Home » Closet Cleanout 102: Steps to Organizing

Closet Cleanout 102: Steps to Organizing

Welcome back to the Closet Cleanout Series! At this point you’ve gone through and completed an initial purge. Up next is further refining the “keep” items by playing with outfit creation, or wardrobing. We’re also going to go through some steps to organizing and getting your clothes back into the closet!

We should all feel this excited about our closets! Make it happen with these steps to organizing it all.
We should all feel as excited as Jennifer Garner’s character Jenna about our closets! Make it happen with these steps to organizing it all.

Steps to Organizing: Refine the keeps and create outfits

Get all your tops on one rack. 

If you want to get a jump on the next step, and you’ve got the room, you could organize as you go. In this case you want 2 racks or sections of your closet to work in: the place where you’ve assembled all your tops, and an empty space where—if they’ve made the cut—you can start to organize. 

It’s also a great time to figure out where and how to organize bottoms too. This way you’re knocking out two major steps at once. Keep reading – I’ve included my own steps to organizing the hanging clothes further down.

Take a top off the rack where you’ve hung them all and pair it with at least 3 bottoms that also made the “keep” cut. The idea here is to make sure the items you keep can be worn more than one way!

Use a rack or the cleared space in your closet and further refine your "keeps" items by putting outfits together. This is a key moment in your steps to organizing the closet.
Use a rack or the cleared space in your closet and further refine your “keeps” items by trying to put outfits together. You really only want to keep versatile pieces that can be worked multiple ways.

I like to start with the tops and bottoms I know I wear and love often. It’s a no-brainer to pair up your heavy rotation pieces—you do it all the time! 

It’s going to get tricky as you come up on the items that probably deep down you already know need to go. Maybe it fit into one of the 7 categories from my first post. . .and you just let it slide. That’s ok! Whatever the reason, this is the second round of the closet cleanout. 

This is where I tend to bring up the “does it spark joy” query.

Most likely you’ve heard this phrase and may even be familiar with Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo and her KonMari method.

I like this because we’re shifting from “what to get rid of” focus to “what do we truly love” focus.The goal? We keep only the pieces that create excitement, make us happy, etc AND can be worked into multiple outfits. 

If you’re working through your steps to organizing, and find yourself struggling with a definitive answer to “does this item spark joy” 

Try asking yourself:

  • Would I buy this today?
  • When was the last time I wore this?
  • When will I wear this in the next few months?
  • Does this fit my lifestyle?

What if: you truly love it but you’ve got maybe one thing you can pair it with into an outfit?

Decide if you love it enough to invest in pieces to go with it.  

Have a pad of paper or type into your phone the item and 2-3 things you would need to buy to make your one item work harder in your wardrobing. Then look at those items. Can THEY work with other pieces in your wardrobe? 

If the answer is yes, maybe you’ve found a gap in your wardrobe needs. When the answer is no…you need to evaluate if your “loved” piece is realistic for your current lifestyle and consider adding it to the “consign” or “donate” pile so someone else can better utilize and enjoy it. 

Remember your Time Stamp items from 101? They also need to go through this process. 

If they pass, be sure to flip your hangers, so you can keep track of and make an effort to incorporate. Other items you may want to flip hangers and track? Any “maybe” items you’ve kept but continue to have lingering doubts over. Now. I do the hanger flip technique a bit differently: I flip backwards the hangers of things I haven’t worn (the Time Stamp items) in a year. And I flip backwards any items that are “maybes” that I want to wear soon to assess how I feel about them. Most of the info you find on this technique says for you to flip everything backwards, and flip forwards once you’ve worn it.

I don’t like backwards hangers that much. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try it!

As items pass the more-than-one-outfit test, hang them in whatever organization system works best for you. 

Steps to Organizing: Arranging your condensed wardrobe in your closet

When you're working through the steps to organizing your own closet, consider adding in style elements for that boutique store feel.
Everything has a place, lighting is great, and style elements like the rug, chaise, and art lend major boutique store vibes to Behati Prinsloo’s closet. (Photo: William Abranowicz)

Look at your closet space and decide what layout is going to work best for YOU. How you organize is going to depend on a couple factors: your closet layout and your daily life layout. 

Some general rules to follow in your steps to getting organized:

  • If you’re always in a rush, consider coordinated totes/baskets to toss things into, or drawers with dividers, vs losing your mind with open shelving.
    • If you know it’s not your thing, don’t try and force it.
  • If you’re going to use open shelving for clothes, do not stack more than 3 (bulky items like sweaters)-5 (denim) items high. Adjust the shelves to accommodate or get some organizer shelves to separate your stacks while maximizing the height space.
    • Fold everything the same so your stacks are neat and tidy. If you suck at freestyle folding, get a folding board. You’ll get speedy with it in no time, I promise. And your stacks will be so satisfying.
  • Keep like items together. All your shoes: sneakers, sandals, heels. Tops together, bottoms together. Dresses together. As your space allows.
    • Get color coordinated too. Lights to darks. Ditto for folded stacks!
    • This creates a nice visual flow, which will keep your blood pressure down when you walk into or open up that closet.
If you follow the steps to organizing your closet, this should be the end result!
Even spacing, like items together, totes, baskets, organized open shelves, and style elements give a curated vibe. Via Container Store.
  • Invest in hangers! Get them all the SAME. See comment above about visual flow. Think about that curated boutique store look. All those places? SAME STYLE HANGERS.
    • I like the flocked ones for space-saving tidiness. If you’ve got the space and budget however, wood is hella classy. I have my cocktail dresses on wood hangers and it just instantly elevates the look. Either way, make sure the hook part swivels. Then it doesn’t matter how you hang an item, you can easily rotate it to match the rest of the closet. Get hangers with clips for pants if you’ve got tall enough storage space. Definitely clip hangers for skirts.
  • Hang all your things in the SAME DIRECTION. Whatever looks best in your space, just decide and stick with it.
  • Keep the things you wear often easily accessible, store the lesser-worn or off-season items higher up.
    • Have a stool or chair you can utilize IN YOUR CLOSET so you can quickly access those higher spaces!
  • Style at least a few of those higher shelves to look like store displays.
    • Face short bag out with a taller one behind it. Get a hat display stand or modern head display to put your fave seasonal hats on. Wrap a coordinating scarf around the base.
    • Go to your favorite store and take pics of any “upper” displays you like that you can re-create in your own closet!
  • Install at least one “face out” hook somewhere to hang tomorrow’s outfit, or to showcase (and utilize!) that piece you just purchased.
  • You could install a towel bar along to create a compact “staging area” to help you plan out outfits too.
    • Towel bars also make pretty and effective storage for scarves!

How I like to organize the hanging clothes:

Organize tops according to sleeve length. Go left – right: sleeveless – short-sleeve – long-sleeve.

I also separate out casual vs dressy, so both categories have this order. Within those lengths, I also organize by color: lightest to darkest. 

I treat bottoms similarly. Skirts together, trousers together, denim together. Skirts I tend to prioritize length and go shortest to longest. Then, as well as I am able, I go lightest to darkest. 

Since I tend to create outfits based on the top I want to wear, I’ve got all my tops hanging together: dressy on the top bar, casual on the bar below. I don’t have a lot of skirts or casual tops, so they actually share the bar below my dressier tops. Trousers their own tall bar with a belt and scarf hanger at the front. By the time I’ve picked out bottoms I’m ready to think about accessories. So the belts and scarves make sense for me here. 
I have my denim folded on shelves with sweaters. 

Bottom line: When you’re planning out your steps to organizing, you want to adapt your closet space in a way that makes getting dressed a streamlined process! Your closet should look good but also be functional.

If you’re finding that your current closet layout is holding you back from a streamlined getting dressed experience, back up and think about what you can do to improve it. Do your shelves and bars move? Are there items you can buy to help your organization? Can you work a new closet system into your budget? [IKEA and Container Store are good places to start for that!] Make notes. Plan purchases. Work around it in the meantime. 

Steps to Organizing the closet: build it like your fave boutique store!
Okay, not everyone can get a designer to turn their space into a fab looking boutique store a la Kylie Jenner. But thinking about small tweaks to make own closet feel more like a boutique store is a key step to organizing your closet! (Photo: Douglas Friedman for Architectural Digest)

Going Further: Get a Closet App

Remember how sweet we though Cher’s clunky computer program that matched up outfit pieces was in the movie Clueless? Guess what. Now there’s really an app for that!
I use the OG: The Stylebook Closet App

  • I broke down and got an app for my clothes. It took awhile to get all my clothes into it, now that it’s done, I love it. 
    • This also acts as a gateway for what goes and what stays. There were multiple pieces from my “keeps” that, when faced with sourcing or taking a photo and entering color, size, season, and purchase info. .I realized no. I didn’t actually love it enough to go through all that effort!
  • I can see all my clothes at a glance on my phone.
  • The app even gives me “style stats” like color and brand percentages in my wardrobe. It’s probably the almost 20 years in retail management. But I totally geek out on seeing all the numbers and interpreting the trends in my closet. 
  • If coming up with different outfit combos is a struggle? The app can shuffle your chosen categories into new combinations you never would have considered! Sometimes they’re total fails, but just as often I will have to try on the app’s suggestions to see how I feel about it. 

Want to go back for a refresher on Closet Cleanout 101: 7 Things to Purge?
Click this link!
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