How to Organize an Under-the-Stairs Closet

Under-the-stairs closets offer handy storage, but their narrow shape makes them prone to clutter and disorder. By implementing some simple organization strategies, you can transform that messy space into an efficient storage solution. Read on to learn top tips for organizing an under-stairs closet.

Clear Out the Closet

The first step is to empty the closet completely so you can take stock of what’s inside. As you remove items, group like objects together and get rid of anything you no longer need or use.

Sort Through Belongings

Pile similar items together, like shoes, bags, linens, office supplies, etc. Check for duplicate items and decide which ones to keep. Discard or donate any unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories, and household items to clear clutter.

Check Expiration Dates

Inspect food, medicine, makeup, and other consumables for expiration dates. Toss anything that’s expired.

Assess Shelving and Storage

Examine the existing shelves and storage containers. Remove any broken or ineffective items. Measure the closet space to help determine optimal storage solutions.

Clean the Closet

Once emptied, give the closet a thorough cleaning. Vacuum dust and cobwebs, and wipe down the walls and floors. A clean slate helps create a more organized space.

Categorize and Group Items

To make the most of the narrow closet space, logically categorizing and grouping items is key. Designate zones for certain objects based on frequency of use.

Frequently Used Items

Keep everyday things you access regularly within easy reach on upper shelves or containers. This may include items like shoes, bags, coats, tools, sporting goods, etc.

Occasionally Used Items

Place household items that you use less often on lower shelves or in clear bins. These could be extra linens, seasonal clothing, decorations, etc.

Rarely Used Items

Maximize high shelves and hard-to-reach spaces for things you rarely use like formalwear, holiday items, memorabilia, etc. Use clear bins to corral these low priority items while keeping them visible.

Like Items Together

Group all similar objects together – shirts with shirts, cleaning supplies with cleaning items. This makes locating things faster.

Optimize Storage Solutions

To maximize vertical space, incorporate organizational products designed for narrow closets. Store items off the floor on shelves, racks, or in baskets or bins.

Install Shelving

Add adjustable shelving at various heights to accommodate different sized items. Prioritize frequently used things on middle-to-upper shelves. Use top shelves for overflow or rarely used items.

Use Vertical Hanging Space

Install vertical hanging rods or racks for clothes, bags, and coats. Double hang rods double your hanging space. Consider durable over-the-door hangers for the back of the door.

Use Bins and Baskets

Clear plastic bins and fabric baskets neatly corral like items while keeping them visible. Label bins so you know what’s inside. Use small bins for tiny items like office supplies.

Try Tension Rods

Tension rods instantly add extra shelves. Position horizontally to hold baskets or vertically to hang lightweight items like scarves or ties.

Consider a Closet System

For a customized solution, closet organization systems maximize every inch. Modular shelves, drawers, racks and more can be configured to perfectly fit the space.

Clever Touches for Extra Storage

A few clever touches make the most of small spots for added storage possibilities.

Use Wall Space

Install wall hooks or wall-mounted shelves above the door to hold hats, bags and other items. Vertical space is prime real estate.

Add Hanging Storage

Hanging shoe organizers, magazine files, and pocket organizers on the door provide a place for small, loose items.

Use Multipurpose Furniture

A narrow cabinet, three-drawer cart or storage ottoman placed inside the closet can accommodate extra stuff.

Incorporate Concealed Storage

Stash rarely used items out of sight in decorative covered baskets or trunks placed on closet shelves.

Organizing Strategies to Maintain Order

Once organized, implementing some simple habits will help you maintain a clutter-free closet.

Give Everything a Home

Categorize items and designate specific areas for certain objects. Always return items to their designated space.

Use Labels

Labeling shelves, bins and baskets identifies what belongs where at a glance.

Purge Regularly

Check the closet every season to clear out unused items and donate anything unneeded to prevent clutter buildup.

Limit New Items

Avoid putting new things in an already full closet. If it won’t fit, consider removing an equivalent item to maintain organization.

Frequently Asked Questions About Organizing Under-the-Stairs Closets

Here are answers to some common questions about keeping under-stairs closets organized.

What kind of storage containers work best in narrow closets?

Clear plastic storage bins and fabric storage cubes are ideal for under-stairs closets, as they allow you to see contents while neatly corralling like items. Bins and baskets can stack vertically to optimize the vertical space.

How do you maximize hanging space in a narrow closet?

Use double hanging rods to double available hanging space. Hang shorter items like shirts, skirts and jackets on the upper rod and longer items like dresses and coats below. Or designate one rod for seasonal clothes and one for year-round garments.

What size shelves work best for under-stairs storage?

Adjustable shelving offers the most versatility. Shelves can be positioned at different heights to accommodate various items. 12-16 inch deep shelves provide ample space for most household items.

How can you use wall space above closet doors for storage?

Install hanging wall shelves or floating shelves to hold items like hats, gloves, bags and shoes above the door. Wall hooks are also great for coats, robes and purses.

What are some good ways to store shoes in an under-stairs closet?

Use shoe racks placed on closet shelves to neatly store pairs side-by-side. Hanging shoe organizers on the door can hold shoes in each pocket. Store shoes in clear bins categorized by type or season.

How can you make use of awkward angled space in under-stairs closets?

Use the angled space for storing cleaning tools like brooms and vacuums. Or place shallow bins or baskets on their sides for novel storage. The angled space is also great for stashing seasonal holiday decorations.


Under-the-stairs closets offer out-of-the-way storage, but their narrow shape prone them to disorganization. By thoroughly sorting contents, maximizing vertical storage, using optimized storage solutions, and maintaining with habitual organization, you can transform an under-stairs closet from messy to methodical. Implementing these closet organization tips will help you reclaim and effectively use the storage possibilities of under-stairs spaces.