Everything You Need to Know to Organize Your Clothes Closet

May 22, 2013

One of my goals in living the best version of my life is getting organized again. When I was younger, my mom and I would watch Martha Stewart and I became convinced that I could be just like her. I’d be organized, crafty, live in a fabulously decorated house with a well-tended garden and be able to cook and bake wonderful tasting foods. I even wanted my own P-Touch because Martha always seemed to be labeling things.

Martha Stewart's Closet

As time passed, though, and life started taking over, my obsession started to wane. Now I feel like everything around me could use a little sprucing up. What better place to begin organizing that my clothing closet? As you can see, my storage place could use a lot of work!!!  Definitely no comparison between mine and Martha's!

Disorganized closet

My closet used to be organized by clothing type, then by color. My shoes were clean and shined and lined up under my clothes. Everything had a place and I constantly was cleaning and purging to keep it nice. Fast forward a few years, and as you can see, my closet has become a place for a lot of things that should be stored elsewhere. There is no longer any organization.  Do you ever feel the same way?

In addition to the typical clothing, shoes, and purses that SHOULD be in a closet, I have:

  • miscellaneous decorations for my bedroom that I’m not using

  • a can of paint from painting my bedroom ( I didn’t want it to get mixed up with the rest of the paint in the basement.)

  • an outdoor chandelier

  • a couple cute storage boxes of craft supplies

A clean, organized, and pretty closet makes it easier to put together unique and stylish outfits. We often wear things we shouldn’t because it’s convenient, the clothes are easy to find, or because it is something we’ve always worn, but that doesn’t mean that the clothes look good on us.  Wearing something you love and feel good in does wonders for the way you feel about yourself!

So, my closet is a great size for what I need and I think I can make it work without buying fancy shelving or a closet system. I’d actually like to make it work without buying much at all.

Here is my plan:

  1. Take everything out of my closet and sort into what I want, don’t want, and what needs stored somewhere else. 
  2. Paint my closet and add some special touches. 
  3. Put the things I’m keeping back in an organized and pretty way. 
  4. Maintain the work that I’ve done. 

Let's get started, shall we?


I began by taking everything out of my closet. Has anyone else found that the worst part of cleaning and organizing is really that a bigger mess has to be made in order to clean up? Something does not seem right about that.

Anyhow, according to every organizing book I’ve read, we wear 80% of our clothes 20% of the time. Not sure if that is true, but it sounds good and gives us something to work with when we begin looking through all of our possessions. 

Make sure that your closet is not packed with the 80% that you don’t wear or use. The clothes in your closet should be easy to access and able to be mixed and matched with each other so that your entire wardrobe is being used. 

  • First you need to sort out the things that you know either don’t belong in your closet or that you are ready to part with because they don’t look good, are worn out or out of style, or just not something you want to keep anymore. (I actually did this step as I was removing things from my closet).

  • From what is left, find the 20% that you wear 80% of the time….the things you love and feel comfortable wearing. (That is, of course, unless you’ve decided those items were better off in the previous pile, which is often the case with the clothes that we wear a lot. Ever watched What Not To Wear?) 

  • Unless you were great at purging in the first step, you probably still have a lot left, right? Find the items that you want to be add to your 20%, but stop when your closet is getting close to being filled. We all will continue to find things we want to buy, so there might as well be a little growing room left to fill. 

By the way, it is important to try everything on. There were quite a few clothes that I would have liked to have put back into the closet, but had to admit once I tried them on that they just don’t fit like they used to. Make sure what is going back into your closet deserves to be there and isn’t just taking up space.

As for the shoes and purses, make sure that they are still in good condition. Sort out what needs to be replaced or that you don’t use anymore. Some of mine went because they just aren’t very comfortable to wear. While putting the shoes back in my closet, I cleaned and polished the ones I was keeping so that everything in my closet is ready to wear.


After taking everything out, I repainted the closet a nice, clean white to make it a little fresher. 

To make the closet a little more special and interesting to look at, I added some decorative shelf paper to line the shelf above the clothing rod. I got a roll of this blue and white pattern at Target for $5.99.

Also, I found some lined baskets to hold my seasonal clothes. That way I can still get to everything in case of chilly day (or warm day during the winter). A small basket holds my belts and scarves. I picked these lined baskets up at Jo Ann Fabrics.


When every piece was sorted through and assessed, the clothing, shoes, and accessories that were staying had to be put back neatly into the closet.

And here is what it looked like after purging and reorganizing....Better?


  • My clothes are hanging by type (shirts, pants, dresses, etc) then organized by color (white to black). I bought the matching wooden hangers on Ebay.

  • I saved a little space by putting two pair of pants that are the same general color (Khaki, gray, black) on the same hanger. You can also buy great hangers that hold multiple pair of pants.

  • I used vintage metal milk crates to maximize the height in my closet. They are big enough to hold one of the baskets and then I can put something else on top. (Before putting them in my closet, I sprayed them with an acrylic sealer to protect the clothes from the old metal.)

  • I wanted to make my purses easy to get to and originally planned on hanging them, but decided that probably would not be good for the handles. Instead, I used a piece of thick foam board left over from another project, wrapped it in the same shelf paper I used on the wooden shelf, and rested it on the two milk crates. Now I have double the shelf space to set out my purses. I stuffed the purses with some kraft paper to help them to keep their shape.

  • My shoes are placed (in color order, of course) on plastic coated metal shelving that I have used for years in my closet. The open shelves allow for good air circulation around the shoes.

  • I have a few tote bags that would not fit on the shelves with the purses, so I added hooks behind my hanging clothes. Now the bags are out of the way, but still easy to access.

  • My last tip if about storing boots…I use a rolled up file folder inside each boot to keep them standing. I cut the sides of the folder with decorative scissors to make it a little fancier and then just rolled the file folder and stuffed it down in to the toe of the boot. (You can also buy Boot Shapers that are made out of plastic.)

I’m so happy with the fact that I finally have my closet back and that I can easily find the clothes I’m looking for to make some fantastic outfits. I have a pile of stuff to be sold at an upcoming yard sale (or donated to Goodwill) and another pile of stuff that can be put somewhere else in the house. I also set aside a box of clothes that I wasn’t sure about. I’ll put it somewhere else in the house and will look through it again in the fall when I reorganize.

I told you that my plan was to spend little or nothing on this organizing project. The grand total for a massive change was...........$5.99. The only thing that I bought was the shelf paper! For everything else, I used what was already in my closet or what I had elsewhere in the house. Isn't it amazing what you can do for very little money!?!?

A few more tips for you to think about....

  • What is in your closet should be ready to wear at all times. That means your clothes should be clean and ironed and your shoes should be free of dirt and polished. It is so much easier to throw together a great outfit if everything is ready to go.

  • If your closet area is dark, try installing some sort of light, even if it is just a LED touch lamp. Colors look differently in darker rooms and it is much harder to find what you are looking for if you can’t see correctly.

  • Reexamine your closet about every six months, ideally in the spring and fall when you’d be switching out your seasonal clothes. This keeps clutter from building up and your closet becoming disorganized.

  • Use every square inch of your closet, floor to ceiling. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a fancy shelving system, though. I created my own using crates and foam board. Don’t forget about that space behind your hanging clothes for things you don’t need to access everyday. And remember that the floor can be used to store things like shoes, your hamper, or baskets.

  • Search sites like IKEA, Home Depot, Lowes, and of course, Pinterest for ideas about how to “construct” your closet. You don’t actually have to build something or spend a ton of money to get a closet that works for you, though. Use the inspiration to find things you can adapt. You may need to add a double rod, some more shelves, or just add baskets. 

  • What works for one person will not work for everyone. I like to have all my shoes out and displayed, but other people prefer to have their shoes in boxes or cubbies. Find what works for you.

  • Have matching hangers. Mine are wood, and while they take up more space than traditional hangers, it does ensure my clothes aren’t crammed into my closet. (Just because the hangers all fit, doesn’t mean that you don’t have too many clothes in there!!!) There are also a lot of huggable hangers out there now that maximize your space and help to keep things from sliding off the hanger. They even make nice ones that hang multiple pair of pants. Having the hangers all match give the entire closet a cleaner look.

  • Make your closet a bright, cheerful space. Add special little touches like shelf paper, a pop of color in paint, even a pin board to tack up photos of outfits you might like to recreate. Your closet should feel like your own fancy little boutique when you open the doors.

  • Organize what is in your closet by color. This makes looking into the space seem so much more organized and helps you to find things that go together easily.

  • Use baskets to store smaller items in your closet, like scarves, belts, and ties. The baskets keep everything from getting lost and are another thing that can add that special touch to your closet.

Here is a little inspiration from Pottery Barn.  I don't know about you, but I would be one happy girl if my closet looked anything like this!

I hope you got some good ideas from this post for your own closet design. What other ideas have you come up with?

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