Many of us rely on our dressers to keep our spaces in tip-top shape. But what lurks inside our dressers may be tough for us to face. Over time, our dresser drawers can descend into chaos—accumulating clutter, wrinkled clothing, and mess all around.
But with a little care and upkeep, our dresser drawers can be better than not messy—they can be genuinely clean. And according to some professional organizers, keeping your dresser neat and tidy doesn’t have to be hard.
To help you understand how to organize your dresser drawers, we asked three professional organizers for their advice. Ahead, they share their best dresser organization ideas. And we have to admit—their tips sound pretty easy to pull off.
Establish a Goal
Before you clean out your dresser drawers, take a moment to consider why you’re getting organized. Do you want to cut down on clutter, take better care of your clothing, or just be able to shut your overflowing dresser drawers?
“I always want to know a client’s end goal, such as better visibility, only having items they wear and love, etc.,” Holly Blakey, professional organizer at Breathing Room, says. By being clear about what you want on the front end, you can keep yourself motivated when things get tough.
Empty Your Drawers
Feeling overwhelmed by clutter or mess? Try to give yourself a blank slate to work with. Take everything out of your drawers. Then, spread it out so you can get a bird’s-eye view of what you own. “You have to take everything out in order to start with a blank slate and be able to sort through it all,” Blakey says.
Once your dresser drawers are empty, they should be particularly easy to clean. So take a moment to wipe down, dust, or vacuum your drawers.
Decide What to Keep, Donate, or Recycle
Create order out of disorder by sorting your stuff into different categories. “Go through, and begin to edit items,” Ashley Murphy, co-founder of NEAT Method, says. “Decide what to keep, move to a different room, donate, recycle, or throw away.”
Start with items you know you need to get rid of—if something is stained or torn, it’s time to bid that item adieu. Then, consider donating items that no longer fit, that you no longer wear, or that you have way too many of.
“One common mistake people make is that people have too many pairs of socks,” Joanna Wirick, life and home professional organizer at Joanna Organize, says. “If you have a drawer crammed full, and you find yourself pulling the same 5–10 pairs on top—that’s a sign you have too many options.” This logic applies to other items as well, like underwear, leggings, T-shirts, and more.
Sort Your Stuff by Use Case
Categorizing your stuff is easy because you can group like with like—you can put your underwear in one pile, your socks in another, and so on. But which categories should live side-by-side in the same dresser drawer?
To figure this out, Blakey recommends consulting your daily routine. “There are a few categories that naturally go together—like underwear, bras, and socks,” she says. Since those items are the first things you put on each morning, it makes sense to keep them together.
“Similarly, I always ask clients about their daily routines,” Blakey says. “Maybe they exercise first and need their athletic pants, sports bras, and tops to all be in the same drawer.” Think about what items you reach for at the same time, and group them together in the same drawer.
File-Fold Your Clothes
It may be traditional to stack folded items on top of each other. But professional organizers prefer a different method: file folding.
“If you have deep drawers, you can keep everything folded upright,” Wirick says. “Do not stack items one on top of the other. This helps to prevent creasing and allows you to see all of your items at once.”
Make Sure Your Go-to Items Are Easy to Reach
When organizing your dresser drawers, start by making sure your go-to items are easy to reach. And relegate less important items to out-of-the-way areas, like the back corner of a drawer or the bottom drawer of your dresser. “You need to pick the system that makes the most sense for your lifestyle,” Blakey says.
Keep your future self in mind as you organize your dresser: What system will make your life easier every time you get dressed?
Experiment With Different Layouts
Once you’ve decluttered your dresser, categorized your stuff, and made sure your must-haves are easy to reach, it’s time to find homes for everything else that belongs in your dresser. And this might take a few tries.
“Keep in mind that you may have more of one category and less of another, so you might need to play around with the configuration,” Murphy says.
Don’t be afraid to move your stuff around until everything fits neatly inside your dresser drawers. “There is no right or wrong layout, as long as it makes your life easier and saves you time,” Murphy says.
There is no right or wrong layout, as long as it makes your life easier and saves you time.
Use Drawer Dividers to Keep Things Tidy
When tidying dresser drawers, professional organizers swear by a single product: drawer dividers. “Our go-to product for keeping dresser drawers neat and tidy are expandable drawer dividers,” Murphy says. “They are super easy to use, come in various sizes, and keep items in place by category.”
By creating physical boundaries within your dresser drawers, drawer dividers make it easy to see where everything should go—even when your items are in use and your dresser drawers are empty.
Create Lanes Inside Your Drawers
Don’t have room for drawer dividers? You’re not out of luck. “If you have shallow drawers and drawer dividers don’t fit, be sure to file-fold items and give each group of items its own ‘lane,’” Wirick says. “The average dresser drawer can have 3–4 lanes, depending on the width of the items and the drawer.”
Fine-Tune Your System
You might not nail your organization system on your first try. And you probably won’t realize what you’ve done wrong until you’ve had a chance to live with your just-organized dresser drawers. “Over the coming days, live with your space and make any necessary adjustments,” Wirick says.
If something needs to be moved, move it. Then, keep testing and readjusting until you’ve found something that works.
Give Your Stuff Room to Breathe
A dresser drawer isn’t a suitcase: It doesn’t need to be packed to the brim with stuff. “My number one rule for dresser drawers is to let items breathe!” Wirick says. “If items are completely crammed from the start, the drawer can quickly become a disaster zone again.”
Add Labels Inside Your Drawers
Labels can be a great way to keep track of what belongs where. So once you’ve finalized your organization system, consider adding a few. “You can always take things up a notch and add labels to the inside your drawers, so you remember what belongs in each ‘zone,’” Murphy says.
Schedule Regular Declutters
Tackling one massive declutter is a great way to get your dresser drawers in shape. But if you want to keep your dresser drawers in shape, you’ll want to tackle smaller declutters more regularly.
Blakey recommends scheduling these declutters so you remember to make time for them. “Create an edit schedule,” she says. “Once a quarter, commit to sorting through your drawers to refresh you systems and not let them get too unruly.”
Remove Old Items as You Buy New Ones
One major cause of dresser disorganization? Accumulating stuff over time. “Usually, if any drawer is overflowing and won't shut, it's because there are items in there that you haven't worn or even seen in years, that are shoved to the back,” Blakey says. So instead of letting that mound of stuff pile up, try to discard one old item every time you buy a new item.
“One thing in, one thing out!” Blakey says. “It's so easy for drawers to get cluttered again, especially if you keep buying stuff. Each time you add an item, donate one that you aren't using.”
Refold on the Fly
It may be tempting to haphazardly shove items inside your drawers, especially if you’re in a hurry. But resist the urge to do so. “Instead of shoving something back in a drawer, invest the extra 10-15 seconds to refold an item,” Wirick says. “This will prevent you from feeling frustrated the next time you go to wear that article of clothing only to find that it’s wrinkled and needs to be laundered.”
This small investment of effort should keep your dresser organized, your clothes in tip-top shape, and your future self happy.
Take It One Drawer at a Time
Tackling an overflowing dresser may sound like a daunting task. So if you’re feeling intimidated, take things one drawer at a time. “If the main issue preventing you getting started is time, start with one drawer,” Blakey says. “That one little step will make you feel so good that you're likely to keep going.”
Is tackling your dresser drawer-by-drawer the most efficient approach? Maybe not. But don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.