How to Organize Your Closet: The Ultimate Guide

How to Organize Your Closet
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  • 01 of 07

    How to Organize Your Closet

    How to Organize Your Closet
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    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 5 universal steps can be applied to any closet and any wardrobe.

    What Does It Mean to Organize Your Closet?

    Get excited because organizing your closet means we’re going to make everything easier to find. You will always know where your favorite sweater is, your favorite pair of jeans and your go-to work button-down.  And when you have a special event to go to (like a funeral, a New Year’s Eve Party, a job interview, or a formal event) you will be able to quickly find what you need.  

    How are we going to achieve such amazing organization? We’re go to work our way through these steps to tal closet domination:

    1. Gather your closet organization supplies like a “toss” basket and a tape measure

    2. Empty the closet of all contents-clothing, shoes, closet organizers, etc.

    3. Clean your closet

    4. Declutter your wardrobe and donate, recycle, or sell the clothing items, shoes and accessories you no longer need

    5. Assess your closet storage solutions to make sure they

      1. fit your closet space

      2. work with your clothing, shoes and accessories

    6. Organize your clothing, shoes and accessories back into your closet by grouping similar items together and moving your most worn items into your closets “prime real estate”

    7. Coming up with a plan to keep your closet organized so it never becomes a breeding ground for clutter again.

    Organizing your closet doesn't mean that everything is going to look like these closets. That’s just not realistic. What it does mean is that you can find the clothing, shoes and accessories that you need when you need them. And yes, we’re going to try to make your closet look as good as possible too so you’re motivated to maintain your awesome organization.  Let’s get started.

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  • 02 of 07

    What You Need in Order to Organize Your Closet

    sorting clothing
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    The first step to organizing your closet is to ensure you have the right tools and supplies on hand before you dive in. Resist the urge to start this project after a long day of work. In order to really organize your closet for the long haul, you’ve got to do a little prep work and find time in your calendar when you have 2-3 hours to commit to this process.  

    Here’s your quick Closet Organization Toolkit:

    Shopping Bags:

    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:

    To measure shelving and hanging space. Don't forget a notebook and the writing utensil of your choice to jot down your closet's measurements.

    Full-Length Mirror:

    In order to decide between "toss" and "keep," make sure your mirror can accommodate your entire image.

    Catch All Basket:

    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.

    A Place to Donate or Consign in Mind

    I also recommend you have an idea of what you’re going to do with clothes to decide to get rid of ahead of time (here’s a helpful list of ways to get rid of clothing). You have three options: donate, consign or trash. Try to donate and consign as much as possible. Trash is really only for the items that are beyond repair/use.

    Gathering these items before you begin will allow you to to hit the ground running and you'll be ready to dive into cleaning out your closet.

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  • 03 of 07

    Empty and Clean Your Closet

    Women cleaning a 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.  That’s right: take is allllll out, including:

    • Clothing;

    • Accessories (i.e.handbags, scarves, etc.);

    • Shoes and Boots; and,

    • Closet organizers such as shelf dividers, trays, baskets, bins and hangers.

    Clean Your Closet Before You Organize

    You need a clear, clean space to plan and visualize how you're going re-organize your  closet.Cleaning your closet may seem like a waste of time if you’re in a big rush, but when do you get to clean really this area?  Take advantage of having everything out and give it a quick but thorough once over.

    Here’s my quick 3-step cleaning process:

    1. Dust the shelving and hanging rods

    2. Run the vacuum or Swiffer the floor. I like to use the vacuum nozzle to specifically run over the corners of the closet floor as dust tends to collect in those hard-to-reach places.

    3. Then 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.

    At this point in the process, I am already feeling pretty accomplished because I've cleaned something---and more prepared for the steps ahead.

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  • 04 of 07

    Declutter Your Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories

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    Now comes the part you’ve either been looking forward to or dreading. I love decluttering my closet because everybody wins: I gain more space for the clothing I actually wear and someone else gets to either buy them or receive them through donation (read more You more about which clothing you should sell and which items you should donate.) Some people fear decluttering because they love to hold onto things they “may need one day” or “used to fit/be in style.”  But here’s the trick: focus on what to keep rather than what you’re getting rid of. If you need help, check out this list of signs it’s time to get rid of clothing.

    Closets are finite spaces so choose wisely when giving up valuable real estate and be prepared to separate your clothes into distinct piles:

    1. Keep: Anything you love and wear often.

    2. Consign: In order to sell or consign items, your clothing, shoes and accessories must be in good shape and most consignment stores prefer them to be name brands.

    3. Donate: These items should be in good shape. Think “gently used” when adding to this pile.

    4. Trash: Clothing to trash would include anything stained beyond repair, ripped, hopelessly out of style or anything that you would be embarrassed to donate. 

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

    1. Do you love it?

    2. Do you wear it?

    3. Does it project the image you want to project? (I love this question via organizing guru Julie Morgenstern)

    If the answer is YES to all 3, then you can confidently place that item into the Keeper pile. Congrats to that item! If you're having trouble letting go of something, consider reading 5 Steps to Stop Hoarding

    If you’re really having a hard time, then create a maybe pile. Put your maybe pile into a bin and revisit it 1, 3 or 6 months later.  If you forgot about these items or never thought about wearing them, you can confidently donate or consign them.

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  • 05 of 07

    Purchase Closet Organizers

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

    A Few Closet Storage Tips:

    1. Closet storage solutions aren’t going to create more space in your closet, the best way to create more closet space is to declutter your clothes. But closet organizers, storage solutions, and closet systems can help to make more storage space accessible to you. Examples:

    • 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 or accessories--or both.

    2. Spend Wisely: You may be tempted to throw your hands up, pull out your credit card and buy an expensive closet system. Don't do this. Measure the space, asses 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. Think: small bookcases, cubbies and baskets are great for storing handbags, shoes, accessories, gym clothes.

    3. 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.

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  • 06 of 07

    Organize Your Clothes, Shoes and Accessories

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    This is where you put everything back together in a way that makes sense to you, utilizes all of your available space, and is attractive enough to motivate closet maintenance. Think about where it makes sense to store each category of clothing and then think about the easiet spots to reach in your closet.

    A Few Closet Organizing Tips

    1. Group Like with Like: Belts, sweaters, long sleeve shirts, work pants, dresses, button-down shirts, jeans, shorts--you get the idea--and decide the best place to store each item as a group (i.e. hang pants in closet, fold and stack sweaters in a bureau).

    2. Utilize Prime Real Estate: Reserve the front and middle of your closet for clothes you wear most often. Example: If you have to get dressed for work each morning at 6am, make sure your work clothes are easily accessible at the front of your closet. Lesser worn items like formal wear and out-of-season should be stored towards the back and on the upper shelves.

    3. Use very top of you closet for out-of-season items and stuff you only wear a few times a year like Halloween costumes and super fancy shoes.

    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. Here’s a general framework of how to store items in your closet:


    • Blazers/Jackets
    • Button-down shirts
    • Dress pants
    • Dresses
    • Skirts
    • Suits


    • Denim
    • Sweaters
    • Sweatshirts

    And unless you store them in a dresser....

    • Long sleeve shirts
    • Shorts
    • T-shirts
    • Fitness gear

    Storage Spaces (Floor, Top Shelves, On the Door)

    • Out of Season Clothing
    • Fancy Clothing
    • Costumes

    Accessories and shoes should be stored separately from your clothing (in other words, don't lump scarves in with sweaters), but keep the prime real estate rule in mind. If you wear a pair of shoes all the time, don't store them in the back of your closet. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Maintaining Your Newly Organized Closet

    Hanging up clothing
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    Rule of Thumb: The more often you work on closet maintenance, the less time it will take. Go through your closet and complete a quick makeover (or make-under) once a month, and tackle the full re-organization process twice a year.

    You can also follow one of these schedules:

    • By Season: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer or twice a year in the Fall and Spring.

    • By Date: Choose an important date like your birthday or New Years and make a habit of re-organizing at that time each year.

    • By Event: The next time you can't find an important piece of clothing, that's a good sign you need to re-org your closet.