Why I Hate Walk-In Closets (And You Should Too)

published Jun 29, 2019
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Credit: Kim Lucian

Aside from developing persnickety opinions on pizza and manicures, living in New York City for six years was foundational for me in many ways: It’s where my mushy child brain stopped developing, I first asked for a raise, I lived through the Pizza Rat saga, and surprisingly, where I learned invaluable lessons about storage. Namely, you don’t need it.

Though many New Yorkers dream of knocking down walls or upgrading to a bigger apartment to get a Carrie Bradshaw-sized closet, living with one of the smallest ones I’d ever seen for six years taught me that I don’t need a walk-in closet. Ever.

Though the task of making everything fit was daunting at first, I made that two-foot-wide closet work. I shoved as much as I could into my very small dresser and turned a deep window into an ad hoc storage space by installing a closet rod. My bedside table doubled as my drawer for underwear, shirts, and bras. I shoved stuff under the bed, stacked stuff on tops of cabinets, and the rest? I realized I could do without it. I learned to make use of the space I have and only make space for the things I was using. It may have been frustrating at first, but I grew to love the setup.

Earlier this year, I moved into a room in a house in Nashville. I have a slightly larger closet now and a real, full-sized dresser. In the six or so months I’ve lived there, I’ve found that, just like a goldfish, my belongings are growing to fit their container. My closet is now two-thirds filled with clothes I don’t wear: a few fancy cocktail dresses I’m “saving” for weddings, a rarely-worn skirt collection (as it turns out, working from home means one article of clothing is preferable, and if I must choose two, I’ll go with pants and a top), linen tops, and special occasion garter belts (I’m managing a growing retro lingerie collection). The middle part is the bulk of what I wear on a daily basis—and it’s much smaller than what I fit into my New York closet.

All walk-in closets do is sell you the (beautiful, beautiful) lie of more stuff. And I get that! I love stuff. It’s one of my favorite kinds of things. But more stuff doesn’t translate into more useful stuff. It can just translate into more things that need storage. And more stuff that rarely ever gets touched.

I am not a minimalist by any means. As I said before, I love stuff! I own too many purses and bathing suits for someone who doesn’t live by the ocean. But I, a normal person, can get on with a few feet’s worth of clothes—and probably happily less if I really challenged myself.

I am sure there are exceptions to my “no one needs a walk-in” rule. (You may very well be an exception!) Perhaps you’re a fashion blogger or someone who goes to a lot of galas. Or you are blessed with the ability to constantly rotate and innovate through a closet and not stick with the same favorite items over and over and over again. (Congratulations! You’re the exception, not the rule.)

But for me and other people with less demanding clothing schedules, a smaller closet can be a wonderful opportunity. Smaller closets make us do with less, and we realize that there’s still plenty of room to be made. It’s a Made In New York lesson pizza rat would be proud I learned.

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