I Sent Photos of My Disorganized Hallway Closet to a Pro Organizer

published Jun 3, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
hallway closet before organizing: messy, unorganized items on shelves
Credit: Yelena Alpert

When my family and I moved to a new house about a year ago, I was determined to keep my closets in order — especially the narrow hallway closet that served as a catch-all for utilitarian items. To encourage neatness, I used leftover peel-and-stick wallpaper to adorn the once-green walls. If the hallway closet didn’t look junky, it would be easier to keep it looking nice, right? 

Then I tried grouping items into categories, including basic medical supplies to be within reach on the center shelf for my kids and the cat food on the bottom. Yet, when it came to the top shelves, I wasn’t as astute in my planning, and put up batteries, light bulbs, some cords, and a few packets of face masks. The idea was that we would probably need these, but not as frequently, or it would be a reminder to get those smart bulbs installed soon.

A year later, the hallway closet is not as disorderly as my actual junk drawer, but I’ve learned that my kids like to stick everything on the middle shelf and those two top shelves are practically untouched. Worried that this wasn’t an optimal use of space, I reached out to Jean Prominski, certified professional organizer and founder of Seattle Sparkle. Here’s what she recommended I do to get the closet in shape in three easy steps.

Credit: Yelena Alpert

Step 1: Do a quick purge.

At first glance, my hallway closet doesn’t appear too crowded, but Prominski asked me to really take a look. I had an entire shelf filled with items that were just dumped there — yarn, night lights, an exercise band, and a bag of cords. I’d also placed several smart appliances there, like a wireless camera and bulbs in an attempt to remind me that I need to install those.

One thing that comes out of organizing is addressing your to-do list, Prominski points out. I had to ask myself the following: When was I going to use those smart bulbs, and how important was it for me to do this project? The answer: Light bulbs are not a priority right now, and it makes a lot more sense to put them with all the other bulbs in the basement.

Once I pulled out all the face masks from the top shelf I also realized that I have way more than necessary, so I took them all out and placed them into the cleaning closet nearby. All the miscellaneous items, like cords and yarn, were placed with similar items in other areas of my home.

Credit: Yelena Alpert

Step 2: Sort everything.

Once I got rid of the extras, I approached the organization process shelf by shelf. I knew that the top shelf would remain the place for batteries. But, as I started to look through the whole shelf, I realized that I managed to stuff even more than I remembered onto it. Not only was I too lazy to put new batteries into the box specifically designated for batteries, but I also uncovered a stash of at-home Covid tests. 

Unlike the middle shelf that’s designated for medical supplies and the two bottom shelves for cat things, these top shelves didn’t have an identity, which was part of the problem. Prominski recommended grouping the batteries with emergency supplies and creating a designated space for it all. I gathered other items, like flashlights, lanterns, a candle, and some matches to create a basic emergency station in case the power goes out.

I also created a designated craft supply area, with a roll of tape my son left on a shelf, a box cutter, measuring tape, and scissors, so that everyone has easy access to it. The medical supplies were generally in the same spot, but I added the hydrogen peroxide and the at-home Covid tests to this category.

Credit: Yelena Alpert

Step 3: Bring in containers.

One of the reasons my hallway closet started to look messy was that each shelf was a bit of a free-for-all. Yes, they were somewhat organized, but the contents were all over the place. To tackle the issue, Prominski is a strong proponent of a label maker and bins, as long as they aren’t large. “If the bin is too big, things will fall over in it,” Prominski warns of creating a space for a contained mess.

I already had a container for medicine, but it was a bit chaotic, so I took out some boxes to make more space and made sure that the rest of the bottles fit in snuggly. For the utility shelf, I brought in some containers like a pencil holder to corral the scissors and a little jewelry plate for the tape. I decided to keep bandages within reach and stealthily hid them in a decorative box that was collecting dust in my office closet. 

For the two lower shelves, I found a small rectangular container to store my cat’s medicine and placed all the cans and snacks into a wooden box that didn’t have another purpose. I also uncovered that his cat food bag had little holes in it — meaning someone was trying to get in for a nibble. I used a large OXO container, once purchased for flour only to find out that it was too tall for my kitchen storage, and it fits here perfectly and no hungry paws can get into it. 

When I was done, I had one empty shelf. Because this closet is on the way to the dining room, I decided to place a basket of table napkins there, so that my kids can help set the table and the napkins are easy to find. 

I loved that I didn’t have to go out and spend more money to buy the containers for this space — turns out, I have plenty of options that can be put to better use. I learned that just because I have space, doesn’t mean that I have to cram it full. Now that each shelf is a distinct category, I can fill it as necessary, instead of dropping in odds and ends, just because I can. Perhaps one day, I’ll even make labels to designate a home for every category.