Organizing solutions for renters

A common disadvantage of renting is most landlords prohibit structural changes to their properties. As a result, organizing can be trickier in a rental property than in a home you own. Creativity is a must when seeking out these uncommon solutions. The following ideas and products might be of use to renters looking to reconfigure storage options, and hopefully they also get your creativity flowing.

  • Use existing hardware to support alternatives. Hang a closet doubler (pictured) from a rod to extend hanging area in the vertical space. Shelf inserts create shallower shelves in cabinets with deep shelves. Over-the-door storage pockets, baskets, and specialty items (like an iron and ironing board holder) can be helpful.
  • Apply removable items. I am a huge fan of utilitarian and decorative removable hooks. I’ve recently been introduced to the Um! brand of removable hooks, and have the “clown nose” one (pictured) in my kitchen holding dish towels. They’re great for getting so many things up and off the floor. If your place doesn’t have curtain rods or blinds, use frosted window clings to gain privacy in bedrooms and bathrooms without having to drill a single hole into a wall. Magnetic towel bars are great in the kitchen on a dishwasher or refrigerator.
  • Repurpose small areas of the house. A bookshelf placed in a closet creates simple shelving instead of hanging space. A room divider with photo frames or shelving (pictured) can hide water heaters or other exposed areas of your apartment you don’t want others to see.
  • Think like MacGyver. Okay, so you may not need to create a gas-powered car out of a roll of duct tape and some fishing lures, but the point is to look at old things in new ways. For example, spring-tension curtain rods (they come in many sizes: 18-23 in., 41-76 in., up to 90 in.) can fit vertically or horizontally on shelves and in drawers to create dividers.

What organizing hacks have you implemented in a rental space? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments.

15 Comments for “Organizing solutions for renters”

  1. posted by Mary in TN on

    My place has an island with doors on both sides. Open either set of doors and it’s a huge space. For the side nearest my prep area, I bought 4 pot lid racks (the vertical kind) and lined them up side by side. These now hold cookie sheets, cutting boards, trays, and, yes, lids. On the other side I store water jugs and other items not used for prep work. My island’s vertical storage is my favorite thing in the kitchen — all those big, flat things have a neat and orderly place to be!

  2. posted by Sarah B R on

    I used those stacked plastic drawers in my closet for all my folded items. I have 2 sets of 4 large ones and 1 set of 3 small ones. I used them 8 years in a rental and now 2 years since we bought. I was able to reconfigure in the new place no problem. They must have cost about $50/set and still look brand new after 10 years of daily use πŸ™‚

  3. posted by shris on

    Do the Um hooks stick to textured (painted) surfaces? Those look awesome if they do..

    I use the competitive removable hooks–the ones with sticky stuff that has to be discarded after one use. I must say I’m getting tired of having my daughter peel them off the wall…and running out of replacements sticky stuff.

    I must admit, I don’t have to worry about holes..I just like the idea of being able to change my mind without having to get out tools.


  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @shris — Mine is adhered to painted drywall. I don’t think they would work with a textured treatment (like rag painted surfaces), and I don’t know about textured wallpaper, either. But if the Command ones can stick to the surface, these would.

  5. posted by danielle on

    I’ve never heard of that Um! brand before but I just checked out their website…those are some pretty cool products!!

  6. posted by Karyn on

    This is probably most practical for those of us closer to five feet tall than six: I use a tension shower curtain rod, placed on the wall side of my shower/bathtub, to hold my bath towels in between showers. It keeps them out of the way, makes use of space that only gets used during a bath or shower, and doesn’t clutter the rest of my tiny bathroom with big old towels hanging on the walls. Besides, I only have one small towel bar next to the sink, so I’d have to install the other towel bar, anyway. πŸ˜‰

  7. posted by Karyn on

    Oh, there is a small towel bar at the far end of the bathtub, but that’s where I hang the bathtub mat between showers so the mat doesn’t get mildewy.

  8. posted by WilliamB on

    I use wire shelving a lot. I get mine from The C/r/a/c/k/Container Store, of course:

    I find most hall closets have a big lower space, so I put a large shelf down there and have extra space. I typically use a narrow one in the freezer (for freezer-top fridges) to make organization easier. I stack several if there’s a broom closet I want to repurpose.

  9. posted by Kai on

    That is an awesome shelf!

  10. posted by Lauriz on

    I really love all the wardrobe options, as I am facing myself some trouble organizing mine because of the lack of space.THANK YOU!

  11. posted by Jeni on

    I used 2 matching baskets for my Tupperware. One for lids and other for containers and they store perfect in bottom cupboard. And for my bathroom I got the wire rolling rack/shelves to put laundry supplies and folded towels on. Ikea has great square compartment storage in different sizes like 3×3 squares or 1×3, it’s helped get all that little stuff in its own place! πŸ™‚

  12. posted by Shalin on

    Great post! I love looking at for ideas on this stuff.

    I’ve been wanting to take my closet doors (regular swinging doors) off their hinges and use them as a table, replacing the doors with a curtain or similar – I don’t how I have to swing out a doors in my bedroom. For whatever reason though, it seems difficult to get door off the hinges…

    @Erin, thanks for mentioning UM products, they seem sturdier than 3M Command products. I’m really worried about hanging my larger framed photography pieces with “sticky pad” solutions.


  13. posted by Kelley O on

    I use a tension rod in the shower on the back wall and have a shower curtain on it, the kind with the mesh bags attached. All my shower products go in those bags, but I don’t have to swing the curtain back and forth to get in and out of the shower, it just stays there. The one on the other side (the bathroom side) is the one that moves. And I have a TON of space for bottles and soap and razors and stuff.

  14. posted by Osric C. on

    I am a bit storage obsessed, but I live in a 500 sq ft apartment with a roommate so I have to be πŸ™‚

    I use a lot of storage devices that hook over other things: towel hooks that go over the door in the bathroom for towels, towel hooks that go over the door in the bedroom for hanging jackets and sweatshirts, towel racks that hook over the kitchen cabinets to hang dish towels, those tall hanging box things over the closet rod to make space for folded sweaters and tees. (I’m always perplexed by people who put just one hook on the back of a door – what a waste of space! If I could drill into my doors, I’d put a second row of hooks halfway down the door.)

    I swear by those little box divider sets that IKEA sells for dresser drawers — great for keeping undies, socks and other small items in control. I use those in the dresser, end tables, junk drawer, bathroom cabinet — anywhere they fit. And I organize that useless shelf in the closet with stacked shelves so I can put seasonal things like holiday decorations and gift wrap in reach but out of the way.

    I stack a lot of off-season clothes in those transparent boxes the Cont’r Store sells. I use Levenger Book Boxes with doors to hide away all those office supplies and keep dust off my favorite books.

    I fill up every square inch of space I can find with storage — under the stairs, in that awkward bit of the closet I can’t get to easily, under the bed, under the sofa, on the backs of kitchen cabinet doors (love spice racks and those cling film/waxed paper/foil wrap holders).

    And I keep a text file on my computer that lists where everything is so I don’t have to go searching and digging through my over-organized apartment in search of that one random item I’m looking for.

    I think I’ve spent more on storage units that I have on rent, but in a town where apartments are tiny and almost everyone I know rents a storage unit, I’m one of the few who has uncluttered enough to not need one.

    My next project is to figure out what to do with a tiny utility closet (1 ft deep x 2 ft wide x 7 ft tall) that we use for the mop, broom, iron, etc. I’m sure there’s something I can hang over the door to get the cleaning supplies off the floor πŸ™‚

  15. posted by Dawn on

    For my cleaning supplies I have hung one of those shoes organizers over my hall closet door & put all my cleaners in the pockets. The bottom row of pockets are for rags/towels, etc. under my sink is much more organized with my daily products I use!! Also in fore mentioned closet I have placed a 3 drawer Rubbermaid container on the floor (from the floor to the 1st shelf it is about 3 feet high). In the drawers I store my medicines and extra supplies like toothpaste, cotton balls, etc. on top of drawers I roll my towels & stack on top. Now this closet is about 2 feet deep & the container is about 1 foot, so behind the container I store extra rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, & etc.
    In my bedroom closet I have 3 double hooks on the wall behind my clothes. Here I hang my bras, scarves & belts. They are accessible, yet out of the way & organized!!!

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