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Organize a Closet Under the Stairs – On a Budget, in 1 Day


Do you crave an organized, practical, and functional closet under the stairs, without totally renovating your space? I certainly did with ours! So I’d like to share with you how to organize a closet under the stairs in 1 day and on a budget.

A closet under the stairs can be a tricky spot to organize. Honestly, it’s kind of an awkward shape. Homeowners have the liberty to completely re-imagine their space. They may build a custom bench, shiplap the walls, and add custom hooks for hanging matching monogrammed backpacks and coats. 

That’s all good and well – unless you live in a rental. Such a renovation is just not possible, yet you crave an organized, practical, and functional closet under the stairs!

I totally understand. And frankly, I consider myself an organized person. But our entryway closet under the stairs was getting out of hand! We use it to store a number of unrelated items and it just wasn’t functional. It was messy, overstuffed, and without rhyme or reason. 

After a much-needed overhaul, I learned a few things that I’d like to pass on to you in case you’re at a loss as to how to organize a closet under the stairs in a rental. 

1| Decide exactly how you want the space to be used.

Forget about what’s currently stored in there and ask yourself: what exactly do I want to use this space for? Re-think your space for a minute. If you could completely re-create and re-organize your space, how would you want it to be used?

Perhaps you want it to be used in several ways, as a truly multi-use storage area yet with a simple system that will stay organized. This is totally do-able. Just make a detailed list of everything you want to store in the closet. 

My list looked like this:  

    1. shoes
    2. bags: diaper bag & laptop bag
    3. paper goods
    4. household supplies
    5. luggage
    6. folding chairs
    7. vacuums
    8. first aid 
    9. desk stuff
    10. cleaning supplies
    11. cleaning rags
    12. fire extinguisher

This was a list of the must-haves inside the closet. It was indeed full of unrelated, miscellaneous items, a multi-use storage area of sorts. Yet necessary and normal for any household. Therein, of course, lies the challenge of organizing a closet under the stairs.

2| Ruthlessly declutter.

Secondly, it’s time to ruthlessly declutter. Completely empty the closet. Take everything out.

As you take things out of the closet, ask yourself, “what are the absolute necessities?” Take a long, hard look at the stuff that just came out of your closet. Decide what’s a priority and what you can donate or give away. I did this with our paper goods, because I realized we only need certain items as paper goods.

Be realistic. Are you hanging on to certain items “just in case” or do you actually have a need and a use for them? Ask yourself if those things really need to be stored in the closet or if it would make sense to store them elsewhere. Only keep the bare necessities to put back in. This will give you extra space to STAY ORGANIZED. When there’s far less stuff to put back into the closet, there’s less stuff that will become disorganized.

There’s a 20% rule in organization. If it’s not possible for all the items to fit with 20% extra white space, or margin around them, then it’s time for decluttering so you have less stuff to put in the space. This makes putting things back in their spot much less of a hassle.  

This step will most likely take the longest, but once it’s done you’re home free. It creates a clean slate for the following steps – and it’s rather cathartic. 

Related Post: Organize a Small Closet in 5 Simple Steps

3| Clean Thoroughly.

Completely empty the closet. Take everything out.

Now, do a deep clean. Clean it thoroughly. Sweep, mop, dust, whatever needs to be done. After cleaning it you may even want to spray for pests or rodents, depending on the location of the closet.

It should be a clean slate for the next step.

4| Map out where things will go.

Thirdly, map out exactly where things will go. This step requires you to be realistic about how much space each item needs. Items that are used on a daily basis need to be in the most easily accessible spot and easy to take out and put back. Be realistic about what you use on a daily basis, how it is used and what organization system would make it easy to put back in its place.

Items used more often should go towards the front and items kept in storage should go toward the back. For example, I put shoes, paper goods, household supplies and everyday bags at the front. For us, luggage, folding chairs and vacuums could be further back. 

If you are realistic about how much space you need for the items you keep, you should be able to easily map out where they will go. This helps to ensure that the closet isn’t over-stuffed.

Related Post: IKEA Kallax Hack – Playroom Storage Benches

5| Measure Your Space + Find Products that Fit.

The fourth step is to measure the space first before getting organization products or bins. This is obvious, but having measurements will save you time when you go shopping for products to buy.

I like to search online to see what stores have and what the measurements are for those products. This way I don’t have to bring a tape measure with me on my shopping trip, although that’s always an option and something I frequently do just to double-check that the size is right. Often times when I rearrange a space I find that I already have organization products that can be repurposed or used in a different way. This is a time saver and a money saver – double win!

6| Organize.

Put your new organization system into the closet according to what you mapped out earlier. Things might need to be tweaked or altered, but there should be enough space for everything. If there’s not, then you know it’s time for more realistic decluttering or to find a different home for some of the items.

Related Post: IKEA Kallax Hack – Playroom Storage Benches

I used these fabulous Y-weave bins from Target. 7 bins @ $6.99 each meant that the total for this closet makeover was just $48.93. My goal was to keep it under $50. At first I considered Dollar store bins to keep the cost down, but in the end I wanted higher quality, sturdier bins that could stand the test of time. Your budget and needs may be different.

Here is what the end result looked like for me:

Organize a closet under the stairs on a budget - Simplifying Mom Life

As you can see, we don’t have a lot of craft stuff right now since it can all fit into one box. That’s because the paint supplies for our art easel are kept in a different spot, so all that’s in the craft bin shown is markers and crayons. If you have a lot of craft stuff, your organizational needs will be different. I’m sharing this project in hopes that it helps to provide some inspiration and a peek into how we have organized a closet under the stairs in a rental home and on a budget.

Since it’s a deep closet, here’s a picture of the other side:

Organize a Closet Under the Stairs on a Budget - SImplifying Mom Life

Related Post: 7 Quick Tips to Seriously Reduce the Laundry Load

7| Examine + Reassess.

After a week or two of using this new organization system, ask yourself if it’s really working. Why or why not? Does it need to be tweaked?

What could be changed to improve your system so that it stays organized?

What’s your experience in organizing a closet under the stairs?

Have you had success in organizing a closet under the stairs? What are some tips you could share? Conversely, what are the specific struggles you face? Please share in the comments below!

Organize a Closet Under the Stairs on a Budget - SImplifying Mom Life (2)


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