Ideas for Organizing Your Closet—and Keeping It That Way

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on September 22, 2020

An organized closet is an organized mind—at least it can certainly seem that way, especially if you no longer have to spend your morning sorting through mismatched hangers and sweaters hung akimbo while seeking out your favorite shirt. 

Organizing your closet may seem like a daunting task. But when broken down into bite-sized steps and then maintained over time, it will end up saving you more time and energy down the road, granting you peace of mind. 

Whether you have a large walk-in or smaller, shallower unit, organizing your closet is a surefire way to make the most of your storage space while caring for your clothes—and your sanity. Read on for how to organize your closet to make life that much easier. Your future self will thank you.

First things first—empty your entire closet. Give yourself a clean, blank canvas on which to create your organized closet masterpiece. Carve out a weekend, pour a glass of wine or shake up a cocktail, crank the tunes and let’s get to work. Pull out all clothes, accessories, and shoes, boxes, hangers, and other odds and ends that have taken up residence in the space. Put your belongings in piles according to type: clothes in one pile, shoes in another, purses in another. A laundry basket makes a great place to collect miscellaneous items, and drop change and any cash (score!) you find into a jar. You may be surprised at what you find!

Next, dust off the shelves and hanger rods. Vacuum or sweep the floor, mopping up any dirt and undesirables hiding about in the corners. Cleaning out your entire closet from top to bottom gives you an accurate picture of what you’re working with while giving an often overlooked space a much needed deep clean. Dust bunnies be gone.

Now that your closet is completely empty and sparkling clean,  it’s time to go through your belongings. Working pile-by-pile, sort them out into four bags: keep, donate, consign, and trash. Reserve the trash bag only for those items beyond repair, striving to donate or consign what you can.

When sorting through your items, ask yourself the hard questions: When was the last time you wore that dress? Do those jeans really fit anymore? Isn’t that purse far from being in style? Try on items as needed and give yourself a once-over in a full length mirror. If you’re not in love with what you see, consider donating or consigning them. If you’re having trouble parting with certain pieces, enlist the help of a decisive friend. Hold up those maybe? items and ask them for a hard reality check.

Once your piles are pared down, it’s time to find a place for everything. Using a measuring tape, measure out the dimensions of your closet in order to purchase a few organizational accessories to help keep everything neat.

Don’t worry—you may not need a complete overhaul with a closet organizational system. Thankfully, there are plenty of less expensive options out there including over-the-door hooks and hanging shoe storage options, collapsible shelving units, plastic drawers, small baskets, cubbies, and more. Some of your purses and accessories may even be better on display—consider placing handbags on bookshelves, rings or necklaces in creative jewelry dishes on your dresser, sunglasses in lucite drawers.

Examine your piles to determine what may need a home other than just on the rod and go shopping. Install what you need before putting your belongings away.

It’s time to get your closet put back together again. Start by hanging all of your clothing on hangers and sorting them into sections before placing them back in your closet: dresses, pants, long sleeve blouses, short sleeve shirts, tank tops, sweaters, jackets, etc. Then hang them according to style. Place shoes in shoe storage units, hang purses on over-the-door hooks. Tuck jewelry into small baskets or organizer boxes, fold heavy sweaters and stack them on shelves to avoid stretching them out. 

Keep in mind what items you wear the most when putting them away. Don’t tuck your much-loved flats back in the corner, or your go-to dress in the back. Give more frequently worn or on-season items prime real estate to keep them easily in reach. Once everything is put away, step back, breathe deep, smile and revel in the feeling of accomplishment. You did it!

Keep up with your hard work by periodically organizing your closet, such as every season, or every couple of months. The more you keep up with its cleanliness, the less hassle it will be when it’s time to do it all over again. 

Thumb through your clothes each season to see what you’ve actually worn and what can be donated or consigned, especially when you return from a shopping trip. This helps prevent clutter from building up and let’s you realistically see what gaps you have in your wardrobe that need filling. 

Other Closet Organization Tips

  • If you have an exceptionally colorful wardrobe, consider organizing by color. Hang items according to shades for an easy way to mix and match your outfits and give your closet a fun rainbow look. 
  • Invest in matching hangers for a clean, streamlined look. Velvet hangers keep clothing from slipping off and onto the floor.
  • If you have a smaller space, tuck away least-frequently worn items, such as off-season sweaters and halloween costumes, in under-the-bed storage units.

Words by Avery Johnson