3 Steps to Declutter & Organize Your Closet

Closets often end up as catch-alls for things you want out of the way — or they become cluttered when you add new wardrobe items and neglect to clear out the old. Organize your closet now to get control of your belongings and achieve some peace of mind, as well as get some extra space.

Step 1. Empty the Closet and Take Inventory

Remove everything in your closet and take inventory. Separate items into “keep” and “discard” piles. Get rid of things that you don’t need. The less stuff you have taking up space, the easier it is to organize and stow it away correctly. Also, throwing away the old creates room for the new. Just remember not to fill up the extra space you made just because you can — you’re trying to simplify and organize.

Helpful Tip

When picking through clothes, start a “donate” box to throw in clothes that don’t fit or haven’t been worn for at least a year.

Woman sorting clothes into bins

During the process of throwing out unnecessary items, empty closets and give them a good cleaning. Wipe down shelves and surfaces with a damp cloth and, if needed, a general-purpose household cleaner. Sweep or vacuum the closet floor.

Step 2. Add Storage Solutions

Install a Closet Organizer

If you need more organization solutions in your closet, now is the time to install them while everything is out. Consider closet organizer kits with adjustable shelves. These can be easily moved and reconfigured as your storage needs change. Think about layout and what works best for your closet. Measure your closet space using a tape measure. There are many closet shelving system options available for purchase, so do some research and decide what you like and what works best for your closet. Follow all manufacturer instructions when installing a closet organizer.

Built-in wire closet organizer

Built-in closet organizer for walk-in closet

Wire shelving for walk-in closet

Install Shelving Above a Hanger Rod

Install additional shelving above the hanger rod if needed. Shelving can hold shoes, sweaters, accessories and storage boxes. Remember to secure them to the wall studs when installing shelves. Use a stud finder to locate them and mark their positions with a pencil. The shelving/storage system hardware can be fastened securely into the stud using a power screwdriver or drill.

Measure the closet wall where you will be installing the shelves using a tape measure. Determine how long you need your shelves to be and take note of the measurements. Use a pencil to mark the ends of the shelves on the wall. Use a level so that your marks will be aligned. Take into account where your wall studs are. Position your shelving so that its support hardware can be installed into the wall studs for security. Cut the wood with a circular saw to fit the measurements you took. Sand the shelves and sides with fine-grit sandpaper. If you want to add finish to the wood, do it now.

Safety Alert!

Always wear safety glasses when working with a saw and follow all other safety precautions for the equipment you’re using.

Attach support hardware to wall studs using 1″ screws and a drill. Use the marks you made earlier on the wall as guides. Put the shelves on the brackets and ensure the brackets are securely in place before use.

Helpful Tips

You can complement shelving by adding hooks to your walls for coats, scarves, bags and other items on the front or back of doors.

To maximize your closet’s functionality, try multi-pocket shoe organizers that hang on the inside or outside of closet doors.

Keep a folding step stool handy to quickly access all parts of your closet.

Add additional lighting in the closet, if needed.

Step 3. Organize and Fill the Closet

Now it’s time to refill and organize your closet. As you organize, keep in mind how often you use different items in your closet. Items used or worn often should be easily accessible, stored at a height between your shoulders and your knees. Hang these items together on hangers by type: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. Also, separate casual clothes from work clothes for ease in getting dressed in the morning.

Organized closet with luggage and stacked plastic bins

If you are storing folded clothes in the closet, such as sweaters (don’t hang sweaters, it can ruin their shape) and T-shirts, sort them by type as well. You can manage stacks of sweaters on a shelf with sweater dividers to keep them neat and to prevent them from toppling over when the stack becomes high.

Lesser-used items can be stored on higher shelves or in plastic storage bins, on or under shelving and clothing racks. Store off-season clothes in sealable bins or totes and move them to the basement or attic to make room in closets and drawers. You can swap them out when the seasons change. Don’t forget to label bins for easy reference. Organize linens and spare blankets according to size. And if you have linens you no longer use, consider donating them.

Don’t forget to organize shoes as well.

Helpful Tips

Color code clothes for a neater, more modern appearance.

Vacuum-sealed garment bags can hold clothes and other items either in the closet or under your bed.

Great job! Now your closet is organized and you can relax and enjoy some peace of mind.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.