closet clutter, messy closet, illustration,

Gain the Upper Hand on Closet Clutter in 5 Critical Steps

If you’re resolving to grapple with a messy and overstuffed closet, it’s essential to tackle the challenge from two directions—reducing your inventory and storing it more effectively. Here are five critical steps to accomplish both goals and leave your closet looking its best!

Step 1. Purge with purpose.

Before organizing any part of your home, eliminate as much unnecessary clutter as possible! After all, what’s the point of wasting time and money reorganizing and storing things you don’t need or won’t use? These techniques can help you achieve the best results:

Establish your guidelines. It’s easier to declutter if you’re committed to removing items that don’t clear several critical thresholds. Ask yourself: 

  • Does it fit? 
  • Does it look good on me? 
  • Is it pleasurable to wear? 
  • Does it fill an essential need? (e.g., gym clothes)
  • Does it need to be repaired? 
  • Is it a hassle to clean? 
  • Does it require pressing? 

Aim to remove any clothes, shoes, and accessories that don’t measure up!

What about sentimental items? Resist the temptation to keep every item that sparks a sense of nostalgia, but permit yourself to save a couple of significant things, especially if they're treasured, family heirlooms. Instead of cluttering your closet, however, store them elsewhere, safely wrapped in archival paper. 

Select a donation center you love. Letting things go is easier if they can support a good cause. Collecting your donations will become effortless if you dedicate a bin inside your closet.

Try the reverse-hanger technique. Turn all your hangers backward. Then, reverse the direction of the hanger for any items you wear. Over time, it’s easy to pinpoint what you use and what’s collecting dust.

Remove anything that doesn’t belong in your closet. Don’t let your clothes closet become an ad hoc spot to shove your vacuum cleaner, wrapping paper, and other non-wearables that take up valuable space. 

Consider seasonal storage. If you live in an older home with small closets or simply have inadequate closet space, you might need to store your off-season clothing elsewhere. But be careful about relying on this technique because it becomes easier to forget what you already own when it’s out of sight.

Step 2. Identify simple structural changes.

Would your closet perform better if the storage components were arranged differently? Often, homeowners can make minor, effective adjustments.

Map out a plan. 

There are numerous ways to organize your clothes:

  • By type (tops, skirts, dresses, pants, etc.)
  • By color (dark to light)
  • By season (warm to cool weather)
  • By occasion (casual vs. dressy)

Decide what organizing system(s) you prefer and determine how many inches of hanging space you’ll need for items of various lengths, keeping in mind that you can suspend your pants two ways (clipped at one end or folded in half). Also, take inventory of your other closet items, including shoes, sweaters, handbags, and accessories. 

Now, decide if you can maximize your storage space by modifying the current placement of your hanging rods and shelves. 

Should you convert some hanging space into “double” rods for more above/below storage of shorter items? Can you use adjustable shelving to optimize the space used by folded clothes and items stored in bins?

Also, think beyond your closet and consider ways to optimize other storage spaces, including dresser drawers and under-bed storage.

3. Purchase organizing equipment deliberately.

Makers of organizing products understand the allure of creating a clutter-free home, and the cost of their systems can add up quickly! However, you don’t have to overspend if you select carefully and economically.

Use clear storage containers whenever possible and label everything, especially boxes and bins that hold items hidden from view.

Invest in matching hangers. They will make the humblest closet appear more organized. Matching hangers will also utilize your closet space more efficiently, especially if you opt for space-saving, nonslip velvet versions.

Maximize the top shelf, too. Metal shelf dividers, desktop file dividers, and magazine storage containers can be particularly helpful for keeping purses, bulky sweaters, and other items neatly visible above your hanging clothes.

Find small ways to utilize every free inch. For example, a foot of wall space may be a perfect spot to add hooks for belts, jewelry, ties, and more. If your closet has a swinging door, can you store a few lightweight items on its backside?

4. Modify your storage methods.

Sometimes, making more of your storage space is as simple as altering the way you arrange your things:

To fit more shoes on a shelf, don’t line them up side-by-side. Instead, alternate their orientation so each pair’s toes face opposite directions.

Try different folding techniques to maximize visibility and space utilization. For example, will your casual shirts fill a drawer or bin better and be easier to see if you arranged them vertically instead of in stacks? 

5. Adopt a clutter-free mindset.

Finally, any effort to conquer clutter and maintain an organized closet requires mental vigilance.  

If you’ve worked hard to create a beautiful, clutter-free, and well-organized closet, help it stay that way by adhering to the “one in, one out” principle. In other words, no new pants will be purchased, for example, unless another pair is eliminated. 

Also, maintain a neat and orderly closet by consistently folding, hanging, and putting things away in their designated spot. In time, clutter-free living will become a habit! And instead of avoiding your closet, you’ll enjoy using it daily.