Trying to figure out how to maximize space under the stairs? Here are a few tips and ideas to get the most storage out of the closet under the stairs.

disclosure: this post is sponsored by Better Homes & Gardens at Walmart.

how to maximize space closet under the stairs

Have you ever noticed that little door right there on the left?

Ever wondered what was behind there?

It’s a tiny closet that runs the length of the staircase. When I was little my mother would store coats and Christmas decorations and umbrellas and a conglomeration of things that showed up when no one was looking. It was relatively organized and useful and a great place for storage.

And then?

We bought the house.

And now?



Not so much. I’ve never shown you the closet before and there is a very valid reason for that.



On Friday it looked like this.



{hangs head in shameful embarassment}

Can we still be friends?

Can you hurry and scroll on by?


Just between us? I’m not still not really sure how it ended up like this. I had such high hopes. But somewhere along the way, life and a lot of random stuff happened. We found an old cabinet and tried to build it in, but it didn’t really work and then we needed a trash can and I found this old one out in the shed and random pieces of this and broken pieces of that showed up.

And on and on and disorganizing on.

This space isn’t maximized at all.

how to maximize space closet space

So this weekend?

This closet became our project.

It started like all really good organizational projects do.

I couldn’t find the fly swatter.

Of course, I couldn’t. It was hidden under two brooms, four dustpans and a towel that I used to clean the chandelier. And the more I looked? The madder I got. I pulled out trays and trash bags and a science board and four umbrellas and still no fly swatter.

And when everything from the closet was in the middle of the entry and I sat atop that pile of STUFF clutching the fly swatter?

I knew it was time to organize.


Step 1: Clean and purge

To maximize the space under the stairs, we started by pulling everything out from under the stairs. I sorted things into three piles:

  1. Throw away (by far the biggest pile)
  2. Find another place in the house
  3. Go back into the closet

Doesn’t the space already look bigger? You can see the original flooring and that square? It’s the access panel to get under the house. We don’t have a lot of floor space in the closet because of the access panel.

When I sorted everything out, something amazing happened.

75% of what is in this closet?


Isn’t that the way it always works?

Step 2: Paint

I knew I wanted a dark color.

It just looked cleaner to me. Sometimes white walls are so hard to keep clean and I wanted the space to feel fresh and clean.

We painted the walls Naval SW 6244.

It needed two coats because we went from light to dark.

Step 3: How to maximize space? Add an organizer

This was by far the hardest part of the project.

I had to find the hardest working organizer on the planet. Here were my criteria:

  1. It had to measure the width of the closet (about 33″).
  2. It had to maximize storage.
  3. It had to be inexpensive.
  4. It had to be cute.
  5. It had to be flexible.

That is a super tall organizer order.

And then?

I found this organizer at Walmart.

  1. It is about 31″ wide.
  2. It is deep enough and has enough width to maximize the space.
  3. It’s under $50.
  4. It has the prettiest gray finish.
  5. I could use the cubbies or order cubes to fit inside.

Step 4: Add cubes

I found these cubes in a black and white stripe that actually looks like navy in the space.

They were super inexpensive ($6.00) and looked so pretty in the space.

You can see the cube storage here.

Here’s what I put back into them from my stash in the hallway.

  1. Bin 1: Paper towels
  2. Bin 2: Cleaners
  3. Bin 3: Steamer and steamer parts
  4. Bin 4: Small tool kit

Step 5: How to maximize space? Vertical storage

I couldn’t use any of the rest of the floor space because of the under-the-house access, so I used the walls instead.

I found two of these sets of hooks and several of these single hooks. We hung them up on the walls on either side of the closet and one hook was added to the door.

Here’s what made the cut to get back into the closet:

  1. A stool
  2. A broom
  3. A dustpan
  4. A duster
  5. An apron
  6. Extra bags for storage

how to maximize space rug and storage

how to maximize space storage bins

how to maximize space faux marble trashcan

Step 6: Add function that looks pretty

Lastly, I added this gray and white rug to the space to cover up the opening under the house.

It’s designed for spaces like this and has a latex backing to help it stay in place.

This faux marble trash can is super heavy and sturdy and stays in place and looks pretty all at the same time.

how to maximize space before closet

Can we take one more look at where we started?



how to maximize space

And now?

Here’s the after.

It’s pretty and functional and useable and makes me want to clean.

It’s all about maximizing storage and now there’s a place for everything and everything has a place.

Especially the flyswatter. 🙂

PS I’m putting together a YouTube video for this space. You can see it over on my YouTube channel here.

I am so happy and honored to be part of the BHG Live Better Influencer Network at Walmart.

All opinions are my own.

Please see my disclosure page for more information.

Affiliate links are also used on this post.

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  1. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    Now, pat yourself on the back and dare anyone not to put things back where they go!!! Lol (I label everything in my house.)

  2. Image for Betsy Giduz Betsy Giduz

    Holy Cow! You are amazing! Love the dark SW Naval. I painted our dining room with it after your recommendation and it is crisp, clean looking and lovely! During all this uncertainty in the world, your emails are a source of comfort, joy and inspiration to me! Thank you, KariAnne!!

  3. Image for Debbie S. Debbie S.

    Do you keep opening the door to look at how organized it is? I recently took everything out of a large linen closet in my hall. Purged, cleaned, organized. It looks amazing. I go by every now and then to just look at how wonderful it looks!;)

  4. Image for Brenda Brenda

    The best thing in the world is a well organized closet! And if it's pretty to boot? Double score! Great job! Now if I could only get my sewing room organized.....

  5. Image for Linda Linda

    Karianne, Absolutely beautiful! I love the blue walls, it reminds me of stepping outside at night to look at the stars. YOU ARE AMAZING 👍

  6. Image for Kris Kris

    I have a closet that desperately needs to be organized. Ok, several closets. They start out organized and then somehow they end up messy. I blame aliens.

  7. Image for Missy Missy

    Your post came at just the right time. I don’t have storage under my stairs but the utility closet at the end of the hall is in need of a makeover/cleaning. A new vacuum cleaner arrived yesterday so I will make it a priority to reorganize that closet and give it a proper home. Thank you for sooooo many useful posts, but more for the uplifting attitude and honesty you show!

  8. Image for Carol Carol

    All my closets look like your before. (Also hanging my head in shame). It is two decades later and I'm finally retired. I immediately started the purging. Tons of stuff was thrown. Boxes of the kids things were delivered to them. I was on a roll! Only,my retirement started with a furlough and the pandemic. Goodwill was closed.. I'm still taking boxes out from the garage, giving them a ride 2 weeks long in my car and finally dropping them off. Will this ever end????

  9. Image for Laura Harrie Laura Harrie

    KariAnne, you really transformed that closet space under the stairs! The perfect color on the walls. This closet looks neat, organized and very functional! Job well done and it is amazing like you!

  10. Image for Cindy@CountyRoad407 Cindy@CountyRoad407

    Well that makes me feel better - LOL! Our closet under the stairs that I desperately want to do something about has curved walls. :/ And to make it worse, the curved ceiling isn't flat like yours either. It looks like stairs. It's deep but short. I may or may not have been known to throw something into the black hole only to never find it again. Wait, that was probably someone else. Love your new and improved closet color, the cubbies, hooks and how smart to get a rug. Love it!

  11. Image for Sharon Smith Sharon Smith

    So I thought to myself - well, what is wrong with the closet in the first place. Hey, I have one or two that look that way and they are not under the stairs. And then I saw the finished organized one and thought I should hide under the table in shame! I have never given much thought to closets but now that I live alone, shame on me. When I finish painting the master bedroom, I now know that I have to toss off that crown of shame and move onto four closets.. Thank you (I think) Kari Anne for once again showing me how it's done!

  12. Image for Lynn W Lynn W

    What a huge difference for the better!! The navy color is so pretty in there 😊. We just re organized the space under our stairs too!!! Same reason, because we couldn’t find something, and then it all came out and into the dining room. That’s where our door is! What a relief that we can walk in there now 👍 Last thing, whoever invented the cube organizer, space saver etc was a genius!! 🧐. They work well in lots of spaces.

  13. Image for BeverlyO BeverlyO

    This post really made me giggle because I just had a very similar experience with my pantry. It is still a work in progress but I hope it turns out as nicely as yours. I’ve even been toying with painting it navy. I cannot decide between that or the green than Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed painted her butler’s pantry. Right now I am in flux because I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to make-do with my shelving. You know, trying to stay on-budget but having champagne taste!

  14. Image for Jeannie Jeannie

    Awesome! Looks fab! Love the silver hooks and naval paint. I have also used peg board on walls to store things, which allows for great flexibility in adding additional hooks. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Image for Michele M Michele M

    WOW- what a huge transformation. I would never have thought of doing a dark closet - but you nailed it (haha literally.) Well done, KA.

  16. Image for jillian jillian

    I expect nothing less from you! When you do a project you make it so nice. Love the paint. We have a closet like this under our basement stairs. It is neat, but filled to the top, sides, and bottom with Christmas bins...because I have a little love affair with Christmas decor. I refuse to call it an issue. I am working on the garage this summer. (Otherwise known as my storage/staging room)

  17. Image for JC JC

    We have a closet named the "Narnia" closet because when you enter you may just be transported to another world 😉. Its a work in progress. But this, my friend, looks better than those morning show, mom makeovers that go from frazzled to glam!! Love, LOVE the navy! How fun to get the broom and supplies out now!!

  18. Image for Edie Edie

    Your closet looks so good now. I know you are so pleased that it not a mess anymore. Thanks for showing the before picture. Now if I could find a place for everything life would be smoother. Have a great week.

  19. Image for Carol Karl Carol Karl

    What a transformation. Love it. Absolutely love the colour! Love your work. Just realised that I've said love in this comment three times - wait that makes it four. You get the picture.

  20. Image for Marty Marty

    I love it. It looks amazing and the storage is perfect. Great job. Now if the door is left open for any reason, you won't be embarrassed.

  21. Image for Karen Mary Karen Mary

    I just love projects like this! You'll be met with lovely and functional every time you open that door! I'm now inspired to paint our coat closet a dark color and give it a rug. It's always such an inspiration to read your posts!

  22. Image for Chris Ann Chris Ann

    KarriAnne, you projects are always lovely and doable for those of us who need inspiration! You are also encouraging. Love the Navy Blue, I happen to have a gallon just sitting unopened in our garage! though I have no under the stair storage closet. Wondering if you considered adding a rolling drawer behind the cubbie? looks like the wall could be cut where the bottom of the wall meets the floor and there would be enough room for a shallow height drawer...Kindly, Chris Ann

  23. Image for Laurie Cordeniz Laurie Cordeniz

    That was a great makeover. I got lots of inspiration but I am wondering where you store your vacuum cleaner. I am in need of a storage place for mine!

  24. Image for Lynne Lynne

    I love it! Even with dark paint, the space looks larger without all the other items in it. We took a closet under the stairs in our previous home and turned it into a pantry closet. the back wall that sloped had graduating shelves all the way down, with narrow shelves on each side. My husband said if he'd have known that pantry closet would have made me as happy as it did, he'd have revamped it years before!

  25. Image for Mary S Mary S

    I love projects like this. Like when I clean off the top of the vanity and put all those little jars and bottles away... and when I clean up the garage and hang stuff and organize things. It's such a good feeling to walk in a room and see it all cleaned up. :-) Just wish it would stay that way!! Good job! Your storage closet looks great!!

  26. Image for Nita Nita

    Wow, girlie, you did a great job of organizing that small closet! Love the navy walls, the cubes, well all of it really! And I'll bet you asked yourself why did I wait so long to do this? lol

  27. Image for Rev. Suzanne Taylor Rev. Suzanne Taylor

    That came out great as all your projects do, KariAnne. I like the vertical storage. Will try that in my under stairs area. Thanks for the good idea.

  28. Image for Barbara Chapman Barbara Chapman

    I love how your closet turned out, KariAnne!!! I think we all have areas of the house that need a thorough clean-out. Pinned for you to my Cleaning and Organizing board. <3 Stay cool out your way, Hugs, Barb

  29. Image for Lindsay Lindsay

    I too have an understairs closet that is deep and then makes a turn. When the house was built, that closet was my one and only for our coats as well as guests. Short hanging space ( jackets fine, long coats laying on floor). You couldn't get to the back storage ( black hole) without removing said coats. Ugh! Six years later....big renovation/addition. New huge coat closet...yay! What to do with existing closet.... Addition produced a new butler's pantry that backed closet. I was able to tap into closet with 8 - 2 ft deep x 30 in. wide rolling shelves that were fronted with flush doors matching pantry cabinetry. Storage that is a dream come true! Now back to the original closet. It became my "purse closet." I am ashamed (not really lol) to say I own a large amount of handbags. We installed shelving with bins and wooden dowels to hold currently used bags and of course door hooks to hold misc. Needless to say, but I am one happy woman. The closet became the highlight of the Reno.

  30. Image for Maria Maria

    Oh my gosh!!! Leave it to you to make a storage closet beautiful! And it is:) Now I want to clean and organize mine. Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!!!!!

  31. Image for Sharon Garner Sharon Garner

    The space under our stairs has always been a play room/toy closet for the grands & greats. It has a little kitchen and tubs with toys. I don't want them to grow out of it, because then it would just be a CLOSET under the stairs!

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