Before & After, In Progress, Rental Remedies, Storage & Organization

Maxing Out the Closet {Melissa’s 350 Sq Ft Apt}

Today I present to you:”Boston’s Most Maxed-Out Closet”

There’s nothing fancy or glamorous about this post; it’s all about practicality.   Because sometimes, making your life fit into a borrowed abode means having to get down and dirty with some seriously functional organization tricks, on nearly-nonexistent budgets.

Yes, most of Melissa’s life may well be packed into her new [one and only] closet.   In case you need a reminder, she’s renting a 350 sq ft studio apartment in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, and I spent the bulk of last week helping her get packed, move in, and then unpack – in an attempt to fit her life into those 350 square feet of rented space.  You can see the “before” shots of her cavernous dwelling here, and a totally dorky and slightly mortifying video here.

As for today – I’d like to show you just how we made the most of her closet.

Aside from two weird and almost non-functional dressers built into the sloped wall of the kitchen and the bathroom, the only storage options in the studio were the wide closet and the triangular loft area above said closet.

After 2 or 3 days of sorting through boxes and boxes, I climbed a ladder and filled the nook with items that Melissa may need to use occasionally, but certainly doesn’t need to have readily available.  This included:

  • Camping and backpacking equipment
  • Diving gear
  • Extra pillows
  • Blankets and winter bedding
  • Cider brewing supplies
  • A cooler
  • A folding metal patio table (she has no patio)**
  • Toaster oven (no room to use it in the kitchen) **

**These are a few items stowed away that I would not recommend storing.  She plans to live here for 2 years, then set off to travel the world – so they may not be needed even 2 years from now.  However, it’s her stuff so of course she has to make these decisions.

I’m heading back to help Melissa finish decorating sometime in August, at which point I’ll be bringing a custom-sewn curtain that will hide the stuff crammed into the loft area.

With the least-commonly-used items stowed out of reach, I set about organizing the closet.  Because we needed to make the most of all 6 or 7 feet of it, a few different layouts were attempted.  The resulting, final layout is not glamorous if you’re a clothes lover, because the closet is holding a lot more than just clothes – but it’s really an incredibly practical layout (I think) that worked out surprisingly well.  Almost like fate. 🙂

We were able to use the rattan bins (from a bookshelf that did not fit in the apartment) for divided storage at the top of the closet.  By setting them on their sides, we created cubbies that Melissa can easily grab items from, and easily put items back into.   They contain things like purses, workout clothes, hats, and spare sheets.

Camera Phone pic. Pardon the blur.

In the bottom left-most section of the closet we were able to stow away the big metal filing cabinet.  Above it, Melissa’s dresses hung perfectly on a small hanging bar.

In front of the filing cabinet is a rolling basket cart (Elfa from the Container Store) that stores all of her desk items – pens, paperclips, surge strips, etc.  It just barely rolls out of its spot for easy access.  Pretty sweet fit, considering that it doesn’t require any other closet items to be moved in order for it to roll on outta there!  Next in line are two black plastic storage towers – also on wheels – that hold socks and all the other stuff you’d normally store in a dresser.  Melissa’s printer sits atop the black towers, easily within reach whenever she needs to print something.   To the right of the black plastic drawers is Melissa’s bedside table – it didn’t fit out in the open, but she wanted to hold onto it since it matches her bed.  No problemo!  It just adds a bit more drawer storage to the closet.  And to the right of all this, even though you can’t see it, there are two large duffle bags holding all the winter clothes, making for an easy closet switcheroo come Fall.

Obviously, the hanging bar is holding clothes.  But before we hung those clothes, we sorted through all of them and Melissa set aside everything she no longer loved, or that was too worn out, in a donation pile.  She did an awesome job, must have cut almost 1/3 of her clothes.  Remember – when it comes to storing clothes, quality rules over quantity.  If you have something but never wear it – ask yourself why, and if the answer is “it doesn’t fit well” or “I just never want to wear it” or “I bought it 5 yrs ago and just need to lose 5 pounds” – DITCH IT!  Life is too short to take up space in your life storing and/or wearing clothes that don’t make you feel utterly fabulous.

Now for the hanging shoe organizers (which Melissa adopted from me last year. Random fact.) These hanging cubbies really came in handy, helping me max out Melissa’s closet.   Sure, two of them hold her shoes.  But the third white cubby holds her bath towels, washcloths, dish towels, rags, and placemats – and they’re all a perfect fit!

Finally, the big blue sweater organizer turned out to be the perfect size for more file folders – the folders that she uses regularly to stash receipts and such.  It also is holding other office items, and her box of photography equipment.

Is this closet glamorous?  Nope, not in the least.
But is it functional?  Absolutely.

It’s storing way more than just clothes and shoes – and I’m pretty darn sure we squeezed every possible inch of storage out of this space.

So remember – if you’re faced with a storage shortage in your rental apartment, don’t forget to think outside the box to max out the closets that you do have.

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  • Reply Sarah at 3:41 pm

    I love this!  Great job!  I need to work on my closet this weekend.  It is overflowing!  And I will remember your words and ditch stuff I don’t love but feel the need to hang on to it.  I would much rather have a nice, organized closet than one jammed up with clothes that don’t really fit.

  • Reply Anna Hull at 9:58 pm

    That’s impressive.  I can’t wait to see the rest of Melissa’s apartment!  I’m sad that she had to get rid of that bookshelf, though.  I’ve been a bit envious of it since she got it (and I don’t really remember when that was, but I know she had it in Richmond, so a good while).  Hopefully the rest of her space turned out so well.

  • Reply Anonymous at 10:08 pm

    soooo functional! and maxed out indeed! I love the storage solutions!

    ooh and btw I tried to subscribe to janery’s newsletter and when i add my address and hit subscribe nothing happens! eep! fyi!

    love you!

    xoXOxoJenn @ Peas & Crayons

  • Reply Threepets3 at 9:03 pm

    Nice job! Awesome use of space. That closet it totally maxed!

  • Reply Leigh at 3:32 am

    Good work!  This is my first week out of school, and my mission was to reorganize our storage closest.  They don’t look like the magazines I looked at for inspiration but they are working for us.

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 12:47 pm

      Yeah, I’ve found that it’s usually too expensive to make my closet look like
      the ones in the magazines!! But with closets, function is more important
      than fashion, anyway.

  • Reply Ashley Eiban at 4:02 pm

     Wow! Great job! I love that everything that she will need is right there, and she won’t have to move a bunch of things around to get to something else- that is how things don’t get put back into their proper place! Can’t wait to see what else you guys did with this small space!

  • Reply Stephanie at 4:04 pm

    I’m amazed at how much you managed to fit in this closet!  Having lived in small spaces, I really do understand how difficult it can be to store all of the stuff that fills up our lives.  Melissa was lucky to have your help!

  • Reply Emily @ Write Twenty Eleven at 2:02 am

    Wow, that’s impressive! You made great use of the space, which is what i need to work on in my closet. Maybe I’ll go through it this weekend with this post in mind! Thanks 🙂 -Emily

  • Reply Fauxshionable at 1:54 pm

    Dang….nice work!  I need your help in my closets…

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