If you've ever rediscovered a dress after it had been buried in the depths of your closet for months, you understand the importance of a well-organized dressing room. Not only does an organized closet make for a more visually appealing (and less stress-inducing) space, but it also makes getting dressed and ready more efficient. No one understands this better than Lisa Adams, celebrity closet designer and founder of LA Closet Design. Having designed dressing rooms for A-listers from Brad Goreski to Khloé Kardashian, she knows that with great space comes great inventory and that no space-saving solution should be overlooked.
But what about the rest of us who live in studio apartments smaller than most celebrity closets? To demystify the many closet solutions out there, we recently chatted with Adams about all things closet organization—for spaces big and small and budgets to match. We came to one conclusion: No matter how much you own, how much space you have, or what your budget is, the rules of wardrobe storage are the same. Ready to give your space a much-needed overhaul? Try the closet designer's ingenious tips.
Mix High and Low Items
Having everything custom built is the dream in the closet world, but not everyone has the luxury of space or budget, so Adams relies on a mix of high and low to achieve her signature luxe look. "For my celebrity and A-list clients, I like making their closets feel like a boutique space and layer different fabrics and textures so it's not just cabinetry," she says. "For smaller budgets, I like using a mix of high and low. You may not have the luxury of doing everything custom, but you can mix and match shelves from IKEA or Home Depot with a custom vanity or shoe shelves."
For instance, the closet and office space above was once a seldom-used living room for a single professional woman with a limited budget: "My client decided that she wasn't using the space. She's single, so one else was using it either, and she wanted to create a space that she could use as storage and a workspace. She didn't have unlimited funds, so I had to be mindful of budgeting."
Have a Place for Everything
No matter how big or small the closet space, Adams has one golden rule of organizing: Everything has its place. "That's my universal rule, especially in kids' spaces. You expect them to be organized, but if they don't know where to put things or shoes back, they can't learn," says the closet designer. "That's true for adults also—if there's no dedicated space for that one thing, it tends to get put in a drawer or on the floor. With everything in its place, even if you're not an organized person, at least you know where things are supposed to go."
"People always want the beautiful non-cluttered closet look, and you just can't have that if you're buying and not releasing," warns Adams. "As a general rule, it's important to purge, and not just once a year. I really encourage my clients to do it on a daily basis. If you pull something out and it doesn't fit or there's a stain on it—throw it out. We're so robotic: We look at it, and then we put it back. So I train my clients to also have a space for things that don't fit or need to be altered so you can get these piece out of the closet and take action."
While purging your closet can feel like a daunting task, the closet designer has a trick to make it more manageable: Do it with friends or professionals. "This goes even for me—I know what to do, but when it's your own things, it's always harder." She recommends asking somebody you trust to say no when you're holding on to things for a specific reason. "You just need that voice of reason. There are so many companies now like The RealReal that will come over and can help with that process. It's great when you see things leaving or a check comes into your account or you donate things to your favorite charity. You build can on that momentum."
Know Your Preferred Organization Method
Having a closet filled with rods is great unless you're a folder, and vice versa, so Adams recommends identifying your preferred organizational style. "If I'm designing a closet for clients, and they can say, I prefer to see everything hanging, I build around that," she says. "People aren't sure what to hang, what to fold, or what to put in a deeper drawer. Oftentimes, I'll walk into a closet and space is not maximized because it was never designed with the intention of having everything in its place, so people are just doing their best job at putting things where they think it should go. One mistake that I see a lot is people not being efficient with their space."
Divide Your Drawers
For people who prefer having many drawers, Adams recommends a filing system: "I love inserts," she says. "You can do custom partition inserts or T-shirt files and be very customized, but you can also get these from Bed Bath & Beyond. But if you do nothing in that drawer, it's natural for things to just become disorganized. I don't like stacking clothes in drawers, because then, aside from the two top pieces, you never know what's on the bottom. I love organizing in a file from front to back so you can see everything."
The closet designer doesn't just like to organize big items; she is known to get really granular with even the smallest accessories. "We have an acrylic tray that can go into a drawer or on a nightstand and custom inserts that help organize jewelry and sunglasses," says Adams, who likes to see every single ring and necklace in its place. "If you have a lot of jewelry, it can get so tangled. Being really organized on a minute level is really important. Everyone hates clutter, but they really don't like tangled jewelry. Getting everything out and organized makes a huge difference."
Build Around What You Own
"Oftentimes, people inherit closets and move right in—something that can lead to bad storage solutions. I just revamped Brad Goreski's closet, and it's a prime example of somebody who had this system in his closet and moved right into it. Jackets didn't fit; they were dragging on the shelves. It doesn't occur to people that you can raise the rods or raise the shelves to accommodate what you have. At the very least, if you're inheriting a closet, you can still make it work for what you have. If the hanging heights are not appropriate for what you have—for instance, if you have short tops and long dresses and you go into a closet that has no long hanging—that doesn't work. Knowing what you have and being able to make the closet work for you is the most important."
It's easy to get organized when you have the luxury of space, but in a small closet, it's even more critical to be well-edited. "If you're short on space, it's important to know how much double-hanging and long-hanging space you have and use every inch of that wardrobe from top to bottom by hanging things higher up and using the space below to really use the space efficiently."
To learn everything you need to know about the art of organizing your closet, preorder Adams's book, Closet Design Bible.