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13 Tricks Professional Closet Designers Use to Maximize Storage in a Small Master Walk In Closet

So, your tiny walk in closet will never be mistaken for a Kim Kardashian look-alike.

There’s ZERO room for a fancy island or opulent chandeliers.

And there’s not even a one in a million chance your closet will be featured on a celebrity segment of Inside Edition.

And if we’re being real, you’d be ecstatic if you could just fit what you need every day into your cramped master walk in closet.

You want to ‘find’ more storage.

You need to ‘find’ more storage. But where?

If you struggle with an overstuffed master closet, you’re not alone. And as an owner of a professional closet design and installation company in Columbus Ohio this is a problem me and my team talk to owners about EVERY DAY.

The question is, if it’s not practical to demolish a wall and ‘borrow space’ from your bathroom or the adjacent bedroom – but you DESPERATELY need more storage in your small master walk in closet how can you get it?

To help with this problem, I’ll identify 13 tricks professional closet designers use to maximize storage in a small walk in closet. However, I’ll warn you tricks #1 and #6 may be controversial.

Trick #1 – Kick out your spouse/partner OR……. read 7 Essential Tips to Win the Battle of a His/Her’s Walk in Closet

Here’s an idea to double your space overnight WITHOUT changing your closet one iota (whatever an iota is). That idea is….

Kick your partner out!

OK – I know this advice is extreme, but it IS an option.

OK – in all seriousness, most of you want to grow storage without ending your relationship. Towards that end, read 7 Essential Tips to Win the Battle of a His/Her’s Walk in Closet.

Trick 1 - his hers small walk in closet strategies Columbus | Innovate Home Org | Columbus Storage Organization | Home Storage | Master Closet

 If you have limited time, I’d focus on tip #3 in this article. You’ll learn how ‘hanging’ habits (and generally hanging too much) steals space from a small walk in closet . Add shelving and drawers to get more in the same square footage.  

Trick #2 – Take it ‘outside’…….’er add a wardrobe in your bedroom

There are times when there simply isn’t enough room in a small walk in closet to fit what you’ve got. And in those instances, it’s smart to ‘take it outside’ and create space outside your existing closet.

A smart (and stylish) way to accomplish this is with a built in wardrobe. Built in wardrobe’s can be designed to any width, depth, and height. A wardrobe adds style. A wardrobe grows your storage.

Read 10 Foolproof Steps to Design a Built in Wardrobe or Armoire to learn more. This option is smart whether you live in the ‘burbs’ or a trendy loft in Downtown Columbus (or whatever city you’re in).

Trick 2 steps build a custom columbus wardrobe | Innovate Home Org | Closet Organization Design | Custom Closet | Wardrobe Closet Design | Upper Arlington Closets

Trick #3 – Bring in a professional organizer (or a bossy friend who tells it like it is) to declutter your closet!

Let’s face facts. Most people have TONS of clothes they never wear (and will never see the light of day). As a matter of fact, when I got into the custom closet business years ago I cleared my closet and filled 6 garbage bags full of clothes to donate. And you know how many of those clothes I miss today? ‘Er that would be ……

None of them!

And while it’s simple for a me (as a professional closet designer) to ‘gently nudge’ you to declutter, it can be harder than pulling teeth without Novocain (ouch!) for many to part with ANYTHING.

And if you need someone to help – contact the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals for a referral – or bring in a bossy friend who has no reservations telling you “Girlfriend, that has GOT to go!”  

Trick 3 bossy girlfriend helping declutter a custom closet

Trick #4 – Eliminate the ‘closet sins’ you don’t even want to discuss with your priest or pastor. Get a professional 3D design (at no cost to you) to rethink your space.

In an unscientific survey of the thousands of cramped closets I’ve looked at over the years, I’d estimate 99% were doomed to fail BEFORE anyone moved in!

Yes, that’s right. 99% were screwed up before you put one article in clothing in. And it’s often not your fault – or even the fault of your pack-rat spouse who can’t throw anything out that your closet now looks like a DIS-AS-TER.

No, it was the fault of the builder who made the closet ‘structurally’ a mess! They committed ‘closet design sins’ you can’t ‘organize away’ with cheap Dollar Store add-ons.

And the 2 biggest sins is what I call ‘hang vs. hang’ (where hanging clothes butt into more hanging clothes in the corner) and putting the ‘top shelf’ at a height where you can’t ‘double-hang’ (to make a more efficient small walk in closet). And if you want to learn all the sins (and no, you don’t have to confess yours to your priest) read 7 Deadly Sins of a Walk In Closet Design.

Trick 4 - 7 deadly sins custom closet design Dublin | Innovate Home Org | Closet Storage Organization | Columbus Organization Systems | Walk in Closet for Columbus, OH

And if you don’t have a clue how to create a coherent design which obliterates these sins, get a Free 3D design from a closet designer (and if you’re in Columbus – I know just the company for you….OK, sorry for the shameless plug – but I couldn’t resist!).

Trick #5 – Double hang your clothes.

OK – this isn’t rocket science – or the most amazing trick known to man (or woman), but double hanging clothes (vs. keeping them on the one rod the builder provided for you) is the biggest way to get more stuff into a small closet. It’s the closet design trick you can’t leave home without (because you can’t find what you’re looking for)!

Trick 5 double hang custom closet Bexley Ohio | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, Oh Storage Organization | Custom Closet Organization

Trick #6 – Get the kids off the payroll, and out of the house, then use their closets for excess storage.

Maybe when you get a few gray hairs (or more than a few gray hairs like me) you reach a point where you know it’s time to get the ‘kids’ off the payroll and out of the house. They need to learn on their own and become ‘big boys and girls.’ The coddling has got to stop.

And when you’ve successfully removed the kids from ‘the payroll’ (and for you younger parents out there, that’s the time when you’re no longer supporting them financially), it’s a perfect time to ‘lay claim’ to their closets.

And these closets are perfect for long dresses and suits you only wear for wedding and funerals, or out of season clothes.

Trick #7 – Add drawers.

When it comes to how a closet looks AND how a closet lives, adding drawers can be the ‘bomb-diggity’ as my son Parker used to say.

Drawers help accomplish the following:

  • Gain space (because you can put 2x more in a drawer than hanging)
  • Add style (they look neater than open shelves and hanging clothes)
  • Allow you to get ‘fully ready’ (since you can add underwear, and sock drawers so you won’t have to dig through your bedroom chest of drawers – you can get everything you need in the closet).

Drawers are seldom included in builder-supplied closets, but they can be a godsend for small walk in closets.

If you want to learn the ‘power of the drawer,’ read 11 Secrets about Closet Drawers Even Most Closet Designers Won’t Tell You.  

Trick 7 advantage drawers custom westerville closet design | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, OH Storage Organization | Custom Closet | DIY Closet Design Mistakes

Trick #8 – Rethink the in-swing closet door (or at least make the door (somewhat) of an asset.

Inswing closet doors are evil. They steal valuable inside wall storage and can (literally) be a pain in your butt when your partner enters and doesn’t realize you’re inside.

The challenge is how can the door become your ‘little Fre’ (as Tony Montana would say in the movie Scarface) vs. a pain in the rear?

Well one idea would be to use a sliding barn door. It’s stylish and will give you more room on the inside.

Trick 8 sliding barn door in downtown columbus walk in closet | Innovate home org | Custom Closet Storage Organization | Columbus, OH Closet

Or see if it’s possible to change the swing on the door.

And if both these strategies don’t work, see if you can (at least) use the narrower area behind the door for a hook board or a jewelry organization system. Or, as a last resort, add an ‘over the door’ storage system (although I’ll admit I hate them – but they can beef up storage).

Trick 8 jewelry organizer behind door custom columbus walk in closet | Innovate Home Org | Custom Closet Storage | Organization Tips | Tips and Tricks

Trick #9 – Insist on an adjustable system.

If everyone was the same size, and their mix of clothing (and clothing styles) never changed, then a ‘fixed’ closet (like a low-budget wire closet the builder slapped in) would work fine.

However, this is NEVER the case.

What you store can and WILL change.

Your system needs to ‘flex’ as your clothing and shoes styles change. And the best way to do this is with an adjustable closet system. Adjustable systems have holes on the side of partitions (in the industry we call them ‘verticals’) so you can move shelves and rods up and down as your mix of clothes and shoes change.

Trick 9 adjustable shelves pataskala custom closet | Innovate Home Org | Adjustable Shelving | Storage Organization Storage

Trick #10 – “Get Illogical, Illogical” (sang to Olivia Newton John song – Let’s Get Physical).  

OK – I know mentioning the song “Let’s Get Physical” is dating me. However, the song is a funny ‘blast from the past.’ Even if you’ve never heard of it before, check it out below.

And now you may be wondering, “Mike – where in the Sam Adams are you going with this?” And yes, I know my mind works in wacky ways.  

But here’s where I’m going. When most people hang in their closet they do it logically. They put blouses and shirts at the top and pants at the bottom (like they wear them).

And while this is logical, it’s not smart when it comes to getting better usage from a small walk in closet.

No, if you reverse this order and put the pants on top and blouses at the bottom, you’ll see (and use) the shelf underneath the pants for more storage. It’s like getting a ‘Major Award’ (a la A Christmas Story). So, get Illogical, illogical to get more out of your small walk in closet hanging space.

Trick 10 columbus pants on top blouses on bottom | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, Oh closet design | Custom Organization Systems

Trick #11 – Switch to slimline hangers

Nothing makes closets look worse or occupy unneeded room than bulky plastic hangers in random colors. Yuck!

To gain space – and style points – AND have your clothes stay on the hanger, use slimline felt hangers, all in the same color.

Trick 11 slimline black felt hangers upper arlington closet | Innovate Home Org | Custom Closet Storage | Organization Tips | Storage Shelving

Trick #12 – Know how to make a narrow closet work for you, not against you.

If you’ve walked through a haunted corn maze around Halloween with your kids (or grandkids) you know it’s a lot of fun.

However, if you’re fumbling your way through a narrow closet everyday – which feels like a haunted corn maze – you know that’s NOT fun.  

The narrower the space, the smarter your design needs to be. And if you have hanging clothes on both sides of a narrow closet you’ll want to stop ‘fighting’ through your clothes sooner than later.

To get ideas on how to design narrow closets read 7 Powerful Tips to Squeeze More Space and Beauty Into a Narrow Walk in Closet.

Trick 12 narrow custom closet design tips powell ohio | innovate Home org | Storage organization ideas | Closet Storge

Trick #13 – Get rid of shoe boxes. Show your shoes respect with shoe shelves.

Most builder-supplied walk in closets have no place for shoes, so they end up scattered below hanging clothes. They’re a pain to find (and invariably their hardest to find when you’re running late for work!).

And since the average couple has over 40 pairs of shoes, you’ll ignore them at your own risk.

The question is how can you get the max number of shoes into the minimum amount of space AND still be able to see them?

Well – start by getting rid of shoe boxes. Boxes take up too much room AND you can’t see what’s inside.

The space-efficient way to max shoe storage is to use flat adjustable shoe shelves. And if you want more shoe storage tricks read 13 Wild, Wacky, and Workable Shoe Storage Tricks You Need to Know.

Trick 13 - shoe storage tips for a Clintonville closet | Innovate Home Org | Storage Organization | Custom Closet Storage

So, have you learned any new ‘tricks’ to gain storage in your small walk in closet? How can I – and my team- help next?

While I like NOT being too serious in my articles, I do hope you learned practical ideas (‘er tricks) to gain storage in your small walk in closet.

And since I know developing a closet design which makes efficient use of your existing small space can be tough, I’d love to assist you.

If you need help – and live in Columbus Ohio – me and my team would love to be there for you. Call 614-545-6888 or request a Free 3D custom closet design.

And if you don’t live in Columbus (which is likely most of you)– I can refer you to a friend in the industry across the country. Comment below with your location and I’ll see if I can get help for you.  

Thanks for reading,



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.

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