Clothes Storage – A Sick Joke

Chatting with sewing friends over the weekend strayed onto the hot topic of how people store their, ahem, impressive collection of outfits. I’m not going to go into details here. No one needs to know how many dresses Dolly Clackett actually owns – that’s her business and no one else’s. But I’ve definitely noticed that my sewing output is having an impact on my wardrobe space and I’d love to know how others manage their clothes storage.

We have two standard size wardrobes in our house, plus three chests of drawers. Two of the chests of drawers don’t really count as they hold things like old bills, dog-eared photos, ancient mobile phones and swimming costumes that only come out every other year when I stray into a hot country.

So how does this translate into practical space for putting my clothes away?


This is my wardrobe. You’ll probably recognise several of the items hanging there. Or you would, if they weren’t having the life crushed out of them. I often pull an item out of this space, gaze wearily at the creases, and shove it back in the wardrobe. (I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again – I loathe ironing.)


This is a cheap-as-chips IKEA wardrobe that I bought when my boyfriend moved in. It sits in the middle bedroom/office. It’s meant to be for Ian’s clothes, but less than half of this space is taken up with his work shirts. The rest of the space has seen my belongings creep in there. It gets worse:


This is the bottom of our second wardrobe. Stuffed in with the old computer monitors and smelly trainers are clothes hastily folded. I’ve done nothing to protect them from dust or moths. It gets even worse:

The top of the spare wardrobe. Come on! Where does everyone else store their suitcases?! I go away quite a lot – there’s no way I’m climbing in and out of the loft every time I want to pack my toothbrush. A lot of people won’t even have loft space, so surely I can’t be the only person doing this?

Sometimes I feel like such a loser in the game of Pretending To Be An Adult. My mother would have this all sorted.

What does everyone else do for clothes storage? Are our two wardrobes pathetically meagre? Does everyone else have wall to wall built in storage space?

What am I doing wrong, people? This situation is only going to get worse before it gets better, because I’m not giving away my sewing machine any time soon.

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54 Responses to Clothes Storage – A Sick Joke

  1. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who feels a loser in the game of Pretending To Be An Adult. I definitely have moments where I think “I thought by the time I “X” I would have my act together”. But no, X is not what got my act together.

    I thought when we bought our house that our little room of a closet was huge (for a closet) and fantastic and would be more than enough given that I did not have any closet space in our apartment. It is not. Not only do I have the same cupboards/dresser/wardrobe as the apartment, now my husband uses half of the closet in the guest room.

  2. *sigh* I’m still waiting for someone to show up and award me the “Adult” badge, but I suspect that is never happening.

    We have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom. The Hubs has half. I have half. The back part is given over to drawers (for underthings and socks), shoes, random stuff we’re storing, and suitcases. No, I don’t know what to do with them either but if I saw your house, I’d be impressed with your ingenuity in shoving them up there.

    Anyway, my side of the closet is full but that’s partly because I also hang a lot of my fabric up. So I have a section with clothes, and a section of potential clothes. I guess I manage my overflowing wardrobe by cleaning it out periodically. I’m trying to be cautious about getting rid of too much, since my weight bounces up and down like a child’s ball, but sometimes I just get sick of wearing things….or they start to wear out. I also make a sincere effort not to shop too often, for either fabric or clothes. That helps.

  3. Vicki Kate says:

    I’m still losing at the Pretending to be an Adult game too. How the heck do our parents do it?!

    My wardrobe space is OK at the moment, but only because I got brutal and did a major sort out and a lot went to the charity shop. The space I made is disappearing fast though…

  4. LinB says:

    I shove and cram, mostly. Spraying natural fibers with water as if I were actually going to iron them usually makes all the wrinkles just fall out on their own. It’s a travel tip that I have integrated into my everyday life. Takes less energy than hanging them in a steam-filled bath. And I have a full, walk-out basement, so I can fling boxes of clothes into the corners down there. Also suitcases. Winter garments from the time I lived in Wisconsin linger there. I really should donate them: it has been twelve years since I have worn the down-filled coat.

    • Great tip about the spraying! So do you take items out of the wardrobe, spray them and leave them to dry?

      • LinB says:

        Yes. I use a squirt bottle from the dollar store. You can put in a few drops of vinegar, too — seems to help with linen. I spray/mist them no more than I would spray my head with hairspray (if I still used it). They don’t get very damp, so don’t take long to dry. I have even sprayed slacks, put them on, and worn them as the wrinkles eased away. Miraculous.

      • Bethany says:

        If you do this and add just a touch of really cheap vodka, it also helps with any mustiness. It’s like really cheap febreeze without the headaches that some get.

    • Sølvi says:

      Love the spraying tip – genious!

  5. MrsC says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Adult is something kids see in us, not something we see in ourselves! I have terrible storage issues – one wardrobe system, not boxed in, for both of us. And we’ve got that because the day we moved into our flat, the wardrobe fell apart! So the husband wet out and hunted one down. It does have a 2 foot wide double decker section for shirts which is quite useful. But the thing I HAVE to do to make it work is rotate the seasons of my clothes. I’ve got two flat plastic storage boxes I picked up for peanuts, and into these go the ‘absolutely no bloody use out of season’ clothes, around about December and April. They live under our bed. If I’ve pinged it wrong it’s not too hard to retrieve something.
    Oh and in my workroom I’ve got one of those clothing racks where I keep the costumes. FAR too many dressups. Further evidence of the nonsense of this so called Adulthood idea!

  6. Tanit-Isis says:

    I generally fail at “Pretending to be an adult” (especially on the organization front!) Our current house is fairly big, so I’m able to shove most things into the garage or the basement. Sewing is definitely increasing the wardrobe, however—things are creeping into my husband’s closet, and I’m seriously contemplating annexing half my youngest daughter’s closet for the stuff I don’t wear as often. The costume stuff already lives in the basement closet.

    I would stuff the suitcases under a bed, myself (probably with off-season clothes inside them), although at the moment ours are living in the furnace room in the basement.

  7. Anna says:

    I have a half size antique wardrobe which I love the look of but which is totally crammed full. The bottom of it is piled with all my pyjamas as I had to turf them out of a drawer to make space for other clothes. My underwear drawer is a challenge to shut as it’s so stuffed full of socks (hand knit and shop bought) and I have 2 plastic storage boxes of knitwear shoved in the only storage my house has built in (there’s no loft so that cupboard acts as one and holds my suitcase which I could never use to go away as it’s full of clothes, mainly hand made, that don’t fit me at the moment). I could do with a really big wardrobe and a second chest of drawers but there is no room in my bedroom for either. I also have 2 shoe racks and could do with a third but can’t fit one in…

    I dream of a walk in wardrobe with lots of storage and the chance to organise everything. I do iron hand mades before they go back in the wardrobe and if they come out creased again I just chuck a cardigan over the top and ignore it!

  8. Kerry says:

    Clothes storage is difficult – I have a whole wardrobe and 4 drawer chest while my poor husband has just 3 drawers with a few odds and ends in the wardrobe!
    I still have to do the seasonal rotation thing, with a very big suitcase that also fits in the cupboard. I do try very hard to not hang on to things I don’t wear either but it’s still hard!

  9. ooobop! says:

    Well I’m positively envious about your hanging space! I share a v. small built in wardrobe with Mr. Ooobop! and am forced to ditch an old dress when I make a new one. (Well thats what I tell him anyhows!)

  10. liza jane says:

    I have the smallest closets in the world. But there is one in each of our three bedrooms. I shamefully have things in all three closets. Don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to give up one.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    But what about your stash storage? 😉 I can’t even walk into either of my walk in closets I have them so jam packed. Sad really.

    • That’s the one thing I’m horribly strict about. If it starts spilling out of the one plastic storage box I have devoted to fabric, that’s when I know it’s time to stop buying fabric. Otherwise, I’d be totally out of control!

  12. swoosh says:

    I store my suitcases in exactly the same way. I never thought of any other way to do it honestly.

  13. Jane says:

    We’ve got built in wardrobes either side of the fireplace in our bedroom, and it was definitely money well spent. There are two short racks, one long rack (mostly for dresses), two massive pull out drawers (which I put all my out of season stuff in) and lots and lots of cubby holes. I fold a lot of my tops and put them in the cubby holes so that frees up more rack space.
    It’s all manageable at the moment but I am very very ruthless about throwing out unworn clothes. x

  14. Nicole says:

    If only mine was this tidy! Try adding about 50 vintage handbags into the mix, as well as hats, bags of gloves, and a zillion scarves. Not to mention the tower of boxes I keep my jewellery in.

  15. Mela says:

    To open up some space we put our bed on raisers ( It allows you to store things under the bed, like boxes and maybe suitcases. In college I would put my winter clothes under the bed and switch out the clothes when the seasons changed.

  16. Roisin says:

    Well, I’m lucky in that our wee flat has a big big built in wardrobe. I’m going to be screwed (or out a fortune on wardrobes) when we eventually move… either that, or I’ll have to find somewhere else with equally good wardrobe space. That said, even our large wardrobe isn’t big enough for all of my dresses, so I have to rotate them. I pack away winter clothes in the summer and vice versa, and there are some crossover dresses that stay out all year round. As my *collection* (ahem) expands I might have to start rotating by wear so I don’t run out of space and everything gets worn. Believe it or not, though, I am good at giving away things I *don’t* wear, so it could be worse. I’d say use one or two of those suitcases for storage of unseasonal items, and you’ll free up some space.

    I suck at other ares of being a grownup, though. I think on the rare occasion when I dust, or when I look under the bed, or when I’m go to the supermarket to buy tinfoil/washing up liquid/toilet roll and come home without the damn thing I went in for.

  17. raqskie says:

    I recently bought 4 very cheap hanging racks on rollers and have placed them around the house in what I call a decorative fashion. I’m convinced they look like beautiful room dividers.

  18. Alison says:

    My husband & I moved to a bigger house…

  19. Portia says:

    Hmmmm,whilst I by no means have it sussed, a couple of “tricks” spring to mind…
    1) All my hangers are identical so they fit neatly against eachother. To my mind this keeps things hanging more nicely than a mish mash of different shop hangers squashing and jarring against eachother. Defo worth investing in nice hangers. I’ve been much more inclined to hang my clothes up since implementing this one.
    2) To maximise hanger space I will hang 2-3 skirts on the same hanger, or put a cardigan on the same hanger as a top that it goes well with. Saves time getting ready in the morning that way too!
    3) Mens trouser hangers are great. No really! The kind with 5 or 6 bars on them so you can hang multiple pairs of trousers on the one hanger
    4) Clear underbed storage boxes with lids for out of season clothes and, pretty much the kind of items you have in one of your chests of drawers (photos and the like, random cables. Seriously, how many ethernet cables and scart leads do we need to hang onto?!)
    5) I use a couple of vintage vanity cases as storage for belts and accessories (although mens tie hangers are quite good for belts too)
    6) I tend to hang like garments together. Tops, then trousers, then skirts, then knits etc
    I sound a bit OCD don’t I? This is just my “system”. Don’t imagine I always stick to it 😉
    BTW, where else would you store a suitcase? Perfectly reasonable in my view

  20. Joanne says:

    Don’t worry I’ve got my suitcases on top of the wardrobe too, along with extra duvet, pillows, xmas decorations and wedding shoes…! I bought an art deco tallboy from ebay for £15 about three months ago and my husband puts all his clothes in there – I have now forbidden him from venturing into our old wardrobe now!

  21. Nikki says:

    We have a 1940’s double wardrobe, I have hogged most of the hanging space and DH has jumpers and jeans on the shelf above the rail. DH has a chest of drawers for all his other stuff and all my tops and jumpers are in plastic boxes under our bed. Our house is in need of a lot of work and we do bits as and when we can afford to – we don’t really want to buy any more nice furniture until all the dirty work is done. Spare bedding usually goes on top of the wardrobe and I have inherited my mum’s love of ironing, if I had the time I’d probably iron everything!!

  22. Alessa says:

    Actually, this looks pretty much like my wardrobe space. Including the suitcases on top. Only, my boyfriend has over 40 work shirts that share my space… And I have a drawer under my bed that holds non-seasonal clothing. I could conceivably argue that I’m not grown up yet, though, since I share a 1.5 room student apartment with my b/f… 😉

  23. redsilvia says:

    Ok seriously, why don’t they put closets into houses in the UK? Is it the powerful Ikea wardrobe lobby buying influence with builders? If I was you I’d find one of those bars that hang from the wardrobe bar and doubles the hanger space. Now you’ve got only half the length, but that should be ok if you use one closet for tops and one for pants (trousers) and dresses. There will be alot of naked running around with my plan, but that’s fun too.

    My suitcase sits in the middle of my bedroom floor because I’m a flight attendant. It only gets put in the garage when I’m on vacation because then I don’t leave the house.

  24. Uta says:

    “Sometimes I feel like such a loser in the game of Pretending To Be An Adult. My mother would have this all sorted.” I hear you loud and clearly! I somehow thought I’d get it all sorted when I had kids. Not. (I’m even more overwhelmed sorting their ever-changing sizes and tiny closets!) Now I think it’s a generational thing and there will be another generation that takes care of our mess when we’re gone…? Anyway, I throw out a lot, and I’ve come to regret that. That said, DD’s bedroom would make a perfect walk-in closet, but she’s only five, so maybe I’ll be a well-sorted older lady one day but not sooner…

  25. If you find a solution let me know! I spent the weekend clearing out and still have no space in the house.

    I do go through my clothes a few times a year and prune things I’m no longer wearing, which just about keeps the wardrobe under control. We had to resort to under the bed storage boxes recently, and I was amazed how much I could cram into those. Still not enough though. Need a bigger house!

  26. Sherry says:

    I’m afraid I’m not much help – we have a Victorian house with zero storage (where did they put those hoops and bustles?!), and I actually have an old wardrobe out in the garden shed housing some clothes. And this week one of the runners on our chest of drawers broke – you’re not the only one with a wardrobe crisis!

  27. Erika says:

    Not sure it’s an adult thing; in my experience building and re-building houses leaves us with less and less storage space. At least here in Sweden a 70s or earlier flat will generelly have generous storage space, but a 80s or newer flat will have very little storage space. Why on earth did someone decide on the 80s that we all of a sudden have less stuff in our homes?!

    I moved a year ago, and chosed an older appartement for that very reason: I wanted the closets! On the other hand: my kitchen is next to non-existant. It was kitchen and cupboards or closets and sewing space… I made an active choice: the sewing was more important. So I have fairly good storage; 4 tall 60 cm closets, with “top-parts” to the ceiling as well, a closet for cleaning supplies and tools and a space in the basement where for example the suitcases reside, all for just me! Of course I need more space… So I also have two chests of drawers (one for underwear and one in the hallway for gloves, scarfs and such) and a huge linen cabinet for my fabric stash.

    I’ve realised though that it doesn’t matter how much space I have: I’ll never have the type of closet where all my clothes hang with 1″-2″ between them. I did however make a thourough purge of my clothes this summer, and that helped a lot. It’s still packed, but at least now everything fits in the closets! =)
    Besides from Portias great tips that I second, my trick is to purge the closet regularly. One in, one out doesn’t work for me, but maybe my new-sewn dress works in the situation as one of the RTW-dresses that I’m not 100% happy with? If that’s the case, will I really miss the RTW-dress? If the new-sewn fills a gap, than just in with it, but if it’s replacing something then the old need to go.

  28. Stevie says:

    I am exactly the same, We moved into our house in July and we have one rail each, plus a shared wardrobe and chest of drawers. I have nowhere to put clothes! I have a set of drawers at my mums that I’m desperate to get hold of just because I need the space! I feel your pain!

  29. Felicity from Down Under says:

    if we’re playing at being grown-ups, can I be the granny? That means I get to sit in a rocking chair and knit, right? Isn’t that what grannies do?

    Slightly more seriously, there are some good suggestions in the preceding comments. You have quite a lot of space atop your spare wardrobe, so some plastic storage containers could be put there. It looks as if your cases are very similar in size (if you have differing sizes, it’s surprising how well you can nest them), so while I’m not suggesting you get rid of any, perhaps you might want to reassess them. I think you would benefit from having taller wardrobes, because your lovely dresses are presently getting crushed. That would also mean you could store foldable things beneath such shorter garments as shirts and skirts, perhaps.

    Cascading coathangers are certainly a good idea, although my experience would suggest that they don’t save quite as much space as you might hope because there’s still a certain amount of bulk with any garment. I have various of these remedies at work, not always successfully, but one thing I’ve found useful is a concertina sort of thing that attaches to the rod; hanging shelves, really. They reduce your hanging space but mean you can store a lot of folded garments. My shoes are in a smaller version. I have scarves hanging on a loop of ribbon tacked onto the back of my wardrobe door (a trick I learnt from my Dad who used to keep his ties that way on a piece of string).

    I guess we just have much more stuff these days: old computers and worn-out but not entirely uselss shoes and spare pillows and duvets and – yeah, where do we put them all? Good luck with finding some solutions that work for you.

  30. Roobeedoo says:

    “Pretending to be an adult”? Oh crikey – I don’t even pretend! My mother has given up asking me when I will stop “living like a student”.
    I have a large Victorian wardrobe with a warped hanging rail. Whenever it threatens to sag even further I move some clothes off it and fold them below instead… so then they start stacking up and preventing the long things from hanging straight! Underneath it has one big drawer, which I use for storing out-of-season clothes, and two small drawers – one for undies and tights and socks, and the other for woolies. And that’s my lot. Shoes are in their boxes, stacked on the floor. I have to rotate the pile regularly to prevent the damp seeping through the cardboard and making my shoes mouldy 🙁
    I don’t have any suitcases – just a backpack, that sits on top of FL’s chest of drawers. All of his clothes fit into his three drawers. We do not share!
    I love the suggestions above. But they all sound very… grown up! 😉

  31. Living on your own with a spare room. With a decent corporate salary and no kids. Getting the picture? It’s not pretty when it comes to exponential build up of badly stored clothes. I’m in a constant losing battle to de-clutter and keep the clothes and accessories from taking over my home. They are stuffed into a myriad of wardrobes, chest of drawers and cath kidston clothes bags. I need to be more brutal……but it’s hard so hard…
    I don;t do a lot of practical advice, but too much clutter is stressful. Get in a bottle of wine, a friend in tow and have a brutal de clutter day. The friend is there so you can try stuff on you haven’t worn for 3 years , model it and they can go….NO, CHARITY SHOP! Get that monitor on eBay or down the local recycling place – it’s taking up premium shoe space 😉

    • Mary says:

      The friend, that is useful. In my case, a sister who lets me know in startlingly frankness, just what she thinks of my clothing.

  32. Annie says:

    Ooooh our suitcases are just on the floor, three packed inside one, NEXT to the wardrobe, hiding behind the door (when the door is shut). I so know what you mean about pretending to be an adult! Am constantly buying things that I think will organise us, like special hangers. Sort of works sometimes!

  33. Not sure if anyone else had said this already, but observations on our clothes storage arrangements:
    I have SO much more room devoted in the wardrobe than the man in my life;
    I have SO many more drawers for clothes than the man in my life ( how can tights fill a single drawer?);
    I operate a winter/ summer routine and pack away seasonals yet the above is still true even when the man in my life has one season clothing;
    I have more summer than winter clothes despite our summer being the shorter portion of the year and despite physically needing to wear more clothes at once in the cooler months. That’s the problem of being a sewist with a love of cheap colourful cottons!! Oh yes, and hating ironing I also have my summer clothes washed and waiting a final press before being packed away. Still. There, those are my wardrobe secrets all out now too! Hope it makes you feel better and more normal!

  34. Ingrid says:

    The oh so hard to avoid topics of storage space – I want a Mary Poppins bag!

    To be a bit serious (and grown up….) I can tell you that a lot of the suggestions you have gotten really works, like:

    – putting suitcase/bags into each other saves space and it looks nicer
    – put several things on one hanger like shirts or skirts with hanging loops in the sides seams (these little loops inside the skirt)
    – use cascading hangers
    – use the space all the way to the roof – you can fit a lot of boxes on top of a closet. I fill mine whit out of season clothes, bed linen etc.
    – rotate clothes between seasons (also gives you the opportunity to clean up and get rid of old worn out/not worn clothes)
    – hanging shelves – that I also use for shoes
    – use the space under the bed
    – boxes at the bottom of the closet – not always with the lid on but it makes it easier to reach thing and not have to empty an entire shelf to get the one thing in the back

    For my fabric I have bought a big old American suitcase/chest. It looks nice in the living room, doubles as extra chairs/table and it can hold a lot of fabric! For other sewing things I use glass jars – tread, zippers, buttons etc goes in, close the lid and then they are placed on top of shelves etc.

    I have found out that a magic word is IKEA, with all their boxes, plastic bags, jars etc.

    I only have one warning. Even though you put things nicely away it some how sneak out of its places. So far I have only found one solution to this: do not touch anything when it has gotten into its box. Which is kind of hard to do since I do not like to sit butt naked on the floor doing nothing. Maybe I need to incorporate another grown up thing – put things back into its place…….

    Good luck!

    • Sit butt naked in the middle of the floor doing nothing! You have just come up with the magic answer to all my problems, Ingrid. Thank you so much! Seriously, though, I am putting in my IKEA order…

  35. Gabrielle says:

    We have a couple of very old wardrobes (from the days when people only had a couple of sets of clothes), both of which hold my partner’s clothes. I have a pathetic wardrobe rail that an ex-flatmate HANDED DOWN to me about 20 years ago when it was already old. All the clothes that are approximately right for the season or special go here, and special things get drycleaning bags or suit bags over them. The out of season stuff and not special stuff gets squished into a junior style of vintage wardrobe, the kind that isn’t really full length. Our chest of drawers was my partner’s from when he was flatting, so that’s also very squishy. I also have some sealed boxes in another room where I keep things I made years and years ago that I no longer wear but want to keep. Funnily enough it takes a while for new creations to make it away from display (a hanger off the bookshelves) in the sewing room… I. Really. Want. Built-ins.

  36. Law says:

    This made me laugh!,

    We have one wardrobe, one big chest of drawers, two under-bed drawers and a cupboard that happens to have a clothes rail screwed into it!

    Half my clothes are stored like your exhibit C! We need a new wardrobe really but haven’t got round to buying one.

    There just isn’t enough space in city flats is there? New ones have no built in storage and old ones always seem to be weirdly converted meaning finding space to put wardrobes or drawers is hard.

    I feel your pain.

  37. The Purple Hat says:

    I’m still working on feeling like an Adult and currently failing miserably in the light of parenting a 14 year old! We have a fairly big space for just the 2 of us and it feels like the more I clear out the more stuff there is to put away.
    We live in a Victorain conversion flat so no built in storage. The PAX system from Ikea has worked well for us and Billy bookcases with doors for narrower storage in the hall, their bathroom cupboards are great too.
    Vacuum bags – make great use of the space under the bed, great for storing clothes, duvets etc. You can get them in Wilko, Lakeland, Primark, J Lewis …
    Small plastic drawers- great for sewing notions, thread, trimmings etc. Wilko do a variety, even some larger ones on wheels.
    Ikea have a great range of storage solutions, so do Wilko, Primark have an accessories hanger which is great for belts,etc.
    Over the door hangers are great for coats, scarves etc. I made an accessories hanger which has pockets for my daughter (if only she would use it)
    Putting a shelf over the door frame inside a room and using pretty boxes works well.
    I put labels on everything otherwise I forget whats in the boxes!
    I got some kitchen roll holders for use on a counter to store bangles,bracelets. Banana trees work well for necklaces.

    Just off to tackle daughters bedroom again! I am calm, I am calm.

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