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Organize Your Life: Maximizing Closet Space

A walk-in closet connecting to the primary bathroom with built-in cubbies, drawers and shelving.
Maximize your home’s closet space today with these organization tips. Learn how to declutter, plan out your closet and keep it tidy.

Closets can be one of the most difficult spaces to organize. Whether it's your primary bedroom closet, your kiddo's closet or those pesky game, guest and linen closets, they tend to get jam-packed with things that don't belong there! It can be easy to forget the clutter behind the closed doors.

So, here are a few tips to help you maximize your closet space today.

Declutter

As we’ve previously talked about in the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen sections of our Organize Your Life series, decluttering is the crucial first step to organizing.

Start by taking out all your clothes, linens, games and other stored items and sort them into the following categories: keep, give away, throw out/recycle or relocate. Easier said than done, right? You may wonder how to decide which category an item belongs to. Let’s break it down.

When I am going through my clothes closet, I ask myself questions about each piece. Is this shirt stained, ripped or damaged in some way? Do I like the shirt enough to put in the time and effort to fix it, if possible? Depending on the damage, if I can’t or don’t want to repair it, then it goes into the throw out pile. However, the sweater I pick up next may just not fit the way I like or be my style, but if it’s in good condition, I’ll donate it.

Another good question to ask yourself is if you have recently worn the item. If the answer is no, even if the item was expensive, you may want to consider selling it or donating it.

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You can also ask yourself similar questions with items other than clothes. These are a few examples:

  • Are those Christmas decorations broken? If so, toss them.
  • Is that game missing pieces? You can either replace the pieces or think about donating it.
  • Are you going to use those old textbooks again? You may be able to recycle or sell them.
  • Do those headphones belong here? Relocate them to be with the rest of your audio electronics.

If you find that this style of organization doesn’t work well for you, you can also try other decluttering methods until you find the best fit. Organization guru Marie Kondo’s key question she asks during the decluttering process is, “Does this item spark joy?” It’s a simple question that focuses on keeping the items that make you happy, rather than feeling negatively about what you are getting rid of.

Plan Out Your Closet

Once you’ve cleaned out your closet, you’ll need to figure out how you want to arrange the items you’re keeping. Here are several tips.

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Capsule Wardrobes

Specifically for clothes and accessories, capsule wardrobes are a great way to keep clutter from creeping back in. Essentially, a capsule wardrobe means streamlining your closet, paring your day-to-day outfits down to the essentials. Usually, all the clothes, shoes and accessories in your “capsule” fit the same style and color palette so they can easily be mixed and matched.

The system will help you easily scan your closet each day and be able to put together a look within moments. There are a lot of different ways to build one, from setting a fixed number of the pieces, usually around 30, to rotating between different capsules depending on the season.

I have made capsule wardrobes before after being frustrated by looking at a full closet and not knowing what to wear, or even everything I had to wear, without a deep dive in. I built my capsules for different seasons and focused on what colors I really loved and what was appropriate for office wear. Then, I stored clothes for the other seasons compactly and neatly away until they were needed.

An easy way to start is by using basics and neutrals as your foundation. Examples would be a favorite pair of black jeans, a white button up, a quality denim jacket, brown boots, etc. Then you can add layers of colors and textures. Stick to a couple of colors outside of a neutral palette to make sure the items will pair easily together. Also be sure to choose outfits that fit your job and your lifestyle.

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Ways to Organize

Finding a system that works for you is the best way to get and stay organized. You can make your system in a number of ways!

You can arrange items by how frequently you use them. For a game closet, put your regular, go-to board games at eye level where they can be seen and reached easily. The games you don’t play as much can be put farther up and back. Or you can sort the game closet alphabetically or by genre, making it easier to find a specific game you are looking for.

Designating sections by types of items is a great way to reorganize that linen closet. Towels and washcloths can go on one shelf, extra throw blankets below that, and sheets and pillowcases bundled by matching sets can go on the next one. A pro tip: Bundle your guest room linens (the sheets, pillowcases and comforters) together so making up the bed is quick and easy for incoming guests and family.

Color coding is also popular, especially with clothes. Whether you want to go from lights to darks, follow the order of the rainbow or put your favorite colors in the middle, finding that red sweater you love will be a lot easier.

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Everything in Its Place

Having a specific place for everything is key. Shelving, drawer dividers, shoe racks, and labeled bins and baskets are just a few of the organization tools you can incorporate into your closet.

Kids closets can get especially packed after cleaning up toys from playtime. Having labeled bins and baskets to hold different kinds of toys like figurines, plushies, cars and play dishes helps you and your child know where to put each one.

If your items have a set place in your home, then it’s much easier to put them where they belong. You can kick off your shoes and put them on the rack at the bottom of your closet, then take your extra throw blankets out of the dryer and store them in the linen closet, all without having to think twice.

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Keep Good Habits

Now that you have your closets organized, you’ll want to enjoy keeping them that way. Here are some easy, quick ways to stay on track:

  • Folding your clothes neatly is one way, and you can search for videos on how to fold your clothes to also optimize space.
  • Use the 1-in-1-out system to prevent clutter from building back up. When you buy a new item, you give away or donate an older one.
  • The backward hanger trick can also help you the next time you want to reevaluate your closet. Turn all your hangers facing forward with your clothes hanging on them, and as you wear a piece, flip that hanger backward. Once a season or a year, you will easily be able to see what clothes you did not wear based on the way the hanger is flipped. Then you can decide if it’s time to say goodbye to that item.
  • Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin has implemented what’s known as the one minute rule. This means, if something will take you less than one minute to complete, do it then and there. Actions like hanging your coat on the hook after taking it off or putting fresh laundry away as soon as you finish folding are both examples of how taking one minute out of your day can pay off in the long run.

Closet organization can seem stressful, but it doesn't have to be an impossible task. Follow the steps we’ve talked about, and you'll be well on your way to organized, neat and tidy closet spaces. And now that you’ve got your closets covered, are you ready to tackle your garage? Try these garage storage hacks from our Organize Your Life series to make the most out of the space you have.

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