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An open closet.
An open closet.

A closet (especially in North American usage) is an enclosed space, with a door, used for storage, particularly that of clothes. Fitted closets are built into the walls of the house so that they take up no apparent space in the room. Closets are often built under stairs, thereby using awkward space that would otherwise go unused.

A piece of furniture such as a cabinet or chest of drawers serves the same purpose of storage, but is not a closet, which is an architectural feature rather than a piece of furniture. A closet always has space for hanging, where a cupboard may consist only of shelves for folded garments. Wardrobe can refer to a free-standing piece of furniture (also known as an armoire), but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a wardrobe can also be a "large cupboard or cabinet for storing clothes or other linen", including "built-in wardrobe, fitted wardrobe, walk-in wardrobe, etc."[1]

Other uses of the word

In Elizabethan and Middle English, closet referred to a small private room, an inner sanctum within a far larger house, used for prayer, reading, or study.

The use of "closet" for "toilet" dates back to 1662.[2] In Indian English, this use continues.[3] Related forms include earth closet and water closet (W.C. or flush toilet). "Privy" meaning an outhouse derives from "private", making the connection with the Middle English use of "closet", above.


A typical modern wall-mounted space-saving closet.
A typical modern wall-mounted space-saving closet.
Linen closet.
Linen closet.

Closet tax question in colonial America

Though some sources claim that colonial American houses often lacked closets because of a "closet tax" imposed by the British crown,[5] others argue that closets were absent in most houses simply because their residents had few possessions.[6]

Closet organizers

Closet organizers are integrated shelving systems. Different materials have advantages and disadvantages:[7][8]

See also


  1. ^ OED. OUP. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  2. ^ OED. OUP. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Armoire - Dictionary Definition".
  4. ^ "7 Helpful Kid Closet Organizer Ideas: Kids Closet Organization". BAUFORMAT SEATTLE. Retrieved 2022-08-17.
  5. ^ "Old Stone House". National Park Service.
  6. ^ "Stuff and Nonsense". The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Association.
  7. ^ ""Wire Shelving vs Wood Shelving", by Mark J. Donovan,". Archived from the original on 2015-04-23. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  8. ^ ""Choosing the best closet system", from".