Let’s get your bedroom closet organized by figuring out what clothes to keep and what to purge, then learning how to store your wardrobe properly so you can easily find what you want to wear.
This post is part of a 30-day home organizing series. You can jump in at any point. Here is the series overview for all of the organizing missions.
How to Organize a Bedroom Closet
Unlike kids, adults aren’t growing several inches each year, and we don’t often wear holes in the knees or elbows of our clothes while playing hard. That’s why our closets get crammed full of stuff — we don’t have to replace our stuff as often.
So, we wind up with closets filled with clothes we rarely wear, and some of which we’ve completely forgotten about.
Pull Everything Out of Your Closet
The easiest way to purge a closet is by first pulling everything out of it, one thing at a time. Throw away the following as you work:
- Dry-cleaning bags
- Mangled hangers
- Other trash you find
How to Decide What Clothes to Purge or Keep
Organizing your closet isn’t the time to try on clothes, even those you haven’t worn for a while. You’ve had one or more chances every single day to wear an item but haven’t — that’s proof enough that you don’t actually need it.
Instead, make your decisions about what clothes to keep or purge by deciding what it represents. If it falls into one of the categories below, it belongs in your donation pile — not in your bedroom closet.
Closet Clutter Cause: “Someday Stuff”
“Someday Stuff” is often the hardest type of clutter to part with, because it requires acknowledging we may never be the type of person who’d wear something we bought. At one point, we’d hoped to be that person, but we aren’t.
- Evening or cocktail gowns when you’re
a yogapants and t-shirt person. (Keep one version of what Coco Chanel called a Little Black Dress, and you’re ready for any formal occasion.)
- Resortwear when you haven’t taken a vacation in 10 years.
- Clothing for sports you don’t play anymore (or never have).
Closet Clutter Cause: Style Mistakes
Everyone falls for bad fashion trends now and then, but don’t punish yourself by holding onto the proof.
- Clothes that are more daring than you’re comfortable wearing.
- Outfits that feel like you’re pretending to be someone else, or have borrowed someone else’s clothes.
- Anything that makes you feel frumpy.
Not surprisingly, style mistakes often overlap with “someday stuff” — things we bought hoping to be the type of person who would wear something. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which category that low-cut body-con dress falls into — if you don’t feel comfortable wearing it, it doesn’t deserve space in your closet.
Closet Clutter Cause: Good Clothes That Feel Bad
Another source of closet clutter is the clothing that looks good when first put on but quickly feels uncomfortable.
- Scratchy clothes.
- Things that bind or constrict uncomfortably.
- Clothes that feel heavy or bulky, or make you sweat even in mild temperatures.
- Anything that rides up (or down).
- Clothes that start off fitting wonderfully but get uncomfortably saggy by the end of the day.
If you find yourself groaning at the thought of spending an entire day or evening in it, then it shouldn’t be part of your wardrobe. (Pro tip: in the future, if you find yourself taking something off after a few hours because it’s not comfortable, don’t put it back on the hanger. Keep a donation box in your closet for such things.)
Closet Clutter Cause: The Money Objection
It can feel wasteful getting rid of clothes we paid good money for, or which someone gave us. But that money has already been spent. Holding onto things we don’t like or we’ll never wear doesn’t get the money back — it just wastes space and makes more work for us the next time we try organizing our bedroom closets.
If you feel like something’s worth too much to donate, list it on eBay or Craigslist — or see if there’s a consignment shop in your area willing to sell it for you. But get it out of your closet now.
A properly organized bedroom closet makes it easy to find an outfit to wear for the day. It’s not one that you’ve got to shove things around in while you search, or one so full that you forget about different pieces because you never see them.
So, before putting clothes you’ve decided to keep back into your closet, pull out the things that should be stored elsewhere for now.
Winter clothing doesn’t belong in your closet during warm summer months, and vice versa. Besides taking up unnecessary space, out-of-season clothes collect dust, so they’ll need laundering before you wear them.
So, make sure they’re clean, then box them up until next season. Choose plastic bins with tight-fitting lids, since cardboard boxes attract silverfish and other household pests. (See How to Store Winter Clothing.)
If you don’t have available storage space, hang them to one side of the closet. You can protect them from dust by cutting a hole in the bottom of a plastic trash bag and slipping it over several hanging items as a group, then tie the bag’s other end in a knot.
Clothes That Don’t Fit
We all have times when we need roomier clothes, and also times when we can wear the next size down. But clothes that are more than one size off are a form of “Someday Stuff” (see above) and don’t belong in our closet.
If you’re working to gain/lose weight, box up the
Clothes That Should be Folded
Clothes that should be folded include pullover sweaters, yoga or sweatpants, and t-shirts. These shouldn’t take up space in your closet. Move them to your dresser to free up space for hanging clothes.
Accessories: Scarves, Belts, Bags, and Purses
A well-organized closet keeps clothing front and center, while also having accessories within reach. How you store your accessories really depends on how much closet space you have, but a few tricks can make even the tiniest closet useful.
- Store handbags upright on shelves.
- Use a magazine file or paper sorter to hold clutch purses.
- Use an over-the-door purse rack to hold a dozen bags on hooks.
- Slip a chain of shower curtain rings over the hook of a clothes hanger and use the rings to hold belts and scarves.
- If you have a free wall, install a pegboard with hooks to hold accessories.
Organizing Shoes in Your Closet
The number one rule about storing shoes in your closet is: do NOT keep your shoes on the floor. It’s not just about how quickly a pile of shoes on the floor becomes unmanageable — that pile also makes it difficult to keep your closet clean, and a dirty closet attracts pests.
Your closet should never contain shoes that hurt your feet or which cause back or knee problems, nor should you devote closet space to shoes that are worn out or which you simply don’t like. So, if you haven’t already done so, apply the steps above to purge your shoe collection before organizing what’s left.
Flats, sandals, tennis shoes, and slippers:
- Use cubbies if you have space.
- Try a hanging organizer that slips over the closet rod (like this one) or over the back of the closet door (like this).
- If you have enough room, try a rolling shoe tower (like this one).
Heels, pumps, and platforms:
The more expensive the shoe, the more important it is to protect it. Pricey pairs should be kept together in their own box, preferably on a shelf.
- Clear plastic shoe boxes keep pairs together while protecting them from scuffs and damage. They’re also stackable.
- The hanging organizer or rolling shoe towers mentioned above can also hold heels.
During the wearing season, store boots upright to protect them and prevent white marks where they’ve collapsed on themselves.
- Slip a pool noodle or rolled bath towel into tall boots to keep them from flopping over.
- An empty water bottle or rolled hand towel will keep shorter boots propped up.
At the end of the season, clean and polish your boots. Stuff them with acid-free tissue or clean towels and store them flat in a plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid. Slide this under your bed or tuck it on a shelf until the next year.
Clean your closet while it’s empty.
- Dusting everything from top to bottom: ceiling, shelves, rod, walls, inside the door, and the baseboards.
- Wipe the light fixture, doorknob, and light switches with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Use another damp cloth on the shelves.
- Clean the floor.
Keep it Clean
Once you’ve purged clothing clutter and cleaned your empty closet, it’s time to put away the clothes you plan to keep.
Hang Things in the Right Spot
- Group items together: shirts (short sleeve separate from long-sleeved), pants, skirts, dresses, jackets, etc.
- Store each group together, sorted within each group by color to make choosing an outfit easier.
- Keep long things to the side (e.g., dresses, skirts, full-length coats) and shorter things (shirts, pants folded over a hanger, etc.) go in the center, so everything is more visible.
Weekly Closet Tidying
Make a weekly habit out of tidying your closet to keep it neat and useful.
- Dust closet shelves, storage boxes, and baseboards weekly, and then sweep or vacuum the floor.
- Take dry-cleaning in and pick it up weekly. (Here is how you can wash some dry-clean clothes at home.)
- Wipe shoes, purses, and handbags before putting them away, so they’re ready to use next time you need them.
Here is a closet-cleaning checklist if you need one.
Purge Clothes As You Go
An easy way to keep your closet pared down to clothes you truly enjoy wearing is by stashing a donation box or bag in one corner.
The next time you try something on and decide you don’t like how it looks, feels, or fits, put it into the box instead of hanging it back up — or worse, leaving it in a pile on the closet floor.
When the box or bag is full, take it to your local charity. Don’t waste time looking through and second-guessing: you would’ve already pulled out anything you truly missed, so what’s in the box is just stuff you don’t need.