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This is Your Ultimate Guide to Closet Organization

Closet with accessories stored

Rachel Rosenthal

If you've been itching to streamline your morning routine and make your closet work a little harder for you, it's time to reorganize. Though it sounds daunting, organizing your closet like a pro is a task that should only require an afternoon's worth of investment. We chatted with organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal and LA Closet Design CEO Lisa Adams to give you all the answers you need to simplify your life.

Meet the Expert

  • Rachel Rosenthal has been a professional organizer for 13 years and founded her own company, Rachel & Co, to help clients change their lives through organization.
  • Lisa Adams is the CEO and lead designer behind LA Closet Design and has worked in the industry for 13 years.

Materials You'll Need to Organize a Closet

  • Boxes for accessories
  • A basket for giveaways
  • Matching hangers
  • Large storage containers
  • A mirror (for trying on clothes)

How to Organize a Closet

Before you begin, expect to spend three to four hours from start to finish on this project. After you lay the groundwork, you just have to stick to the system—and before you know it, you'll see that finding the perfect outfit has gone from being a chore to a breeze. Here's everything you need to know to get (and stay) organized.

Lay Out Everything You Have

The first step may be the most painful one, but it's a must if you truly want to clean up your closet and create an organizational system that works. Take everything you own out of your closet and lay it on your bed or the floor (a clean floor, of course)! This will give you a chance to inspect every item and really decide if it's worth keeping.

This is a great time to deep clean your closet. Dust, vacuum, or even paint after all of your clothing is removed.

Only Keep What You Wear

Folded sweaters in a closet
Rachel Rosenthal

Now it's time to make some hard decisions. Spend some time trying on every item and deciding whether it's a "today" piece or a "someday" piece.

According to organization expert Rachel Rosenthal, it's common to hold onto pieces that no longer fit (we all have a pair of "in 10 pounds" jeans), but organizing your closet means getting rid of those "someday" pieces.

"Keeping those items is a constant reminder that they no longer fit or make you feel good," Rosenthal says.

If you really have to keep them, store them someplace you don't have to see on a day-to-day basis, or flip the hangers so you know not to grab for them when getting ready in the morning.

Store Off-Season Items

Now that you've gotten rid of all of those items that no longer fit, separate your clothing into seasons. The best closets only feature what you can wear right now, so it's a good rule of thumb to store winter clothing in the summer and vice versa.

If you don't have enough storage to put away large bins every season, make sure the off-season pieces are tucked away in the back of your closet.

Set Your Closet Up for Success

Women looking in closet
Rachel Rosenthal

When it comes to storing your clothes, Rosenthal says "the number one thing to remember is that if you use it often, it needs to be accessible." Put the items you wear constantly front and center (think your capsule wardrobe pieces) and the ones you wear rarely toward the back. Before you put your clothes back into the closet, put your twenty most-worn pieces to the side and focus on these.

It's important to utilize all corners of your closet, but save those areas for rarely-worn items, like formal dresses or interview suits.

Placing a hook on the back of your closet door can be a great place to store ready-made outfits for the next morning.

Invest in New Hangers

Closet with organized sections
Rachel Rosenthal

Gone are the days of mismatched hangers you picked up for free at Target. While it may not seem like a big deal, mismatched hangers will make your closet look cluttered and messy, despite your best efforts at organization.

Decide on a color and material (i.e. white wood) and buy a set that works for all your pieces. A good closet will have a mixture of pant hangers, shirt hangers, sweater hangers, and a sprinkling of accessory hangers for things like scarves and tights.

Color Code

Closet with dresses organized by color
Rachel Rosenthal

We recommend a two-tiered system when it comes to organizing your closet. First, focus on the pieces you wear often. From there, organizing the pieces by color can make it much easier to match items and dress for your mood. While this sounds tedious, if you focus only on those items you wear often, it may mean only color-coding your top twenty or so pieces.

Stay on Top of It

Large closet with multiple areas
Rachel Rosenthal

Rosenthal suggests incorporating a permanent donation bin into your closet so that you're always ready to purge.

"Designate a donation spot in your closet for items that you aren’t wearing, that don’t fit, or that you simply aren’t interested in any longer," she says. "When the bags and bins are full, that's your cue to get the donation items out and clear room for the next cycle of stuff."

Sort Your Shoes

Shoes organized on a shelf
Rachel Rosenthal 

If you have a habit of digging through a pile of shoes on the bottom of your closet floor, it's time to change that. Rosenthal suggests you take stock of what shoes you wear frequently and sort them in two ways.

"Sort shoes by categories (i.e. flip flops, flat sandals, wedges) and then by color if you want to be super-specific," she says.

If you have pairs that are valuable or easily damaged, invest in clear storage boxes so you can see what you have without digging around.

Invest in Organization

Jewelry organizer
LA Closet Design  

Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design says putting up a little money upfront to invest in great organizational pieces will really pay off in the end. She recommends custom drawer inserts, vertical shelving separators, and pretty storage boxes that make you want to get organized.

Think Vertically

Closet with built-in shelving
LA Closet Design 

Don't neglect the space at the top of your closet that you rarely see. This is a good place to store out-of-season items or pieces you wear once a year. Invest in storage boxes to keep things neat and tidy, and have a step stool on hand for easy access.

How Much Time Will It Take to Organize My Closet?

The time will vary depending on the size of your closet and the amount of clothes you own. However, on average, it should take three to four hours.

What Do I Do With the Clothes I Don't/or Won't Wear?

You can either set up a box or bin to throw in clothes that are worn out, no longer fits, or barely worn. Once your box or bin is filled to the top, consider your options of donating, reselling, or passing them down to other people you know.