Dear Kathi,

I have a very small hall closet that currently is used only to pile junk into. This is very efficient for storing junk, but I would prefer to create a toy storage area for my kids. I can’t figure out the best way to fit things into it, however. I have two children and a lot of toys.

Adrienne, Carmel Valley


The hall closet, typically too small for most functions, can be an effective space for toys and games. Here in Southern California we don’t really need a full closet for overcoats and it’s good to buck tradition to discover other more effective purposes for this small space!

Start with removing the clothes rod and the shelf above to create a clean palette for your closet redesign.

Gather all of the toys you wish to store in this area. Sort into categories and get rid of all items that your children no longer play with. Pile like items with like, then take stock of what you want to store.

For toys with multiple parts like Lego bricks, consider buying plastic bins with lids that children can easily remove and put back on. Place all Lego items into one bin, with a little room to spare to serve as a guide for when your children request more Lego parts.

Make sure that board games are intact and stack these boxes together. Stuffed animals are best stored together in their own bin or deep basket.
Once all toys are on display, you will have a better idea of what type of storage containers you need. For instance, if the collection is mainly board games and stuffed animals, then you will need a small shelf unit and a large basket to hold the toys. If you discover that you have multiple loose items, you might want to incorporate a drawer unit into the closet.

There are many cost effective and efficient plastic storage units on the market. These plastic solutions will help organize your closet without requiring a construction worker. One of the most versatile units is the rolling drawer bin. These white and clear plastic units feature three to four drawers and they can be stacked if you need more room. You should be able to fit one of these into the closet with room to spare on one side for other containers. For instance, you can stack two to three bins on top of each another on the floor beside this unit.

If you need to store many sports related items, tall kitchen trashcans make super containers for bats, gloves, balls, etc.

On the side walls you can install hooks at “kid height” to hold bags for separate projects. These hooks could also be a landing zone for backpacks when your children return from school.

Another option is to buy a small shelf unit that will fit inside your closet. There are numerous shapes and sizes available to accommodate almost any size closet. Most are kits that you can easily assemble yourself. Buy the tallest one available to optimize the vertical space within your closet. Stack plastic bins on the shelves to organize loose items. Usually the shelves are only 12 inches deep. This means you will have floor space in front and off to the sides for small trashcans to hold larger loose toys.

Most importantly, once this closet is reconfigured, teach your children that this is their own special closet, built just for them. Because it is their special place, they are the ones responsible for returning toys there at the end of playtime.

There is no one perfect closet design. It depends on the age of your children and their interests. Keep in mind that as your children’s toys and interests change, you can easily redesign the space with different plastic configurations. With plastic containers and a little creativity, you can create effective holding zones for almost any item.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]
San Diego Professional Organizer