Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Turning your coat closet or mudroom into a high-functioning space for the winter can be a challenge due to the sheer volume of items coming into the space. In this post I'm sharing the steps I took to transform my own tiny entry coat closet into a space that will function better when the snow begins to fall.
The first thing I did was take inventory of the space and the items inside of it. The original closet system, which I DIY'd several years earlier, showed many signs of needing an upgrade. What had worked when my kids were little was no longer working. The hooks were too low, the baskets were ripping and the shoe bins were too small. Knowing where my sore spots were, I designed a new closet layout which included five main zones:
Zone 1 | Hanging
Zone 2 | Hooks
Zone 3 | Small Accessories Baskets
Zone 4 | Shoes
Zone 5 | Off-season Storage
Once I had my rough design in place, I needed to inventory of all of the items going into the closet. So, I gathered up every coat, snow pant, mitten, scarf and boot (including what was in bins in the basement) and brought it to one spot. Then, I gathered up the members of my family so we could edit together.
As a family, we went through every hat, mitten, jacket and boot we owned to determined if we would keep it. Doing it as a family allowed us to focus on the task and move through the editing process quickly. Doing the editing process early in the season gives you time to shop for items you need now rather than running around when the first deep freeze or snowfall hits.
Once I knew the volume of what we were keeping and what winter items I needed to purchase, I went shopping for the organizational items to bring the design to life.
The first step was purchasing a closet system. I purchased the Elfa system from The Container Store, which is modular, providing me with the ability to change it as needed in the future. I kick myself for not having done this a few years ago when I designed the first space as it would have saved me a lot of time now (and likely money).
Also on my list was upgraded bins since my kids had outgrown the ones we purchased when my kids were smaller. I fell in love with the bins shown below because they were the perfect size, they are soft making it easy to pull in and out of the closet and they are just so cute.
I gave the closet a fresh coat of paint before I installed the new closet system since it's very unlikely that you will come back to it later, and it's easier to do it when everything is already out. I'm really happy with the upgraded closet, but knowing two closets are not alike, I want to leave you with my top organizing tips to help you organize your coat closet or mudroom for winter.
Take inventory - Look through all of your items to determine what you will keep, what you need to say goodbye to and what you might need to purchase is a critical first step. It's difficult to design a space without knowing how much stuff you need to fit into the space in the end. Additionally, take inventory of the space and organizational supplies as well to determine if upgrades are needed.
Design before you buy - Take the time to measure your closet and sketch out a plan on paper before you buy anything. Once you have your measurements and rough design in hand, then you can shop for the products you need. You can shop using items you already own or browse online or to a store. Regardless how you do the shopping, don't forget to bring your measurements to ensure that the bins you are buying will fit in the space.
Create clear zones - Creating clear zones in the coat closet is especially important because winter gear is bulky and can get out of control quickly. Below are the zones that are typically accounted for in a mudroom or coat closet and my thoughts on each.
Zone 1 | Hanging - If you have jackets that will stay nicer on a hanger, it's important for you to designate space in the closet specifically for hanging items.
Zone 2 | Hooks - If you have children in the home, hooks in the entry closet/mudroom are very helpful as my experience tells me that children are not the biggest fan of hangers. And if you don't have children, but simply don't like hangers, hooks are a great option for you as well. Hanging items on hooks takes up more space than hangers, so you'll have to take that into account as you design your space.
Zone 3 | Small Accessories Baskets - Having a basket (or drawer) for each member of the family to put all of their mittens, hats and scarves in rather than having a bin for each type of item cuts down time spent searching for matching gloves or mittens. Giving people a bin (or drawer) with their name on it makes it clear whose responsible for the items as well.
Zone 4 | Shoes - Most families have some shoes in the coat closet, but each family is different and knowing your family is key. If you are a family who puts your shoes in your bedroom closet every day, you might only need a place for boots in the mudroom or entry closet. If you're a family that likes to have all of your shoes in the mudroom, then you'll need to design the space with that in mind. Our family is a mix of both. Most of my kids shoes are in the front closet and they each have their own bin. My husband and I keep our boots in the entry closet, but most of our shoes are in our bedroom closet.
Zone 5 | Off-season Storage - If you have room, creating a space to put off-season storage in the closet is ideal. Most often, the best place for this is the highest shelf in the closet since it's not good for day-to-day access.
Label everything - Coat closets and mudrooms are high-function areas, so labeling is important and the system is clear to everyone in the family.
Consider a landing spot for wet items - With winter weather, rain and snow are inevitable, so planning a place where you will put that winter gear when it's wet is essential. It's not ideal to put your wet clothes into the closet with the dry clothes.
Consider creating a dedicated bag for school-aged kids - If you have smaller kids that need to bring snow pants/boots/hat/mittens to school everyday, consider creating a bag for each kid and having those items in the bag that they can just grab each day. When they come home, they can pull out the wet stuff and put it into the “wet area” and put items back into the bag once dry before they go to bed so it’s ready in the morning.