Whether you’re inspired by the seasonal shift, a binge viewing of The Home Edit show on Netflix, or are simply trying to channel your inner Marie Kondo, if you’re getting ready to clean out your closet, we applaud you.
It’s one organizational task that’s much easier said than done…especially when you don’t have a team of professional organizers at the ready or an unlimited budget to blow at The Container Store.
So, to help you make this clean-out the best one ever, we asked professional organizers to share their best closet organization tips. Follow their advice—and don’t forget to take before and after pics for the ‘gram.
1. Start by taking everything out
Yes, everything. “It’s the most important thing to do when you first start organizing your closet,” says Ashley Murphy co-founder of NEAT Method. “The only way to see exactly what you have is to remove everything from your space, and that means even the items tucked away in the back and up on any shelves.”
That also includes gathering up any clothing you have in any other areas of your home, such as things you’ve put in closets in other rooms, adds Elsa Elbert, founder of CEO of Composed Living, a professional organizing company in Los Angeles. Once you’ve complied it all, split it up into categories, getting as specific as possible—i.e. workout tops, workout bottoms, t-shirts, tank tops, swimwear, etc.
2. Decide what you’re keeping
“Once you have everything out and in categories, focus on one category at a time and play a very quick game of ‘yes or no’ with each item,” suggests Elbert, before moving things into keep, donate, or toss piles. Listen to your gut: “Your first instinct is always right. You already know if you love it or will never wear it,” she adds. Still have a lot of ‘maybes?’ Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to decide immediately.
“If you’re holding onto something because you ‘might’ wear it one day or just because it was a gift, try storing it somewhere other than your closet. Reevaluate once or twice a year, and if you finally have a reason to wear it or really miss it, bring it back into the mix, but otherwise say goodbye,” says Murphy. On that note: Even after your clean-out is over, keep a ‘donation station,’ a box or bag, somewhere near or in your closet so that you can consistently re-evaluate your things, says Elbert.
3. Categorize by both clothing type and color
It may seem a little extra, but all of the organizers we spoke with said that doing this type of sorting makes for the most organized (and aesthetically pleasing) end result. Hang all shirts together, all dresses together, you get the picture. Then you can consider going even one step further and sorting the dresses by hem lengths or tops by sleeve length, aka all tanks together, then t-shirts, then long sleeves, says Elbert. Finally, color code each of these categories according to the following pattern: white-pink-red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple-brown-grey-black, adds Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder of Neat Method.
4. Use matching hangers
Once again, this was a unanimous piece of expert advice. “It’s the fastest way to elevate the look of your closet,” says Elbert, who likes the space-saving slim, velvet ones. Not only does it help the space look neat and allow you squeeze in more clothes, it also makes it easier to shuffle through items without making a mess. We like these non-slip velvet hangers, which come in bulk, including 50 hangers for $27.
5. Think beyond hanging space
If you don’t have a lengthy hanging rod or just have items that don’t lend themselves to hanging, get creative with shelving and baskets or bins. “Folding things such as denim, sweatshirts, or workout gear and storing them in open baskets or bins on shelves is a great option,” says Hagmeyer. (Don’t forget to then label them, of course.)
If you’re going to stack things straight onto a shelf, Elbert recommends abiding by the three and six rules. Keep stacks of bulky items, like sweaters or sweatshirts, to no more than three, and anything lighter, like tees or jeans, to piles of six, she says. Clip-on shelf dividers, like these clear separators, are also a great way to keep stacks from toppling over, she adds.
6. Don’t forget the shoes
Your shoe collection should be treated the same way as your clothing. Pull everything out, toss or donate what you don’t want, then separate by type and color, says Murphy. If you have the shelf space, arrange them by alternating heel to toe, which both maximizes space and looks pretty, says Elbert. Or, if you have vertical space to use, try clear, stacking shoe boxes. Run out of room? A pretty bin or basket is again a great option, as well as the perfect place to store more miscellaneous footwear, such as flip-flops, slippers, and sneakers, says Hagmeyer.