How to organize your closet


If you dread opening the door to your bedroom closet, you aren’t alone. This little storage room, crammed with clothes and shoes, can easily become a mess. But it doesn’t need to be. Learning how to organize your closet — and keep it organized — is a skill that may pay off in the long run.

A close shot of a shirts and dresses hanging in a closet.
Photo by JamesDeMers from Pixabay 

“Most people, honestly, have overly cluttered closets,” said Jessica Borelli, owner or Infinite Space Professional Organizing based in Portland, Maine. 

“There are some people who are OK living in a cluttered space, and that’s fine,” she added. “But I think some people get very overwhelmed looking for things. Or when you need space but you don’t have it — that can be incredibly frustrating.”

In addition to saving you time and space, properly organizing your closet may save you money, Borelli said. Often people purchase new clothes, shoes and accessories without realizing that they already have similar items tucked away in a messy closet, out of sight. 

And perhaps most importantly, a clean closet bedroom can reduce stress. 

“If it bothers you to have a messy closet, it’s OK to get help or fix it yourself,” said Borelli.

Here’s how: 

Step 1: Empty your closet

Often, the first step of thoroughly organizing a closet is to clear it out. 

“I like to take everything out,” said Monique Horb, owner of Organizing Your Chaos in Valparaiso, Indiana. “You want to see what’s behind and what’s under and what’s in that bag. Once a client can see everything they have, they’re more likely to be ruthless in their decisions.”

If emptying your entire closet is too time consuming or overwhelming, consider breaking it down into sections, said Borelli. For example, work on hanging clothes one day, and folded clothes on another day. Just make sure you don’t forget a section of your closet. You never know what you might find.

“The biggest problem is people having many things in their closets that they never use or never wear,” Borelli said, “things that have been in there for years, things that don’t serve their life anymore at all.”

Step 2: Let go of things

Once everything is out of your closet, it’s time to examine each and every item and decide whether to keep, trash, donate or relocate it.

“It’s easy to put things into a closet and shut the door,” Horb said. “It’s usually a place things go when we don’t know what to do with it or company is coming over. It’s the fast solution to a situation.”

Books, board games, cleaning supplies, towels, old yearbooks — all of these things need a home, but that home isn’t necessarily your bedroom closet. See if you can eliminate those odds and ends, saving your bedroom closet for clothing, linens, accessories and shoes.

Once you’ve done that, only keep the items that you actually wear or bring you joy. One strategy for this process is to separate items into categories, which may reveal what you own in excess. 

“You may think every sweater is important until you see you have 650 sweaters,” Borelli said. 

If you live in a place with distinct seasons, Horb suggests looking at your clothing at the end of each season and weeding out the items you haven’t worn.

“If you haven’t picked that pair of pants in the past 100 days, what are the chances you’re going to pick them next year?” Horb said. 

This part of the closet organizing process will likely take time. Each item should be looked at individually. If you haven’t worn a piece for a long time, ask yourself why.

“Does it fit? Is it broken? It is itchy? These are all reasons to let things go,” Borelli said. 

And don’t feel bad for retaining a few items for their sentimental value.

“If it’s something your mother who passed away bought for you on a trip to Ireland, even if you may not ever wear it, you may want to hold onto the memory,” Borelli said. “There’s space for that. It’s important.”

A woman holding a cardboard box of clothing to donate
Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels

Step 3: Remove donation and trash piles

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to donate or throw away — do it. If you keep piles, bags and boxes of these items lying around, it will put a serious damper on your accomplishments.

“Having somebody with you, whether it’s a professional organizer or a friend or family member who can help with a degree of separation and objectivity is extremely helpful,” Borelli said. “Even if it’s just to take things and bring them down to the car.”

Consider selecting an organization, business or person that you feel good about donating to, whether that’s a family member who relishes hand-me-downs, a local thrift shop or an organization with a mission you’re passionate about. For example, Dress for Success provides unemployed, low-income women with business attire for job interviews and to start off their new jobs. Similarly, Career Gear supplies low-income men with interview clothing. 

Step 4: Categorize and compartmentalize

As the proverb goes, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Once you’ve settled on which items you’ll store in your closet, it’s time to organize by category (for example, jeans, sweaters, dresses and shoes). You can then design shelves, drawers, rods and bins to specifically hold — or “contain” — each category.

“Categorizing and containing is very important,” Borelli said. “Also, you want to be able to see as much as possible.”

If you store things in solid containers, it may be helpful to label them. Also, take advantage of vertical space by installing shelves or racks close to the ground as well as overhead. 

Also, consider investing in some quality clothes hangers, Horb said. If you have silky blouses, velvet-covered hangers can help keep them from slipping and falling to the floor. And if you’re hanging heavy garments, such as coats or sweaters, then consider some sturdy, wooden hangers that won’t break or leave creases.

The type of organizational structures that you choose — whether its shelves, drawers or cubbies — will depend on what you find to be most functional and visually pleasing, Borelli said. Everyone has their preferences.

“I’m not a bureau person,” she explained. “I’m an open shelving person. I’m also a hook person. I love things that hang up on hooks. My mother is a hanger person. It’s knowing what your own tendencies are and what’s most comfortable for you.”

Whatever organizational structures you use, be sure to arrange the items that you use most often in the most easily accessible spots. And store items you use the least in those hard-to-reach places.

Step 5: Maintain

Once you’ve done the hard work of organizing your closet, the trick is keeping it organized. This may require you to develop some new habits. It may also involve periodic declutter sessions.

“Just stay on it,” Horb said. “I like to keep a small basket or bin in the closet area and as I come across things [that] I don’t want anymore, I pile them in there.”

In addition, Horb suggests that people sort through their clothing every 3 to 6 months, discarding items they no longer wear. This is also a good time to tweak how your items are organized. You want to move things around or test out new organizational structures to make the closet even more functional.

“Put it on your calendar with an alarm,” said Borelli of regular closet maintenance. “You can even give yourself a reward. Once it’s done, maybe go out and buy yourself a new dress. If you do it on a regular basis, it won’t take long.”

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