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Organize a Small Closet in 5 Simple Steps


Would you like to streamline your morning routine?

Organizing your closet is the first step to creating a smooth and efficient start to the day. A challenge is posed when you want to organize a small closet on a budget and you live in a rental.

The good news is that most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time!

Simplifying your wardrobe to only consist of that 20% is the key to creating and maintaining an organized closet.

Purging your closet of the excess 80% will allow you to only see your favorite items of clothing when you open your closet. And, since a classic organization rule is to leave 20% empty space, this will create white space that will allow you to maintain an organized closet.

This is probably why capsule wardrobes are ever so popular – it’s an easy way to simplify your wardrobe and therefore, your closet.

Whether or not capsule wardrobes are your thing, here are 5 simple steps you can follow to organize a small closet on a budget. 

1| Take Everything Out of Your Closet + Categorize

Begin organizing a small closet by taking EVERYTHING out of your closet. It may seem painful and tedious to take everything out of the closet, but that way you can see exactly how many clothes you have in each category. As you take things out, sort them into piles by the following categories:

  • Spring + Summer
  • Fall + Winter
  • Year Round
  • Jackets + Coats
  • Special Occasions
  • Donate/Give Away

You may want to even create piles or categories of:

  • shoes
  • bags
  • hats
  • scarves
  • belts
  • underwear
  • socks
  • athletic clothes
  • swimsuits
  • pajamas

Create the categories that make the most sense for you and your lifestyle in the categorizing process.

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2| Purge + Pay it Forward

While you’re categorizing, weed out what you want to donate or throw away. This will give allow you to do 2 things at once:

  • Find where you have holes in your wardrobe. You can take note of them as you go, like “need trench coat” or “need new workout pants.”
  • Give clothes to others in need and pay it forward. Donate clothes to Goodwill, ThredUp, or a local women’s shelter.

TIP: It’s better not to over think each item as you go along. If the item of clothing is not a 9 or 10 then don’t keep it. Don’t be afraid to ruthlessly PURGE and ONLY keep what you LOVE.

For example, if some clothes no longer fit you, your current lifestyle, or the climate that you live in, then it’s best to give them away. Personally, this freed me from being weighed down by clothes I didn’t want to keep but that were still in good condition. I felt that I was paying it forward to someone who would actually need and use these clothes.

Purging my closet sparked ideas for how I could organize the clothes that I wanted to keep. It also allowed me extra room to fill the holes in my wardrobe. 

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Which leads us to the next step…

3| Rethink, Rearrange + Reimagine

So, is everything out of your closet and categorized? Great! Now you have the benefit of viewing the available space that you have.

In order to make the most of your space, it can take some revision. Begin to brainstorm how you could better utilize the space in your closet and if your clothes could be stored in a different configuration than they were previously. Re-think the space and re-imagine how you would like it to look and how you would like it to function.

Now is a good time to give your closet a refresh.

Would you like to display your clothes differently to make it easier to get dressed and put outfits together?

For example, I now store my shoes in a Sterilite 3-drawer organizer instead of an actual shoe organizer. This allows me to utilize the floor of my closet while keeping my shoes organized by category.

How could your closet organization streamline your daily routines of getting dressed? How could it improve seasonal transitions?

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4| Store + Organize

Whether you shop your own home by reusing items around the house, purchase items at the dollar store, or take a trip to the Container Store, this is when things begin to actually get organized. Don’t forget to take measurements of your space so you know the dimensions. I personally like to bring a tape measure in my purse in case I need to make sure something will indeed fit my space.

Here’s a peek into my final product after organizing my small rental closet on a budget:

Organize a Small Closet on a Budget in 5 Simple Steps - Simplifying Mom Life

Organize a Small Closet on a Budget in 5 Simple Steps - Simplifying Mom Life

Organize a Closet on a Budget - Simplifying Mom Life 

How I Organized My Small Closet on a $60 Budget

Budget-friendly organization is important to me. I didn’t want this to break the bank, especially since we’re renting. So I purchased all the storage items pictured above from Wal-Mart. Simply click on the photos to view the products:

Mainstays Flex Square Laundry Basket

Mainstays Flex Square Laundry Basket $4.18 (in-store price) Walmart

Organizing a Postpartum Closet

3-Drawer Sterilite Storage Cart $17.88 at WalMart

Organizing a Postpartum Closet

5-drawer Sterilite Storage Tower $24.92 at WalMart

I decided to use laundry baskets to organize items on the top shelf. The laundry baskets are flexible in case it’s slightly overstuffed with clothes. Plus, I’m short so I love how the holes in the laundry baskets make them easy to take down from the top shelf. I considered using fabric bins like these from Wal-Mart, but they were either too small or too big on the top shelf. The total cost came in at just under $60. Yay!

Here’s the total cost breakdown:

4 white laundry baskets ($4.18 each) = $16.72 (cost at the time I bought them)

3-drawer Sterilite Storage Cart = $17.88 (cost at the time I bought it)

5-drawer Sterilite storage tower = $24.92 (cost at the time I bought it)

GRAND TOTAL = $59.52

Choosing Renter-Friendly Organization Solutions

Have you seen those closet organization makeovers that involve installing a custom closet organization system by drilling holes into the wall? Me too. They’re life-changing and wonderfully customizable.

But not renter-friendly. I wanted to be sure my closet organization system could be recreated in another rental, or at least easily adapted, and wouldn’t put more holes in the walls. The separate baskets and drawer units accomplish this purpose.

RELATED POST: Organize a Closet Under the Stairs – On a Budget, In 1 Day 

5| Make a Place for Everything.

Now that you’ve got the storage solutions for organizing your things, put things in their place. Make sure that there’s a place for everything so that everything can be in its place. Otherwise, the junk drawer effect will happen where random stuff accumulates because there isn’t a specified place for those things.

Having a place for everything will ensure that your mornings and evenings run smoothly by making things easy to find and easy to put back in their place. This helps keeps your closet organized. Having difficulty maintaining your closet organization? You may want to reassess how things are organized and if the system makes sense for how you operate.

TIP: Leave 20% whitespace (open space) in an organized area to ensure your items will remain organized.

Enjoy Your Organized Closet!

I hope my experience helps you in organizing your small closet! In my quest to better organize my small rental closet, I basically did a complete overhaul of my wardrobe and organization system.

However, I’ve maintained it ever since with only minimal clean-up maintenance. I hope the same for you!

What’s your #1 struggle with organizing a small closet? Please share in the comments below!

Related Posts:

7 Quick Tips to Seriously Reduce the Laundry Load

Create a Kids Capsule Wardrobe in 4 Simple Steps

Organize a Closet Under the Stairs 

How to Declutter Sentimental Items with Ease



    • Andrea says

      Thanks, Linda! The laundry baskets may not be the prettiest bins around, but they’re functional and flexible. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  1. April Murphy says

    I’m having trouble purging to the degree I need to. My closet is not in a rental but it’s tiny. I normally switch out clothes seasonally, but it’s such a chore! I have clothes that I’m afraid I’ll regret giving away. Should I take plunge or store them away in attic and see if I miss them?

    • Andrea says

      Hey April, Great question! I would recommend putting the clothes that you don’t absolutely LOVE (those that aren’t 10’s on a scale of 1 to 10) in a box to store somewhere. If you don’t use them or can’t remember what’s in the box after the season changes (say 6 months) then you truly don’t need them. You can take the box straight to Goodwill for donation. Don’t open it or you’ll find the old clothes, that you didn’t wear or didn’t need, and you’ll be pulled back in again and want to keep them.
      Another thing that helps is to think of keeping only what you need for a 14-day trip with that season of clothes. You wouldn’t bring the clothes you don’t truly love since you want to wear what’s most comfortable and what you feel your best in. Keep those and purge the rest.
      Most of us keep much more than we truly need because we either feel guilty about getting rid of it, wish it fit better or looked better on us, or have another underlying emotional reason we can’t part with it.
      If you try any of these ideas, let me know if they work for you!

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