How to Organize a Small Closet, According to Instagram’s Hottest Declutterers
Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer know a thing or two about turning one man’s trash into 1.5 million people’s moment of Zen. They’re the duo behind The Home Edit, an organizing service-turned-empire that became famous for their Instagram photos of the spaces they’ve overhauled—often brightly lit, with items arranged by color in clear containers labeled in Shearer’s handwriting (which became so popular she started selling custom ones online for $10 apiece). So naturally, we turned to the New York Times best-selling authors and future Netflix stars to learn exactly how to organize a small closet to maximize its potential.
1. Start by Taking a Step Back
Before touching anything, look at your entire closet as a whole. Where do you see large swaths of blank space? “The negative space is where the opportunities are,” Shearer says. Often, the floor, door and top of the closet are under (or poorly) utilized.
If you have every square inch crammed full, you might want to start by paring down. Sort things into piles to donate, toss and keep before you begin organizing.
2. Send Out-of-Season Clothes Skyward
People often intend to store out-of-season clothes in the attic or under the bed, but who makes the time to actually schlep that stuff from your closet to their temporary home and back? The top shelf of your closet is perfect for this stuff. “I don’t label them ‘summer’ or ‘winter’—they’re just seasonal bins that are easy to trade out,” Teplin explains. “You don’t want anything to be too hard to put away.”
3. Take Advantage of Your Door
Shearer and Teplin often hang Command hooks along the inside of the door to store lightweight items that are used daily, like scarves, hats and purses. “It frees up so much shelf space in the closet,” Shearer says. Plus, keeping those finishing touches within arm’s reach as you walk out the door helps remind you to actually wear them.
4. Double Your Hanging Potential
If you have only one clothing rod in your closet, you’re doing it wrong. By folding jeans and dresses, you can easily hold two tiers of clothing, effectively doubling your closet space. And, if your ceilings are high enough, you may even be able to squeeze in a third.
5. Give Yourself Some Breathing Room
At this point, your temptation may be to fill in every last nook and cranny with stuff, but all that visual clutter will only stress you out. Part of what makes The Home Edit’s look so alluring—beyond the strangely pleasing effect of seeing a rainbow of products—is how they space things out. Clothes and shoes can be close together, but they’re never jam-packed. That little “breathing room” goes a long way in helping you see what you actually have—and put it to use without fearing an avalanche of Zara dresses will rain upon you.
6. Skip the Wire Baskets
Containers can be great for corralling anything you can’t hang up, but there’s one style that Teplin tries to avoid: wire baskets. “Things fall through the slots, and because there’s no concealment—and there’s the grid [from the wire]—everything tends to look cluttered in them,” she says. They’re also bad news for your furniture. “We’re all about a damage-free lifestyle, and those can scrape up shelves.”
7. Keep Your Labels Vague
One of the biggest mistakes people make is getting too granular with the labels on their containers. “It pigeonholes you,” Teplin says. “Unless you have many hats or scarves, you probably don’t need a bin for each.” (To that end, it can also inadvertently breed clutter: Suddenly, you get really into headbands and buy three, but they’re not technically “hats” so you don’t want to put them in your hat bin, and they’re too big for the hair ties pouch, so you wind up tossing them, uh, wherever.)
Instead, focus more on categories: If your kid is into soccer and dance, maybe there’s one “soccer” bin in the closet and another “dance” bin for dance gear. If you can’t stop buying leggings because they’re so great for long sessions on your sofa bingeing Love Is Blind, maybe you need a “Netf-leisure” bin. Do you.