modern closet with clothes hanging on rail, white wooden wardrobe, interior design concept

5 Easy Steps to an Organized Closet

Want to make your life easier? Clean out, clean up, and get your clothes closet organized. With an organized closet you can see what you have, what fits, and the clothes you love to wear. Even better—everything is easier to find!

modern closet with clothes hanging on rail, white wooden wardrobe, interior design concept

What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts, and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster? If the latter, you might ask the President for federal disaster relief funds, or you could get organized.

closet mess with piles of clothes on the floor

Knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from disaster victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen closets, utility closets, and your food pantry.

Here’s the best part: You can do this without spending a dime—using items and tools you have already.

Tools You Need to Get Organized

Large bags, boxes, or bins

You’ll be sorting all your clothes—those that fit and you love, items to consign or sell, things for donation, and those for the trash.

Full-length mirror

Yes. It’s time to decide which items to keep.

Trash can

You’ll be finding all sorts of little items for the trash like the contents of pockets, stray rubber bands, price tag bits and pieces, receipts, and so forth.

Step 1: Everything Out

That’s right. Remove everything from the closet. All of it—every last hanger, belt, shoe—everything. This lets you see exactly the space you have to work with. Prepare to be shocked by the pile of stuff that comes out of that closet.

Step 2: Deep Clean

Now that you can see the light of day, give that closet a good cleaning from top to bottom. If after thorough cleaning the space still looks a little grungy, follow with a fresh coat of white paint.

Step 3: Separate

Most people hate this step because it means getting rid of everything you do not use or wear. But what choice do you have now that you’ve hauled it out? There’s no way you could get all of this back into the closet, so buck up, and let’s get this job done.

Label containers

Label five containers (see Tools, above) that will allow you to separate everything you took out of the closet.

Box #1: Keep

Here comes the part of this process you’ve been dreading. Or longing for? Regardless, this is the most important step in this whole process. The goal is to keep only those items you truly love, fit well, and you wear (or will wear now that you have found them!).

Keep anything you love and wear often. What’s the test? Try it on! Stand in front of the mirror. Does it fit well, giving you that “spark of joy?” Be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t make the mark, out it goes.

Put only items into this Keep bin that you have worn or used at least twice in the past year. Be brutally harsh. If it doesn’t fit today, it’s not likely to fit any time soon. Get rid of it. If in doubt, do not put it into this bin.

Box #2: Maybe

This is one of the best ideas ever, from one of your fellow readers. It’s not easy to say goodbye permanently. You are going to come across items that you’re just not sure. Putting them into the Maybe Box is an easy way to transition. It’s not so much procrastination as it is empathy, kindness. Trust me this works. The Maybe Box may be the one thing that keeps you motivated and in charge of this process.

I can tell you from personal experience that while the Maybe Box is very important in this process, it loses its importance as it finds its way to the garage or basement. Trust me on this: After six months you will not remember what’s in that box. You have not mourned any of its contents, in fact, it might be a year or longer before you recall it even exists. But for now, it’s like a binky that brings a great deal of comfort. Let it do its job.

Box #3: Consign or Sell

Clothes and other items that are not right for you (as evidenced by the fact that you never wear them) but still have a useful life for someone else should go into this bin. These should be either new items with tags, or pieces that have been worn seldom. Note that are looking for name brands.

What you consider ugly may be perfect for someone else. What no longer fits you will fit someone else. Take those items to a consignment store or schedule a yard sale.

Box #3: Donate

Consider donating your good used items to the Salvation Army or another thrift store. You may get a tax break but more than that, you will feel good. Put all of these items in the garage or the back of the car or in some other way, get them out of the house.

Try to donate and consign as much as possible, while trash is only for items beyond repair/use.

Box #4: Throw away

Clothes and shoes worn out, hopelessly stained, broken, or in some other state of calamity go into this bin. Work quickly to ease the pain. Empty this bin often to keep the process moving.

Once you’ve divided up everything you took from the closet, move Boxes 2, 3, 4, and 5 to the garage or some other place. Just get them out of your way for now.

4. Divide, sort, group

Clothes storage. Order in the closet. Folding socks. Master Class.

Divide and sort the Keep Bin’s contents by season, type, and use. If possible, store out-of-season items in another place in your home.

Next, separate your work or professional clothes from your casual attire. Now divide each pile into common wear and infrequent wear, arranging them so the items you wear most often are the handiest.

The goal here is to group together like items—belts, sweaters, T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts; shorts, long pants, jeans, socks, and so forth. Search for easy hacks for folding and “filing” things like socks.

5. Organization helpers

While not completely necessary, acquiring a few good organizational items will make this project turn out even better—things like a sturdy shoe rack, good hangers, and shelves in addition to your standard hanging rod.

Shoe rack

You have lots of choices but it all depends on the space you have to store shoes. If your closet just can’t handle shoes and clothes, you might want to consider storing your shoes in another area. This shoe rack is really nice, affordable, and sturdy. But it’s just one idea.


I can tell you from experience when you have matching hangers throughout your closet, you’ll be more prone to hanging up your clothes and keeping things organized. Again you have lots of choices. I love these hangers; they’re the only ones in our closet because they save space and keep clothes from sliding off.




A good shelving system that optimizes the space in your closet will make all the difference when it comes to keeping your closet organized. There are so many options, depending on the size and configuration of your space.

This all-in-one organizer kit by ClosetMaid, which includes a small shoe rack, is just one way to use shelves to turn an inefficient nightmare of a closet into a well-organized dream come true.


A room filled with furniture and a mirror

Investing in a few good organizational pieces will make organizing your closet—and keeping it organized—a snap!

Let me assure you that it’s easy for me to tell you what to do! Just do it, right?

Truth be told, these steps are not as easy for me as I might have led you to believe in the title of this post. But I have done them so I know just how cleansing the results can be and the sense of peace that comes with a well-organized space. And it’s a routine I must repeat at least twice a year to keep it that way.


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8 replies
  1. Nancy Richter says:

    There are drop off boxes in ou parking lots with lettering implying they are our country. I was told by a pick up man that they are shipped out of the country and sold. I know where’s best places to donate I’ve checked out

  2. Marcia says:

    Does anyone have an easy, inexpensive way to store photos? I have a bin full and have already shared many picture with my family. Now what?

    • Theresa Hardy says:

      I, too, have that issue. I have bins on the top shelf for clothes I can’t wear right now and only keep out what fits. I like these because they can be stacked and have zippered openings (and clear windows) on the front so I can see what’s in there. Furnhome Clothes Storage Organizer Bins Containers, Stackable Storage Bins-Foldable Oxford Cloth Steel Frame Storage Box for Clothing Storage with Clear Window & Reinforced Handles (Navy Dots, 22L,3PCS)

  3. SusanDR says:

    As always, thanks for the useful info. I know what I should do, now I just need to do it! I’ve been working on my kids’ closets, and it feels so good to get stuff out of the house. I did an online search for a place to recycle textiles that cannot be donated or sold (used socks, underwear, t-shirts with logos or names, items that are torn or stained, etc.) and I make regular drop-offs at their bin. They also take sheets, towels, fabric, shoes, etc. I am totally willing to get rid of this stuff if I know it isn’t going in the trash, as they will give usable items to charity and recycle the rest into insulation. Also, the bin locations get a donation for a charity, so this all seems like a win-win situation. Towels that can still be used go to the animal shelter.

  4. Maureen says:

    I always donate my clothes to The Rescue Mission, our local homeless shelter. They have a similar style retail store like the Salvation Army. They take ripped, stained, any type of clothes. What they can’t sell in the retail store they sell for rags

  5. Arlene R Compton says:

    Thanks, Mary. You might add a reminder that textiles can go to the Goodwill to be recycled – that has helped me a lot since I hate to add fabric items to the garbage stream. They should be bagged up, labeled as textiles, and can be dropped off separately from other donations.

  6. ak says:

    When I was growing up, my mom would dump the contents of my closet and chest of drawers on my bed if she felt everything was too messy. I had to clean it all up before I could go to bed that night! Also, my dad had the rule one thing in, one thing out. I went to Catholic school and wore a uniform but always felt I never had enough clothes! My closet is very neat and clothes are color coordinated, but I definitely could get rid of a few things, and the cooler weather is very motivating.


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