How to organize a closet.


Just because you can shove the door closed every time you put something back doesn’t mean your closet’s actually organized. Here’s how organizing experts on Thumbtack do it. 

An easy process for organized closets. 

Step 1: Empty out the closet.

This is the first thing you should do no matter whether you’re organizing a bedroom or linen closet. Take everything out — everything — and sort items into piles to keep, donate or sell. Don’t worry about sorting by item type for now. Taking everything out of the closet makes it easier to design your closet organization system and helps you get rid of stuff you didn’t even know you were storing (and don’t even want).

If you need to make a tough call on a piece of clothing, ask yourself if you’ve worn that shirt or pair of shoes in the last year, or if you’d buy it again if you lost it. If not, it might be time to let it go.

Step 2: Measure the closet space.

With everything out of the closet, you can get a better sense of exactly how much storage space you have to work with. Now you can sort your “keep” items based on what they are: clothing items, shoes, jewelry, scarves, hats. This way, you can plan where things will go based on how much of each item you generally have.

You want to use every inch of space — especially if you have a small closet — including the back of the closet door if it’s on hinges and even the wall space at the very top, which is perfect for storing luggage on hooks or shelves.

Step 3: Organize your stuff based on how often you use it.

Things you wear all the time should be the easiest to find, and everything should be sorted by type. For example, you can keep all the shirts together, but if there are some shirts you wear only to work and some you only wear on weekends, group them so you’re not sifting through sequined tops to get to a silk button down for your Monday presentation.

Anything you wear a few times a season should be stored further back or to the side (depending on your closet design). You might consider putting out-of-season clothes in storage boxes or vacuum-sealed bags.

Step 4: Design the closet organization system. 

What kind of closet racks, rods, boxes and hangers you get can depend on everything from how big your closet is to what kind of stuff you have.

If a fancy new multilevel closet system isn’t in your future, look for small changes to the existing hardware that can squeeze out extra storage and make it easier for you to find the things you use the most often. For example, can you move the hanger rod higher so there’s room underneath for a dresser, shoe organizer or storage boxes? How much space is available once you do that?

If you get stuck, contact a professional organizer.

Step 5: Get your storage supplies.  

Don’t start shopping for storage solutions until you’re clear on the entire closet design.

If you have a tiny bedroom closet, you’ll probably need to squeeze out some extra hanger space by adding a second closet rod or buying flat hangers. Look for over-the-door organizers to store shoes, belts, scarves and purses.

For larger closets, you’ll probably find it easier to shop for complete closet systems with dedicated areas for drawers, hangers and shoe racks. It’s not as easy to DIY, so look for an installation pro who can help.

No matter what size your closet is, it probably came with some well-meaning but sad, dim lighting. Consider getting a few battery-powered LED lights so you can find your way around. 

Step 6: Make sure the closet is actually usable. 

You can’t have an organized home unless you use organizing ideas that actually work for you. Don’t sign yourself up to fold things you would rather hang. Reorganize your stuff based on how often you use it and what kind of item it is, so it’s easier to reach around when you’re looking for something.

If your closet looks overstuffed again after a month, it’s time to rethink things. 

shirts and jackets hanging in closetCloset organization mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Buying storage solutions too soon.

We know you want to go all out at Bed Bath & Beyond and IKEA. But that closet system you’ve been salivating over on Pinterest may not fit your space or lifestyle. Remember, closet design is about how you use things, not about how the closet looks.

Before you waste a ton of money on dream closet supplies you’ll never use, make sure you’ve completely sorted through your stuff — what to keep, what to get rid of, what kinds of things you have and how often you use them. Then, plan out everything you need and make a shopping list. 

Mistake #2: Storing folded items on high shelves.

It’s smart to use the upper shelves in your clothes closet, but not for stuff you need all the time. Use those shelves for boots and luggage you don’t use that often, not things you need all the time.

If you’re tempted to put sweaters on high shelves, try folding and rolling them, then storing them in a soft-sided hanging shoe organizer. File-fold and stand up your t-shirts in a drawer so you can see them when you open the drawer (and keep them from becoming a wrinkled jumble of fabric). If you need a little help, get some shelf dividers to keep them vertical. 

Mistake #3: Not using all the space you have.

Stackable bins, multi-tiered hangers and rods, shelf dividers and hooks can help you use every square inch of your closet, including all the vertical space. Mounted hooks can hold luggage up high and belts and necklaces at eye level. Shower curtain hooks hung from a closet rod can hold handbags or shoes.

But don’t start with these items. Look for these after a few uses of your new closet system. Improve a little at a time.  

How much does organizing a closet cost? 

Many home organizers have an hourly rate that covers decluttering, organizing, removal and other services. Average hourly rates start at around $35 or $50 (often with a two-hour minimum) and vary depending on where you live and your organizer’s experience.

Closet system installation services are more expensive than organizing alone, because you’re paying for materials, consulting services and installation. On average, custom closet systems start at around $125 per linear foot, including installation. Upgraded finishes and additional features usually cost extra.

For more on costs, see “How much does a home organizer cost?

shoes organized on shelf

Who to hire to organize your closets.  

Home organizers can help you decide what to keep, where to put it and what you need to buy to make it all work. Find all the pros you need for organized closets on Thumbtack: 

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