News & Runway

The Expert Guide to Organizing Your Closet

Barbara Reich pictured in an "after" closet; the "before" closet.

I live in a duplex apartment with incredibly high ceilings, I have three closets, two of which are floor-to-ceiling and one of which takes up an entire wall. You’d think with all of that closet space I’d have ample room for my sartorial indulgences, but unfortunately, at least in my case, room breeds clutter. After returning from Super Saturday in the Hamptons with four new dresses, three new pairs of shoes, two new tops, two pairs of pants, and a to-die-for Zimmermann bathing suit, I decided it was time to clean out my closets. My boyfriend, whose “closet” has been relegated to two plastic bins underneath the bed, was thrilled. Before tackling my wardrobe, I spoke to two experts in the field to get their tips on how to best go about organizing closet spaces., a New York-based website which offers users the ability to schedule customized cleaning appointments, home repairs, and personal organization sessions just brought professional organizer Lisa Jacobs on board and she outlined her must-dos for us:

  • Remove all items from closet space. [note: this can be scary! If you’re like me and haven’t done this in years be prepared for dust tumbleweeds.]
  • Purchase slim velvet hangers; choose a color that coordinates with the room's color scheme.
  • Sort through all items to eliminate the unnecessary, so the necessary can speak. [note: this was the hardest for me — there’s nothing worse than getting rid of something with the price tags still hanging on, but if you’re never going to wear it, there really is little point in keeping it.]
  • Shelves above rod ought to be outfitted with containers to stack from shelf to ceiling and can be in a variety of sizes.
  • Left side of shelf ought be stacked with containers, right side with risers to maximize shelf space by creating double shelf. Use the area for handbags and larger items.
  • Purchase shoe rack for floor space. No clothes should be placed on the floor.
  • Discard all shoe boxes and handbag bags. [note: this one I have to politely disagree with; accessories should be protected and while dust bags and shoe boxes may not be space efficient, in my opinion, they’re essential for long wear.]
  • Purchase plastic cart on wheels with drawers, remove any clothing on the floor and place this cart in its place to serve as dresser. Use for smaller items, random toiletries and papers.
  • Purchase hanging bag with canvas shelves for t-shirts and sweaters.
  • If there are closet doors, maximize space on inside doors, hanging bag for random shoes, accessories, pocketed canvas bag.

Barbara Reich, of Resourceful Consultants,  was also kind enough to share some of her tips for eliminating clutter. Reich has appeared on the Today Show, has been featured in the New York Times and New York Post, among other publications, and has been in the de-cluttering business for over a decade. She suggests:

  • Take it out and shake it out.
    • Take out all heavy winter coats and sweaters.
    • Take out any clothes/shoes that you didn’t wear last year and can’t see yourself wearing this year.
    • Take out any clothes/shoes that don’t fit, are in poor condition, will never fit, and are no longer in style. Be ruthless…
  • Maintain and move.
    • Assess whether any clothing maintenance is required on winter coats and sweaters…do buttons need tightening, do the coats need to be washed or professionally cleaned, are the sweaters pilled?
    • Consider moving heavy clothing to another closet (rack in basement, another closet under bed storage).
    • Make piles to donate, discard, take to cleaners, wash.
  • Group like things together.
    • Put all of your spring/summer sweaters together. Fold or hang by color.
    • Do the same for pants, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops.
    • Hang as much as possible, it’s the easiest way to see what you have.
  • Put what you wear most in “Prime Real Estate.”
    • That means the things you wear most should be in the place that’s most accessible and easiest to reach.
  • Make a list.
    • Never buy without a plan.
    • Did you discard something that needs to be replaced (i.e. white button down that was looking gray, white cardigan)?
    • Is there something you really need?
  • Getting organized is a big commitment, but staying organized takes 10 minutes or less a day.  
  • Take the time to fold clothes properly before putting them away in your drawers or closet. [note: this is a major problem for me because I tend to be lax with folding and ironing, but this is truly crucial – there’s nothing worse than rushing only to realize the outfit you wanted to wear is too wrinkled to be seen in.]
  • When you take something off a hanger, put the hanger at the front of your closet.  That way you know where all of the empty hangers are, and you’re more like to hang clothes when you can easily find a hanger.
  • Maintain your clothes. Note when a button needs to be sewn or when a garment needs to be cleaned.
  • When you buy new clothes, edit what you have to see if there’s anything that can be eliminated.
  • If you’ve put something on twice and decided not to wear it twice, it’s time to say goodbye.
  • The floor is not a place to store things.  Try to avoid having anything on the floor of your closet.

Now the big question – who’s going to help me take all of my discarded clothes to the Salvation Army?