How to Fit Your Life Inside a Small Closet

Do you find yourself wanting to live a more minimalistic and refreshing lifestyle? Maybe you’re setting out to travel the world, or you’re moving into a coliving community? Maybe you just feel overwhelmed by how much you’ve accumulated and want to downsize your possessions. Or maybe you’re moving into a smaller home or out on your own for the first time. Consider this guide your first steps in how to condense down what you currently own into a small closet and take back freedom to live your best minimalistic life. Unless, of course, your ideal living situation is that of a scene from a childhood cartoon where the contents of your closet spills out onto you the second you open the closet door. If this is your dream, then go ahead and close your webpage now, this article probably isn’t for you! Instead, if your dream is of the immaculately organized closets you find on pinterest, then let’s move ahead!

Step 1:  Make a List

It’s time for the great purge. Before you begin and even touch your belongings, write down on a piece of paper everything that you need to live your day-to-day life. Why are we doing this? Because: it simplifies and really gets down to the point of what you actually need to survive. The second you have some possession in your hand, logic will go straight out the window! If you can clearly define every single exact possession you need – then we have a clear guideline to begin categorizing and purging our belongings. This is a deeply personal list, so it is not something I can just hand to you and say “yes, you need this to survive.” Survival for a painter is very different from survival for a computer scientist.

Step 2:  Clean Out your Belongings

Taking a tip from Marie Kondo, start with one category from your list and then lay all of those possessions out on the floor in front of you. Start with whatever category has the least sentimental value to you. For me, that is clothing. Only keep the objects that “bring you joy.” If a sibling or friend gave you a t-shirt as a gift that you absolutely hate, thank the object for coming into your life, and donate it. It has already served its purpose of showing someone’s care for you, now its time to let the object bring joy to someone else. If you hesitate on an object, instead of an immediate yes, then it is probably not necessary for you to keep. Repeat this process for every category until you have successfully dwindled down your possessions.

Step 3: Calculate the Space

After you’ve gone through your belongings, it’s time to calculate the square footage of your closet and/or storage space. This is a fairly straight-forward process that brings us back to basic geometry. Take the measurements of the length and width of your space to get your footprint sqft. To get your volume, times together the length, width, and height. Getting a variety of these measurements will help you moving-forward with how you are going to fit your possessions into the closet. It is also important at this step to measure your big objects to make sure they even fit! This can be a great next step and continuation of your purge. If the object you want to keep takes up ¾ of your closet, it better be worth it!  

Step 4: Store Possessions Vertically

To better take advantage of the total volume of your closet, embrace vertical storage solutions and pull out drawers. Take out that list you made earlier from your important valuables and start dividing your space into these categories. This will help keep everything organized in a small space and start dictating what storage solutions and shelving you may need. The best practice is to have everything where you can easily access it and see it. If you open a drawer, every object in the drawer should be visible. This will help so you do not accidentally purchase multiples of one object, and also helps to keep the space less visually cluttered! If you can see, feel, and touch every object, then you can appreciate what you have.  

Step 5: Learn proper folding techniques

Believe it or not, hanging clothing is not the best way to condense down space for your clothing. Neither is rolling! Instead, I highly recommend learning the japanese technique for folding clothes. See the following video by Marie Kondo. ( When following this technique, it is important again to store all of your clothing vertically – this way you can see every article of clothing that you own. This will help keep you accountable for what you already own, and help reduce the feeling for needing to purchase other items that may not contribute to your ability to live happily and clutter free.

Final Remarks:

Don’t be too frugal Everyone object you own should bring you some sort of happiness – especially as you venture into a more minimalist lifestyle. Because you own less, you should also be purchasing less. So the items you purchase should be made to last and also be something you truly enjoy using. Otherwise you will be tempted to purchase other objects similar in the future – thus wasting the extra few dollars you might have spent by purchasing something you did not enjoy. The process of living a more minimalist lifestyle may have you repeat these steps a few times. Do not feel angry with yourself if you do not get everything perfect the first time you try. The more you repeat the process, the better you will become at detaching yourself from objects you do not need and find fulfillment and joy with the things you own.