As fun as it is to add to a closet, cleaning one out is an entirely different 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. With the right storage solutions and smart organizational methods, you'll be well on your way to tackling the daunting task of editing your wardrobe once and for all—whether you have a massive walk-in closet or a tiny studio apartment. And when it's all said and done, you'll realize that you did, 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 and most pristine closet yet.
December 30, 2022
Written By:Rank & Style
Product Expert:Georgia Jones
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Start With A Clean Slate
The first and most important step? Start fresh. Take everything out of your closet so you can clearly see what you’re working with. Once you’ve done this, you can start sorting things into piles. Group things together into four main categories: keep, donate, sell, and toss. Ahead, we’re highlighting exactly how to handle each pile.
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. 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.
Tip: 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 backward 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 aforementioned jeans. As tempting as it may be to leave them hanging in your closet, hoping that you’ll drop two sizes overnight, doing so isn't the best idea for your closet or mental state. Websites like Poshmark and The Real Real are great places to consign online, and it can feel really rewarding to make a little cash on the things you decide to let go of.
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 they’ll love it.
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 have to get rid of it. Instead, put it in storage, so it’s not taking up any precious real estate.
Tip: 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. This will help you avoid impulsive purchases down the road.
Stock Up On Storage
One of the most important things you can do is 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 cleaners.
Storage Bins: If you’re a shopping addict, 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.
Now that you’re left with only the things you love and a selection of 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? 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 room to do this, prioritize nice blouses and shirts that are 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 them from losing their shape and getting shoulder kinks. Stack them by color and use cubbies or dividers to keep them from toppling over. Start with the heaviest at the bottom.
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 outsides aren'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, 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 whatever 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.
If you don’t have tons of space to work with or even a closet at all, that’s totally okay. There are tons of rolling racks and shelving systems out there, and when styled using the same strategies listed above, they can 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.
Stick With It
Instead of cleansing your wardrobe just once a year, we recommend you get in the habit of doing this each season. It makes the project much less daunting and, dare we say, enjoyable. And while you're at it, keep an eye on the top-rated wardrobe staples we feature on Rank & Style, so when you're ready to shop for something new, you know you're getting the absolute best.
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