A Real Life Chaotic Closet Gets a Makeover: Esteban & Todd’s Clutter Challenge

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
  • Closet size: 24 square feet
  • How many people use this closet? Two. My partner Todd and I share the closet.
  • How long have you lived in your home? Five years
  • Your closet in 5 words or less: Small, narrow, chaotic, cluttered, disorderly.

We moved into our Oakland apartment five years ago, and our bedroom closet has been a mess ever since. It’s not the amount of space that’s the problem, but how we use it. There’s stuff we don’t need crammed in the corners and littering the floor, stuff we don’t use regularly which takes up prime real estate, and stuff we love that screams out for a more organized system. Sound like your closet at home? See what we did about it, and get inspired.

Tour the “Before” Closet

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At first glance, our closet doesn’t look too messy. There is some organization there, and our clothes are neatly hanged. But the closet floor and corners are a different story. (Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Makeover Plans

Here’s what I (Esteban) think about the job ahead:

Todd and I are pretty similar in build and body type, and we sometimes share clothes (t-shirts, button downs, etc.), so you’d think the closet was only used by one person. We are also both pretty simple when it comes to our wardrobe: each one of us only has a couple of pairs of jeans and a handful of button down shirts. But there’s still stuff that doesn’t fit that we need to donate, and we’d like to be able to reorganize so we can actually see all the clothes we own. Even though wood hangers take up more space, we do not like wire or plastic hangers, so we’re not replacing them. [Editor’s Note: I hope everyone hears Joan Crawford in their heads right now: “No More Wire Hangers!”]

Closet Personality Profile: I’m a Conscientious Collector! This is pretty accurate, but more so now than before. A few years ago, we’d easily splurge on clothes without considering space or our need for them. Now, we’re more selective and only bring in clothes we love and that will last a long time.

Biggest Closet Sin: Reckless endangerment, maybe? The piles of stuff on the shelf got too high for me to reach, so I just throw stuff up there haphazardly (especially on that pile of bed sheets). It’s like playing that game Jenga—we are constantly hoping it doesn’t fall over.

One Odd Item That Really Doesn’t Belong in There: There’s an old window screen left behind by the previous tenant (or the owners) in the back of the closet. It was so dusty and gross. I don’t know why we didn’t throw it out when we moved in.

Closet Goals: 1) Set up a specific space for small accessories like lint brushes, sewing kits, etc.—we’re afraid of small things getting lost in there, so we just don’t put them in there; 2) Clean out the hidden pockets of space behind the walls on either side! We honestly don’t even know what is stored there; and 3) The shoes and clothes are too jam-packed and disorganized, so we’d like to free up some space and donate anything we don’t wear.

Another thing: The closet corners are tucked away behind a wall and provides extra hidden storage, which really has been our downfall. They extend a few more feet past the door frame, creating pockets where we throw all of our excess junk—old electronics, shoes, books, magazines —that get trapped back there. As mentioned, it’s easy to throw stuff in there away from view and forget about it. The fact that we can have so much stuff out of sight doesn’t help. It’s easier for us to put stuff there and “come back to it later.” We need to clear it out and store stuff that we don’t use as regularly. It would be so great to walk into the closet if needed, whether to clean the floors or take something out.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Shopping List

Here’s what Esteban and Todd plan to buy for their new closet, and why:

Bisley Yellow 5 Drawer Cabinet: A small filing cabinet will be great for storing small accessories, like sewing kits, lint brushes, tie clips, extra shirt buttons, etc.

Sterilite Plastic Storage Bins (6-pack): We hope these will keep the corners of the closet organized. The plan is to stack them on the floor as high as we can. We generally don’t like the appearance of these bins, but it’s not an issue for us since they will be tucked away.

ClosetMaid All Purpose Organizer: These will keep our shoes organized, either on the floor or on the top shelf.

ClosetMaid Stackable Horizontal Organizer: We’ll use this to sort and store random closet items, like our shoes, sheets, and maybe some of our media.

Rubbermaid Closet Helper: Our goal is to purge and get rid of clothes, which will hopefully free up one side of the closet. We plan to hang this 4-shelf hanging unit and put our folded t-shirts there, plus other accessories if there’s room.

See the whole closet clean out process:

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The start of our donation/toss pile (Image credit: Esteban Cortez)