Creating a Functional Coat Closet

Summer is coming!!!  I committed to the end of winter last week and washed my kids’ winter gear to store for the summer.  Of course we needed winter coats at my son’s baseball game last night, but luckily my kids don’t think they need a coat unless it is in the 30’s!


With the end of winter and start of summer activities, many of us are wanting to tidy up mudrooms and coat closets.  Here are some tips on getting all of that winter gear, sports gear, bags, shoes, jackets… in order so you can spend your time outside enjoying summer activities instead of looking for all the gear it seems to require!


Here is an entryway coat closet turned fancy!  Isn’t it gorgeous.  At The House of Smith’s, they took the door off their boring old coat closet and turned it into eye candy right inside the front door – LOVE!





Now I know not all of us want to undertake THAT big of a project.  Here is a simple little update done by Jen at IHeartOrganizing, that only required some sorting and tidying up a bit.


If it has been a few seasons (or years!) since you’ve sorted and ordered your coat closet it can easily be accomplished with a few simple steps and a relatively small time commitment.


Step 1:  Determine Your Organizational Goal

What do you really need to store in the space?  Given the size of your closet and the size of your family, what is realistic to be able to incorporate into the space with enough room to keep it orderly.  Think about other locations for your belongings… bedroom closets, the garage, basement.


Step 2:  PURGE and SORT! 

Pull everything out of your closet and put your belongings in various piles. Toss or donate items your family has outgrown or simply doesn’t use.  Put items that you intend to keep, but won’t return to the closet in another pile.  Categorize all other items into separate piles based what they are used for.  Shoes, jackets, bags, sports equipment, school bags, etc.


Step 3:  Make a Plan! 

Evaluate how much you want to put back in the space and determine if it is still reasonable.  Do you have room to store off season shoes, winter wear and seasonal sports gear in the coat closet, or do you have more room in individual family member’s closets or the garage?  Also consider storing special occasion shoes that may only be worn on Sundays or holidays in your bedrooms.  It probably isn’t realistic to have your summer flip-flops and your winter boots in a closet by the front door all year around – especially if you have 2-3 kids.  Also, as our kids get older their shoes get bigger.  What fit when they were 5, isn’t going to work when they are 9 or 10.   Consider the same thing with heavy winter coats, light weight jackets and sweatshirts.


If you have hooks for your kids jackets & backpacks, set a boundary for what can be there. For example, do your kids have a light weight jacket, and a winter coat, and 2 sweatshirts on their hook? That isn’t reasonable to maintain order. Allow them to have one coat, a backpack and one lightweight jacket OR sweatshirt at a time – at the most!


Step 4:  Begin Putting Everything Away!


Again, evaluate the shoes you have in your closet.  Most of us don’t have room for summer flip-flops, sandals & Crocs at the same time as winter boots.  If you do have extra space, consider a bin or tote on a high shelf to store off-season shoes.  Shoes can get really  unruly, so make sure you have a location where they all belong in the closet.  I really like these shoe shelves by Closetmaid.  I buy them at Target and they are $10-$14 each depending on the size you use.  You can stack them as well if you have good vertical space.

For kids, a basket or bin can also be used to hold multiple pairs of shoes.  However, make sure that if you go this route each person has their own bin, or you can create a bottomless pit of non-matching shoes!


Jackets & Coats

Sort coats and jackets by adult and kid sizes.  Place long coats to one side of the closet, allowing the rest of the closet to have good storage space on the floor.  When all lengths of coats are mixed together you destroy a large amount of vertical space that can be used to stack shelves or bins to store shoes, sports equipment…

Winter Gear

Hats, gloves, scarves… and all the other winter gear can become a huge pile of chaos pretty easily.  The key is to create small areas where each item belongs.  If space allows, it works well to give each family member a designated bin or basket for their things.  However, many of us don’t have that much storage space.  The back of the closet door is a great opportunity to add extra storage to your closet.  Shoe organizers work well to give each set of gloves, one hat, one scarf… their own home.  Consider giving each family member their own row – kids on the bottom adults at the top.  These shoe organizers can be found at almost any store that carries home goods, but I like to look at TJMaxx for more expensive and durable brands at discounted prices.





You can also use sweater or shoe hangers that hang from your clothes rod like Jen did.  Some tips on making these effective…  don’t weigh them down with heavy items, create a system of using it (one category of belongings per hanger or each person has their own slot…) and check regularly for misplaced items.  These can quickly become a catch all for anything item that we don’t know where to stuff it.  They seem small enough that things won’t get lost, but they are just big enough to become a jumbled mess of randomness!


Seasonal Switch

There is a benefit to having all seasons stored in your closet all the time. Our seasons change so frequently it is almost too much work to switch out winter and summer gear each season. However, if you just don’t have room for all of it, consider a couple bins, baskets or crates that are identical.


Bin 1 – snow pants,

Bin 2 – Ski goggles, hand warmers….

Bin 3 – beach or pool toys, swimsuits, sunscreen, swim goggles…

Bin 4 – beach towels


In the winter you would have bin 1 & 2 in your coat closet, and bin 3 & 4 in storage (basement, bedrooms, linen closet…) In the summer instead of transferring things to a different bin you simply swap bin 1 for bin 3 and bin 2 for bin 4 in the designated location in your coat closet.


Often the top shelf of the coat closet is good for these items.  If your top shelf is about 3 feet from the top of the closet, like most builder installed closets… consider installing a second shelf or adding freestanding shelves to increase your vertical storage space.  You can use freestanding wire shelves that are intended for under cabinet storage, or the Closetmaid shelves I talked about above for shoes.  The Closetmaid shelves even come with wall anchors so you don’t have to worry about them falling.


Here is an example of adding shelves to maximize storage space.





I like to use plastic shoe boxes to sort and stack smaller things on the top shelf.  You can get cheap ones for 88 cents at Walmart, and nicer ones for a few dollars each at The Container Store or Easy Living.


Our Clear Storage Boxes



Equipment for Sports & Activities

The amount of gear required to participate in any activity as a kid is AMAZING!   Designate one bag for each kid per activity.  Label it with their name and the items required for that activity.  Don’t try to have one bag per kid that is utilized for multiple activities. In a hurry, the contents get dumped, tossed, and thrown about to switch for another activity.  In the off season store these items in their bedroom closet.  Bring down the gear you need for that season and hang the bag on a hook, or place it in a bin or basket.  I like using a drawstring bag so contents don’t fall out, but you can also use reusable shopping bags if your child doesn’t have a “team” bag.


I love! 3M hooks for hanging these types of bags.  Consider using a side wall of your closet, wall in the garage or the back of a door.



If you have vertical space that is being underutilized I like these stacking bins too.  Stack 3-4 for equipment and label each one.  (i.e. label one with each child’s name, each activity your child has, or sports bags, pool toys, pet supplies…)  These are from Walmart and cost about $7.





Miscellaneous Storage

Also consider wall or door space you’ve never used before!


3M hooks are great for storing extra/empty bags.  Purge bags you never use, and limit the number you store in such a prime location. Consider storing smaller bags in bigger bags.


I also like to have a bag that is designated for returns.  Having a consistent location to store items to be returned helps us keep track of them and make sure we get our money back!


Wire baskets or wood bins can also be hung on the wall to create a spot for things like pet leashes, outdoor toys, sunscreen & bug spray, water bottles…





The most important things in organizing any space, but especially such a heavily used closet are to:

1) Limit your belongings to a reasonable amount given the space you have.

2)  Make sure everything has a home (not just an empty space on the floor).

3)  Label storage spaces as a reminder to everyone of what belongs in that space.


IF this is an annoying trouble spot in your home, a small amount of time and money can go a long way in making your house function more smoothly all summer long!!!