small space living: 5 tips for closets!

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hi everyone! i wanted to start a little series about how we’ve made the most out of living in a small apartment here in new york city. we get so many questions about it, and while i shared a lot of tips and tricks in this apartment tour we did of our place a little while back, i thought it might be fun and helpful to get more into the nitty gritty of it all. i personally love seeing fellow city dwellers really maximizing their smaller spaces. and while sometimes i wonder if we are truly mad that we are still making our 2 bedroom apartment with three kids work, at the end of the day, it’s been a really good experience for our family so far (not that i haven’t debated in my head what body part i could live without in exchange for a second bathroom).

by the way, i loved reading this article and perspective on why another is raising her family of three little ones in a 2 bedroom apartment. helped me feel like there was hope to make this work a little while longer! love the idea of tiny home, big life concept.

let’s start with nyc closets! and how i manage clothing and shoe storage in mine, particularly. before we get into it, i feel like i have to preface this post with a big bold caption that says “I AM STILL FIGURING THIS OUT! AND THE FLOOR OF MY CLOSET IS USUALLY MESSY!!!” as well as “you may start feeling claustrophobic by how many pieces of clothing i shove in there (eh hem, hoard?)  but you’ve been warned!”

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1. FIND A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU

for me, grouping things by color really helps me know where specific pieces are. it works for me since i tend to dress based on color sometimes before anything else. (i’m weird like that.) i also have a small dresser in our room with three deep drawers. one for all of my demin and pants, another for all of my work out and active wear clothing and the last for my pajamas and under garments.

i found this shoe rack for the back of my closet door to be the most sturdy. (i have tried several.)

since i have two clothing racks (one low and one high), i tend to put things on the higher one that i don’t wear as often, or that i wore recently and know it’ll be a little while before i wear again. it helps since i have to stand on a stool to get anything down from that rack, so it’s not my daily go-to’s right there. this system works for me though because it sort of lends itself to frequent rotation, if that makes sense. i always try to keep the majority of my blouses or dresses on the bottom rack and then heavier sweaters and coats on the top that i don’t wear as often.

we can fit several air tight storage bins underneath our bed where we store some summer clothing (or some winter pieces when it is summer) to help make room in our closest for the appropriate season. we also have a bin under our bed for some of our camera equipment as well as one for tools/household stuff and some emergency preparedness things too. it’s such a great place to store things when you think about it, because it’s a large amount of space that doesn’t need to be accessed really.

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2. WHAT STAYS AND WHAT GOES

i absolutely love clothing and i like how it’s a sort of self expression in many ways. because of this, sometimes it’s hard for me to part with things, but i still try to do it frequently.

when i find and purchase new things, i try to get rid of something to make room. it’s hard, but it does feel good to purge. i don’t do it enough (josh will tell you that! ha!) but some things are difficult to part with when they have sentimental feelings or special memories attached. we have a salvation army and goodwill near us, so we donate items there regularly. there are also options for consignment and secondhand stores at local shops and online.

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3. LET IT BE SEEN

having hooks to hang your hats and bags is a great way to store them and also see them! i forget what i have if i don’t have a visual of it sometimes. i once started storing my hats under the bed and it was just hard because i basically stopped wearing them because i kept forgetting which ones i had. so having things you use frequently in a place where they are accessible and visible is important.

along these lines, i don’t own or wear much jewelry. but i have a dish on my dresser in my bedroom with the few pieces i own. i think jewelry is so beautiful, it’s fun to have on display. i just wish i wore it more! (i’m actually bringing back a super old goal and hoping to wear some dangly earrings at some point this coming year! if you haven’t seen me sport any by the month of june, someone please remind me!)

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4. HANG IT UP

the space on the back of closet doors often goes unused and forgotten even though it is some valuable real-estate when it comes to storage.  in the hall closet in our front room, we use a shoe rack that has clear pockets to store pairs of mittens, hats, scarves and the kids’ shoes in the lower pockets. it’s fun to get creative when you don’t have a mud room, and this is great because the kids know where everything is, and can get their own shoes and hats each day, as well as know the exact place they go when we get home to put them away. even conrad gets his shoes and puts them back in his specific pocket on the door!

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2. WHAT STAYS AND WHAT GOES (PART 2)

we also keep a lot of our winter coats in this hall closet. you can see in this apartment tour post from before that we used to stack some storage bins in here as well as car seats, but since we’ve kept in the spirit of downsizing over the past few years, we’ve gotten rid of all the stuff we stored in those bins for the most part as well as our car seats. (we usually always just rent them from wherever we are renting a car!)

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5. SOMETIMES A CLOSET DOESN’T NEED A DOOR

okay, maybe i am reaching here, but since our apartment doesn’t have a great storage spot right in our entry way, we just created one with hooks and racks. it’s basically another closet, am i right?! we just gotta keep it looking organized and tidy since there isn’t any door to hide it all away.  we keep the kids coats and boots right at the front door. we also keep our helmets there as well since we are grabbing those almost daily since the city has encouraged us to be a big scooting and biking family.

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i know some people think we’re absolutely crazy to have remained in our smaller space, but like pretty much everything in life, everyone is different and prefers different things. we also haven’t really known anything else but city living which maybe is a good thing. i remember our newly wed days in our tiny studio apartment in harlem where there was only one closet which josh and i had to share! we’ve come a really long way, haha!  who knows, maybe we’ll head out to the suburbs someday and be like, “why didn’t we do this sooner?!” but for now, our family can’t imagine leaving the city or doing it any other way.

when it comes to city living with our family, what other things would you like to me to focus on or share? and do you have any great closet or storage tips for small spaces (or even big spaces!) you are willing to share?

PS. here’s my post on tips and tricks for getting the most out of your time visiting nyc. and by neighborhood, my guides with videos in each of them to the UPPER WEST SIDE, guide to CENTRAL PARK, guide to SOHO + NOLITA and more guides HERE.

  1. Serena

    I don’t have many storage problems even if my house is very small because we are only two but it’s incredible how our minds work alike! Ahah! I’ve found myself in Your words because I’ve Always rearranged my spaces For clothes and shoes as you do! What stays and what Goes included! All of my friends think I’m strange but who cares! I think it’s the most logic way to rotate things and to save time in choosing and finding clothes! Kisses from Italy! Serena
    P.s. I love Your blog sooo much!

  2. Amy

    Taza. I am such a fan. Your zest for life is infectious. Since I started following your blog last year you have inspired me to 1) Wear lipstick for no other reason than it’s a Thursday. 2) Wear bolder colors, as in hello yellow capris. 3) love the moments.

    Lots of XOXO to you in the new year.

  3. Monique

    Wow this is wonderful!! I’m super excited for this series. We have always lived in small spaces and actually have moved almost once a year in our marriage (either relocation to PDX or when we upsized to a 2 bedroom when our daughter was born or when we lived in community living with other families and shared a kitchen and all of our meals. Now currently in a 2 bedroom with our 2 kids) First I’m super curious WHERE did you get those adorable hooks for the kids jackets in the hall??? I absolutely adore them! I love that your family style isn’t unattainable, it is realistic for a family and down to earth, yet beautiful! Okay and last thing (sorry for the giant long comment haha) we live small because it is what we can afford, but we have come to absolutely love it! Since we don’t go out a ton due to finances what are some tips you have for keeping a small space clean?

    Love your blog so much, thank you for all the wonderful things you and Josh share with all of us!

  4. Monique

    Also super hilarious and strange but I had a dream last night my family came over to your house and you and Josh were like, “wait? Aren’t you one of our IG followers? How did you find our house?” I of course felt super awkward and had no idea how we ended up there but of course you guys were super gracious and then Conrad and my son decided to eat cookies (probably that delicious chocolate chip recipe) and take a nap on the floor. Hahaha I Couldn’t believe that dream when I woke up.

  5. JOELLE

    Where do you store strollers? I have the same shoe rack and it doesn’t hold the amount of shoes you have without buckling under the weight. I am impressed with your set up!

  6. Lindsay

    You guys are awesome, and not at all crazy! Your space is beautiful and eclectic and living in a small space makes families grow closer, as well as keep them from staying inside for too long!! Thank you so much for sharing your closet! Your wardrobe is incredible! Now if you can just share where you keep that bucket bike?!?

  7. fefe

    Ahhhh I’m so excited for this post! I live in NYC (one closet/two people) and we definitely struggle with where to put stuff. I’ve always wondered what it was like for a big family like yours!

    Does the shoe rack stop the closet door from closing at all? If not, I will definitely try it out!

    http://objectsicantafford.com/

  8. Julia Jones

    I love this series! I don’t have kids but I nanny for 4 kids and after Christmas I was feeling all their stuff overtaking the house (and they live in the suburbs with lots of space). I always love to see how people make it work with less space. I am definitely on the less is more train right now but without kids it’s a lot easier for me to be too! Thanks for sharing 😁

  9. Alexa

    My husband and I are newlyweds on the UWS (sometimes I see you out and about!) and we are in a 320 square foot studio. People think we are crazy, but we love it so much! We are blessed that it has two closets, so we each have one, and we store household tools and cleaners in the bottom of his closet, bulk household items in the top of mine, and christmas decorations/linens/emergency preparedness items in containers under our bed. It works so well, and we wouldn’t dream of leaving. Our current topic of conversation is whether we’ll have baby #1 in this studio or move to a one bedroom and treat it like a studio (the bedroom as the nursery and the living space as our room). Yes, yes, yes to small space, big life :)

  10. Ina

    I relate so much with this post!!! Thanks for sharing! Good to know I am not crazy!
    I do have a question! What do you do with your kids stroller?

  11. I live in a one bedroom in LA with my husband and our big dog (Labrador) and think “THERE’S NEVER ANY SPACE”, but you’ve inspired me to make it work. ;) I too organize my clothes by color and have tried to implement getting rid of things when I bring more in.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  12. Megan

    This is such a great post! I grew up with mostly walk in closets, but since I have gone off to college, it has been SO hard to try and fit all of my things in the closets or rooms. The tips in this post are super helpful. I am also kind of a clothes hoarder, so we will see if this can help me at all :)

    Thanks so much Naomi!

  13. Rachael

    I love your Hunter rainboots. Can you tell me please if they are comfortable enough to wear all day walking around town in the rain or snow. Or are they only for short time wear. Thanks.

  14. I love your darling apartment! My husband and I live in downtown Houston in a small apartment with our 17 month old, a dog, and a cat! It gets a little crowded, but I too like living in a small space and being close to so many things to do. One thing that has saved some space for us is throwing all of our movies in a giant CD organizer. All of the boxes took up so muh space! Thanks for the great tips!

  15. brittany

    um, your closet pictures are just making me envious of your wardrobe! i love all your pink sneaks!

    xo, brittany
    http://www.notablob.com

  16. Lauren E

    I live in a one bedroom with my husband and am constantly complaining about the lack of space! We use our luggage for under-bed storage which saves us from having to find a place to store luggage.

    Whenever I visit people in the burbs I think to myself, “What would I even DO with all this space?! They have space for a decorative chair!” I’ve lived in a small space for so long, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a house.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. We have the same problematic in our small Parisian apartment. Thanks for the tips ;)

  18. Rachael

    Hi Naomi! this is my first comment on your blog but i’ve been reading your blog since the beginning! I started reading when I was in nursing school and dating my now husband and we now have two beautiful children, so many of your posts resonate. Would love to see some future posts on how you organize your little’s things :)

  19. Dana

    I’m not sure if this is necessarily related to small space living, but I think it’d be so fun if you did a post on some of your favorite standout clothing items or any funny stories behind them. I think your style is really fun and cool, and somehow classic and statement at the same time — would love to know more about how your sense of style came to be!

    Perhaps it can even be a combo with the fam series and have everyone pick their favorite item and tell why! I’d love to see what Conrad has to say ha!

    Thanks for always creating awesome content. I actually met you at an event once in 2012 and was too nervous to say I read your blog, but thank you again!

  20. Meg

    I’d love to see more about storage! Perhaps ones focused around the kitchen or how you deal with strollers and bikes.

  21. Jaime

    Awesome post + a good reminder to get creative with storage!

    Where do you keep your strollers?
    How do you organize your kitchen?
    What are some tips on organizing your kids toys + clothes?
    Where does Josh keep all of his things?

    So nosy of me to ask… :)

    jaime

  22. shannon

    how cute are you!?!?! great tips!!

  23. Lindsey

    DON’T LEAVE THE CITY! It’s not worth the extra space. Just speaking from experience here. We left our wonderful, small-space urban life in Zurich and two and a half years later still miss it so much. Our apartment wasn’t much bigger than yours, but it had ZERO closets, as most European apartments do, so we had to have IKEA armoires and wardrobes to make up for it. So ridiculous!! But, we did have a lovely, nice big cellar space that we put up utility shelving in. That made it all possible. Even still, we weren’t as diligent as we should have been with clearing out and became quite overwhelmed over just a few years. Then, we lived in a huge space and HATED IT. (You can read all about it on Design Mom: http://www.designmom.com/2015/10/living-with-kids-lindsey-mclean/) So now we’re back to a small space, but we have outdoor space, so it isn’t all that small feeling really.
    But, we miss the city. We miss it every single day and all of the space in the world isn’t worth that lifestyle. I would move back tomorrow if I could. Totally agree with you on the one bathroom thing…I’d love a second bathroom. But, whatever. Keep rocking on, Naomi! You guys are living the dream. :) xoxoxoxoxo

  24. virginie

    great post! thanks for the tips!
    will definitely use them when I will (finally) remodel the closets ;)
    3 teenagers later…lots of stuff to stock in, even if I’m pretty good at purging!

  25. Brooke

    We’re just about to have our first little one, and even with three bedrooms I feel like we don’t have enough space! (Husband’s sports stuff and two dogs take up a lot of space.) This is a great reminder to purge often and use all those little spaces I usually forget about!

  26. Amy

    It’s so refreshing to see others living large in a small space. We lived five years as a family of five in a two bed apartment in Vancouver bc, before upsizing to our three bed townhome. We feel like we live in a palace now! What I loved most about those five years were all the “how do you live like this???” And how much we did! We were always exploring. Always outside. Since upsizing we’ve turned a bit homebodyish which is fine but I do miss a lot about our life when in our sweet little flat!

  27. Sam

    We live in a 2600 square foot house with a 3 car garage and fenced backyard with 3 kids and sometimes I feel like we don’t have enough space haha. So I guess everyone just learns to make their situation work! Except I don’t know HOW your kids manage to nap and sleep at night, all in one room. I guess they are just used to it?
    NYC life looks so fun but also so complicated with young kids. But you have so much to do and see, I guess it’s worth the trade off.

  28. Mackenzi

    I’d love to hear more tips about your kids sharing a room, and specifically how you handle the bedtime situation! We have one toddler and we’re adding another nanny in april! We have a 2 bedroom apartment and I’m a little worried about how the toddler and the baby will handle sleeping in the same room! I’d love to hear any tips you have! Thank you for sharing so much with all of us! You’re a light to all!

  29. Amy V

    This is so timely, I’m 27 weeks pregnant so over the Christmas holidays my husband & I had a big throw out and re-shuffle of our closets. We’re still tight on space though, our old house has little storage! I like the clear plastic pockets as I also need to see my things or I forget about them. I also need to think more about the “one in, one out” policy when it comes to buying clothes. Thanks for this :)

  30. L.

    Would love an updated apartment tour since I know you’ve switched things around (living room/dining room swap – kids bunks that seem to always be moving). I’m constantly rearranging my furniture so I’m always interested in how people find layouts that work for them

  31. Elizabeth

    Love this – very inspirational, thank you for sharing. We are working on pairing down more and more with the Konmarie method, which we love, but I needed some inspiration for storage! Keep it up.

  32. Christine

    Where do you store your kids scooters and stroller? That’s the problem I’m having right now. And I love your jacket rack with the play mobile characters.

  33. Kelly

    I live in a studio apartment so I totally appreciate the idea of “open storage” – you just need it in NYC!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  34. vida

    hello there :-) it’s always a pleasure to read your and you know what? i am convinced a lot of your fans would like to buy pieces of clothes you are willing to offer to others. so, organising a sort of online auction could be fun :-)
    greetings from slovakia.

  35. Debbie

    Love your post I live in NYC as well with two kids in a two bedroom apartment . I’m curious where did you get the playmobile/lego coat hanger ?

    • TAZA

      i found it on Etsy a few years ago!

  36. HRT

    My house isn’t comparable to your apartment but, by Los Angeles standards, its very small. We moved in 18 years ago with a toddler and a baby and I remember thinking that we’ll add closet space and at least one bathroom. We did remodel and repair quite a bit and we did add a closet in the upstairs bedroom (because there were no closets in that room and it’s my room!) but we never added a second bathroom or expanded any existing closets. It was all fine. No one rioted. Now that our kids are away at college, the space seems luxurious. When you live in a small home you acquire less stuff and that feels awesome.

  37. Sarah

    I would love for you to share your kitchen storage and how you make use of your space. And also what stays and what goes for you in there! :) It is so hard to not buy all the cute tea and coffee mugs! :p

  38. Veronika

    Hi Naomi!
    I love the post of daily life!
    I have little curiosity:
    How do you do to have shoes so clean?
    Also…
    how can you have such a clean floor?
    What are some tips on organizing your kids clothes?
    Thank you

  39. Pingback: Weekend Links / / Survive and Thrive - A Short Blonde

  40. Niken

    I live in one room apartment, so there’s a limited storage space.
    And yes!!! i like everything to be visible easily. thank you for sharing this. i tried several hanging shoe rack too and most of the time, they’re disappointing

  41. carley

    I love your apartment but your closet stresses me out!! i guess that’s the return you get from your tiny storage space is your ability to live in an awesome apartment. I think we all have this idea that you can live in NYC AND have a walk in closet a la carrie bradshaw..that’s not real life! my husband and i have to share one closet and we have a tiny kitchen..but we are learning to live with less, a bigger home just means more space to store crap you don’t need!! keep on rocking, taza!!!

  42. It doesn’t matter if you live in a small or big house as long as your family is happy and healthy!

    You have to do what works with your family :)

    Happy Weekend!

    -Christine
    http://www.christinelovestotravel.com

  43. Jess

    Where does Josh put all of his clothes?! I would love to have a closet to myself! I think my husband has more clothes than I do. Ha.

    • TAZA

      he has a closet about the same size as mine, if not a little bigger! we store a few extra bins in his actually with christmas decor/trees and some camping gear, etc because it has some space towards the side to stack them nicely.

  44. Carmen

    I have a question! How do you manage sleep in a small space? I know every family is different when it comes to sleep stuff in general, but how have you managed the newborn stage, different nap times, not waking each other up etc. I have a 5 month old and when I babysit my 2 year old niece, my sons crying/babbling wakes her up and her two year old chatter wakes him up! We want to stay in our small space as long as possible but I am imagining the sleep stuff being a challenge when we have multiple kids as we don’t have extra walls and hallways and stairs separating everyone :P

    So glad you’re doing this series, by the way. I would love all of the small-space-living-with-a-family advice you got!

  45. D Beickert

    I will now be frequenting the UWS Goodwill ;)

  46. Tiffany Lorenzana

    Hey Taza. Huge fan. Been following you since Eleanor only now you have 3 altogether. I enjoy seeing your family thrive and live in NYC. I’m in Brooklyn and have one son. One day hope to meet you. One day I was close lol we went to transit museum on same day but I left already and then I saw your post lol haha. I enjoy your posts and blog. And need to get organized myself. This gives me hope. I also saw the last video of you and your husband and his endearing words to your daughter everyday. Totally cried. Loved the way you guys live your life and wish I was more outgoing and willing to do the same. Love to see such positivity in your life and you inspire me to do more with kids. And venture out of my shell more. Thanks for all your posts xoxo

  47. Calla

    For the “entryway” in my tiny studio apartment I picked up some decorative binder clips from Target. Combined with command picture hanging strips they work great for holding mittens and beanies.

  48. Kristina

    Where did you get the hook with the lego guys? It is amazing!

  49. emily

    You’ve got such a great and ever-changing wardrobe, so I’ve always wondered how you store it all/what you do when you’re ready to retire older pieces. Mystery solved! ;) Which online consignment shops have you liked the most?

  50. cathy

    I have a huuuuge closet and I still have trouble with finding a place for and organizing everything. I definitely need to downsize. I think the upside to having a small place is that you keep only the stuff that you love and actually wear. I have a lot clothes that I haven’t even worn before, but that I keep “just in case.” It’s ridiculous. I think your post just inspired me to downsize. Thank you! :)

  51. Kathy

    Love your blog and love that you’re showing how great raising a family in NYC can be!

  52. Kayla

    I’ve been searching and searching for blog posts about this topic a lot recently…
    We’ve decided to stay living in London with our little family of three in a one bedroom flat. “Tiny home, BIG life”is exactly why we’ve opted to stay. So much adventure right on our doorstep.
    It’s great to see how you’re making it work over the pond. Here’s hoping I can share some tricks as we navigate our way through living with a toddler in the same bedroom. :)

  53. Oh gosh okay I just moved to Paris and the closet spaces here are TINY (as are the apartments!) ahaha. Thanks for your tips, hope you had a lovely weekend xx

    http://www.diaryofanexpatgirl.com

  54. we’re moving back to the los angeles area next month and we’ve gained a baby since we’ve been gone! we’ll be coming back to probably a 2bedroom little beach house with our 3 little ones and i’m not gonna lie, sometimes when i start to freak out at the thought of it, i remember that you do it with so much grace (i mean, so it seems) and that if you can do it, i can do it too. ha! thanks for reminding me that it’s possible to live in a tiny place with so many tiny people!

  55. Whitney

    Where is that adorable rack your kids coats are hanging on from???

  56. Kris

    This IS interesting. I’ve lived in California all my life and can’t wrap my head around not having a yard or kids being able to play outside basically every day of the year. And, you are right about the relativity of space. My house is 1500 square feet, so nearly twice yours (thankfully we have 2 bathrooms!) But I am married with 8 kids (ages 1-19). And we homeschool. Most everyone I know lives in a bigger house. But for my family, our small home really encourages (forces?) us to get along and my kids spend all their time together. With me. And we love it. Most of the time. I am really grateful that my kids know happiness is not measured by the grandeur of your home or the number of toys you have. It’s all about being happy where you are.

  57. mélanie

    i was looking for a clever way to store my scarves and bobble hats and there you go, with that amazing post, with the clear shoe rack! awesome! i just ordered one on amazon! can’t wait to store everything in it! thanks naomi :)

  58. Mahee Ferlini

    Great Post!!

  59. Jen

    I LOVE this series. Being a crazy person who LOVES everything organizing, I love to see how other people make their spaces work. I can’t wait for more of these posts. Living in Salt Lake where it’s pretty average for most families to have a home,, yard, garage and so forth city living INTRIGUES me so much. Maybe because it’s so foreign to me? But I can’t stop reading these posts, like a good book. I’d love to see more of how you live. Isn’t that so weird? It’s just everyday life for you but I love learning about it. I’ve not lived but Utah, and Cali (during school), so keep these coming! Thanks!!

  60. Any advice about moving to NYC? I know it was long ago but how did that transition go for you from the west to east coast? I am planning on moving to NYC this summer and want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row so to speak. Thanks in advance!

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