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Closet Organization: Make the Most of Your Limited Space

It’s time to organize your closet, once and for all. Once you’ve sorted through your clothing and know just what you want to keep, here’s a system to put it all away. If you focus, you can organize your entire closet – for the last time – in less than an hour.

Lately, it seems like every third article you read is talking about purging your wardrobe. And that’s a good thing. But once you complete your wardrobe purge, you are left with a pile of clothes all over your bed. Those articles don’t really describe what to do next.

No one tells you how to organize your closet with the clothes you have left!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a system for putting your clothes back in your closet?

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you could organize your closet and have it stay organized?

My closet layout works for any closet, for men’s and women’s clothing, and takes less than one hour to set up!

Now, I am all for purging wardrobes and only keeping clothes you love.

I’m working on that myself, and in fact, I will almost certainly offer up my two cents on the subject at some point in the probably-not-too-distant-future.

But today, friends, I’m going to share with you my simple system of arranging my closet.

This closet layout is what you do AFTER the purge!

beautifully organized closet

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Choose an Organizational System that WORKS

I’ve been very fortunate in that our last three houses have had walk-in closets in the master bedroom. It’s not that I have a huge wardrobe; it’s just so much easier to see all of my clothing at a glance, and have space for all the little organizational extras that make my life easier.

My current closet is the size of a small bedroom! But that has not always been the case. I’ve had plenty of small or inconveniently laid-out closets, too (yes, I have lived in a lot of houses – 25, in fact! So I’ve had my share of closets!)

Even though my closets have varied in dimensions and layout, I have organized my closet in the exact same way for years.

Once set up, it’s very obvious where any given item belongs, and it’s quick and easy to put away the laundry or find an article of clothing that I want to wear.

In other words, my closet layout method works.

Remove Anything That Doesn’t Belong In Your Closet

First, I am adamant that every item of clothing in my closet must be wearable immediately.

That means removing out-of-season clothes or clothes that don’t fit.

I don’t want to have to sort through items that I can’t wear in order to find those that I can.

It’s just not practical to organize your closet with things you aren’t currently using.

Out-of-season clothes get stored in a bottom drawer in my dresser, but they could just as easily go in a snap-top bin or under-bed box. Sweaters, knits, t-shirts, and workout clothes are stored in my dresser, also. You can read about file folding your clothing to save space here.

clothing file folded in dresser drawer

Sort Clothing by Category

Now that you know what I don’t keep in my closet, let’s get back to the layout for the things that do belong.

When setting up my closet, the first thing I do is determine which areas will be mine and which will be my husband’s, and I separate our clothes into those areas.

Now I have a good sense of the spaces I have to work with.

For each of us, I put all the items in a particular category together.

All the pants go together, all the shirts go together, and skirts, and dresses, and so forth.

Sorting by category forms the basis of an organized storage system.

Use the Least Accessible Areas of the Closet for the Least Used Clothing

Now, before I go any further within these categories, I take a quick look around to determine what area of the closet is the least accessible. It’s generally behind the door in a walk-in, but in a straight closet, it may be the center where the sliding doors overlap. Wherever it is, this is the area I keep the clothes we wear least frequently.

Because we attend quite a few business conferences, both my husband and I have an inventory of dinner/cocktail party outfits that we want to keep but don’t wear often. These go in that least accessible area, not with their categories. My husband’s regular work dress code is business casual, so blazers and ties go here as well.

I like to keep these clothes in a zippered garment bag. It keeps the dust off but leaves everything easy to see.

Divide Your Clothing into Categories: Sort, sort, sort!

Returning to the various categories of everyday wear, I sort pants in this order, left to right:

  • business;
  • business casual;
  • casual;
  • jeans.

Within each of these categories, I then sort even further by color, dark to light, starting with black, then brown, blue, grey, green, red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.

I level down once again – within each color, sort from dark to light. Of course, black and white are just, well, black and white. But blue, for instance, can go from navy to royal to primary to chambray to sky blue.

Shirts get similar treatment. My husband’s shirts are pretty straightforward. Long-sleeved shirts together, and short-sleeved shirts together. Again, sort by color, and then by hue within the color.

Women’s shirts have a bit more options, but the method is the same – long sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless, tank, spaghetti strap.

Then by color, then by hue.

For patterned shirts such as stripes or florals, I choose the most prominent color to sort by, which is usually the background color.

A real bonus of this system is that ALL of my sleeveless shirts hang together at one end. No more getting lost between bulkier-sleeved shirts; they are always easy to find.

color coded tops in closet on wooden hangers

Double Rods Are Ideal For Organizing Shirts and Pants

Fortunately, our back wall has double rods (top and bottom), because that’s the best storage for shirts and pants.

I hang men’s shirts on the top rod and pants on the bottom. Men’s shirts tend to drag on the floor when hung on a bottom rod.

For women I recommend the opposite, so my pants hang on top, with my shirts on the bottom. Women’s pants don’t stick out as far, so it reduces visual weight to have them on the top rod.

Also, it’s easier to check labels on jeans that look very similar if they are hanging up higher.

Skirts and dresses get the same treatment as other categories – business; business casual; casual. I hang my skirts next to my pants so that I can see all of my “bottoms” options at a glance.

Dresses should hang on a standard height rod in a visible spot.

I wear dresses often, especially in summer, so it makes sense for me to keep them in view.

beautifully organized closet

Organizing The Extras: Shoes and Accessories

I bought hanging shoe racks several years ago, and we still use them.

Some people like to keep their shoes in boxes, but I like them where I can see them all easily.

I keep in-season shoes near the top, closer to eye level, and out-of-season shoes down low. It only takes a few seconds to rotate them as the weather changes, and I usually take that opportunity to purge, clean, and repair as needed. 

I have an over-the-door rack that stores belts for both of us.

Scarves are currently folded neatly on a velvet hanger, but I’m not sure if this is the best method. It may be time to look around for a better option.

I don’t have a lot of handbags, because I have never been one of those women who changes the bag to match each outfit. I wish I did, but, I just don’t. The few that I have I store on a shelf in the closet and use clear acrylic dividers to keep them upright.

shoes organized in closet

Bonus Tips for even better organization

A few other ways I make my closet more efficient include:

Hanging my clothes all facing in the same direction.

I use matching hangers.  It really makes a difference in the appearance of your closet when the hangers are consistent. 

Now, I do have different hangers for different purposes:

  • pants hangers,
  • wooden hangers for my husband’s shirts (best for large shoulders, but they do take up a lot of space.) 
  • Thin velvet hangers are space-efficient and anti-slip and I like them for my shirts. 
  • I never use wire hangers. They distort the shape of your clothes.

I designate a separate hanging section for clothes that need ironing/steaming so that they don’t get mixed in with the ready-to-wear items.

I keep all the empty hangers together so that I don’t have to hunt for them when I’m putting laundry away. It’s a real time saver.

I have small baskets on the shelf above the closet rod where we store pajamas and hand washables.

I have two laundry baskets, one for light colors and one for dark colors. When either gets full, I know it’s time to do laundry.

And that, my friends, is the closet layout that has worked for me for years!

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Final Thoughts on Closet Organization: Make the Most of Your Limited Space

Getting – and keeping – your closet organized is really not as hard as it seems.

The key is to get started and have a plan!

Follow this guide, and you’ll have a beautiful, functional closet in less than an hour.

how to organize your clothing closet in just one hour

17 thoughts on “Closet Organization: Make the Most of Your Limited Space”

  1. I like how you color code everything. My closet is an embarrassment. I can’t remember the last time I saw the carpet in my closet. You gave me inspiration for how to spend my day off Friday. Thanks.

  2. I’m impressed with your level of organization! I keep my closet similarly organized, with long sleeved shirts on one side, short sleeve on the other, all sorted by color. Tank tops go in drawers, and so do pants. I live in Arizona so we don’t have much for seasons, so no need to rotate seasonally! I don’t try tackling my husband’s side of the closet 😉

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