4 tips for maximizing clothing storage when you don’t have closets

Happy Thursday! Did you take my challenge last week? I would love to hear all about it. I made a concerted effort to connect with my partner and really focus on him for a few moments at the beginning and end of each day. This week in particular has made a big difference on my mood and outlook throughout the day. Spending some time waking up together, instead of me slinking away to get dressed for a workout in the dark, has made me a happier person these last few days. Those moments are more important, in the grand scheme of life. I will never wish “If only I hadn’t spent so much time sharing my love with him…” so I call this challenge a win, in my books.

How did your challenge go? (If you’re just reading, last week I challenged readers to perform a small action each day for a week to improve their lives – such as drinking a glass of water upon waking, spending a minute to hug and kiss their partner or children when they get home, eating a serving of vegetables, etc. Go check it out!)

This week, I’m going to bring it back to your garden variety minimalism themes and talk about how to cope when you lack closet space. Many of us live in small spaces and lack storage space. I, personally, find this to be a blessing in disguise, because it means I have to be very particular about the clothes and items I keep around. They must really be things that I love if they make it to the prime real estate.

We don’t have closets in our master bedroom. There is a linen closet and a couple of storage cabinets on the landing outside our bedroom, which are being used for linens, the laundry hamper, workout equipment, unmatched socks, and craft supplies. The small spare room/office near our bedroom has one closet, but it’s housing my boyfriend’s nice button-down work shirts and some shoes. (Stay tuned for “How to live with a non-minimalist.”)

What can you do when you don’t have a lot of closet to work with?

1. Store clothes in a dresser

My first order of business when I moved in was to procure a dresser or two. Co-human had been using a downstairs spare bedroom to keep his clothes in a dresser and closet, but I prefer having clothes in the bedroom. I found a set of dressers at a local antique shop and purchased them for a great deal. One dresser is more horizontally oriented with three long drawers – these house partner’s underthings and socks, tee shirts, and backup tee shirts, respectively. The other dresser is taller with four short drawers. I have two: underthings and socks, and tee shirts/workout clothes/misc. The other two are for my partner’s workout shorts/towels and pants. (Side note: I have now written and read the word “dresser” so much that it no longer looks like it’s a real word).

Keeping clothes in a dresser, bureau, or chest of drawers is a great way to keep clothing contained without needing to hang them up. This works well for pants, sweaters, workout gear, tee shirts, socks, and underwear, but some things really need to be hung to maintain their shape and avoid wrinkles, such as dress shirts, slacks, dresses, or blouses.

2. Hang clothes on coat hooks

The more minimal you keep your wardrobe, the better for this example. If you only have a few “nice” items that you need to keep on hangers, you could hang them from coat hooks on the wall. This would be a great option if you only keep a few articles of clothing (think Project 333) and want to pre-make some outfits to wear.

Do not use this option if you have cats, dogs, ferrets, or other pets that might climb up your pant leg, pee on your hemline, or chew your sleeves.

3. Use a wardrobe

We bought two Ikea wardrobes to put in our bedroom for clothing storage. This solution made the most sense for our needs. They were about $100 each (plus gas and mileage to Pittsburgh and a burger lunch) and fairly easy to assemble. I put them both together. They have a shelf at the top, on which I keep folded pants, tank tops, leggings, and sweaters. They have one rod, which comfortably fits all of my clothing besides the things in the two dresser drawers. I still only have about 50 items in my wardrobe, but there are some things I recently culled from the pile and need to donate.

4. Be a nomad

You could always live out of a backpack and just have two pairs of pants, five shirts, and some socks and underwear. Hey, it’s an option.

How do you compensate for lack of clothing storage?

My wee flat

I absolutely adore my apartment.

Allow me to regale you with boring tales of apartments past.  When I got married, we looked for apartments.  I did internet searches and came up with a few, and I think we only went and saw one place, and we just said “Yeah, this will do,” and we moved in.  And it was fine.  But we needed more space because I was about to kill him with his stuff all over my stuff all over the place.  So we moved — down the hall — into another (bigger, two bedroom) apartment.  And it was still full of stuff, and there was still a mindset of “this is good enough,” but it wasn’t a minimalist’s “enough,” it was just laziness.  That apartment was crap!  The maintenance was terrible, the turnover in the office was enough to make you nervous, and the whole place looked like a prison from the outside.

When I moved, I shopped around.  If there’s one thing I learned from my past, it’s not to be satisfied with the first thing that comes along that is “good enough.” Some things are worth waiting for the right match.  I may or may not be talking about apartments. 

I got it in my head that I wanted to move to Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.  It isn’t the closest place to my office, but it is reasonably close to my partner, and it has a nice community vibe to it, which I like.  Plus, you can’t beat the deal I got on rent and utilities.  The first place I looked at in Lakewood was a dump, and the landlady assured me I would get nothing better for the price.  Challenge accepted, lady.  I found a cute downstairs unit in a townhouse, but it was overpriced and sort of in disrepair.  I got lucky on Craigslist and found a real gem of an apartment, which I moved into two weeks later!

Here are some reasons I love it:

  1. It’s compact and efficient.  I can walk from one end to the other in sixteen steps.  I only need one trash can, and I can keep my towels and linens in the living room closet — because they’re really not that far away from anything else.
  2. It’s green.  My landlords outfitted the place with a low-flow toilet and compact fluorescent lights, so I conserve water and electricity.  When I use it, that is — there are so many windows, I hardly have to use the lights!
  3. It has hardwood floors.  They make me feel posh.  Plus, I get by with a handheld vacuum cleaner and a dust mop.
  4. It has little storage space.  This means I can’t clutter up closets with my ridiculous excess and just-in-cases.  I have to keep myself accountable.
  5. It’s in Lakewood!  Close to the West Side Market where I can buy local produce and delicious carbohydrate-filled goodies, city-wide recycling, people walking their dogs down the street, farmer’s market, and community activities!
  6. It’s one of four units above a storefront.  The landlords own the building and work downstairs so maintenance is taken seriously.  I have only three neighbors so it’s nice and quiet.
  7. It’s mine.  For the first time in my life, I am not dependent on anyone.  Not a husband.  Not a parent.  And that feels indescribably wonderful.  Moving out of my mom’s house means less money to do fun stuff, because most of it is going to bills, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Does your home facilitate your minimalism?

New closet, new rules

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As described in an earlier post, Cleaning out the closet, I pared down my wardrobe to 50-ish items before moving from my mother’s house to my own flat.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I did rescue one sweater from the purge pile, but I did add another shirt to the purge pile in its place.  I also have a plan to make sure I only possess the articles of clothing I actually wear.  I am going to share that strategy with you now!

I put my hangers in backwards.  Every article of clothing in my closet went in on a backwards hanger.  As I take out items to wear them, and they go back into the closet, the hanger gets reversed to the “normal” position.  At the end of a certain period of time, whatever is still on a backwards hanger gets donated or sold, because I’m clearly not wearing it, so someone else should get the chance.  Some of the things in this closet have the tags on, and they were purchased months ago. Yikes.

Tee shirts are in an under-bed storage bin, all facing down.  As I wear them, they can get put away facing up.  I rarely wear tee shirts so that should be an easy purge in a few months.

Typically, I sort by color, but I sorted my clothes by type this time.  Tank tops, short-sleeve blouses, pants/shorts, dresses, sweaters, dress clothes.  I think, for dresses, pants, shorts, tanks, and short-sleeves, I will re-evaluate in six months and take a look at what I wore and what I didn’t.  For sweaters, obviously I’ll need some colder weather before I evaluate that. Ideally I would like to own only one suit, but my mother (she should get her own tag) assures me that, in case one pair of dress pants rips, I should have a backup.  And a backup for my backup.

I’ll wait a few months and probably pare down the dress clothes too.

I would like to — ideally — end up with a color palette of “stuff that goes with black” or “stuff that goes with brown” and not have to deal with both… for now, I have blacks and browns and I love them both.  Baby steps.