How to Organize Your Closet

Your heart was in the right place: You were going to get that closet clean once and for all.


You planned trips to The Container Store. You made grand plans to install Elfa shelving. You were going to photograph your shoes and store them in clear boxes!


Then it just never happened. It was so overwhelming. And now you have to get a running head start just to close your closet door.


Fear not, Domestic Goddess-in-Waiting! Here are 10 steps to make the daunting chore of organizing your closet a total breeze. 


1. Empty out the entire thing. 
Go well beyond a superficial clean-up and pull out everything in your closet: every dry-cleaner hanger, every sock without a mate, every impulse purchase with the tags on. Once you reach into the Narnia-like depths, you’ll find out just what is taking up so much space back there.


2. Vacuum and dust.
Now that your space is vacant, wipe down the shelves, especially those dark corners. You wouldn’t want to put your freshly folded sweaters on a shelf covered with dust bunnies, would you? Also do a quick inspection for mold or—cringe—little furry creatures burrowing in the shadows.


3. Set Keep/Toss/Donate parameters.
The concept of dividing items into these three piles is not new. But you want to set your own qualifying criterion before you start sorting. Take into account your closet space and comfort levels. If you’re prepared for a complete purge, your Donate pile will look vastly different from someone who’s merely looking to reorganize an untidy closet rail. To help you set boundaries, ask yourself the following:

  1. Does it fit?
  2. When was the last time I wore this? 
  3. When is the next time I will realistically wear this?
  4. Is it damaged? If so, am I honestly going to repair it?

Once you have established your personal standards, stick to them!


4. Start weeding through the mess.
Yes, that mountain of laundry seems overwhelming. You’ll wonder: When did I acquire so much stuff?! Don’t be scared; do an initial sweep of items you instantly know you want to keep, toss, or donate (see #3). Your goes-with-everything leather jacket? Keep. That handbag with the broken strap? Toss. If you are hemming and hawing over a pair of jeans for more than two minutes, put it in a new, “TBD” pile to review later. Rapid-fire sorting makes the overall job feel less daunting.


5. Face the TBD pile.
You got the big stuff out of the way, so now it’s time to tackle the nitty-gritty “I love it but do I need it?” pile. Consider each piece and weigh its sentimental value: that dress you wore on a memorable first date can be hard to part with. Items that conjure warm memories are worth keeping and storing. But those one-size-too-small jeans that taunt you from the back of the closet? Who needs that kind of negativity? Toss.


6. Clear your work area.
Tie up your Toss and Donate bags and shuffle them off to another room. Even better, drag the Toss bag to the curb. Getting them out will free up space for you to further organize your precious Keep pile. Bonus: Seeing less clutter around you is a real shot in the arm to see the organization process through. 


7. Sort your Keep pile into subcategories.
Okay, so now you’re down to just the good stuff. Begin by organizing by garment category and then by color. White blouses here. Blue jeans over here. Little black dresses grouped over there. Also pick out seasonal items, like wool coats or beach kaftans that can be rotated to the front or back with changes in season.


8. Upgrade your storage.
Adding smart and inexpensive storage bins will give your closet a custom look—no remodeling required. First, chuck out any wire dry-cleaner hangers and invest in non-slip slim velvet hangers. Install an over-the-door shoe rack. Hang removable hooks for scarves or belts. And ditch the old college-style laundry bag for a nice hamper. 


9. Hang and fold thoughtfully.
As you slip your dresses onto hangers and tuck away sweaters onto shelves, do it with purpose. Put the items you wear in heavy rotation front and center and push airy dresses/bulky coats to the back, depending on the season. Alternatively if your end goal is to maximize the wearability of your current wardrobe, dedicate a section to “new arrivals” and hang items to inspire new outfits there. 


10. Respect your hard work.
Phew! Your closet is now in magazine-photo-shoot condition—it’s enough to make you misty-eyed with pride. The challenge now is to not fall into old habits and undo all your masterful organizing. Hang up clothes after taking them off. Put dirty socks into your new hamper. And regularly take inventory of what you’re actually wearing, so you can either switch up what you see when you first open your closet doors or suss out the non-essentials. Happy sorting!


Now tell us: Do you have a no-fail closet-organization tip? Share in the comments section below!