How to Make the Most of Your Home’s Closets and Cabinets

Spending more time at home in 2020? In the last few months of working and learning from home, you may have noticed that you’re running low on storage. If you’re dealing with piles of clothes, overflowing closets, and jam-packed cabinets, you’re definitely not alone — and there are plenty of steps you can take to make the most of your home’s storage potential. 

Even before the pandemic, storage was one of the most in-demand home features among buyers. A 2019 report from REALTOR© Magazine, for instance, found that more than 53 percent of first-time homebuyers listed “storage” as one of their most important home features —  ranking it as one of their top three most requested home elements, overall.

Whether you’re in a vintage apartment, a cozy Chicago bungalow, or a mid-century masterpiece in the Chicagoland suburbs, every home could use a little extra room. Here are ten easy and effective ideas for maximizing the storage space in your home’s closets and cabinets: 

1.) Label, Label, Label

It’s hard to overstate the impact that labeling can have in your closets and cabinets. The more time you take to label individual boxes and bins, the easier things will be down the road — when you can spend less time rummaging through different containers looking for that one thing you need. Labeling makes it easy to spot and identify different storage containers, and can empower you to sort and keep things together more easily. You could use a label maker, or create your own convenient labels using markers, cardstock, and  tape. Create a system that works for you — whether you list categories and items by name, or color-code by season.

2.) Keep What You Need In Arm’s Reach

Some organization experts call it “prime real estate.” Others might think of it like the “strike zone” in baseball. Whatever term you use, think about how you can make the most of the storage area that is easily within your reach — generally, from your knees to the top of your shoulders. Organization experts recommend storing items you use most often within this convenient span of space; this way, you won’t need to stoop or stretch when you retrieve items that you use almost every day. Approach each closet or storage area in your home strategically. Try to keep the items you use most often within arm’s reach for easy access, and store what you don’t need further back or in a more out-of-the-way location.

3.) Invest In Storage Containers — But Measure Your Closets First

Consolidating items into a few containers can be a great way to stop clutter from sprawling all over the place. Look into plastic bins, decorative crates, hanging organizers, and other inexpensive solutions that can be used to amplify the amount of usable storage in your closets and cabinets — while keeping things looking tidy and organized. However, be sure to measure your space before investing in new storage containers. You don’t want to spend money or time on storage bins that won’t actually fit into your closets.

4.) Use Your Walls, Doors, and Ceilings

When in doubt, think up. Could you use your ceilings, walls, and even the area behind your door to increase your closet’s functional storage space? There are lots of simple solutions for maximizing vertical storage in any tight space, including peg boards, hanging wire racks, built-in cubbies, simple wall-mounted hooks, or over-the-door organizers. Hanging pots and pans overhead can be a great way to free up space in the kitchen; many people also boost the storage in their garage by hanging kayaks, bikes, and other gear from the ceiling. Always be safe when storing items overhead — double check to make sure that everything is secured, and consider reserving this option for lighter items that would be less dangerous should they ever fall. 

5.) Think About Stylish, Dual-Purpose Furniture

Dual-purpose furniture is a great way to functional add storage to nearly every room of your home, while also perfectly complementing your decor choices and freeing up room in your closets. There’s no shortage of possible options — including storage benches in your entryway or mudroom; ottomans with hidden storage in your living room; window seats in the kitchen or hallway; coffee tables with drawers or hidden compartments for the den; or a bed with built-in storage for the main bedroom. You could also consider keeping some things stored in plain view, with functional furnishings such as a bar cart, a credenza, or open shelving. 

6.) Use Unexpected Spaces

Could you stash your lesser-used items in extra storage spaces hiding in plain sight? For example, the areas above your kitchen cabinets can be a prime spot for additional storage, often offering up several inches of functional space that you can use for everything from excess cleaning supplies to those kitchen appliances you don’t use on a regular basis. Similarly, the areas above your doors or on top of bookshelves often go empty, and can be used to increase your home’s overall storage capacity. There are many different shelves that can be seamlessly fit into awkward or snug corners. For more of a project, consider installing “rollout” or “toe-kick” drawers to increase the storage space in the area immediately underneath your kitchen cabinets. 

7.) Use Dividers and Baskets to Double Your Cabinet Shelf Space

Whether tucked away in your closet or taking a point of pride in your living room, shelves are an essential place for storage — and there are lots of ways to increase the amount of usable space on each and every shelf in your home. In your kitchen cabinets and linen closets, for example, consider purchasing or making stackable “double-decker” or pullout shelves, which can create handy subdivisions that allow you to double your usable shelf space. A lazy susan can be a great addition for storing spices or cleaning supplies. Bookends and shelf dividers can allow you to keep things looking neat and organized on your mantelpieces and built-ins, as can miniature baskets, bins, and trays. 

8.) Try Seeing, and Stacking, Things from a New Angle

Sometimes, a little ingenuity can make all the difference. If you feel like you’ve maxed out your shelf space, try a slightly different approach to how you store certain items. Making even a small adjustment can free up a lot of space, and make tricky items a lot more manageable. For instance, you may find that you’re able to actually store more books on your bookshelves or built-ins by stacking them so that they lay flat.

On the flip side, you may be able to free up space in your kitchen cabinets by lining up baking sheets, trays, platters, and pot lids vertically, rather than trying to squeeze them in longways. And while it may seem obvious, think about the ways that you can fit items together for more space. Over the course of a busy week, it’s easy to forget to take simple steps like fitting smaller Tupperware containers inside of larger ones, or taking time to actually stack up your mugs and bowls after each meal.

9.) Add Storage Elements to Double or Triple Your Closet Space

Is there “dead space” in your closet? If you’re running out of room without running out of stuff, try making simple modifications that can double or even triple the amount of usable space in this crucial storage area. For example, many bedroom closets are built with just one hanging rod — even though there may be more than enough vertical space to hang a second, lower rack, perfect for storing even more clothes and gear. You could also take the modular approach, and beef up your closet with built-in cubbies and additional shelving. 

10.) Declutter Your Home On a Regular Basis

One of the most important ways to free up storage space in your closets and cabinets is to regularly get rid of clutter. Make it a point to regularly go through your home’s closets and dedicated storage spaces with an appraising eye. Working room by room or category by category, sort through your stored items to identify all the things you no longer use, want, or need. From there, you can figure out what to do with all that excess stuff — such as recycling or donating what you can through local organizations, or responsibly disposing of items that are past their usable lifespan. For more ideas on tackling decluttering your Chicagoland home like a pro, check out our guide to starting a home decluttering checklist. 

Looking to Make the Most of Your Space? We’re Here for You

Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.

Looking for new ideas to make the most of your space? Curious about what steps you can take to get your home ready to sell in the months ahead? Whatever your real estate goals may be, we get you — and we’re here to help make things easier, at every step of the way.