How to Organize Your Tiny Closet Like an Expert
There’s little point in owning a gorgeous bag or dress if you can’t find it in your closet when you’re getting dressed. A clean, well-organized wardrobe—instead of a confusing, jumbled mess of clothes and accessories—means you’ll maximize all your sartorial purchases, and come up with polished, carefully considered outfits even on hectic mornings. How can you possibly think to wear that one cool shirt you own if you can't even spot it among your other pieces?
But we know the task of decluttering your wardrobe can be overwhelming. Which is why we've enlisted the expertise of Andrea Rapke, founder of The Organized Move, and Melanie Charlton, CEO and creative director of Clos-ette. These two professionals are sharing their ultimate tips and tricks when for organizing your clothes, shoes, bags and everything else. Whether you have a walk-in closet or an NYC-sized studio apartment, you'll gain clarity on how to approach the often daunting task of gutting, cleaning and re-organizing your closet. They don't call it spring-cleaning for nothing.
Step #1: Get Rid of Your Old Clothes
It might not be easy, but tossing out or donating old clothes is key to making room in your closet. “I advise my clients to donate anything they haven’t worn in more than two years that has no intrinsic value,” Rapke says. “Also, if it’s two sizes too small or two sizes too big, get rid of it. It’s time to buy new clothes.” Charlton adds, “Ask yourself if you’d buy this item today, or if it has a sentimental factor that warrants storage.”
Celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger also recommends doing regular assessments of your closet every few months to be sure you're only keeping what's absolutely necessary. If you're in need of a little extra push to gut what's not working, she's identified the five specific pieces she'd remove from your closet ASAP.
Step #2: Call the Pros—or Find Your Own Storage Solutions
If you’re interested in hiring professional help to organize your closet, it may be more affordable than you think. “A custom closet is a luxury that many of us can afford,” Rapke says. “Even the major closet companies can design what you would like on a budget.” When in doubt, call the pros.
But if that’s not an option, Rapke suggests using storage units that allow you to see your clothes and accessories. “If you can’t see it, you don’t wear it!” she says. Investing, even the smallest amount, in quality storage solutions can make a world of difference. Good hangers, collapsible containers and over-the-door shoe hangers are just a few of the items that she recommends. “Elfa is available at The Container Store and provides some excellent items. Use Slimline Hangers; your clothes won’t fall off, and they give you twice the space of wood and plastic.” It's as simple as that.
Step #3: Start Organizing
So you’ve edited your closet and thrown out (or donated) the old items you're no longer wearing, and you've looked at which parts or closet categories need the most help. Now it’s time to get down to actually organizing everything the right way. But how do you go about organizing sweaters versus lingerie or shoes versus jeans? There are different solutions for each, so read up on how to organize your closet based on each type of clothing item.
To make it ultra-clear, we’re highlighting exactly how you should be organizing and storing each of your garments so there’s no question about what to do with each.
“If you have the space to hang everything, hang everything,” Rapke says. “You’ll wear more if you can see it.” Not just that, but hanging your tops will guarantee that they stay wrinkle-free. If you don't have the space to hang every single top you own, we suggest prioritizing nice shirts like button-downs, blouses, and any fine materials like poplin, crepe, and silk that wrinkle easier. Leave the drawer and shelf space for your more casual T-shirts and tanks.
“Fold the very heavy sweaters so they don’t lose shape on the hanger,” Rapke advises. “Also, cedar is not a myth. It really does prevent moths from getting into your cashmere or wool sweaters. Replace the cedar every six months.” Charlton suggests, “Color-code sweaters by weight, and use dividers or cubbies. Use a sweater-folding board to make perfect folds.
Rapke says that how you want to organize your jeans is a personal choice. “There are a number of ways to do so—by cut, brand, color, style, size, or none of the above. I tend to go by color, and most of my clients prefer it that way unless they’re die-hard jean collectors.” Charlton also favors organizing them that way: “Hang by the hem and organize by dark to light denim.”
Rapke’s trick for hanging pants, skirts, and shorts? “Hang them using clips and make small internal folds at the sides so the outside of the garment isn’t marked by the clips. This also makes everything look uniform on the hanger and gives it a cleaner side profile in your closet.”
For dresses, Rapke recommends hanging by color rather than length. “I also like to start with strapless and go to long-sleeve. Never leave your dresses, or any other clothes, in dry cleaning or plastic garment bags. The chemicals from dry cleaning attack the fibers of your clothing and cause damage,” she says. Charlton agrees, choosing to divide dresses “by length” but also “season and day or night.”
“I like purses out of their dust bags and to have as many visible as possible,” Rapke says. “It’s hard to change bags if you can’t see them. They don’t generally get damaged out of their dust bags, so enjoy the view. Scarves folded in piles by color and material works best and it makes it easy to pull one out without ruining the organization of the rest. For hats, I love hat boxes. Take uniform photos of the hats and glue them to the outside of the boxes.”
“I prefer shoes to go right shoe toe out and left shoe heel out so you can see both to make finding what you’re planning to wear easy,” Rapke says. Both she and Charlton organize shoes by color and style. “I always hide tennis shoes and flip-flops in the least seen place,” Rapke says.
“Organize by color, size, and type,” Rapke says. “Make sure to rotate your bras and underwear so you’re not wearing the same few all of the time.” For a luxe touch, Charlton adds, “I line drawers in silk and sometimes do sachet-lined drawers.”
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“I am partial to a built-in drawer in one’s closet or dresser in order to keep things neat and uncluttered,” Rapke suggests. “It’s also a great way to see what you have and makes it easy to keep hidden from plain sight."
If you're in need of further closet inspiration, learn how celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Miranda Kerr organize their closets.
This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.