Bougouis closet with an island and a chandelier, and wood flooringWith Marie Kondo’s recent admission that she, too, is prone to clutter, we ordinary humans are once again allowed to hoard books and fold our socks in whatever way we please. But whatever slovenly habits we prefer, there’s nothing quite like having a well-organized closet to start off your day on the right foot. (Plus, there’s something about seeing one’s shoes neatly organized in rows that makes one feel superior. And apparently, speak in the third person.) Closets realistically need to be re-organized at least once a year, or else things start to get out of control; piles of haphazardly folded sweaters start to lean precariously into one another and ill-fitting pants just get squeezed onto hangers next to the other ones we’ve grown out of, which is a recipe for disaster.

So if you’ve been avoiding tackling this behemoth job, fear not. We’ve got tips and strategies to help you make your closet look amazing, so you can at least feel as if you’re someone who has their life together.

Plan and Gather Supplies

Woman stands with her hands on her hips facing into a closet full of messy shoesBefore you do anything else, you need to stare at your closet for a while and figure out a few things. What, if anything, is working well? What isn’t working? For example: if your shoes are always all over the floor, your current system is either non-existent, too complicated, or just a pain to follow. Identify the mess and you’ll find the problem. 

Pro Tip: This is when you should go on the internet to find ideas for what might work in the space that you have. 

Then — it sounds counterintuitive — before you touch anything in that closet-of-doom, gather a few supplies. These will help you create a staging area, as well as allow you to organize as you go so you don’t get overwhelmed. 


    • Laundry baskets, bags, or boxes. You are going to use these to sort your items into the categories you feel are applicable. Examples include: Keep/Donate/Sell/Toss; Belongs Elsewhere; Put In Storage; Winter/Summer/Spring/Fall etc.
    • Post-it notes. To label the boxes/baskets.clothes are neatly folded into little linen boxes
    • Hangers. If you’re doing a full reorganization, this is a great time to invest in better hangers, or at least ones that match. 
    • Organizational tools/units. You know how fitness experts sometimes advise people to get new workout clothes, so they’ll be more motivated to exercise? The same applies to organizational tools: sometimes buying a new shoe shelf or hanging system is just what you need to get that closet reorganization going.

Start with a Purge n’ Clean

The first thing you need to do when you are serious about organizing that closet you’ve avoiding is to pull everything out of it. Yes, this is painful and tedious, but necessary. Sort your items by type as you go — put all your shoes, pants, coats, etc. together — but don’t start purging yet. That’s for later.

Woman on her hands and knees clearing everything out of her closet, with shoes scattered across the floorOnce you’ve emptied your closet of absolutely everything, get cleaning. Dust any shelves or hanging rods (which somehow manage to get really gross over time.) Vacuum or sweep and mop the floor. Then wipe everything down with an all-purpose cleaner, preferably one that has a pleasant smell (and no bleach!). While you’re doing this, think about the areas that need retooling. If your sweaters form Towers of Pisa after a matter of days, how could you store them differently? If your shoes are always on the floor, is there a different organizational method that might work? 

Pro Tip: Do NOT use this time to research potential closet organization ideas on the internet. 

Sorting Time

Unsure where to start now that all of your possessions are in piles on the floor? Most organizational experts recommend that you keep it simple. The basic sorting categories for this task are Keep, Sell, Donate, and Toss. 

Older woman goes through laundry basket of clothingKeep: Keep the things you wear often, obviously. But this is where it gets more difficult: what about those things that “might fit again,” or you might “need just in case?” That’s when you need to ask yourself: is it worth taking up space? For example, if you realize you have six gray sweaters, rank them by which ones you love and wear most often, and consider donating or tossing the bottom three. Those jeans that haven’t fit in years, though? Those get donated. Odds are even if you lose weight, the style or the fit won’t be right. 

Pro Tip: If you start falling victim to indecision, make a “Not Sure” basket. Try to use this sparingly, but then when you’re done, put it away. If you haven’t touched anything in there for a few months, you can confidently donate or toss at will.

Sell: Things to consider selling online or at a consignment shop are designer items such as jeans or purses, lightly worn shoes, or outerwear.

woman is carrying a cardboard box with "Donate" written in large letters across it. The box is filled with neatly folded clothingDonate: Consider donating any items that are gently worn but you just don’t wear anymore. You can drop them off at a Salvation Army center, or check to see if your local Buy Nothing group has a need for clothing as well. The important thing here is to donate it right away: You’ll get a sense of instant gratification, and you won’t have a trash bag of your old clothes sitting in the trunk of your car for weeks and weeks. (Not that we know anyone who would do that…)

Toss: Throw away anything with holes or stains, and anything else that looks as if it’s seen better days. (General rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t be proud to wear it out in public, then no one else will, either.)

*Bonus Category*: Belongs elsewhere. You will thank yourself later if you make a box for all those things that have found their way into the closet that belong somewhere else in your home. Then, instead of constantly getting distracted by these items, you can put them all away at one time at the end.

Put Things Back

Hopefully by now you’ve managed to get rid of a few things that you don’t need, and you still have most of your items arranged by type. Now comes the fun part: assess the situation. Evaluate whether the space and organizational systems that are already in place will work for what you have. If you bought new bins or a new shoe rack, do they fit in places that make sense, and do they fix the problem? Try to look at your space critically and think about where things will work best rather than just where you’ve always put them. Put everything away.

Tips to Follow:

Reserve the Prime Real Estate: Make sure the items you use most often are kept front and center, where they can be easily reached. 

Woman's hands are using a vacuum to suck the air out of a vacuum-seal bag with sweaters in itConsider Vacuum-seal Storage Bags: If you have limited space it can be helpful to have a seasonal closet rotation. Vacuum-seal storage bags will not only protect your items from humidity or bugs, but they’ll conserve a ton of space as well. This way you can safely store all your winter sweaters away occupying a ton of room when it’s warm outside.

Tuck Away Least-Used Items: Items like seasonal wear (that ugly Christmas sweater, for example) and your dressiest fancy items can get put in out-of-the-way spaces, such as up high on a shelf or in the back.

Use Wall Space: We often neglect to use our vertical storage options. Blank walls are excellent places to use pegs or wire bins to store smaller items like jewelry or accessories.

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