It’s a good time of year to go deep into closet cleaning and, while you’re at it, add a few new features that will make you love your closet. At first glance, some of these gorgeous, spacious closets may make you feel bad about your small one, but hang in there. I promise each demonstrates a design move or two that can make the tiniest of closets feel fresh and appealing.
Take everything out of your closet. This can be a big project, and it will take a while. Find a spot to put everything from your closet (this place is not your bed because if you don’t finish or you want to do some painting or light construction, you’ll have to move it all again before you can tuck in for the night). Once the closet is empty, begin at the top and work your way down. I like to start with a vacuum hose attachment to suck out all the loose stuff before wiping everything down. Get every shelf, rod, hook, nook and cranny. Clean the inside of drawers and get the corners of the floor too.
Now stand back and assess. What do you like about your closet and what bums you out? Would more color, light or whimsy make you like it better? Is the carpeting collecting an alarming amount of pet hair and dirt? Would more hooks or an over-the-door rack help you keep more things organized? Make a list and see if any of the following suggestions appeal to you.
Replace wire hangers. I cannot endorse this recommendation enough. Using flat velvet hangers made my closet a much happier space. The flat profile allows you to pack in more clothing, and the velvet covering prevents clothes from slipping. Plus, the uniform look of matching hangers helps your closet feel more cohesive and appealing (they come in all kinds of fun colors). Before a garment makes its way into my closet, I replace the wire hanger from the dry cleaner with a velvet one and immediately put the wire hanger right into my dry-cleaning bag for recycling — I have yet to meet a cleaner who isn’t excited to get them back for reuse.
Start with one pack and see how you like them. I took quite a while to replace all of mine, as I couldn’t afford to buy them all at once. I bought a pack or two every now and then, replacing all the hangers composed of torn paper, broken cardboard tubes and bent wire over time.
Upgrade the drawer hardware. Hey, the Ikea closet built-ins so many of us have are great for organizing, but the drawer hardware is a little lackluster. Find pulls with a fresh finish, whimsical color or more sculptural shape to give your built-in drawers a mini makeover. Measure your existing pulls or unscrew one and bring it to the store to make sure that your new selection will fit in the existing holes. This is a project even the most DIY-challenged of us can complete with ease in a matter of minutes. While you’re working, carefully put the parts of the old hardware into a resealable plastic bag as you remove them so that you can reuse them or pass them along to someone who will.
Those of you who are crafty may be able to give your existing ho-hum knobs a makeover with paint, yarn, colorful tape or a leather belt.
Enhance the lighting. A closet can be a black hole sometimes, making it easy to accidentally pair a black shoe with a navy one during the wee hours of the morning and not realize it until you arrive at work. Undershelf lighting like LED tape lights or lighted rods are good options for illuminating your sartorial options. If that’s not in the cards, see if you can aim a ceiling light or track light outside the closet to provide illumination.
Put a donation bin inside or nearby. I include this tip in just about every closet story I write because it’s the best closet tip I’ve ever received (thanks, Lisa Adams) and I don’t want anyone to miss out on it. Immediately after rejecting an item of clothing because it will never be your color, feel flattering, suit your personal style or fit just right, throw it in there. When the bin is full, donate the clothing to charity. I like to use a cylindrical collapsible hamper so I can smush it down when it’s not full. Another space-saving idea is to hang a laundry bag from a hook, doorknob or hanger in the closet.
Get rid of the carpeting. I had never given a second thought to the carpeting in my closet until the contractor working on my bathroom renovation suggested continuing the floor tile from the bathroom into the closet. I hadn’t realized how dirty the carpeting had become in the hard-to-reach corners. Clothes hung too close to the floor, which was covered in shoes and boots, to really get in there with the vacuum on a regular basis. Using a hard surface like tile or hardwood makes it easier to get a broom, mop or even just a duster into those corners. There are some great peel-and-stick tile options that can help you accomplish this on a tight budget.
Another solution that solves the carpeting issue is a relatively small carpentry project that doesn’t involve grout or worrying about the subfloor. Create a wooden platform beneath the clothes-hanging area.
Paint the inside a favorite color. Whenever I’ve had a basic one- or two-door closet, the white paint inside tended to get banged up, scuffed and dingy-looking. I know, this beautiful closet is much larger than most of our living rooms, but a colorful paint job works well in the smallest of closets. Brighten up yours with a favorite color, and it will provide delight whenever you open the door.
When you’re choosing a paint, ask for the most durable stain- and scuff-resistant product. This means paint made for high-traffic areas that get a lot of wear and tear, like commercial waiting rooms, offices and public restrooms, or paints specifically made for hardworking bathroom vanities or kitchen cabinets. Some products include Scuff-X from Benjamin Moore, Premium Plus Ultra from Behr and ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel from Sherwin-Williams.
Or wallpaper the inside. The good news about small closets is that you’ll likely need to purchase only one roll to cover the entire back wall. Opening the doors and seeing a favorite wallpaper pattern peeking through the clothing is one of home life’s little pleasures.
Use accessories as decor. If your closet and dresser space is built into your bedroom, have some fun decorating your shelves or hooks with purses, hats, a jewelry display, scarves and other accessories.
Give drawers a special treatment. New lining paper and scented sachets will freshen up your drawers, making it a joy to refill them with neatly folded socks and pajamas.
Reassess and refill. When your improvements are done, it’s time to evaluate every single thing before it goes back into the closet. Keep bins at the ready for items to donate, toss, clean and repair. To stay honest, have a full-length mirror nearby — try on clothing and let go of everything you no longer wear. This will give the duds you enjoy more room to breathe and make it easier for you to put together an outfit from your revamped closet.