How to Organize Clothes in Your Closet: 5 Easy Steps

Decluttering tips and organization methods to get your wardrobe in order

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.

How you organize your closet will differ slightly based on the size of your space, the size of your wardrobe, and the kind of life you lead.

Follow these tips to learn how to best organize your clothes closet, similar to how the organization experts do it on TV.

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Watch Now: How to Easily Organize Your Closet

Before You Begin

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: Decide what to "keep" and "let go," and make sure your mirror can accommodate your entire image.
  • Catch-all basket: Collect change, papers, rubber bands, hair clips, wads of cash (score!), and assorted receipts in pants pockets. Do not stop in the middle of organizing to put these items away; put them aside for now into this catch-all basket.
materials for organizing your closet

The Spruce / Daria Groza

Empty Your Closet

Remove all the items from your closet, giving you a bare closet to reset your closet space. If you’re used to shoving clothes into your closet, this will be weird because you’re about to take everything out and probably find some stuff shoved in a back corner that you forgot about. The easiest way to organize your clothes is to remove everything from the closet, including hangers, baskets, bins, and anything else on the floor or shelves.

Clean Every Corner

You need a clear, clean space to plan and visualize how you will 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.

Sort and Declutter Your Things

What often happens with closets is people stow their items away in a dark, back corner, sometimes forgetting what they have. The best way to start decluttering your clothes is to take it all out; sort it by separating all items into piles by item: shoes, outerwear, evening wear, and more. Figure out what you have and how many you have. Now, make some decisions. If you have 22 "little black dresses" and only go to dinner parties as frequently as the ball drops in Times Square, it's time to pare down. Sort again into piles: "must keep," "donate, toss, or pass along," or "not sure."

Some people fear decluttering because they love to hold onto things they “may need one day” or “used to fit/be in style.” To make this process easier and organize your closet like a pro, you can follow the KonMari Method of organization by focusing on what you want to keep instead of what you're getting rid of. Following Marie Kondo's advice, 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, you can confidently place that item into the keeper pile. However, if you haven't worn something in years, it doesn't fit you anymore, or you don't like the cut, color, or style of it, let it go.

If you’re having difficulty deciding, create a "maybe" bin and revisit it in one, three, or six months. If you forgot about these items or never thought about wearing them once during that time, you can confidently donate or consign them.

Assess Your Storage System

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. 

If your closet system does not meet your needs by providing a space for your things (shelves, hanging racks, dividers, drawers), then look for a new organizing system. If your things don't fit, consider getting a different storage space for some things or re-evaluate whether you should keep an item.

The 4 container decluttering method for closets

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Put Things Back in an Organized Way

How you organize your clothes closet and drawers depends on your storage plan. Think about where it makes sense to store each clothing category and which are the most accessible spots to reach in your closet. Everything should fit easily; it should not look overstuffed or continue to be overflowing. Fit your "keeper" items back in the space with like things; put least-used items in the back.

  • 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 with groupings 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. You should store lesser-worn items like formal wear and out-of-season clothes 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 Organization Methods

  • Get better drawers or shelves: Big-box home improvement centers and online home organization sites offer storage solutions that include drawers and shelving units that can fit your closet's available space. Many prefabricated systems are easy to install and come with everything included.
  • Sort by color, category, or length: Put jeans with jeans, keep sweaters with sweaters, and so on; if you have an expansive closet or are a visual organizer, consider putting items of the same color in the same area. Or, if using shelves, move long items like long dresses or coats to a higher hanger rod, and put thinner items like T-shirts on top shelves you can reach and pants on a mid-level shelf. Use rack tags and shelf dividers to keep things organized.
  • Revisit how you fold, stack, or hang clothes: Stack clothes on shelves, but use the vertical or "file folding" method that Marie Kondo uses to see all the clothes at your fingertips when you open a drawer. Use specialty hangers to optimize space for scarves, ties, belts, and pants. Nest bras inside each other, and do the same with handbags, putting smaller bags inside bigger bags.
  • Consider vacuum-seal storage bags: Get vacuum bags from a retail or make DIY vacuum bags by using a large clear drawstring trash bag and a vacuum cleaner. Suck the air out of the bag, firmly tie it closed, and voila, you've maximized available space. Place these bags on a top shelf, bottom corner, or storage space until you need them.
  • Label everything: Find things quickly without having to open storage boxes, bins, drawers, or vacuum-sealed bags.
  • Use wall space: You can use walls to store jewelry and accessories; consider using hooks, spice racks, pegboards, or wall-hung wire bins for accessories and small clothing items.

Closet Storage Tips

Closet storage solutions won't create more space in your closet; however, closet organizers, storage solutions, and closet systems can help you maximize your space. Here are some tips for making more with less space:

  • A step stool will make it easier for you to reach the top part of your closet; instead of ignoring an empty space that was hard to reach, you will use that space.
  • A double-hang rod with two levels of hanging rods will better use horizontal storage space in the closet.
  • An over-the-door shoe rack can turn your door into the perfect place to store shoes, accessories, or both.

You might be tempted to throw your hands up, pull out your credit card, and buy an expensive closet system. This urge might not be necessary if you measure the space, assess what you already have, and make a storage plan. Buy only what you need to store your clothes and re-purpose what you already own. 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 too big or small.

Over the door organizers can be closet space savers

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Maintaining Your Newly Organized Closet

The more you work on closet maintenance, the less time it will take. Go through your closet, 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.

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