As children, we cowered passing by our closet doors, fearing shadowy demons that hid inside — only to grow up only and realize that the one true monster in our closet is, well, us. Tidiness isn’t everyone’s forte, but our wardrobe is a sacred space, and we should take pride in perfecting it to meet our needs. So, if the simple act of getting dressed every morning results in absolute mayhem, with various articles of clothing piling in the corner, it might be time to embrace a whole new system and work on getting organized.
We reached out to a few pros to weigh in with their best closet organization ideas and product recommendations. From practical suggestions, like shelf dividers, to more creative tactics, like hanging your jeans from a coat rack, there’s a method to containing every level of disorder.
However, before you go into full organization mode, experts stress that your first order of business should be to cleanse your closet. In other words, go through every piece of clothing you own and ditch what you don’t need and/or wear.
“How do you want to feel when you walk into your closet? What are your goals? Be realistic and ruthless in ridding your closet of anything that doesn’t line up with those aspirations,” Kate Turk, interior stylist and professional organizer tells InStyle. “I love taking this approach with my clients to set the tone for the project and keep things focused on the end result.”
Whatever your vision, here are eight of the best closet organization ideas along with the best products to help you put them into practice.
Don’t Discount Any Space
The top shelf of your closet tends to become the space where random items go to rot. Sweatshirts, scarves, handbags, and the like end up blending together in messy piles constantly on the brink of toppling onto your head, so you avoid at all costs. But according to professional organizer, Stacey Agin Murray, this wide open space is actually prime organizational real estate and dividers can help you make the most of it.
“Shelf dividers split up a large space and define ‘nooks’ for ‘like’ items,” explains Murray. “Place one on either side of a stack of sweaters to prevent the stack from becoming unruly. Divide the space on a shelf with shelf dividers to create ‘parking spaces’ for large handbags, sweatshirts, or sheet sets for the bed.”
Shop: The Container Store Clear Shelf Divider ($11; containerstore.com)
Invest in Good Hangers
Using the same hanger throughout your closet will do two things: first, it will bring uniformity to your display. Second, it will also give each item a ‘blank canvas,’ so to speak, inviting clothing to shine on its own, says organizational guru Taysha Nacadia of the editor. Nacadia recommends treating your closet to a fresh set of sturdy, black velvet hangers. They are made thin “so they work as a space saver,” and velvet prevents items from slipping off the hanger, which means less mess.
Shop: ORG™ Slimline 50-Count Flocked Suit Hangers in Black ($25; bedbathandbeyond.com)
Have a Declutter/Donate Box
Even if you cleansed your closet before reorganizing it, chances are there are going to be a few shirts and bottoms you either missed or will simply grow out of as time goes on. In order to stay on track with decluttering and avoid another massive purge in the future, Jane Stoller of Organized Jane suggests keeping a declutter/donate box or bag in your closet to serve as a designated area for items that just aren’t doing it for you anymore.
“For years, I’ve suggested to clients, friends, and family that they label a few boxes in their home to make decluttering part of their daily routine. But let’s be honest — who wants a ratty cardboard box, or worse, a plastic garbage bag lying around in their closet? I’ve designed pretty labelled declutter boxes to help you stay on track and help you make decluttering a sustainable habit and for you to stay fully committed. These look very cute in closets and could remain even in the smallest of dwellings.”
Shop: Collapsible Canvas Declutter Tote ($54; amazon.com)
Use A Step Stool
Organization isn’t just the clumping of similar pieces together; tidiness is part of the process, too. Unfortunately, keeping clothes neatly folded at all times is much easier said than done, especially when you’re pulling items from their place after you’ve just rolled out of bed. The trick is to work at eye level, even if that means buying yourself a step stool to get there, says expert organizer on the A&E TV show, Hoarders, Dorothy The Organizer.
“When pulling out a folded top from the middle of your pile of tops, it’s best to work at eye level, rather than tugging at the item from below (which upsets the neat pile),” Dorothy tells InStyle. “To do this keep a small step stool in your closet. If it has wheels? Even better!”
Shop: Home Basics Small Plastic Folding Stool with Non-Slip Dots ($16; macys.com)
If the word cubby makes you think of the little nook you were allotted to hang up your coat and backpack in elementary school, same. But don’t let the kiddie connotation deter you from this tip from professional organizer, blogger, and author Felice Cohen, because it’s brilliant.
“[Shoe cubbies] take shoes off the floor and saves you floor space, keeps shoes paired up, keeps them protected from scuffs, and makes them easy to find,” Cohen tells InStyle. “Keeping shoes in a neat fashion instantly makes your closet look more organized [and] cleaner, too.”
Cohen is especially partial to vertical cubbies when looking to organize a smaller space, but, of course, just like clothes, the key to saving space is narrowing down your collection to include only pairs you truly love. “If you're not going to wear them, why let them take up valuable real estate?”
Shop: ClosetMaid 8983 Stackable 15-Unit Organizer ($38; amazon.com)
Display Your Denim
Sometimes closet organization involves a little creativity on your part, especially if you’re working with a particularly small or unconventional space. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to think too far outside the box. According to Lesley Myrick, interior designer and former professional organizer based in Atlanta, simple products can get the job done, even if they are a little unexpected.
“For example, I use a clean and modern coat rack to hang jeans,” say Myrick. “Simply fold the jeans in half lengthwise and loop the back middle belt loop onto an open hook. With multiple pairs hanging in a row the clothing looks chic and organized, like a retail store display. Everything is in sight and easy to find. And, bonus — no folding!"
Shop: Amzdeal Wall Mounted Coat Rack ($23; amazon.com)
Separate by Season
One of the easiest ways to declutter your closet and really take into account what you have at your disposal for the season is to rotate out any off-season items and put them in storage.
“You can use breathable storage bags or compression bags and move them to another closet, if you have the space,” Kathy Kearns Founder & CEO of THIRD LAW tells InStyle. “Vertical hangers are also a great solution to store infrequently used items.”
Shop: Ziz Home Breathable Storage Bags ($27; amazon.com)
Make Your Closet Feel Shoppable
Every room, nook, and cranny in your living space — yes, even your closet — has a vibe you create. For Turk, the goal is to organize a client’s closet so that they feel like they’re shopping every time they open it, with sorting systems for clutches, chic boxes for storing hats, and wall hooks to display tomorrow’s Instagram-worthy outfit.
“Adding style to the system,” she says. “just adds that little something extra that makes you really want to keep it organized.”
Shop: Anthropologie Swivel Hanging Rack ($98; anthropologie.com)
This is Ask the Experts: Where our favorite fashion know-it-alls share their wisdom. Just because you can trust your style instincts doesn't mean you should have to.