The right closet alternative can really save you a big amount of space if you have a studio apartment or a tiny dorm that doesn’t have a traditional closet. You have to be able to organize your clothing and keep them neat in a type of storage, so what do you do?
In small rental spaces, closets can be a type of luxury that no one thinks about until you don’t have one. However, you shouldn’t despair if your new space doesn’t come with a traditional closet. Instead of hiding your accessories or clothing away, you can actually enhance your room’s aesthetic value by keeping these items out in the open.
Also, it’s no secret that closets are a space where procrastination thrives. You just toss everything into your closet because it’s then out of sight, out of mind. It can be years before you drag your items out into the light of day again, so they’ll sit gathering dust or even mold in the meantime. Cleaning out your closet can also be a taxing project that no one wants to take on, especially in cluttered areas.
So, the following closet alternatives will help you save your precious floor space while giving you ideas on how to display all of your items without making the entire room look like a cluttered mess.
20 Closet Alternatives
When it comes right down to it, you will need somewhere or something to store all of your accessories and clothing pieces in, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a closet. From wardrobes to hanging rods, here is my list of 20 popular closet alternatives to consider if you don’t have one in your room.
1. Armoire, Chifferobe, or Dresser
This is a very simple and obvious closet alternative to consider when you don’t have a traditional one in your room. Take a trip to a resale shop or a big box store and find something that suits your tastes in the space. If you don’t like the idea of not having your clothing out on display for your friends or family to see, a dresser is a nice option.
An armoire is a closet alternative from years past, and it’s a classic idea. These furniture pieces function as an external closet. Some have a bar inside them to allow you to hang your clothes with enough room from the floor to hang your dresses or pants, and some have a bar that is only long enough to hang shirts with the lower half featuring drawers. You should choose the version that works best for your current wardrobe and your tastes. You can find them in a huge range of finishes and sizes to match your style and the space.
- To get more storage space for your room, consider adding a matching dresser by your armoire.
- If you need to make more room, get rid of things that you no longer need. If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in the past year, consider adding it to the donation pile.
2. Baskets or Trunks
Go to your local antique market and find a charming trunk or basket. When you organize them right away, you’ll find that this closet alternative gives you a decent amount of storage space inside. Additionally, adding a cute trunk or basket can also boost your room’s aesthetic. If you choose one of the multi-purpose trunks, like the ones that offer a cushioned lid that doubles as a bench when you shut it, they add a huge amount of convenience in a space-saving design.
Unless you’re someone who doesn’t mind unpacking and packing your items a lot, we suggest that you pick your baskets or trunks and use them to store shoes or clothing that aren’t in season or the pieces you want to temporarily retire. You may just hit big when you scour the antique markets in your area and find a chest or trunk that is budget-friendly and a high quality for this closet alternative.
3. Bins for Kids Clothing
If you’re having issues getting your kids to put their clothes away, this closet alternative may be a great fit. You can label the bins or drawers with cute stickers like socks to designate the sock drawer or a moon sticker for the pajama drawer. This will help even younger kids get into the action. It also works surprising well as a closet alternative for seasonal clothing or accessories. All you have to do is label a bin with a sun or snowflake for summer or winter items.
Funnily enough, most people don’t consider a bookshelf a good closet alternative. However, they’re extremely useful for storing just about anything in your room. Instead of going to a single over-the-door organizer or a small shoe rack, consider a bookcase. They’re inexpensive, tall, and roomy. You can use them to hold a surprising amount of purses, clothes, or anything you’d normally pop into the dresser.
A bookcase is a very versatile option to help solve your storage needs. They come in a huge range of sizes to give you more than enough room to store everything. Bookcase (front) by SImon Aroltt / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5. Ceiling-Mounted Racks
To hang your wardrobe up to your ceiling, consider this closet alternative. You can find a rack to fit virtually any space. It can be made out of leather, metal pipes, rope, branches, or anything you like. The final material you choose will depend on your space. Using only metal pipes will give you an industrial look and feel. For a minimalist look, consider adding metal piping with yarn or wood as accents. A copper or brass pipe rack will make a stylish statement, and you’ll have room for your longer garments too.
6. Closet Rods
Closet rods are a very popular closet alternative because they’re very affordable, have adjustable lengths to them, and some come with a small metal shelf attached to it that gives you space to put your folded clothing. This option is also great because if you ever do move to a space with a closet, you can move your rod from the current setup on the wall and put it inside of the closet without having to adjust all of your clothing.
You can get more than one both offline or online, and they come in different sizes, styles, and prices. Using this option allows you to quickly and easily pick out the items you need because they’re all visible.
7. Clothes Racks
Clothing racks are a nice closet alternative that are one of the most cost-effective ones on the market. They’re actually a very popular trend right now in the decor and design industry, and this adds to their appeal. You can buy a readymade rack from virtually anywhere, both in-person or online, or if you’re a DIYer, you can easily build your own rack using items around your home.
Also, if you’re someone who needs more space, you can add a smaller shelf at the bottom of the clothing rack that is very handy for storing anything from shoes and accessories to folded clothes. You can find racks with several hanging levels to make it the most efficient storage rack possible, or you can use racks in different heights. There are dozens of options when it comes to these racks, including enough to satisfy any need you may have.
However, if you routinely keep your windows open during the day, your items can end up collecting dirt and dust, especially if the rack is right by the open window or if you live in a smaller space. Dust and pet dander are usually an issue whether or not you use a closet alternative though. If it’s a big deal, you can easily drape a shawl or an old towel over the rack as necessary.
- Put any clothing that is currently in-season on the rack to make it easy to get to while storing non-seasonal items away.
- Wheeled racks make it very portable, even when you leave your items hanging on them.
- For a more modern and neater appearance, color code your items.
8. Coat Rack & Shoe Bench
Using hooks to hang up your clothing isn’t going to be very efficient by itself, but adding a plank or a bench under these hooks turns it into a great closet alternative. This wlll give you more storage space. This is something to consider if you have kids in the house or if you have a lot of outdoor gear. You can also find benches that come equipped with hidden storage options or compartments.
9. Floating Cabinets
You can use this closet alternative to divide the closet across the length of your wall in shelved, shelled, wall-mounted cabinets. By keeping all of your cabinets elevated, you can free up valuable floor space while getting wardrobe-style shelving. It’s also possible to install floating shelves on either side of your bed frame or in unused corners. To give yourself more storage, consider adding matching nightstands.
10. Freestanding Closet Rack
You can think of this as a portable, wall-less closet alternative.You get all of the storage space you’d get with a traditional setup without the closet walls. Try to find one that comes with builtin drawers that is wide enough to hold boxes or storage bins to keep everything organized. Also, brush up on how well you fold your clothing items as they’ll be on display. You’ll want them to be extra-tidy.
If you’re in a studio apartment or you want to section off your space, this closet alternative can help. A bigger freestanding clothes rack can help divide up the space. Most bedroom cabinets usually have a mix of drawers, hanging space, and shelving. They can be close or open, and they’re usually big enough to function as a partial wall.
11. Headboard Closets
If you have zero space to fit any additional storage pieces of furniture, this closet alternative may be a solid choice. Headboard closets are very efficient, and they make a fabulous space-saving alternative to a traditional closet. You can hang your items using the rods right above the bed and use some boxes or cubes below for your folded clothes or shoes. You should ensure that the bed is a minimum of a foot away from the wall to give your hanging garments room to fit without sticking out. The finished result can be very trendy and have a very modern look.
It also doesn’t take too much effort on your part to set up a headboard closet alternative. You can get a bed with a built-in headboard with cubbies if you have the budget for it. If you don’t want to expose your items to guests or visitors, you can get a curtain to cover your clothing. Remember that with this closet alternative, you will only get as much storage space as your bed is wide. Also, if you don’t have the space in your room to keep the one-foot distance between the bed and the wall, your items will end up right in your face as you sleep.
An older ladder is a great place to store your clothes, accessories, or shoes. You can use this tool to store all of your accessories or shoes without making any changes to it at all. If you want to build an open wardrobe as a closet alternative, you can use a few ladders for shelves for this purpose. It allows you to store a lot of clothing and shoes plus all of the little pieces you have in one place. You can also attach the ladder right to your wall and use it as a rack for your items. There are also alternatives you can choose, including detailing it, painting it, or adding accessories.
13. Loft the Bed
By working to loft the bed, you can open up a decent amount of floor space to use for other purposes. You can easily use this space to create a closet or an office space. You can buy a loft-style bed or build one. You just want to make sure that you give yourself plenty of room to sit up once you’re in bed.
14. Over-the-Door Organizers
When you’re considering closet alternatives, don’t forget the door itself. An over-the-door shoe organizer on the backside of any door in your room is a great space to keep belts, scarves, or any other smaller accessories. If you want to have your items out where you can see them, hang this on the front of your door or attach a rack to the wall and hang it over it.
Shelves are a very popular, budget-friendly, convenient, easy, and chic closet alternative to store your accessories, shoes, and clothes. This is one of the most used options on the list. You can also attach a rod under the shelf to get the best of various alternative setups. This allows you to both hang and fold your items to store them, and this can save you a decent amount of space in the process. If you choose to use just shelving units, you can stack them from the floor to the ceiling and as wide as your walls.
Floating shelving units can be decently expensive, but you can make your own quite easily with some PVC, screws, and wood. You could even use vintage crates or wood boxes stacked right over one another. To add a touch of visual interest, paint them with fun colors. You can also have them blend in for a classic finish.
- You can easily complement the shelves by adding hooks to the walls to hang scarves, coats, and bags on the back of the door. It’s also positive to get more creative and hang your things under the shelves or create fun tiered-systems to turn your items into a decorative piece.
- Combine your shelves with your clothing and decorative items like picture frames or vases to help tie your storage solutions into your room’s overall aesthetic.
16. Tiered Hangers
If you’re short on space overall, this closet alternative will help you make the most out of your limited room. Get lightweight pieces of chain to help stagger your hanging items in tal areas to maximize your space. All you have to do is loop the first chain link over the first hanger and then hang more hangers on the subsequent links working down the chain. You can hang up to six shirts if a small amount of space using this option.
17. Under-the-Bed Storage
If you have zero space in your apartment or room to add any type of clothes storage or furniture pieces and you like the idea of hiding your clothing items, this closet alternative will probably appeal to you. As the name suggests, you convert space under your bed for storage. This is a fantastic space-saving choice if you have a bigger bed with a decent amount of space under it. You can purchase a bed that comes with built-in storage compartments or use plastic storage bins or totes to make a storage system.
No matter if you’re using your own baskets or a readymade organizer as your closet alternative, you’ll have to put things in different compartments, and this makes it easy to organize. However, the height of your bed will really come into play here if you plan on using this option. Beds that sit tight to the ground will be hard to use as a closet alternative unless they have storage space built in.
You’ll also have to fold all of your items to store them, and this won’t work out well if you have cotton pants or business suits. You’ll also have to pull out any items stacked on top of your desired blouse or piece of clothing. However, this is a solid choice for general storage.
18. Vacuum Bags and Storage Bins
To store things you don’t frequently use, try an oversized vacuum-seal bag. This closet alternative is great for things like spare blankets or pillows or heavy winter items. The large bags come with a specialized gasket that allows you to attach your vacuum and suck all of the air out and create a vacuum inside of the bag. The end result is the bag flattening and taking up a lot less room in your space than the items inside of the bag would if they weren’t vacuum sealed. Other bags in this style release the air out using a zipper as you roll up the opposite end of the bag. The bag won’t inflate until you open them again and return the items to their original size.
You can store these bags on a shelf, under the bed, or in a dresser drawer that you’re not using. Using attractive storage bins are a secondary option, and you can pop cloth boxes or bins atop shelving or stacked neatly in a corner. You can even stack them behind a bigger piece of furniture to conceal them until you need them again.
Wardrobes are heavier pieces of furniture that were more prominently used years ago, but they’re still a stylish way to store your items. They’re one closet alternative that will need a bit of space. They’re a slimmer version of a traditional closet that comes in a big range of colors, designs, and sizes. You can easily pick out the one that fits your space.
Some wardrobes come outfitted with drawers and rods, and this allows you to store shoes, folded clothing, and accessories. Even if it doesn’t have a rod built-in when you first buy it, you can install them using the closet rods we touched on earlier. This option can be a little inconvenient because they go from the store to your room 100% assembled. Unless you use professional help to get into your room, you may find yourself struggling with it. They also require a generous budget, since they normally start at $200 per piece and go up. If you have a small room, this bigger piece of furniture can dominate the space, so it’s better suited for a big room.
20. Wall-Mounted Clothes Valet
The final closet alternative on the list allows you to create a rail-and-peg hanging system using wall-mounted pieces of plywood. You’ll end up with a flat hanging closet. This can be a huge deal for a small bedroom because it limits itself to the available wall space and it’s very compact. You can overlap the items in the same direction to get a nice aesthetic effect.
General Tips to Maximize Your Space
When you’re short on space, there are many things you can do to store as much as possible. They include but are not limited to:
- Strategy will play a huge role when it comes to picking out your closet alternative when you’re short on space.
- Try to hang your garments by type. Group the button-down tops together, dresses, skirts, pants, and so on. Inside each type or category, line them up by color following the darks, naturals, lights, and brights order. This will give you a very streamlined look that is pleasing to the eye rather than having a jumble of various garments. It also makes locating specific pieces easy when you need them.
- If you don’t have the drawer space, put swimsuits, socks, underwear, and other smaller things in bins.
- The primary pieces you wear every day or every few days should get prime real estate. This could be in more readily-accessible drawers or more hanging space.
- Cycle your seasonal clothing to get the most usable space for everyday wear.
- Try to hang your bags by the ceiling. Don’t allow your bags or luggage to take up too much valuable floor space or crowd your shelves. Instead, try to hang your bags as high as you can on the wall. The goal is to have them hover just out of your reach but be ready to come down when you need them.
- Make a point to purge your closet alternative at least once a year. Doing so will ensure that you end up with clean space for new pieces and you can get rid of things you don’t wear anymore.
We’ve outlined 20 closet alternatives for you to consider for your next project. They’re ideal for rooms of all sizes, and they’re a nice way to keep everything organized and ready to go as soon as you need it.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.