6 experts share exactly how to organize a closet – step by step for success

Knowing how to organize a closet as an expert would is the route to an Instagram-worthy finish – and lifelong happiness... Plus, it can be a straightforward process.

how to organize a closet
(Image credit: Pexels)

Closet envy is a very real thing: those glossy, perfectly lit up and organized closet inspiration photos on Instagram and Pinterest almost always make us feel some kind of way—but it’s not necessarily for the designer capsule collection or handbag collection. The real closet envy comes from a perfectly curated and expertly organized wardrobe that looks as though it’s been dreamed up by The Home Edit themselves.

Thankfully, decluttering, curating, and practising the most efficient closet organization ideas isn’t as intimidating as it might seem at first glance – if you have the patience and know-how required to get it right. Below, we’ve spoken to a handful of decluttering and organizational experts to get their top tips on how to organize a closet – from start to finish.

1. Remove items that don’t belong

The first step as always is to open the closet and remove items that don't belong. 'Generally, closet spaces are only for clothes, however, what we notice with a lot of our clients is the propensity to have a lot of miscellaneous items in their bedroom closets,' says Adriana Aziz, Operations Manager at MaidForYou. 'So removing the items that don't belong is always the primary focal point when starting.'

2. Decide on your thrift shops, tailors, and dry cleaners

Before starting to declutter your closet, pre-determine where donations will go and where clothes will go for repair. Even if it's walk in closet ideas that you want to neaten up, the space you save in this process will help. 'Designate a local thrift shop and/or a friend or relative to take clothes in donateable condition and locate a tailor or dry cleaner who will do the repairs,' suggests  Stacey Agin Murray, Professional Organizer at Organized Artistry, LLC. 'Knowing this information before starting to declutter ensures that the clothes will not linger in your car or the corner of your bedroom due to not knowing what to do with them next.'

3. Don’t declutter all at once...

It might be tempting to try and get all your closet decluttering and organizing done in one day but it’s really not a feasible goal for most people. 'Don’t empty the contents of your closet onto your bed and expect to organize it all in one day—you’re likely to become overwhelmed,' explains Murray. 'To prevent that feeling, break the closet decluttering process into clothing categories and sort and purge through them one at a time.'

4. Consider why you aren’t wearing certain garments

Instead of being negative and saying something like, “I haven't worn it in a year” or “I don't need it….” focus on why you haven't worn it, maybe it is actually a keepsake like a college sweatshirt or the size is aspirational for the future, or in the case of shoes maybe they look great but really hurt your feet.

If you have future clothes in your closet waiting for when you go up or down a size, Ben Soreff, Professional Organizer, suggests considering how expensive they are and how hard to get them again and then donate to someone who could wear them today as you don't want them taking up valuable space.

5. Don’t feel guilty about decluttering

Don't let guilt prevent you from decluttering. According to Lucy Milligan Wahl, Professional Organizer and Founder of LMW Edits LLC, guilt comes in many forms, from sustainability concerns ("I don't want this to go in a landfill!") to family pressure ("This was a gift and the giver will be so hurt!") to insecurities ("I need to keep my fat clothes in case I gain weight again"). But guilt doesn't help you do anything productive, it just makes you feel bad! Keep things you love and use, and declutter things that you don't.

6. Keep your clothing visible

When bedroom storage is at a premium, keeping things in sight will help you know exactly what you are dealing with and acts as a good preventative measure to stop clutter in its tracks too. 'Anything that keeps your clothing neat, accessible, and visible is going to be best in terms of storage solutions,' explains Wahl. 'I like to use shelf dividers to keep folded stacks of clothing tidy, as opposed to fabric bins which hide the clothes from view.'

Neutral colored clothing hanging neatly in a white closet space

(Image credit: Pexels)

7. Consider grouping like items together

Brenda Scott, Owner and Operator of Tidy My Space, suggests when it comes to clothes storage, to try grouping like items together in your closet. Shirts together, dresses together etc. 'You can make sub-groups within those larger groups by color and go even further and make a separate grouping for fancy party outfits,' says Scott. 'However you sort and display your clothes, shoes, handbags it has to feel right for you. You can always change things around if it just doesn't feel right.'

8. Organize your closet by how you get dressed

When you get dressed, do you pick what to wear by occasion, garment, or color? According to Lilian Chiu, Owner and Professional Organizer at Peony Professional Organizing, LLC, you should learn how to organize your closet based on your answer. For example, if you’re in the mood to wear your favorite orange t-shirt, then it makes the most sense to organize your closet by garment, and then, by color.

9. Buy matching hangers

'When all your hangers look the same, it helps you focus more on your actual clothes,' explains Chiu. 'I personally love slimline, velvet hangers; they save so much space.'

The Home Edit Storage on John Lewis & Partners wardrobe

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

10. Utilize ALL the space

Speaking of space, according to Chiu, it’s also a good time to evaluate the space above and below the clothing rod in your closet. Are there shelves above where you can store sweaters or purses? What about installing a shoe rack directly below the hanging clothes?

11. File fold your clothing

'File folding is when you fold clothes so that you can put them in the drawer like a file.' explains Chiu. 'This helps you see all the clothes you have at once instead of digging through the stack to find what you need. Using dividers will help keep your clothes in line in the drawers, too.'

12. Consider placing formalwear in another closet

'Clothes you don't wear often like formalwear may live in a different closet like in the guest room so they don't take up space in your primary closet,' says Soreff. 'We want clothes to go in easily and come out easily—cramming everything in will lead to unhappiness.'

Kaitlyn McInnis

Kaitlyn is an experienced travel and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in interior decorating and home optimization. An avid traveler, she's currently splitting her time between her apartment in a century-old châteauesque building in Montreal and her cozy chalet in the woods (that she built with her own two hands... and many YouTube tutorials!). Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure, Tatler Asia, Forbes, Robb Report Singapore, and various other international publications.