How to Organize Clothes and More in Your Closet

organized closet

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

It's inspiring to think about organizing your clothes, shoes, and accessories perfectly in your closet when watching home design shows. But in real life, it takes a bit of planning and preparation to declutter, clean, and reorganize a closet to make sure it's more functional after you finish.

Follow these tips to learn how to best organize your clothes closet so it rivals those you see on TV.

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Before You Begin

Before you jump into organizing your closet, gather tools and supplies that will help make the job easier. Here’s your quick closet organization toolkit:

  • Shopping bags: Use sturdy bags to transport clothes to the donation center, tailor, and dry cleaner. If you don't have bags, boxes and bins will do in a pinch.
  • Tape measure: Measure shelving and hanging space. Don't forget a notebook to jot down your closet's measurements.
  • Full-length mirror: To decide between "toss" and "keep," make sure your mirror can accommodate your entire image.
  • Catch-all basket: This includes loose change, papers, rubber bands, hair clips, wads of cash (score!), and assorted receipts you'll find in pants pockets. You don't want to have to stop in the middle to file these small items so just put them aside for now into your catch-all basket.
materials for organizing your closet

The Spruce / Daria Groza

Steps to Organize Your Closet

How you organize your closet will differ slightly based on the space you have, the size of your wardrobe, and the kind of life you lead. However, these five universal steps can be applied to any closet and any wardrobe:

  1. Empty
  2. Clean
  3. Declutter
  4. Assess
  5. Organize

Empty Your Closet

If you’re used to shoving clothes into your closet, this is going to be weird, because you’re about to take everything out and probably find some stuff shoved in a back corner that you forgot about. Remove everything from the closet, including hangers, baskets, bins, and anything else that might be on the floor or shelves.

Clean Every Corner

You need a clear, clean space to plan and visualize how you're going to re-organize your closet. First, dust the shelving and hanging rods. Next, run the vacuum or sweep and mop the floor. Finally, wipe the shelving, hanging rods, walls, and baseboards down with a good all-purpose cleaner. Don’t forget any baskets or bins that could be collecting dirt and dust.

Declutter Your Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories

Now comes the part you’ve either been looking forward to or dreading. Some people fear decluttering because they love to hold onto things they “may need one day” or “used to fit/be in style.” Focus on what to keep rather than what you’re getting rid of—a key part of the KonMari Method of organization.

When you're trying to decide whether or not to keep something, it's helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you wear it?
  • Does it project the image you want to portray?

If the answer is "yes" to all three, then you can confidently place that item into the keeper pile.

If you’re having a hard time, then create a "maybe" pile. Put your maybe pile into a bin and revisit it one, three, or six months later. If you forgot about these items or never thought about wearing them, you can confidently donate or consign them.

Assess Storage Solutions

Figuring out the right closet storage solutions for your particular space can be challenging. Luckily, there are tons of great options for closet organizers, including closet system kits, but most people can get away with installing a few budget-friendly closet organizers. 

The 4 container decluttering method for closets

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Replace and Organize

Replace your closet contents, carefully organizing your clothing, shoes, and accessories according to your storage plan. Think about where it makes sense to store each category of clothing, and then think about the easiest spots to reach in your closet.

  • Group like with like: Gather belts, sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, work pants, dresses, button-down shirts, jeans, shorts, etc., and decide the best place to store each item as a group (e.g., hang pants in the closet, fold and stack sweaters in a bureau). Working in groups of items will help you figure out how much space you need and the best way to store each type of item.
  • Properly utilize prime real estate: Reserve the front and middle of your closet for clothes you wear most often. If you have to get dressed for work each morning at 6 a.m., make sure your work clothes are at the front of your closet. Lesser-worn items like formal wear and out-of-season clothes should be stored toward the back and on the upper shelves.
  • Tuck away least-used items: Use the very top of your closet for out-of-season items and stuff you only wear a few times a year, such as Halloween costumes and super-fancy shoes.

Closet Storage Tips

Closet storage solutions aren’t going to create more space in your closet; however, closet organizers, storage solutions, and closet systems can help to make more storage space accessible to you. For example:

  • A step stool will make it easier for you to reach the top shelves of your closet.
  • A double hang will make better use of horizontal storage space in the closet.
  • An over-the-door shoe rack can turn your door into the perfect place to store either shoes, accessories, or both.

You might be tempted to throw your hands up, pull out your credit card, and buy an expensive closet system. Resist this urge. Measure the space, assess what you already have, and then plan your closet accordingly. Buy only what you need to store your clothes, and re-purpose what you already own, if possible. Small bookcases, cubbies, and baskets are great for storing handbags, shoes, accessories, and gym clothes.

Finally, don't forget to measure a space three times before buying a new storage item. Nothing is worse than carting something home and finding it's just a smidge too wide.

Over the door organizers can be closet space savers

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Maintaining Your Newly Organized Closet

The more often you work on closet maintenance, the less time it will take. Go through your closet and complete a quick tidying once a month, and tackle the full re-organization process twice a year.

Make it easy on yourself by following a cleaning schedule, either by season, by date (such as your birthday or New Year's), or by an event. The next time you can't find an important piece of clothing, that's a good sign you need to re-organize your closet.

Take the Quiz

How organized are you? Take our short personality quiz to find out how organized you really are plus get tips for better organization.

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