The best tips for keeping your really deep closet organized

How to Organize a Deep Closet

This is a very deep shelf.
Very deep closet

We have a very, very deep linen closet.  For years we just kind of shoved everything in wherever we found room.  Mismatched sheets, ripped towels, washcloths folded inside of towels … I even found a random slipper in there.  Eventually, we needed to gain access to the attic through the closet.  (We live in a split level, and the attic access to the lower attic is through the closet.)  I was honestly afraid of what was going on in that closet.  So.  Much.  Stuff.


  • Large baskets for the top shelf and back of any other deep shelves (size and quantity depends on size of basket and size of shelf).  Preferably baskets with wheels.  The kind designed for under the bed work well.
  • Small baskets for washcloths and hand towels
  • Contact paper
  • Sticky lights

So my husband and I put the kids down for (what we desperately hoped to be) a long nap and hunkered down.  First, we took everything out.  As you’re unloading, start throwing away anything you know for sure is garbage.  Threadbare towels, sheet with a very large and unfortunate stain, etc.  As you unload, put the stuff in piles: sheets, towels, miscellaneous, stuff-that-actually-belongs-elsewhere.  I’m looking at you, pack of diapers.  If you have other obvious categories (like you store makeup or bathroom appliances in there), go ahead with other reasonable categories.  But don’t worry too much about sorting within the piles.

Next, go through the piles and break them into 3 categories: donate, use often, and use rarely.  Unopened, complete set of sheets for the wrong sized bed?  Donate.  Nice towels that don’t match your bathroom?  Donate.  (Shelters love sheets and towel donations.)  Family heirloom afghan that you can’t bear to part with?  Use rarely.  Rubber sheet you’re holding onto until your next kid is potty training?  Use rarely.  Your favorite towels, washcloths, and hand towels?  Use often.

Now, before you start putting things back, let’s deal with the shelves.  Chances are yours are rough from years of dry towels and sheets absorbing all the moisture in the air.  To prevent splinters (and you do NOT want a splinter in your towel as you dry your backside!), use contact paper on the shelves that will be in direct contact with fabric.

Use large baskets for hard to reach areas when organizing a deep closet
Use large baskets for hard to reach areas when organizing a deep closet

When you start putting things back in, start with the “use rarely” items.  Put the “use rarely” items the large baskets.  The baskets keep everything organized and accessible.  You can have something sitting way in the back of a deep shelf, and if it’s in the basket, you just need to take the basket out to get it.  This also prevents you from overloading a shelf that doesn’t go all the way back.  If it doesn’t fit in the basket, it doesn’t go in.  We used to just shove things on our top shelf, and that stuff would end up falling on top of the things on the deep middle shelf.  Also, you can easily see what’s on the top shelf without a ladder; just take the basket off the top shelf.

Once the baskets are loaded up, look at any remaining “use rarely” items.  Are there any larger items?  Pillows, comforters, shiatsu massager?  Those can fill any remaining deep spaces.  But remember, if it’s not in a basket, keep it within arms reach.  If you can’t reach it easily, it might as well be gone.

Small baskets keep small towels organized
Small baskets keep small towels organized

Now you should have just your “use often” things.  Think logically about what they are.  If you have independent kids (my Binnybeans describes herself as independent), put kiddy towels on a lower shelf.  Put the nice, large, fluffy towels on a higher shelf: eye-level for guests… or mom and dad.  The important thing is to organize them in a logical way.  Throwing things back in there willy-nilly kind of defeats the purpose of organizing everything else.  At this point, you can break out the smaller baskets.  Hand towels and washcloths tend to topple once you stack more than a few on top of each other.  That’s where the baskets come in.  Put the washcloths in one smaller basket and the hand towels in the other.  Now, they’re easy to find and will stay folded.

A finishing touch I really like is some added light.  Our closet is in a hallway with no windows and little light.  (By the poor lighting in the pictures, I have a feeling you’re not surprised.)  Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on in there, so I bought a couple inexpensive, motion activiated, LED sticky lights.  I attached them with 3M Command Strips so I can remove them if I wish.  They turn on when I open the door and off after 30 seconds of no motion.  Also don’t forget about the back of the door!  I don’t have a dedicated craft room, but I love to sew and I have tons of thread.  So instead of hanging my thread in the middle of my living room, I hung it on the back of the closet door.  You can also hang a closet shoe organizer, robe, etc.  Finally, if you have a large comforter, keep the plastic bag it came in.  Comforters tend to unfold and sprawl pretty easily.  The bag will keep it contained, even if you don’t fold it.

The finished product of organizing a deep closet
The finished product of organizing a deep closet

Finished product: a well-organized closet!  I’m so pleased with how it turned out.  Even when I’m running on fumes from a hard day of writing, cleaning, mothering, and everything else, I can still find my favorite towel when I shower before bed.  I won’t end up bringing a Doc McStuffins blanket in as my towel.  It happened before.  Don’t ask.


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