As much as we love adding things to our closets, cleaning them out is a whole other story. Getting rid of things is hard, and hey, if cargo pants and hair clips could make a comeback, who's to say that your slinky going-out top from 2010 won't do the same? But as the saying goes, a cluttered closet is a cluttered mind (or something like that), so tidying up your wardrobe can do wonders for your well-being. Not only will it allow you to make the most out of all your clothing purchases, but it will also enable you to quickly and easily come up with carefully crafted outfits, even on the earliest and most hectic mornings.
Contrary to what you might think, you don't have to have an abundance of space to achieve a beautiful and functional closet, and we're about to prove it to you. With the right storage solutions on your side and the use of some smart organizational methods, you'll be well on your way to tackling the daunting task of cleaning and editing your wardrobe once and for all—whether you have a massive walk-in closet or a tiny studio apartment. And when that mess of clothes and accessories has become an organized oasis, you'll discover that you do, indeed, have things to wear—you just couldn't see them before.
Below, we're sharing our top tips to help you get it done, including what to keep, what to ditch, and how to organize each and every garment you've got. Keep scrolling to see what we mean and start the new year with your prettiest, most pristine closet yet.
STEP #1: START WITH A CLEAN SLATE
The first and most important step? Start with a clean slate. Take everything out of your closet so you can clearly see what you’re working with. (Aggressive—we know—but it will make the editing process so much simpler and more streamlined in the long run). Once you’ve done this, you can start sorting things into piles. We suggest you group things together in these four main categories: keep, donate, sell, and toss. Since the sorting process isn’t always black and white, we’re highlighting exactly how to handle each pile below.
Keep: This is the place for clothes you love and wear religiously. In other words, the jeans you’re obsessed with but can’t squeeze into anymore don’t go here—we’ll cover that topic later. If there are things you’re uncertain about, feel free to put them in the “keep” pile, but be sure to give them the hanger test once they’re back in your closet.
HANGER TEST: Hang things up with the hangers facing the wrong way (back to front), then flip them the right way once you’ve worn what’s on them. If any hangers are still backwards after a few months, it’s probably safe to get rid of these items.
Sell: This pile is ideal for anything that’s in great condition but no longer works for you—kind of like those jeans we talked about. As tempting as it may be to leave them hanging in the depths of your closet in the hopes that you’ll drop two sizes overnight, doing this is not the best idea for your closet or mental state. Trust us on this. Though they’re not perfect for you anymore, they could easily become somebody else’s new favorites. Websites like Poshmark and The Real Real are great places consign online, and it can feel really rewarding to make a little cash on the things you decide to let go.
Donate: This pile is perfect for items you’d rather not fuss with selling. If something has lost value or didn’t cost much to begin with, take it to a local charity and donate it, or let a friend have first dibs if you think she’ll love it. Sharing is caring.
Toss: If something’s too old or damaged to be sold or donated, put it in the “toss” pile. If it happens to be of sentimental value—whether it’s your favorite sorority T-shirt or a dance costume from your childhood—don’t feel like you absolutely have to get rid of it. Instead, put it in storage so it’s not taking up any precious real estate.
SHOP SMARTER: As you’re sorting, be sure to take note of any gaps you need to fill. If you never wear your favorite white button-down anymore because it’s stained beyond repair, add a white button-down to the list. Next time you’re shopping, you’ll know exactly what you need and what you don’t. Ultimately, this will help you shop smarter and avoid impulsive purchases.
STEP #2: STOCK UP ON SMART STORAGE SOLUTIONS
Before we get to the fun part, it’s important to stock up on a few smart storage solutions that’ll help make your space more functional.
Slimline Hangers: They’re cheap, they provide twice the amount of space that wood and plastic do, and they’ll keep your clothes from sliding off. Be sure to grab extras for new purchases and items you just picked up from the dry cleaners.
Storage Bins: If you’re a shopping addict (like us), odds are you’ll eventually run out of drawer and shelf space. Storage bins are an easy solution, and if you find a few stylish ones, they can serve as chic additions to your space. If you accumulate a lot and can’t remember which ones hold what, stick a label on the back of each bin that lists its contents.
Over-The-Door Hangers: If your closet is tiny, don’t fret. There are tons of over-the-door options out there that’ll give you a space to store shoes, bags, and accessories you may not have room for elsewhere.
STEP #3: START ORGANIZING
Now that you’re left with only the things you love and a selection of top-notch storage solutions to get you started, it’s time to organize. But how do you go about organizing your tees versus your blouses and your pants versus your jeans? We’ve got you covered. Below, we’re highlighting the best ways to store each and every garment so there’s no question about what goes where.
Tops: If you have space to hang all of your tops, do it. You’ll wear them more if you can see them, and hanging them keeps them wrinkle-free. If you don’t have enough space to do this, prioritize nice blouses and shirts that are more prone to creasing and save the drawer space for casual tees and tanks. When you’re working with tops—and any other hanging clothes—try sorting them by style, length, and color, so you can see everything clearly.
Sweaters: Heavy knits should be folded to prevent losing their shape and getting those dreaded shoulder kinks. Stack them by color and use cubbies or dividers to keep them from toppling over. Start with the heaviest at the bottom—you’ll thank us later for this.
Jeans: The way you organize your jeans is all about personal preference. Many stylists choose to organize them by color on clip hangers, but some people prefer to sort them by hem length. If you’re a die-hard denim lover, fold and stack them on shelves so they’re front and center.
Dresses: For dresses, organize by color rather than length—this will make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, and overall, it will make things look cleaner and more organized. You can sort them by sleeve length as well, starting with strapless and ending with longer sleeves.
Pants, Skirts, and Shorts: Hang pants, skirts, and shorts by the hems with clips or clip hangers. If you’re dealing with delicates (think satin and leather), make small internal folds at the sides so the outside isn’t left with harsh marks or creases.
Outerwear: Organize outerwear by weight and sleeve length. If you’re short on space, try packing bulky jackets and coats away until winter. Once you need them, make room for them by swapping them with lighter layers you won’t need until summer.
Shoes: Depending on what your shoe collection looks like (if you’re anything like us, it’s a big one), you’ve got tons of options when it comes to organizing. If you’re blessed with an endless amount of shelf space, start there. Sort them by color and style, and be sure to leave a few taller shelves or floor space for boots. If you don’t have tons of shelf space, cubbies and over-the-door organizers are an easy fix. Store one shoe facing in and one shoe facing out so heel heights are easier to see.
Bags: If you don’t have a ton of space to spare, storing bags and purses can be tough. Keeping them boxed up isn’t a good idea—if you can’t see them, you won’t use them. Make use of extra wall space and add command hooks, or take advantage of your doors and grab one of those handy over-the-door hangers. One of our editors swears by these accessory hooks from The Container Store, and they’re super affordable at just $16 each.
Jewelry: The expression “out of sight, out of mind” really rings true when it comes to closet organization, especially when you’re dealing with smaller items like jewelry. Invest in stylish storage solutions (like these pretty display boxes) that put your tiny treasures on display but keep them neat and contained at the same time. You’ll wear far more of your baubles when you aren’t having to dig to the bottom of your jewelry case to find them.
Scarves: When it comes to organizing scarves, it’s really what method you prefer best. If you choose to store them on a shelf, fold them and sort them by weight and color for easy access. Tie hangers are inexpensive and great for those that have a large collection, but a scarf organizer like this one is an excellent option for thicker winter scarves (and it’s cute, too).
Hats: Hat boxes are an excellent organizational tool if you have the space for them, and the Container Store has clear ones that make it easy to see what’s inside. If your closet is a little too small for that, use it as a decor opportunity—hanging your hats on the wall can add a stylish touch to your home and easily takes care of that storage problem.
STEP 4: GET CREATIVE
If you don’t have tons of space to work with or even a closet at all, that’s totally okay. Use it to your advantage! There are tons of rolling racks and shelving systems out there, and when styled using the same strategies listed above, they can totally serve as a cool point of interest for your bedroom. Grab a floor-length mirror, a statement-making rug, and a small table for accessories, and you’ve got everything you need to create a designated dressing space you love. That’s cooler than a closet, if you ask us.
Opening image: Photo by Yasmine Boheas on Unsplash