See How a Personal Stylist Keeps Her Tiny 10-Square-Foot Closet Organized

published Mar 13, 2023
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Organized small closet.
Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I need to share a basic fact about myself: I am a messy person. But I also love the idea of everything having its place, and I find watching Get Organized with The Home Edit soothing. I am forever grateful that the show’s hosts, Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, taught me how to organize my iPhone apps by color (trust me, you should try it) — but ask me to create a clean, organized, attractive, and livable space on my own? Not a chance.

I used to think this was a moral failing, but thanks to a late-30s ADHD diagnosis, I now understand why my brain instinctively sees banana yellow wide-leg pants as a basic neutral that can be worn 17 ways but could not tell you how to live in a bathroom that doesn’t have 14 products on the vanity at all times.

When I moved into my first home, a charming craftsman built in 1912, the “Ghost of Christmas Future” saw myself living in a gorgeous house, but still spending 20 minutes trying to find scissors in junk drawer after junk drawer. It also had a tiny closet for clothes, which, as a personal stylist, I pay a lot of attention to. So rather than live through frustration, I went ahead and booked Sophie Schwarck with Neat Method the week after we moved in. She was able to make my small closet so usable that I can store all of my clothing year-round without the pain of switching out clothes each season. 

It’s been five years since I moved in and had a professional help organize my space, and I’ve been able to maintain a system that’s made my turn-of-the-century closet as functional as Kurt Russell’s oak (not cedar) rotating shoe rack from the movie Overboard. If only Goldie Hawn had praised his ingenious use of small spaces, but I digress. 

This is how I have managed to keep my tiny, 10-square-foot closet organized.

Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I only buy what I love — and gave the space a velvet touch.

Even though I’m a personal stylist, I like to keep a well-edited closet. I’m conscious of what I wear and buy, so I no longer have a cluttered rack of never-worn sale rack purchases or random pieces bought on an emergency night-before-vacation shopping spree. (I’m team quality over quantity.) Velvet hangers are a dream. They can double or triple your hanging space and protect clothes from the dreaded hanger dent on your sleeve or a stretched-out neckline. 

Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I maximize my storage space.

Schwarck introduced some ingenious items to make the most of vertical space. I love inexpensive solutions — especially when they don’t involve a drill or hardware. This canvas hanging storage rack is perfect for storing folded items, such as knits or sweaters. I use the smaller compartments to store my clutches, but drawer inserts are available. They would be perfect for storing lingerie or accessories.

Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I added structure for a clean look.

Left to my own devices, the closet shelf would become the leaning tower of sweaters, pants, and junk with no home. Thanks to these clever dividers, my jeans and pants have separate piles with guardrails. If a pile starts to spill over, it’s time to edit and toss what I no longer love. For renters and the not-so-handy, these dividers clip on a shelf. No need for drills or brackets!

Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I always leave room for a great pair of shoes

I love shoes, but I keep my shoe collection pretty minimal. Stackable shoe racks might not be the prettiest, but they give you the flexibility to keep adding shelves if your collection grows. To save space, I keep sandals, flip-flops, and random hotel slippers in a soft bin, rather than fish through a pile at the bottom of my closet.

Credit: Grace Van Cleave

I use S-hooks for handbags.

Behold the random rod on my closet door. It probably would have held random hangers and dry cleaning, but instead I hang my handbags from S-hooks, freeing up shelf space. Add a few at the end of a closet rod for a new bag storage area. 

Five years later, I’m still using the system that a professional put in place. Getting dressed in the morning takes no time, and I no longer have a dreaded “closet cleanout” weekend. Like many services, the initial cost of a professional organizer might be hard to swallow, but the benefits can be felt for years to come.