Organize Your Closet Like an Expert

A well-organized closet makes your morning a little bit easier. Here's how you can organize your closet like an expert.

Your bedroom should be a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of the day. If opening your closet dissolves the serenity with a jumble of mismatched shoes, clothing falling off hangers and dirty laundry, it’s time for a makeover. A well-organized closet makes your morning a little bit easier, keeps your clothing clean and unwrinkled and lets you see what you own at a glance. Professional organizers Stacey Murray of Organized Artistry and Beth Levin, The Closet Queen, help get your closet under control. 

Start With a Purge. Both organizers recommend starting with a closet purge. Go through every item in your closet. If it’s too overwhelming to do all at once, Murray recommends spreading the job out over several days, working through just one type of clothing during each session. Assign everything to one of five categories:

Keep – flattering clothing you love and wear regularly

Repair – items that need minor repairs

Donate – clothing in good condition you no longer wear

Toss – clothing or shoes in poor condition

Belongs elsewhere – those things stuffed in the back of the closet that belong elsewhere in your home

Levin offers a handy tip if you’re unsure about what to keep. Turn every hanger backwards. Over the next several months, as you wear something, turn the hanger back around. You’ll soon see what you wear and what’s just taking up valuable closet space. Murray adds, “When purging clothes and accessories, keep a list of what you're getting rid of and need to replace. Keep the list in your smartphone or on a post-it in your wallet to look back at when shopping.”

Get Organized. Once you’ve whittled the contents of your closet down to only the things you wear and love, it’s time to get them properly organized. Levin and Murray agree that organizing clothing by type is best. Separate pants, dresses, blouses and jackets. Within each category, hang clothing by color. Keep infrequently worn items, such as cocktail gowns, ski clothing or special occasion outfits towards the back of your closet, with frequently worn items near the front.

Fold sweaters and store them on shelves. Use shelf dividers to maximize the space and keep sweaters neat.

Shoes belong on a shoe rack, shoe organizer or in shoe storage boxes. Organize your shoes either by color or by style.

For accessories, Levin recommends, “If you have wall space in your closet, hang belts, umbrellas and purses on attractive belt racks and stagger them on the wall. Hanging the racks vertically (instead of horizontally) will give you more room. If you don’t have wall space for purses and can store them on shelves, make sure that you stuff the slouchy ones with paper or the bags they come in so they don’t fall over."

Off-season or bulky clothing doesn’t have to take up room year round in your closet. Move these items to under-the-bed storage boxes or the highest closet shelves.

Little Touches. When it comes to hangers, the organizers are adamant. Wire hangers have no place in your closet. Replace them with thin huggable hangers that keep clothes from slipping to the floor, plastic “crystal” hangers or wooden hangers. Whichever you choose, buy enough for your entire closet. Matching hangers are visually appealing.

The organizers both recommend keeping separate hampers for dry cleanable items and regular laundry. Levin likes to use a pretty wicker basket or hamper — so much more attractive than a plastic basket.

Murray has several suggestions for making your closet more functional: 

“Install a valet rod for putting together and hanging outfits. Decorative hooks can be used as well."

“A floor to ceiling mirror makes your closet look larger, reflects light and lets you check out an outfit from all angles."

“Install pullout drawers for easy access to accessories and jewelry."

“A bench or ottoman with storage gives you a place to sit in your closet and an extra space for storing blankets or bulky sweaters."

“Keep a step stool in your closet for reaching high spots.”

Once you’ve done the work of organizing your closet, don’t let it slip back into chaos. “I tell all my clients that maintenance is key." says Levin. "Each day, put everything back where it belongs — in the hamper, dry cleaning basket or hanging in the closet. It only takes five minutes a day to stay organized.”

Those five minutes each day will make your mornings a little less hectic, and maintain the calm atmosphere your bedroom deserves.