Create More Storage in Your NYC Studio Apartment for Less than $200

It looked like the contents of Nordstrom puked all over the wood floors, and the furniture, and the cat. 

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My future sister-in-law Kathleen lives in a small but gorgeous studio apartment in Hell's Kitchen. For the non-NYC folk reading this (mainly my mom), it's not as menacing a neighborhood as the name makes it sound. It's directly west of some of the most vibrant places in the city, like Times Square and Broadway, but enough avenues away to deter the tourists from venturing over. It's loaded with restaurants, bars, and amenities that locals rely on, like Duane Reade and dry cleaners. 

I loved Kathleen's apartment from the first time I saw it. Something about studio apartments has always appealed to me. Limited space means you have no choice but to be organized. With your bed within striking distance of the kitchen sink, you've gotta keep things clean. Also, after moving four times in one year (2016 was a busy time for my step dad's pick-up truck) I have really come to appreciate minimalist living. Less stuff is always ideal when you're moving. Plus, her apartment has lovely white cabinets, new stainless steel appliances, an old fireplace and mantle, real wood floors, and classic subway tile in the kitchen and bathroom. Ugh. Dream.

Kathleen is just as clean and organized and particular as her brother and I, but the storage options in her apartment didn't lend itself to keeping things orderly. When Kathleen switched out her summer wardrobe for the stash of sweaters and jackets under her bed, it all kind of exploded and disaster relief efforts were overwhelming. That, paired with a closet rod and shelf that fell off the wall (she told me her dad tried to fix it with Duct Tape???), created the Nordstrom-puked-in-here scene. 

I love cleaning and organizing, and luckily Kathleen was more than happy to indulge me. Chris, Kathleen, and I spent nearly six hours on a Saturday morning and afternoon transforming her studio apartment into a clean and organized space with a dreamy step-in closet. And the best part is the whole project cost less than $200 to complete. 

Step-by-Step Closet Makeover

Before | Closet & Hallway

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Kathleen had so many clothes and shoes. The amount of cute dresses, rompers, and tops was enviable. When the closet shelf and rod fell off the wall, she replaced them with two double garment racks and flat-hanger contraptions that allowed six shirts on the same hanger. The racks gave her tons of hanging capacity, but made it impossible to walk into her closet. It's hard to tell by photos, but her closet is actually 8' wide and almost 3' deep! A closet of this size is a rare species in the city, the space just needed to be utilized differently. 

1. Empty the closet.

Take everything out of the closet, take everything off the hangers, and just make piles. Get rid of the old garment racks or shelving and rods. Vacuum the floor. 

2. Take stock of what you have.

We used the bed as a staging area and separated the clothes based on season and if they could be stored on a shelf or if they required a hanger. In the process, we also made a pile for the laundry and the dry cleaners. 

3. Get rid of sh*t.

Kathleen filled seven kitchen trash bags of clothes and shoes and accessories that she didn't want. It was truly impressive. If we had more time or motivation, many of the clothes would've been worth selling, but our main focus was creating an organized living space ASAP so we opted to donate the clothing to those in need. The rule for getting rid of clothing is different for everyone, but I ask myself three questions. When was the last time I wore this? Is it stained, worn, or out of style? If all my clothes were dirty except this item, would I wear it or do a load of laundry?

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4. Build/install a closet system.

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Kathleen needed a mix of shelving for jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, lots of double hanging space for shirts, plus a full length section for longer skirts and dresses. We found an affordable closet system kit on Amazon that could expand to fit her closet. Chris worked to install this while we tackled the clothing piles. Anyone who can use a power screw driver, tape measure, and level with some degree of precision can install this system. 

Kathleen also invested in some Amazon Basics velvet hangers (linked below), because although the flat hangers that she had increased capacity, they were incredibly frustrating to use. Shirts slipped off those hangers too easy, but even the most delicate of silk camis stays put on the new velvet hangers. 

5. Fold and hang clothes.

Once it's all sorted and the system is installed, pull all those pretty clothes away. Fold sweaters, sweatshirts, and jeans. Hang blouses and camis. If possible, organize sections by sleeve length and season. 


After | Closet & Hallway

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Are you completely in love with this closet? Because I am. And Kathleen loves it, too. Show me another studio apartment with a closet like this! You can't. 

And now her couch is for sitting instead of storing sweaters. 

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The only one who wasn't super excited about the closet makeover was Apple, Kathleen's sweet little kitty. She preferred nesting in the cashmere and silk piles in the darkest corners of the closet. Sorry, Apple! 

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