10 Tips for Organizing Your Closets

By Scott Gamm

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Closet space is usually tight, whether you’re living in a house or a studio apartment. If most of your clothes and belongings are jam-packed into a small closet, chances are you closet is in need of a makeover.

Even after spending the weekend cleaning out your closets, within a few weeks, the closets are back to its original state: a mess.

Keeping an orderly closet involves some planning, which is why we asked the organizational pros themselves to weigh in on the top tips for a tidy closet:

1. Keep what you need.

Why waste space by storing clothes you haven’t worn in years? To make this distinction between what items you need and which ones should be donated or even thrown out, it’s time to empty everything out of your closet.

“Go through each item one-by-one and sort into three categories: keep, donate or trash,” says Christine Kell of Gaining Space, a professional organizing service.

And while you may be inclined to sell clothing you don’t wear, Kell offers a contrarian point of view. “Don’t bother with a ‘sell’ pile – be realistic! Is that ‘sell’ pile going to become clutter in the corner for six months or a year while you procrastinate in selling it? Get it out of the house immediately and donate it to a reputable charity and take the tax write-off,” she says.

2. Ask: “How big is your closet?”

Now that you’ve figured out which items you want to keep in your closet, it’s time to maximize the space you have.

“Measure the closet's dimensions and determine how many racks you need for hanging pants, shirts and blouses, jackets and coats,” suggests Christina-Lauren Pollack, creator of the lifestyle blog Inspirations & Celebrations.

You also may need storage containers for accessories. “Gone are the days of relying on clear plastic tubs. Plenty of retailers offer a wide range of options, from cloth containers (in striped and floral patterns) to woven baskets to fit the decor of your space. These containers are a great way to keep scarves, bags and belts organized and within reach,” she adds.

3. Labeling

Speaking of storage containers for accessories, labeling is an important part of an organized closet.

“Go the extra mile and spend the 15 to 20 minutes it would take to label your¿containers and bins. Here's what will happen in the following weeks: As you start to¿throw your hat into the glove bin, you will stop yourself and put it in the hat bin. Then when the first snowstorm hits, you will not be in a panic and late for work because you were searching everywhere for your hat,” says Deborah Kinney, certified professional organizer and owner of ReVive Organizing.

4. Hangers

It may seem like a subtle component of your closet, but the type of hangers you use matters.

“I recommend clear, plastic hangers with a swivel, chrome head, rather than the bulky white plastic ones or the flimsy hangers from the dry cleaners, which can leave clothes misshapen and leave an unsightly crease across the middle of pants,” says Janet Bernstein, a certified professional organizer.

Visit your local home goods store for space-saving hangers.

5. Colors

Arranging your clothing by color makes finding specific attire a much easier process – especially in the morning when you might be rushing to get ready for work.

“When you organize clothing according to color you can locate an item immediately instead of spending precious minutes in the morning trying to find your black, pinstripe pants. Thanks to a coordinated closet, you’ll know they are located with all the other black pants,” Bernstein adds.

6. Shoes

In addition to clothing and accessories, shoes are a common item stored in closets. The question is: Where is the most space-efficient spot in the closet for shoes?

“Arched shoe racks on the closet floor are inexpensive and work well if you have horizontal space,” says Julie Starr Hook, owner of Five Starr Organizing and Design and author of From Frazzled to Freedom.

If floor space isn’t an option, though, Starr Hook recommends alternative solutions. “Look for closet rod space. There are many shoe organizers made to hang from a rod. Additionally, if your closet has a door, you can hang a shoe organizer over the top of the door.”

7. Reassembling your closet

Now that you’ve invested in the proper storage bins, hangers and meticulously browsed through every item in your closet, it’s time to put everything back into the closet in an organized fashion.

“Put things back in a way that makes sense to you, utilizes all of your available space and is easy to maintain. For example, you might want to reserve the front and middle of your closet for clothes you wear most often. Next, lesser-worn items like formal attire may be put toward the back of your closet, while out-of-season clothes go toward the back or on the upper shelves,” suggests Dina Newman, founder of Organizing Concepts and Designs.

8. Keeping the closet clean

Cleaning out your closet is one task, but keeping it clean is arguably a much tougher task.

“For chaos free mornings, mount a hook on the door of your closet to hang tomorrow’s outfit. This way you’re ready to get dressed and rush out the door, instead of rummaging throughout your closet and creating more of a mess,” says Jacqui Stafford, style expert and author of The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget.

9. Put things away

One way closets typically become disorganized is when you don’t take the time to properly hang up your clothes in the appropriate spot.

“In the days and weeks after you've organized your closet, take a few minutes every day to put your items back in the place you designated for them. For example, don't kick your shoes into the closet – instead take a moment to put them in the shoe bag or on the shoe rack in the same spot you took them from,” suggests Stacey Agin Murray, of Organized Artistry.

10. Stop the overflow

The next time you’re tempted to buy more clothing, instead of packing the item into the closet consider this rule of thumb pointed out by Kell: “Use the one-in, one-out rule – if you buy a new dress, donate an old dress that’s currently sitting in your closet that you barely wear. This should keep the closets from overflowing.”

Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website HelpSaveMyDollars.com. He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, MSNBC and CNN.  Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter.

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