Closet organizing is always a challenge, but when you share the space with your partner it can truly give new meaning to the term “main squeeze.”
That’s a relationship snag for many couples. A new SpareFoot survey of 18 to 34-year-olds found 82 percent of couples share a closet. And its a common point of strife—half of all couples have fought about how much room the other person’s stuff takes up in shared living spaces.
“It’s hard because it’s such a compromise,” Laura VanSickle, co-owner of Closets by Design in Charlotte, NC, said about sharing a closet. For example, VanSickle is working with a couple that clashed over the husband’s scads of of gray sneakers. He got rid of his least favorites and his wife made peace with (and space for) multiple pairs of shoes that all looked the same to her.
With this kind of give and take, it is possible for two people to squeeze into one closet without losing their favorite shoes—or their minds.
1. Pare Down Your Wardrobes.
Go through all your clothes and purge those you don’t wear, VanSickle recommends. Both people should get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, is stained or worn out, feels weird or isn’t flattering. Store off-season clothing in a space other than your closet.
“This will keep your closet neat and orderly, and it’s respectful of the other person,” she said.
2. Decide on a Fair Division of Space.
If one person has more clothes, divide the space accordingly, maybe 60/40 rather than 50/50. It’s also possible that each person has more of a certain type of item.
“If you have more shoes, maybe you get more space in the shoe rack,” VanSickle said. “If he has more T-shirts, maybe he gets more shelves.”
But be fair, said Elsa Elbert, owner of Composed Living: “If you have 100 pairs of shoes, it probably isn’t reasonable to expect your partner to give up space to make room.”
3. Agree to Keep Stuff Separate.
Each person should have their own areas within the closet, such as dedicated drawers, said Jessica Dalka, creator and CEO of Chicago Planner Magazine. She shares a closet with her boyfriend and finds life much easier when her clothes and accessories are placed exactly where she wants them.
“For me, it’s about being able to quickly grab what I need,” she said.
4. Configure the Closet for Two.
Before putting items in the closet, survey the space.
“For example can it be split in two, with a ‘my side, your side’ configuration?” said Lauren Williams, certified professional organizer and owner of Casual Uncluttering. If not, decide how you will allocate space and look at the structure of the closet. Make sure there are there places for all types of items, such as long dresses, suits, sweaters, hats, jewelry, scarves and shoes, Williams said. If not, create storage using tools like bins, cubbies, cascading hangers, hooks, shelf dividers, sliding belt holders and shoe racks.
5. Use All Available Space.
In a closet for two, avoiding wasted space is key. So make sure you’re using upper and lower space. For example, if one partner is taller than the other, that person could store shoes up on high narrow shelves to free up lower space for the other person’s shoes.
“Go vertical to maximize your space,” said Bridges Conner, owner and founder of Get Organized with Bridges + CO.
6. Head Off Closet Conflicts.
“Sharing a closet isn’t really about the stuff,” said Ben Soreff, a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing. “Usually one person tends to be more ‘neat’ while the other is more ‘messy.'”
To avoid fights over this issue, set ground rules (for example, no clothes on the floor) and add features to accommodate both styles. One example: VanSickle added doors to shelves in one closet so a wife wouldn’t have to look at her husband’s messy pile of shirts.
7. Free Up Closet Space When You Can.
If you have too many clothes, consider adding a dresser outside the closet. That’s what Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza did to free up space for the suits and ties her husband must wear to work.
“He needed more space in the closet so that his dress shirts aren’t getting smushed and wrinkled all the time,” she said. “More of my clothes can afford to be folded, so I moved those to the dresser.”
8. Shop Sparingly Going Forward.
A each person has pared their wardrobe to a level that comfortably fits in the shared space, it’s a good idea to practice a one-in-one-out rule. That is, if you buy a new dress, sweater or pair of jeans, an old one needs to go.
Follow these tips and you should be able to avoid closet—and relationship—hangups no matter how tight the squeeze in your shared space.