widths where you’re going to store folded clothes) – you’ll get the biggest bang for your storage bucks by designing in 12” increments. Make drawers and shelves (if possible) 24” and 36” wide.

Use 24 inch increments for closet drawer boxes | Innovate Home Org | Innovate Building Solutions | Columbus, OH | #ClosetStorage #StorageSolutions #Drawers

Cramped closet storage idea #5 – Please ‘extend’ yourself   

If you struggle to see what’s in the back of your drawers (or the back of your pantry with all those expired cans) you know fixed shelving can be a pain in your rear.

The stuff in the back gets no love. The stuff in the back isn’t used or seen. This is a space-efficiency problem when you’ve got deep drawers and shelves.

There’s a simple solution. Make sure your drawers or shelves fully extend. Don’t waste the back anymore.

Full extension drawers for a cramped columbus closet | Innovate Building Solutions | Innovate Home Org | #CustomClosets #CrampedDrawers #ColumbusClosets #StorageDrawers

Cramped closet storage idea #6 – Pull a ‘David Copperfield’ and create the illusion of space   

Closets are too tight. I get that. But you can improve how they ‘feel’ when you create the illusion of space.

Here’s 3 ideas to make this happen.

  • Add a mirror at end of a wall. You need a mirror anyway – and it’ll make the space feel larger.


  • Use gloss finishes and light colors. Gloss finishes are reflective and create light. Light colors make the space feel larger.


  • Use glass shelves and LED lighting. Get light to literally move through space by using LED lights at the top and glass shelves below.’ That’s a fun way to display purse or shoe collections.

Cramped closet storage idea #7 – You may need to ‘take it outside,’ …the current closet that is

There are times where your closet space is just too doggone small no matter how much you declutter and use effective design to improve what you’ve got. This is the time an alternative strategy to ‘take your storage outside’ your existing closet is smart.

One sharp way to do this is to add a wardrobe closet built inside the room. You’ll get a finished furniture look and can add hanging, drawers, shelving – you name it.

A wardrobe closet in a westerville columbus ohio | Innovate Home Org | Innovate Building Solutions | #WardrobeCloset #CustomClosets #ColumbusClosets #WardrobeCloset

Another idea is to move your seldom-used long hanging dresses and your spouse’s jackets into a hall closet.

Lastly add floating shelves inside your bedroom. I’ve seen fun ideas where shoes were displayed in a boy’s closet on skateboards. That’s ‘super-cool-dude’ (OK – I’m trying to sound cool there, but I’m likely still coming off as the 59-year-old guy I am).

Skateboard-Shelfs for shoes in a boys closet credit | Innovate Building Solutions | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, OH | #ClosetStorage #CustomCloset #ShoeDisplay

Image Source: Home Talk

Cramped closet storage idea #8 – Don’t be ‘cornered’ into a bad closet design

In the closet biz, one of the ‘cardinal sins’ (this came directly down from the Pope of the Industry – OK, I’m lying, but I liked how it sounded) of closet design is putting ‘clothes against clothes’ in a corner.

You may know what I’m talking about if you have your hanging clothes on one wall bumping up against hanging clothes on the wall butting up to it. This creates a ridiculous corner with clothes stuffed into the ‘never-neverland corner.’

This is flat-out bad design (or likely it was a builder who put it in and knew nothing about – and cared even less about – closet design).

While you could use corner shelves to solve this problem, IMHO this option is not only expensive – but you really don’t get the most out of these corners anyway.

I’d recommend hanging on one wall and then on the 90-degree wall use shelving. This makes an efficient AND effective corner.

using shelving and hanging for an efficient closet corner design | Innovate Building Solutions | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, OH | #ClosetStorage #HangingStorage #WalkInCloset

Cramped closet storage idea #9 – Who let the crap out? You, You, You!

I could make a strong argument this in reality should have been storage idea #1. I’m just trying to keep it real dog (as Randy Jackson used to say on American Idol), but most people have tons of crap in their closet.

Blouses and shirts with stains on them. Clothes which aren’t the right size. Sure – you’re determined you WILL fit in them someday. Unfortunately some day is the operative term. Out of style clothes your husband swears will come back (he’s delusional and you and I know it).

The old ‘80/20’ rule applies to what you and I wear. Donate old clothes you don’t have a snowball’s chance in you-know-what of wearing. Store out of size garments in a spare room (or basement) They’ll likely be donated later (and I’ll bet my portion of the Bill Gates Trust Fund on that!), but at least you’ll free up more space in your closet now.

I remember when I got into the closet business, I was determined to pair back my clothes. I donated 6 bags of clothes back then. I don’t miss ANY of them to do this day.

Do you have waaaay toooooo much clutter? If you can’t handle this task (or the truth as Colonel Nathan Jessup would say from my favorite movie A Few Good Men) then get a professional organizer to help ‘straighten you out.’

You need to let the crap out, to see the good stuff. Simple as that.


Unfortunately cramped closets are the norm, not the exception. However, with that being said, I hope after reading this article you see there’s hope.

You’ll get a more efficient closet and increase storage when you follow these few points:

  • Develop a plan which includes some of the 9 storage ideas above.


  • Change your ‘storage behaviors’ and see the opportunities in not hanging everything – but using drawers and shelves to clean up your space.


  • Get help from a professional closet designer. As the old saying goes, “A wise man/woman knows what they don’t know.” A professional designer isn’t messing around. They’ve seen storage nightmares before. They’re ready, willing and able to improve your layout to gain space you never knew existed.

So are you ready to start fixing your cramped and crazy-disorganized closet?  

How can I (or my team) help you with a closet design?


If you’d like to get professional design assistance and a Free 3D closet design (or a wardrobe closet) in the Columbus or Cleveland Ohio area call Innovate Home Org in Columbus at 614-545-6888 or in Cleveland at 216-658-1290.

If you’re into LinkedIn connect with me @MikeFotiLinkedIn.

If you’re a Twitter fan connect with me @MikeFoti or my companies @InnovateHomeOrg or @InnovateBuild for information on home organization and interior design.


Mike Foti

Mike Foti is the President of Innovate Home Org, a division of Innovate Building Solutions. You can learn more about Mike here.

Mike Foti

Mike Foti is the President of Innovate Home Org, a division of Innovate Building Solutions. You can learn more about Mike here.

Comments (6)

  • Avatar

    Margret Schaefer


    Thank you for these wonderful tips! I live in Austin in our home of 30 years (including all the “memories”). This gave me inspiration on how to continue with updating our home. Best wishes!



    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Margaret – I’m glad this closet design article was of value to you. Many people suffer with a lack of storage space, so strategies to use every inch are critical! Mike


  • Avatar

    Joanne Mann


    Another idea I’ve been using to maximize visibility of everything in drawers – instead of clothes folded on top of each other – fold in half and put one in front of the other. Would show you but I can’t seem to leave a picture.


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Joanne – that’s a great idea! This way you can see everything in your drawer. I love to use this tip myself – thanks for sharing – Mike


  • Avatar

    Key Hawkins


    Thank you for this helpful closet design article! I’m on a mission to make the most of every inch in my home. At the moment I’m gutting my oldest daughters room and designing her soon to be closet. These helpful tips and choice of picture examples have sparked new inspiration!!

    Key Hawkins (Greenville, SC)


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Key – thanks for reading! I’m glad I’ve sparked some inspiration for you – the best of success on your project – Mike


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