How to organize a weird closet

PresidentMercuryJuly 22, 2012

Hi, I'm new here but have been lurking around for a while. It seems like a good community in the sense for organizer freaks like myself.

The problem that I'm having and have been having since moving into a new house is with the closet in my room. The closet is the oddest closet I have seen in my life and I think it was made at the last minute, by people who really wanted to go home after work, or a drunk person. It's a sort of long and tall closet but is very narrow. VERY NARROW. The picture I included is a roughly drawn out diagram that includes the measurements of closet, including the closet door.

The top picture is supposed to be the view from above the closet (looking down. The basic shape of my closet is a narrow rectangle. In inches, the length of the closet is 50 1/4 inches and has a 15 inch depth (these 15 inches are one of the major problems with this damn closet). The door of the closet is located literally at the left end (or beginning). The crudely drawn picture on the bottom is supposed to be the front view of the closet. One of the good things about the closet is that it's height is the same as the ceiling, which is 10 feet. The door is 79 3/4 inches in length and 23 7/8 inches width. The door must have been measured wrong or has so many coats of paint on it because it closes very tightly and doesn't close fully with the over door shoe holder. You'll notice an empty space by the right side of the door; that's because that is a wall (yes the closet is much longer than the opening).

I have no idea what to do with this closet because certain width hangers won't fit in it, it's hard to reach clothes on the right side, and it's difficult to store things on the top shelf. The room is there to store many things on the top shelf but the problem is with the opening to the door, which will not allow certain sized boxes to pass through it. I have an extendable shoe rack on the floor, which has worked out decently and my clothes hang from a single, wooden pole.

I hope this all made sense to people and I can take more pictures if it helps. Sorry for the long post and crude drawings!

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Can you removed the door (rip out, not just take off) and create a bigger access space?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:58AM
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Hey, you have my closet. No, wait, you don't. The door to my closet is nicely centered, so that the sides of the space are more usable.

My closet is only 45 inches long, and 16 inches deep. It's the result of living in a house that's over 100 years old. Back then, they had hooks on the walls of the closet and hung their clothes on hangers from the hooks. They also had a lot less clothing.

But I have the same problems--hangers don't fit, there's space near the ceiling but you can't put a shelf there because there's no way to get things up there because the doorway's too low. My closet had two rods that went front to back at some point--the supports are still there.

The only place that normal hangers fit, front to back, is where the closet door is--the way the door is fitted into the wall, there's a couple more inches of space there. I looked into the closet systems, like elfa, but they require a minimum of 22 inches of depth, which our closets just don't have.

This is what I've done to maximize the use of the space. I have a usable center section of the clothes rod and semi-usable side sections, where a normal hanger can only fit at an angle.

1) I got rid of clothes I don't wear much.

2) In one of the side sections, I hang all my pants, on those pant hangers that clamp onto the cuffs of the pants. These are much narrower than regular hangers and they fit easily into the closet.

3) The center section, where the door is, holds my shirts and jackets and hoodies. I got those thin flocked hangers to fit as much as possible into the space.

4) The other side section holds some special occasion clothing. The hangers are at an angle and they are not easy to get to, but I use them only a few times a year.

5) In between the regular clothing and the special occasion stuff, there are three belt/tie hangers that hold my scarves and necklaces. These are narrower than regular hangers and fit easily where the door jamb is, which is the narrowest section of the entire closet.

6) The back of the closet door has hooks for robes and my all-purpose hoodie, plus my work tote bag.

7) There's room on the floor for two laundry baskets--white and colored--and three pairs of shoes.

8) I have bins on the closet shelf for socks, undies and bras in the center usable section, and plastic shoe boxes holding seldom worn things like pantyhose and slips on the ends of the shelf. This frees up space in my dresser for more knit shirts and sweaters--things I don't like to put on the closet shelf because the piles never stay neat. But I can just toss undies and socks in a bin with no worries.

I've considered adding more shelves. The only way I think I could access them would be to make them run front to back at the ends of the closet. And even then, I'd have to use a step-stool and clear off half the closet shelf to get to anything stored there. But it might work for winter hats and gloves or Christmas decorations or the like.

Really, with the closet door at one end like yours is, I would seriously consider moving it to the center of the closet and enlarging it, as the very least you should do. If you can deepen the closet by a few inches when you do that, it would be even better.

Another option to consider is valet rods. These are short clothing rods that have only one end attached to the wall. You could stagger these down both walls and maybe get more usable rod space. (I ended up doing a lot of measuring, usable space for one rod, or the two rods that had been there before, and possibly adding a third front-to-back rod, before I figured out the current one-rod system gave me the most hanger space.) Some of the valet rods are hinged, or drop down, so you could push them back and forth to move them slightly out of the way to get to the back of the closet.

Here is a link that might be useful: folding valet rod

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:43AM
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With a 15 inch depth to the closet, a standard 16.5 inch clothes hanger won't fit, so the only option I can see is to put long term storage shelves in the back section (the right side in the overhead drawing) and then put two 15 inch rods in the middle of the space, one over the other. That gives you 30 inches of hanging space.

Is there any potential for breaking through the wall opposite the closet door to widen the closet?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Thanks for the quick replies everyone, I didn't expect it.

I had a feeling that the best option I would have would be to take down that wall but I would really like to avoid that at the moment. When first moving into this house, I had to do a good amount of work on my room as the previous owners didn't care to do, ignored, or were drunk while doing. So after finishing my room I didn't think much about the closet until finally moving my clothes there. I would love to tear down that wall (on the right side) and center the door or simply get a sliding door or whatever. But, as I said before, I just don't feel like going through the hassle of tearing down a wall when we finally just moved into the house after two years of repairs (before moving in). Also this closet stresses me out...I just don't understand what was going on in the mind of the person who made it. Why didn't they put the door in the middle? Why make it so narrow instead of just making it into more of a square shape?

@ camlan: The previous house I lived in was built in the 1920's and while the closets were both tall, deep, and centered. Of course, though, I realize this wasn't the norm for houses built at that time but my Great grandfather was the one who built it and must have predicted that people of the future would have more stuff, lol.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 12:54AM
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In the long run, I too think the wall needs to be opened... perhaps up to expose the shelf as well as altering the door. Can it be a fully open closet with folding or sliding doors?

Before you open the closet, consider what is on all other sides of it; in other words, which side to go into. Maybe the other side is at your entryway, would work for coats?

Another option with it as is is to think about units on wheels. You could make or buy two or three hanging/shelf units, one with clothes for each season or type (weekend vs. weekday). Wheel them out and rotate as necessary. Not ideal, but better than no access. Just invest in good casters.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 1:41PM
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" I just don't feel like going through the hassle of tearing down a wall when we finally just moved into the house after two years of repairs (before moving in)."

Two years??
And you are just noticing that would be a problem now? I would have caught that right away.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Tearing down the wall isn't going to help because the closet is still going to be 15 inches deep, which isn't deep enough for a clothes hanger.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 8:35AM
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@Karin L: The closet is near/on the side that my bedroom door opens, so if the wall was to be torn down, a sliding or accordion door would be much better than the standard door. Even though with the space constraints, I would just pick a sliding door since it'll be easier. I'm able to get 16inch hangers in but at an angle so everything is not flat against each other (if that makes sense). What I did try the first time I organized was to put winter coats on the left side (side with the door) and store summer stuff on the right side, then switch it up to the opposite way during the summer. This has worked but I'm the type of person who likes to see what I have, not have stuff hidden. But, I understand that we can't always get what we want -_- I do like the idea of the mobile hanging/shelf units, but I rather make it myself then looking forever for something that is 15 inches wide. Thanks for the idea! :D

@LuAnn: I grew up sharing a room with an older sister and even though our closet was tall and deep, she took up everything with crap. Our floor to the closet was filled with a pile/mountain of just her shoes. So when I got my own room and closet I was just happy to get something that I could claim as my own. I did notice that the closet would be a problem but I figured I would just make it work. Also, the walls and bare wood floor (the owners never took care of the nice wood floor so it was like it just got cut from a tree and placed on the floor...splinter city) needed more of my attention, so I focused on those more.

@Graywings: You do have a point and I have considered that, which is another reason why I'm hesitant to go through tearing down a wall. But, it really would have made sense to have the door in the middle or a more open space when the space is only 15 inches width.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 5:53PM
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I probably should have done this earlier (which would have made sense) but I'm going to post up a picture of my closet. Don't know if anyone would be interested or not, but figured it wouldn't hurt.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 12:39AM
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Oh and the shoe holder is empty only because I took the shoes out (I'm going through to see which shoes I want to get rid of too). Also, yes I know the clear plastic bags on my clothes is ghetto but I did it to save money. This bad picture is supposed to show how much my closet goes in on the left side.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 12:44AM
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Yes, ghetto shelves. It's something that my brother did at last minute even though I'm thinking of taking them down for shelves that are not measured at 15 inches width. The little shelve is actually just a scrap of wood that I wanted to test out to see if that would be a better width (it's at 9 inches width).

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 12:49AM
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Just the lovely outside.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 12:50AM
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I'm having trouble tallying the diagram, the description, and the picture - it doesn't look like you have 50 inches to the RIGHT (not left) of the closet door within the room, so I'm wondering if the rest of the closet is adjacent to another room? This might create options for opening it up and using it from that room, rather than from this door. True, it would still not hold hangers in the current orientation, but if you use the valet rod idea posted above by Camlan, you could get good use of the space with hangers going the other way - potentially.

But also, this seems to be an old house with a charming door and nice woodwork, so altering the entrance would be a heartbreaker. It all sounds so much easier in theory until you see that... and such a pretty wall colour too!

The goal, it seems to me, should be not to make this the perfect bedroom closet, but to make optimal use of the space for something. What is through that door to the right, and can you open the wall into the closet from behind it?

Finally, regarding the upper part above the door opening, I think shelves are the wrong approach due to the width. Perhaps you could think about hooks on the wall (for hats?) or from the ceiling (to hang purses or something like that).

Karin L

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 4:25PM
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My closet isn't as bad as yours, but it's still much too small for two people. After years of watching the infomercials, I broke down and bought those non-slip hangars. The non-slip property isn't too important to me, but having thin hangars, all the same size and allowing clothing to be at the same height, has made a difference in the amount of clothing I can get into the closet as well as being able to find things. Those hangars are available lots of places, so this is not a suggestion for any one brand.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 7:02PM
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