Beyond the Closet

Don’t waste these valuable storage spaces that are sprinkled throughout your home

by Elizabeth Brewster

The longer you live somewhere, the more possessions you accumulate – and the more you outgrow your home’s designated storage spaces.

But closets aren’t the only option for stowing both everyday items and seasonal goods like holiday decorations, the experts say. Here are some tips for getting the most into a home’s nooks and crannies.


“The [back side] of a door is a fabulous hidden storage gold mine,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of numerous organization books and National Association of Professional Organizers award winner. “You can hang narrow shelves inside a pantry door for canned goods, or hang hooks on a closet door for belts, bags, scarves, jewelry.”

In the kitchen, add shelves to the insides of cabinet doors to organize seasonings or plastic container lids.


Most homes have usable space under the stairs. The trick is organizing this space so items are easily accessible.

“Instead of building shelves, find something that wheels in and out of the space like a rolling cart,” says Kate S. Brown, owner of Impact Organizing. “You can load it up and push it in, and then pull it out to use the items.”

Or, fill under-stairs space with multiple large or bulky items, such as sleeping bags or folding chairs, says Morgenstern.

“If you put a lot of different little things in there, they’re going to get lost,” she says.


Line wall space next to the basement stairs with shallow shelves for cleaning supplies, or hooks for brooms and mops. In a tight bathroom or front hallway space, Brown suggests stealing space from inside the walls: “You can knock out a piece of wallboard between the studs and make a shallow little shelf for small items,” Brown says.

To stash extra paperbacks or CDs, surround a door or window frame with narrow readymade bookshelves.

The Garage

Garage walls can add much-needed storage to your home. Photo Courtesy of Tailored Living.
Where to Buy Cabinets and Flooring Source: Tailored Living, Princeton

Look up. Don’t fail to make adequate use of the vertical space in your garages. Making use of garage walls will create extra room in your home while at the same time leaving space to park the car.  Install shelves or cabinets so you can more safely store automotive fluids and cleaners. Cabinets along garage walls are great spaces to keep sports equipment, holiday decorations, and bulk items like luggage. 

Shelving ‘Gaps’

Specialty shelving organizers add functional storage. Photo courtesy of Tailored Living. Where to Buy Source: Tailored Living, Princeton

Look for extra room in cabinets and closets where items don’t need all the height created by standard shelves. Wire, plastic or metal shelf organizers can help stretch the space.

Container Caution

The colorful arrays of storage containers in stores make it tempting to stock up. Resist that temptation until after you’ve sorted and organized, experts say.

“Shopping for containers is the last thing you do, not the first,” Morgenstern says. “Then you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, what you’ll put inside, how many you need and what sizes you’ll need.”

She also recommends sticking to neutral colors for storage that will be visible in the home:

“If you have colorful storage filled with colorful objects,” Morgenstern says, “it can be visually over-stimulating.”