Organizing the Clothes Closet

Organize your clothing into compatible groups that work together maximizes wardrobe options.

Small closet wall, with clothes, scarves and storage boxes.

Organizing Closets by Clothing Clusters

DK - House Works, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

You've weeded your closet of the freeloaders, the ill-fitting, the orphans and the ugly. Time to think about the remaining clothing, and the word is cluster.

Guiding Principle: Store by Cluster

A clothing "cluster" is a core group of five to eight clothing pieces that work together. A typical cluster might contain a plaid wool blazer with tones of camel, red and navy, a coordinating navy skirt, navy dress slacks, dark blue jeans, a red T-shirt and an ivory blouse. Dress it up and you have a suit look with blazer, skirt and blouse. Dress it down with the T-shirt and jeans, and toss the blazer over your shoulders for a casual outfit. Layer the blouse over the T-shirt and add the slacks for a committee meeting — you've mastered the art of the cluster!

Look at your culled closet with an eye to forming several clusters from your existing clothes. The main organizing principle is color, not season or style. Group similar-colored garments together, and think, "What could I add to this group to form a cluster?" A stay-at-home mom might cluster her pale denim jeans and white T-shirts with a pieced jean jacket, a coordinating vest and a long red tunic dress/sweater.

Thinking "cluster" simplifies the process of buying clothes. No longer will you buy in terms of "outfit" — that's how you get in the position of having a closet stuffed with clothes and nothing to wear. Adding another piece to a cluster means you can wear the garment several different ways, using the clothing already in the closet.

Guiding Principle: Simplify Storage

Let's face it. Many traditional methods of clothing storage just don't work. Drawers stick and squeak and are usually overloaded. Long hanging garments brush against shoes and wrinkle on the floor. Wire hangers grab one another with pointy metal edges, snagging delicate garments in their eagerness to spring apart. Shoes tumble over the floor, tripping the unwary. Try these tips to simplify your clothes storage:

  • Make it easier to put away. Liberate your thinking about clothing storage. There's a principle here, too: in storage, it should be easier to put something away than it is to get it out. With this principle in mind, put underpants and brassieres in an open-topped plastic basket on a shelf, rather than confining them in a too-small lingerie drawer. Hang long nightgowns and robes from hooks and they'll be easy to find each bleary-eyed morning. Invest in the marvelous modern multi-level closet systems, and your delicate blouses will never again catch on the hooks holding your skirts.
  • Think cluster. If possible, hang clothing in clusters, rather than segregating it by shirts and slacks and dresses. When the interesting multi-stripe shirt is hidden between two old jean shirts, it's hard to remember how well it works with those stone chinos. Store clothes by cluster, and you simplify the process of getting dressed.
  • Stay open. Stack jeans, shorts, and T-shirts on open shelves, and you'll never again lose a favorite pair in the dark corners of an over-stuffed drawer. Socks deserve their own open basket; store pantyhose by color, with each color confined to a separate large zipper food-storage bag.
  • Hang it right. Finally, invest in proper hangers for the life of your clothing, and recycle those wire hangers at your local dry-cleaners.

Tips for Organized Closets

If you can see it, you can find it ... and wear it, too. Try these tips to get organized in the clothes closet:

  • Boost storage with specialty organizers. In the closet, space is at a premium - yet many closets teem with unused areas. Specialty organizers can tap that empty space. Double the room for shirts and blouses by hanging a second rod for twice the storage. Stackable shelves subdivide over-tall shelving and add a second layer of storage. Hanging sweater bags convert extra space into shelves for sweaters, handbags, or folded jeans.
  • Round up shoes with shoe racks. Shoe storage can cause even the most organized among us to stumble, so get shoes up and off the floor. Use shoe racks or shoe bags to store shoes in small spaces.

Thrifty Tips for an Organized Closet

Cringing at clutter in the clothes closet? Commercial closet systems may seem like the answer, but too often their cost isn't sustainable on a real-world budget. Try these low-cost options for efficient clothing storage:

  • Double up. Suspend a second hanging rod from a too-tall closet rod to increase hanging capacity for shirts, skirts, or slacks, and make good use of space in the closet.
  • Cube creations. Modular wire grid cube units are inexpensive - and have multiple applications in the clothes closet. Build them horizontally to stack sweaters or shoes; assembled vertically, cubes create cubbyholes for handbags or boots, or subdivide too-large shelves. Use curtain rod brackets to suspend a single grid panel on the wall to display jewelry, belts and scarves.
  • Hanging helpers. Low-cost organizers designed to fill unused hanging space offer cheap, easy storage for sweaters, T-shirts, handbags and shoes.
  • Don't forget the door. Over-the-door hooks, hanger racks and shoe bags solve storage problems by tapping unused space behind the closet door.

Tips for Organizing Dressers and Drawers

Crammed bureau drawers can lead to snagged hosiery, rumpled garments and pinched fingers — so put the following tips to work to declutter and organize clothing stored in chest of drawers and dressers:

Declutter, declutter, declutter. As storage devices, drawers function best when they have breathing room; when they are jammed and crowded, they damage clothing and make it hard to find garments. Keep drawer contents lean by decluttering them. Use the STOP clutter method to trash singleton socks and torn knickers. Don't let clothing clutter bring drawer storage to a standstill!

Labels point the way. Keep the drawer contents tidy — and where they belong — with labels. Label drawers on dresser fronts or the upper edge of the drawer lip. Use labels with pictures on to help small children put away clothing in the proper drawer.

Divide and conquer. Drawer dividers keep knickers neat, stockings folded and T-shirts in their stack. Use narrow strips of cardboard to subdivide drawers, or stow lingerie and socks in shallow, flat-bottomed plastic baskets. Commercial drawer organizers can make a neat drawer out of a jumbled mess.

On a roll! For neat storage, roll garments instead of folding them. Mate socks, and then roll them together; they'll be easy to find, and you won't stretch elastic edges. Rolled T-shirts are simple to sort and stow; no more flipping through folded piles to find a favorite. Rolled garments take up less room in the drawer; rolling lessens creases and rumpling.

Turf it. To pare down excess clothing in the chest of drawers, find alternate storage locations in less crowded areas. Toss rolled socks and leggings into a flat-bottomed basket, and slide beneath the dresser or a nearby bed. Bulky jeans can claim more than their fair share of drawer space; consider hanging them in the closet instead. Don't hang sweaters, though; they should be stored flat to retain their shape.

Clothes Storage Tips for Clutter Personalities

Try these tips for clutter personalities. They'll help sort out the closet clutter that holds you back:

Perfectionist. The perfectionist has the world's most organized clothes closet ... in her head. Because her dream of color-coordinated storage systems is so lofty, she won't throw herself into the yawning void between what she has and what she imagines. In the meantime, she's diving beneath winter's fleece jackets to try to find the bathing suits.

The perfectionist needs to cut herself some slack! A "good enough" job is truly good enough. Keep in mind the 20-80 rule: 20 percent of the effort to do any job will reap 80 percent of the benefits.

Deferrer. The deferrer dreams of an organized clothes closet, too — but the job seems so overwhelming that she spins her wheels at the thought. Break the thrall of procrastination by making one tiny start. Declutter half a hanger rod or half a drawer. Tomorrow, do it again ... and again ... and again. The remedy of action is usually enough to get the deferrer going; taking many little steps will build a bridge to the goal: a clean and organized closet.

Rebel. Mom was a tyrant, all right-she insisted that clothing be hung up or put away neatly. Out on her own, the rebel continues the war, tossing clothing with abandon. After a while, rummaging through piles on the floor to get dressed in the morning loses any appeal — but the rebel's behavior pattern is entrenched.

To make peace with the internal rebel, remind yourself of the power of choice. "I choose to store my clothing in a way that protects it, and makes it easy for me to dress well," will send the rebel back into the past, where she belongs.

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