simple stuff: hangers.

May 22, 2017

Simple Stuff: A new series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.

There’s a funny thing that happens when you write about living well in a small space: people start asking you about your closets. They want to know what’s in them, and how those things are stored, and whether you, too, have a magical way of folding your socks. Eventually they come around to asking about your hangers. And eventually you start having opinions.

I’m as guilty as anyone of engaging in some low-key closet porn. Peeks into other people’s beautifully organized spaces? Yes please. I maintain that the prettiest closets are the near-empty ones and that those are virtually impossible to come by, especially in a tiny apartment with four humans in it. Still, a bit of fastidiousness in the closet can bring with it a certain amount of joy. True story: Just last week I woke up feeling particularly bushy-tailed and realized after floating about the apartment for a few minutes that I was still riding the high of having reorganized the closet the night before. Simple pleasures, etc.

Whether your closet is a pint-sized place smushed below the stairs, or a walk-in extravaganza that a New York City real estate broker would sell as a second bedroom, I’ll shock few by saying that on the road to closet perfection, a bit of hanger uniformity is a good place to start. 

If you have a closet full of mismatched plastic and wire and wood hangers, consider how it might make you feel to streamline that space a bit. I’m not suggesting you need to do a wholesale hanger dump, but consider which of your hangers you love the best and edit the rest. As always, excising what’s generally troublesome or ugly or just not to your taste could be the thing to do to make you feel overall less gloomy about your space (and your wardrobe). Consider further that hangers are the place where you hang your small and expertly culled and curated or otherwise scrutinized wardrobe. (No pressure.) You want it to shine. 

In a quest for a perfect hanger, you’ll discover that a clothes hanger is a piece of useful design that’s been near-endlessly “improved” upon. The over-designed results are sometimes dubious and often ugly. Hanger experts of the world will assure you that you need a moderately different hanger for your various hanging needs, but I’m a believer in sticking to classics. Just say no, for instance, to flocked hangers covered in that microfiber faux velvet junk. Darling of every small space article on the internet, those space-saving hangers eventually start to degrade and they’re not terribly pretty to start with. Some professional organizers would no doubt extoll the benefit of cascading hanger systems that allow you to fit a veritable army of pants in the space where only one formerly hung. I can imagine a scenario where such a thing might be helpful, but it’s not something I’ve ever done myself, and it’s maybe worth noting that such a device might simply encourage a slippery slope toward a closet that’s very full of things you can’t necessarily see (or use). Are too many hangers the culprit? Cull your hangers, cull your closet? Food for thought.

In the meantime, a few ideas for humble hangers that do good work and look good too:

For our part, our main hanger supply is made from a collection of plain jane wooden hangers, mostly purchased at Ikea years ago when space was aplenty, money not so much, and James’s turquoise and black plastic tube hangers a mighty motivation indeed. They make for a neat and uniform closet, even if they’re not the world’s most slimmest hangers on the market.

If you’re after a similar look that’s about 30% nicer than ours is, allow me to introduce you to these very lovely unfinished hangers that I recently learned about through my friend Grace. All the classic styling of a wooden hanger with the added organic touch of unvarnished wood.


For folks looking for space saving hangers minus the faux velvet flocking, I always recommend the humble wire hanger. Not perhaps ideal for either your most slippery or your heaviest items, but perfectly serviceable for most of a wardrobe and if you play your cards right, totally free. Our laundromat uses these hangers to air dry whatever selection of clothes it is that we ask them to, and so we constantly have a stash of them outside our apartment door, waiting to return from whence they came. On occasion, the hangers we get are of a particularly satisfyingly thick gauge that hold up well to weight and would look solid and low-profile, thank goodness, in a closet.

If you’ve got extra time on your hands, and you find yourself tempted by the allure of those non-slip hangers, you might even embark on a wire hanger upgrade:

+ This one from my friend Justine, uses strips of humble muslin to turn simple wire hangers into non-slip and uniform workhorses.

+ This one, from Stephanie at 3191 Miles Apart, borrows from a DIY of grandmothers’ past and trades acrylic yarn for linen yarn to achieve a similar effect.

If covering wire hangers with tiny twists of fabric or waiting on the neighborhood laundromat to come through with the perfect gauge of extra-thick hangers does not sound relaxing, here are two lovely wire alternatives:

+ These bronze hangers from Fog Linen are modestly sized but sturdy enough to support the weight of clothes and very lovely to look at. (Additional points for the very handy rectangular tie hanger and circular scarf hanger, which can be used for all manner of household hanging needs from ties and scarves to dishtowels to washcloths to play silks.)

+ A set of five copper-colored steel hangers from Schoolhouse Electric are also very low-profile and very good looking, plus they’ve got little notches to help you along with any slipping business.

+ We’ve yet to relinquish any of our closet space to our children, but if we eventually do, I might look into a set of these child’s size stainless steel hangers.

If you feel compelled to read an exhaustingive account of all the very best hangers out there, The Sweethome has a good one.

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  • Reply Lexie May 22, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I appreciate the aesthetic of wooden hangers, but they are far too bulky IMHO! I like the velvet hangers myself. They are space saving and items don’t slip off like they have in the past!

    • Reply Trish O May 22, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      I like the velvet ones, too. Years ago I got rid of everything else and just use these. Never going back.

      • Reply MissEm May 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        Another fan of the faux velvet ones. I used to have wood and they were so bulky and clunky. I got a set of linen colored flocked things 8 years ago and they look just as good now as they did when I first bought them – they’ve held up great! My husband recently converted to them for his side of the closet, and we’ve bought them for our kids, too – all in the same color. They work well in small closets b/c they take up almost no space and work for everything from heavy coats to slippery silk straps, and you can get clips to turn them into skirt hangers. Sorry – normally I agree with you on all small-space-living points, Erin, but I’m going to stand by this very minute issue ;).

        • Reply MissEm May 22, 2017 at 11:42 pm

          Uh oh…although…after seeing your link to the kids’ wire hangers and the muslin tutorial, I would jump on that if it wasn’t environmentally and financially problematic to dump all my flocked hangers for pretty new ones. Fickle heart, man. Now I just have to wait for a friend to say she wants to overhaul her closet and I can “donate” all my flocked hangers and live in wire and muslin closet paradise.

          • ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 7:42 am

            Ha, I know it.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 7:42 am

          Haha, no worries! To each her own!

        • Reply Sally May 24, 2017 at 3:22 pm

          Anyone have a link to the linen flocked things you speak of?

    • Reply Kari May 23, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Yes, yes, yes. I’m normally so in sync on all of Erin’s suggestions, but velvet hangers for life! I used to have a big mix of hangers (wood, wire, velvet, plastic) and after weighing the benefits of each, I chose velvet and overhauled my home. They are so slim and sturdy, they never disappoint.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 10:08 am

        Ha! You drank the velvet hanger Kool-Aid! 😉

  • Reply laura May 22, 2017 at 11:38 am

    We stick to all wood hangers (bought in a giant bag years ago from a swap shop for $3). if its space saving you want, a simple can tab hung from the hook allows you to hang some hangers on top of each other vertically in order to make some space without going the velvet route! Not beautiful but has been a great hack in smaller apartments through the years.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Such a good hack!

  • Reply Jessica May 22, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    My husband and I recently made a balancing mobile using 16 gauge wire, which was (relatively and) surprisingly simple! A two hour project, maybe. I think it wouldn’t be too difficult to fashion a circular or rectangular hanger by bending it around a large book/tube shaped item, and then twisting the hook with needle nose pliers. 25′ of wire is $5 or so.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Love that! I’ve admittedly tried to make a circular hanger myself without luck, but surely the proper tools (and cylindrical item) would do the trick!

  • Reply stella May 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    i have wooden hangers for both mine and my kid’s hanging stuff. Sometimes I think I could use a few more but then i think again that I should just get rid of some clothes..

    • Reply MissEm May 22, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      I have a general rule with my kids’ clothes that if clothing exceeds amount of hangers, then something has to go.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 7:43 am

        Yes! Good rule for adults too!

        • Reply MissEm May 23, 2017 at 1:15 pm

          Absolutely! I just never get to that point…because sadly, relatives don’t want to buy ME cute clothes every time I visit. 😉

          • Stella May 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

            Hehe 😉

  • Reply Kirsten May 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Wood is still my favorite! I will point out that the most recent pack of wooden hangers I got from IKEA were unfinished, and I actually prefer the finished ones! I found that the unfinished ones could be a bit scratchy and snag on my clothes. Just a heads up as something to think about for anyone hoping to swap theirs out.

  • Reply Kmagee May 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    I like to hang sweaters esp thin merino wool. Any hanger tips?

    • Reply Natasha May 23, 2017 at 10:11 am

      I’d actually suggest not hanging sweaters and other knits. Hanging causes them to get stretched out of shape!

  • Reply Emily Billings May 23, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Recently switched to wooden hangers and while they are more bulky than the plastic and faux velvet, they immediately made my clothes feel elevated and forced me to purge. A win win for sure!

  • Reply Alyssa May 23, 2017 at 11:11 am

    My grandmother used to do some elaborate crochet work over some basic wood hangers, which are now dispersed among various family members — I think I have 3 or 4. I treasure those so much! Since I don’t have a space at the moment to fold my cashmere, my grandma’s are the only hangers I use that help knits keep their shape. Since I only have a few, it’s definitely a “treat” for whichever item gets hung on it…or that’s what I tell myself!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2017 at 9:13 am

      I love that! Treats for inanimate objects are my favorite kind!

  • Reply LZ May 23, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I don’t know how to say this quite but I’m hoping to have an exchange:

    I’m feeling rather discouraged at how everything seems back to normal on this and similar blogs that were so engaged and engaging after the election. So many urgent political issues right now and a post about coat hangers…

    I know that these small things matter in some ways and I know it can’t be all fired up all political engagement all the time but I felt so hopeful after the inauguration that spaces like these might become spaces of leadership with respect to attentiveness and voice and resistance. I know your friday links try to do this in some way but the change in focus back to coat hangers, picnics, and fancy pjs (in the context of other normalization I’m seeing around me) feels dispiriting.

    Just a note. Maybe it will lead to some discussion.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for your note. Sorry to hear that you’ve been discouraged. I work very hard to strike a balance between writing about the various things that I find enraging and disheartening in the world and the things that offer a bit of calm or a bit of repose or, frankly, a bit of a break. As you can probably imagine, I’ve been faced with a very wide range of responses to any mention of politics. There are folks who are angry with me, folks who are relieved that I’m talking about issues, and folks, like you, who want me to be doing still more. I hope you all know that I’m doing my very best. I try always to share compelling stories that I read in my Friday links, I’ve changed the format of my Make-Believe and Gift Guides to include political action points (there’s one coming tomorrow if you’d like to stay tuned), I try to raise my voice on Instagram and Twitter and in my newsletter. I would be lying to say that this has been easy. To open myself up to critique about my choice in hangers is one thing, to open myself up to critique about politics is far harder.

      • Reply RC May 23, 2017 at 10:02 pm

        Hi Erin – I just have to chime in to say that I am grateful that this blog has returned (more or less) to its original mission of ” family, food, home, style and travel.” There are innumerable websites that focus on divisive politics and activism but not so many that celebrate the simple joys of family and home. Thank you.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2017 at 9:28 am

          My hope is always to acknowledge that all of this is deeply entwined. Sometimes I’ll surely be more successful than other times, but thanks as always for reading.

          • Stella May 24, 2017 at 5:48 pm

            I love the mix and I think that’s what makes your blog one that I’m always happy to read. You work and fight so very hard and I am amazed at how you do this whilst still doing everything else. I love your blog and all the inspiration it gives me. Thank you! <3

          • ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2017 at 6:36 pm

            Thank you.

    • Reply MissEm May 23, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      A friend of mine recently posted this on FB and I found it helpful. We need to keep conversations about justice alive, especially in this time, but we can’t forsake the big and small of cultural life and home life and the cultivation of beauty. Here’s the quote:
      C.S. Lewis, Learning in War-Time, Oxford, Autumn 1939:
      “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would have never begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life.” Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out on closer inspection, to be fun of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moments that never come.”

      • Reply MissEm May 23, 2017 at 1:20 pm

        But I get that it’s a tricky balance between normalizing the awful and embracing a persistent hope via small things and things done for the sake of beauty.

  • Reply LZ May 23, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you for your response.
    I think the hard thing to see, the discouraging to see, is that there was a flurry of activity on all of these blogs and on instagram etc when it was exciting and cool and fresh and now…
    And of course there was – it felt urgent and exhilarating. But now I worry that everyone wants to just get back to normal, to normalize what is going on, because it’s easier. So the coat hanger posts just feel like a part of that, a symptom of that.
    It must be difficult to feel scrutinized for your politics but what an opportunity you have.
    What about featuring some of the groups that are continuing to work hard – Indivisible, Solidarity Sundays, or talking with people who are engaged in local political engagement.
    This is your space, but I admired what you were doing at first — at the beginning of the year — and I feel that absence now, here and in other similar spaces.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Trying my very best here! Agreed it’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m working daily to figure out how to leverage that position in the best possible way. Ever hopeful I’ll be able to work better and better; no doubt there will be missteps along the way.

  • Reply LZ May 23, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I’m really surprised that you just deleted/failed to approve my comment! I was engaging you in a difficult issue but respectfully and carefully and with attention to the challenge and opportunity of your circumstances. There was no animosity or unkindness in what I wrote.
    This makes me feel sad and disappointed.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Hi there: I didn’t delete your note, I just needed a minute to respond so was waiting to publish it until I had a spare moment to craft a reply!

  • Reply LZ May 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    thanks. I don’t comment often so it’s all a bit mysterious. apologies.

  • Reply Jennifer May 23, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    If you don’t mind my asking, where did you get the rack on which you’re displaying the hangers? I’ve been looking for a clean, simple one exactly like that!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 23, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Hi there: It’s in the studio where I’m working these days! This one from Iris Hantverk!

      • Reply Jennifer May 24, 2017 at 9:06 am

        Thank you!

  • Reply Carol May 23, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    So conscious of the balance you must seek to find in life as a working parent and partner, and sometimes in looking at something as simple and basic as how we hang our clothes keeps us anchored in the core of nurturing our loved ones and it’s from that nurturing stance, we’re able to sustain our campaigning on ethical and other issues.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Thanks so much, Carol.

  • Reply JPB May 24, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I’ve been wondering and this post might be a good example for it as many of your others are. I loved the way you wrote about equal parenting, which included many things I am aware of (like dividing researching doctors etc.). My partner and I are pretty good in sharing responsibilities, both in the way of care work as well as carrying the mental load of housework. BUT, we live in a communal set up with quite a few other adults, some of who share this ability and some not. My question: Do you sometimes worry that, because you are making a job out of thinking about minimalism, zero waste and such, that you are doing more than your fair share? I guess it is just one thing I struggle with when trying to incorporate ideas of minimalism and zero waste into our concept of communal living, I often have to way my or a few peoples wishes of pursuing different strategies in contrast to wanting to have an equal division of care work.
    So I guess, after reading your blog for a while now and valueing your opinions, I am asking: How do you reconcile the idealism of simple living while being critically aware of unequalities concerning care work and carrying the mental load? I would love to hear your thoughts on it, maybe even read a post about it 😉

    (Sorry, English is not my native language, so sometimes I need a couple of extra words to get my point across.)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Oh, fascinating and definitely deserving of more than just a quick response. Will see if I can hash out some thoughts for future post!

  • Reply Mel May 24, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Hi Erin! This is my first time leaving a comment but I felt compelled. First off, I really appreciate your blog and all you do. I personally love this post. Sometimes my spirit needs a break from all the news and I feel you provide such a wonderful mix. I truly believe something as simple as which hangers we choose has a huge impact especially on our environment. As consumers and individuals one of our greatest powers is how we choose to spend our money and who we support . As a fellow momma with two littles of my own, I don’t have much free time but I so enjoy catching up on your blog once a week and appreciate your stance and balance. You are a rock star!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Thanks so much, Mel!

  • Reply Bethany May 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    I need to echo the other voices of support for the balance you have struck here. I have always been impressed and relieved at how authentic and inspirational your blog is. Frankly, I’ve read many pieces and blogs about activism and resistance and other crucial, important work. But none have inspired me to act so regularly as your posts about tiny, simple changes we all can make each day to live more peacefully and sustainably, and I like to think those changes have rubbed off on my friends and family as well (kaizen!). I could really go on quite a bit about it, about the relief and respite and inspiration you offer me every day in this space, but brevity may be the way to go here. Do you. It’s why I’ll be back here tomorrow.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Thank you for this kindness, Bethany. I’m so glad to know you’re reading.

  • Reply Lidia May 27, 2017 at 6:33 am

    I am not great at leaving comments, but I also felt the need to express how much I value your posts about simple, sustainable living, and finding joy in the little things. I understand why some would think that in times such as this, writing about coat hangers may be a frivolous thing to do, but I also appreciate that you’re striking a very delicate balance here – and also, particularly because we live in such tumultuous times, I feel that continuing to write about the everyday, and the little ways we can find joy in it, and make it ever so slightly better, is also an act of resistance. I may not be the most eloquent writer, but: thank you. Keep doing you, you inspire always.

  • Reply Lauren May 29, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Hi Erin, I also don’t comment often despite being an avid reader of your blog for years but feel I need to add my tuppence here as the critical voices always sound the loudest. The poster above made a point of saying that their post was for discussion only and meant nothing by it, but in my view was quite demeaning to the ‘normal’ business of your blog. I work in politics in the U.K. and it is extremely draining and emotionally exhausting to do it for your full time job. I need my home to be a place of calm and slowness for my own sanity and your blog has been helping me achieve that over the last few years (work in progress, never finished!) I like the balance of politics and otherwise but actually favour the non-politics posts for that reason. The poster above fails to appreciate how mixed your readership will be and the different demands on your content. That expectation on you to meet all those demands is unreasonable. I’ve tried to branch out to other blogs but I always return to this one for many reasons; I hope you don’t let critical comments dishearten you because you have so many (quiet) happy readers!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 29, 2017 at 11:56 am

      Thanks so much, Lauren!

  • Reply Angela September 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I love this post and all the others on simple stuff. I am wondering if you have come across any high quality, child-size hangers with clips (that would be used for hanging pants). I love for my son to be independent with choosing clothes and putting them away, but my 4 year old has such a time keeping piles of folded pants tidy. I have been looking for something with clips, but everything I have seen either comes in 50+ packs, is adult-sized, or looks too flimsy to hold up to a 4 year old’s use. Thank you!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Oh, interesting! Since we don’t have a closet space to hang kid’s clothes, I’ve been doing without, so I can’t say I have first-hand experience. And I definitely feel your pain about the quantity of most hanger listings! Will let you know if I come across anything!

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