How to: Utilize Wasted Space

Wasted space makes me ragey. Poorly designed closets cause me to seethe. Yes, I realize I need to find more important issues in my life to be upset about, but there you have it.

How many of us have closet shelving that leaves a large amount of space unusable? How many of us have attempted to stack items really high on such shelving, only to have it all come crashing down upon us when we need something out of the middle? It can’t be just me. I suppose some people are able to get rid of things they don’t regularly use, clothes they never wear, shoes that hurt so bad (but are SO pretty!) they are impossible to shove your feet into. I am not one of those people. I have a sentimental attachment to my clothing that borders on co-dependence. The 6-inch pleather platform heels I wore to senior prom and never again? The first pair of “fancy” shoes I got for freshman Christmas ball? How about the plethora of T-shirts from vacations that seemed pivotal to my enjoyment and display thereof when they were purchased and then never actually placed on my body? You get the picture. I have a large amount of stuff. Because of this, my storage solutions have to be creative. While I am very lucky to have significant storage and closet space in my house, there are still easy, cheap ways to utilize space in small living quarters that I employ regularly and will hopefully be helpful to you here.

Unconventional Display Storage

Most of us have an empty wall somewhere, wide enough to accommodate a bookshelf. The space to store all my books, however, is another post entirely (I refuse to get rid of any books because my dream is to someday have a place big enough to build a cozy little library and if I get rid of anything now, how on earth will I fill it when the time comes???). The bookshelf and wall in question for these purposes is used to store/display my pretty, pretty shoes.

I heart my shoes very, very much

The exact model is no longer available at Target, but I just put this similar model together for my best friend’s new place and it was simple, fast and works like a charm.

Jewelry storage is another way to dress up your walls and be functional at the same time. Marshall’s, Ross, Home Goods and the like typically have really cute jewelry stands for around $10, but for longer pieces, I like to use simple wall hooks and hang them above my dresser.  There are hooks that screw into the wall, if you can put holes in the wall, and many stick-on options if you can’t or don’t want to.

You can find the screw-in hooks super cheap at Target or any hardware store, usually sold in packs of 20 or so. Don’t worry, I have more uses for them in a minute, so having more than you need for jewelry is perfect.

Unconventional Use of Conventional Storage Solutions

Remember earlier when we were talking about wasted space above closet shelves? Here is my absolute favorite trick: find a cheap curtain tension rod from Target, Home Depot, etc., that will work with the width of your shelf. Hang it close to the ceiling, leaving about 2 inches from the top. Get a pack of rod hooks or some inexpensive shower curtain rings, and proceed to hang your handbags on the rod. Handbag storage is a pain in the ass and can leave your purses smashed, squished, or generally misshapen. By hanging them from the rod, they keep their shape and have less of a chance of getting beaten up (or, if you live in my house, pissed on by the asshole cat). Plus, if you have enough room, putting the rod up high can still leave you with space underneath to stack things.

There are about 30 purses stored up there. Oy. While it looks like a jumbled mess in this photo, 

I swear it is an awesome way to keep them sorted!

Over-the-door shoe holders are also a godsend. I use these in my craft and clothing closets and not for my shoes. I prefer the ones with clear compartments because you can see what you have crammed in them. I use this in my clothing closet for scarves, bathing suits, gloves and any other number of random articles that I don’t have enough of to warrant an entire drawer.


Images courtesy of

I also use the wall hooks from earlier in my closet to hang various items. I have hooks that hold tote bags or over-sized bags that won’t fit on the rod system, random hats and bulky scarves. There is really not any unused space in my closet, unless you count the ceiling. Ohhhh man… what could I hang from the ceiling???

These are a few of my favorite closet and room organizers that make my life much easier. Anybody else have sneaky tips on using something for other than its intended use? I am always looking for new ways to cram more shit into the space I have, so any and all suggestions are awesome!

10 replies on “How to: Utilize Wasted Space”

ohhhhh, kitty badness is the worst. My suggestion would be to scour the Craigslist Free section for medicine cabinets, then go all DIY on that bad boy and make a jewelry closet out of it. If it has a frame around the mirror, spray paint it a fun color. Pull the shelves out of the inside and line it with thick cork (to be able to put push-pins or other hooks) and then cover with fabric, or use mesh screen, like effinfantastic suggested below with her frame. If you find a cool one, you wouldn’t even have to mount it on the wall, just use it as a piece of decor leaning against a wall or on top of your dresser.

Kitties can be such a pain in the ass sometimes….

(I refuse to get rid of any books because my dream is to someday have a place big enough to build a cozy little library and if I get rid of anything now, how on earth will I fill it when the time comes???)

I have said this to my parents whenever they question why I won’t give away any of my books. Thank you for helping to justify my book-hoarding. :D

Happy to help! I have the hardest time getting rid of ANY books, even ones I hated or refused to read (hello, gifted copy of the first Twilight book!). I cannot wait for the day that I cozy up in my little library with a fire burning on my gorgeous, chocolate brown leather nailhead couch sipping cocoa and readng surrounded by all my lovely books. And yes, I realize I have given this way too much thought.

My roomie and I are both moving. She has one of those plastic bag dispenser things from Ikea. She was wondering what she could use it for at her new place. I suggested that she put her underpants in it. It seems weird, but for me it would be great. I don’t care if my undies are wrinkly. After doing laundry, I’ll just dump them in the top and pull them out of the bottom! Underpants dispenser!

I have a ton of earrings. I bought a cool picture frame from a yard sale and cut a piece of wire hardware cloth to fit. The mesh just kindof wedges in there, but you can secure it with staplesor glue if you want. Then you just hang it on the wall and display all of your sparklies. I also use this at craft shows. I use some dowels to make it into an easel-type setup.

Okay, the underpants thing is one of the most creative uses I have ever heard of for those dispensers. BRAVO!

I love using frames to display earrings, it looks so cool. I have only recently started to branch out into more jewelry, so my earring collection is pretty small yet, but I may need to make my own anyway!

Ha ha, I love your innovative solutions. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to use the compartments in a 6-pack beer box after you’ve enjoyed the beer. You could lie them on a shelf with the open side facing out, for example, and put rolled-up T-shirts or other knits in them, so that you can pick an item at random without having to re-stack a pile of folded garments if what you want is on the bottom.

I’m using one box right now for my long socks and tights; for some reason, I like the idea of having each pair physically separated rather than just floating around in a mishmash in a drawer. That’s probably a bad example, though, because it uses more space than just mishmashing them.

There’s a quite large vanity in the bathroom, which provides gobs of space under the sink but no shelves. So various things go into stacked tote bags organized by category (first aid, hair products & accessories, etc.). It’s easy to pull a specific tote bag onto the counter and rummage through it rather than stooping find something amongst an entire cupboard’s worth of junk. The tote bag principle could be applied to other places like the kitchen, for, say, the non-essential implements that don’t make it into the crock on your counter.

I’m sad to say, I come from a family of absolute packrats, so in my adult life I’ve tried to deliberately focus on not thinking of new ways to cram shit into limited space. It’s hard to resist the urge, though. Like you, I think it’s kind of a fun mental exercise to figure out new ways to cram.

I hate huge vanities with no shelving! opening one up and seeing a foot of space that is completely useless makes me so mad. I have one of those wire shelves with a little pull out drawer in mine, and those are pretty awesome. Using plastic bins is a great idea. I am in need of a bathroom overhaul, I may just be stealing your plan!

Exactly!! There is no reason not to use the doors for storage when there are so many handy ways to do so. Boys just don’t understand. Jon’s description of my decorating style is to “find any flat surface and see how much shit I can fit on it.” I have a feeling our husbands would get along swimmingly!

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