5 Common Organizing Mistakes With Small Closets

Small closet organized with hanging shirts, shoes and handbags

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

This article is part of our series, The 7-Day Spruce Up: Your Ultimate Guide to Home Organizing. The 7-Day Spruce Up is your destination for whole home happiness, curating our very best tips and product recommendations to help you create your tidiest, coziest, most beautiful home yet.

Does your closet seem particularly hard to organize because it’s just so tiny? It’s true that small closets—especially oddly shaped ones as many closets in old buildings are—can be difficult to manage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your little closet neat. You just have to avoid a few pitfalls that make organization difficult.

Here are five of the most common mistakes people make when organizing a small closet, so you can avoid making the same ones.

Not Decluttering

If you've saved every piece of clothing you've ever bought and your closet is small, it likely doesn't matter how organized you are in theory. In practice, your closet is probably very difficult to keep neat. The first step to organizing any closet is to streamline its contents. With a small closet, you have minimal space to work with. So it’s all the more important to get rid of clothes you don't wear.

Crammed closet with saved clothing cluttering small closet

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Using the Wrong Hangers

Using hangers in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles can ruin the most well-intentioned organizing plans. Hangers don’t have to match exactly. But they should be the same size and type, so they fit together well and don't get caught up on one another.

For instance, if you were to hang some pants on hangers with clasps and others folded over regular hangers, it can be difficult to glance into your closet and see all of your pants at once to choose a pair. Additionally, large shirts draped over small hangers can wrinkle more easily. And hangers at varying heights can make it physically difficult to get your clothes out of the closet.

When you’re trying to get dressed, the last thing you need is the annoyance of clothes catching on one another, falling to the closet floor, or seemingly going missing. Therefore, go with a basic hanger with a bar, which can work for most clothing.

Wooden hanger with collared shirt pointing inside closet

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Cramming All of Your Clothes Into the Closet

Many people have clothing they only wear for part of the year depending on the season. And there's no reason to have off-season clothing cluttering your small closet if you won't be wearing it for months.

If possible, rotate clothes according to the seasons. If you have extra storage space, such as an attic or under the bed, put off-season clothing there to free up closet space. Or you could put the off-season clothing in bins on the closet floor or a high shelf. This will allow easier access to the seasonal pieces you want to wear.

Mint green storage bin marked with winter clothes

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Using the Wrong Organization Products

Dividers, storage boxes, and bins can be helpful in organizing a closet, but you have to use them appropriately. If you have a small closet, avoid unnecessarily bulky organization products that will eat up precious space. Instead, look for streamlined products, such as flat shelf dividers, that are suitable for the exact size and shape of the items you need to organize. That way, the products will maximize the square footage of your closet rather than create dead space.


Be sure to measure your space (and check it twice) before purchasing any products.

Small white plastic bin storing folded clothes in organized closet

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Not Having a System

When your closet is small, you might think you’ll be able to find any item easily even if nothing is categorized. How could you lose a pair of jeans in a closet that's 3 feet across? In fact, it’s pretty easy to do just that. And it can be even more of a struggle to find a given item when clothes are packed tightly into a small closet rather than hanging in a large walk-in.

So it's important to have a closet organization system. Consider sorting clothes by type (jackets, shirts, dresses, etc.) and by color within each type. Ultimately, how you organize comes down to personal preference as long as you know where everything is.

Organized closet with folded sweaters, stacked books and hanging button-downed shirts

The Spruce / Sarah Lee