Tackling Storage in a Teenage Closet

Open shelves, easy-to-reach hanging storage, bins and hooks keeps this teen's closet clutter-free.

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Photography by Michel Arnaud

As many parents know, when teenagers grow up and leave the nest, they don’t leave all at once. Such is the case in Laura Baer and Mike Levine's household. Their son Zack is mostly out on his own, yet he still spends plenty of time at home.

While his parents are happy to have him around, his mom has designs on his closet: As her sports-fan son uses the space less and less for his gear, Laura hopes to use it more and more, for her own out-of-season clothes and for guests, when his bedroom hosts visitors. Unfortunately, the poorly organized space wasn't particularly conducive to flexible storage.

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Zack's closet really needed a lot of help. The closet was big enough, but all the storage was to the right of the door, and there was a hanging rod in front of the shelves. Zack was unable to access those shelves without moving the hanging clothes first. The space right in front of the door was totally wasted, and there were just a few hooks to hang clothes.

A floor-to-ceiling stack of 14"-deep shelves was added right in front of the closet door, eliminating the obstructed shelves at the back of the closet. "In a closet like this one, a lot of people might have put the hanging clothes in front of the door and the shelves in the corner to the right, where the hanging clothes would have completely blocked access to the shelves," says Debbie Royal, design consultant from California Closets. "It's just never a good idea to install shelves in a corner."

Hooks, for essentials like sweatshirts and backpacks, and a wall-mounted belt rack rounded out the new storage system. Shoes, clothing, bins of sports equipment, a vast collection of baseball caps, and even a line up of Zack's prized trophies fit neatly on the shelves. There's even room for a hamper.

Use vertical space whenever you can. Hanging shoe bags are a great way to keep your teen's shoes off the floor. "It's your job to make sure he or she doesn't have more shoes than will fit in the spaces in the bag," Kathi says.

And don't forget the lighting. "If there's no light in the closet, install a battery-powered stick-up light," says Caitlin Mulhern of Impeccable Order. "Good lighting is important in any closet, but especially for teenagers who are both very visual and very image-conscious."

Now that the closet is complete, shoes, clothing, bins of sports equipment, a vast collection of baseball caps, and even sports trophies fit neatly on the shelves. "We're in transition right now," Laura says. "But the way the closet is organized makes the most of the space for my son—there's no excuse for clothes on the floor, for one thing —and it will be really useful as our needs change."

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