How to Organize Closets on a Budget

A closet is either your personal boutique or the bane of your existence, the place where your clothes go to die. You don't need to hire a pricey closet specialist to custom-build hardwood shelves and drawers in your crammed sliver of space. Find inexpensive items around your house to repurpose for closet duty. Move things around for the best access and visibility. Lower the bar -- the hanging bar -- so little people can master empowering no-clothes-on-the-floor closet etiquette. It's not about spending money -- save that for buying more clothes.

Eliminate Waste

Most closets have square inches -- and usually square feet -- of empty space where nothing fits, hooks or hangs. Closet real estate is valuable. Make the most of it by re-fitting storage options and hanging bars to handle your actual wardrobe -- not some generic architectural concept of a closet. Double-hang closet rods hook over your existing rod in a heartbeat to give you two levels for short items: jackets, shirts, skirts and folded pants. Double rods are genius for kid's closets; otherwise, those tiny clothes just dangle way out of reach, leaving yards of empty space below. If you need more height for stacked hanging bars, raise the top bar to 84 inches high. Tuck shoe racks, pullout tubs or cubby shelves in the space between clothes and floor when you have a single hanging rod.

Keep It Together

Inexpensive shelf dividers from the kitchen section of a big box store help to hold rolled or folded sweaters, T-shirts and jeans on closet shelves. Separate the clothes by type, season or color and keep them organized and separated with the dividers, so you can see at a glance what's clean and ready to wear. Cover shoeboxes with scrapbook paper to hold smaller items like jewelry, scarves, gloves and belts. Take a photo of what's inside -- or label the box ends -- and it's easy to find accessories. Decoupaged, painted or wallpaper-covered banker's boxes store out-of-season clothing neatly and attractively; they are strong, they stack, and you can find them at office supply stores.

Clever Closet Tips

Decorative nails make fine on a closet door or the space behind the hanging clothes, for purses, jewelry, belts, hats and windbreakers. Slim, no-slip hangers keep clothes from slipping off in the least amount of space. when all the hangers match, the closet looks neater and more spacious, and it's less distracting to look for things. A pegboard square holds a mirror and small hanging items, and you can rearrange it on a whim. Collapsible hanging closet shelves are perfect for setting out day-by-day kid's clothing so they can dress themselves. Label each "shelf" with a day of the week and slip a collapsible canvas laundry basket under or next to it to catch the daily laundry and keep clothes off the floor. Large "S" hooks slip over the hanging bar to hold purses by their straps.

Out of the Closet

Sometimes your best efforts won't contain your exuberant wardrobe, so think outside the cube for storage solutions. Curate a gallery display of vintage clothes, museum-quality shoes, hats to-die-for, or designer bags, and show off your good taste outside your closet. Hook shoe heels over the rungs of a reclaimed shabby chic-style ladder leaned against the wall. Decorative bamboo or twig ladders can be repurposed for an arrangement of folded scarves or a concert T-shirt collection. A sinuous metal shoe rack in the mudroom hangs your Wellies and baby's froggy boots on the wall-like sculptures. A Shaker peg wooden wall bar holds pretty hangers with your vintage tea dress collection. Above it, a reclaimed piece of whitewashed barn wood, studded with antique door knobs, displays an exhibition of vintage hats. A ballet slipper collection fits neatly in the cubbies of an old wood fruit or bottle crate, turned on its side below the clothes. A stack of antique suitcases makes a clever bedside table that holds off-season and seldom-worn items out of sight.