professionally designed closet

How To Declutter Your Closets And Seriously Improve Your Life

Is the prospect of decluttering your closets overwhelming? Take heart: Closet clutter, occurs less often because you are inherently messy and more often because the right storage types and spaces haven’t been designated. That, and you have to stop hoarding all the stuff you haven’t worn or used since last decade. This guide will help you “let go”, re-organize logically AND give you ideas for features that will help you look buttoned up and tidy, even on a bad day.

messy closet shelves
When your closet defies attempts at rational clothing selection for daily wear…

When it comes to closet organization, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder isn’t necessarily a bad thing

Things get lost in there too, as if there is actually some parallel universe where your missing sock migrated to.

Why you can’t just hire a closet designer to Declutter and re-organize the closets for you?

You can, but you have to get right with yourself first. Decluttering closets is very personal.

You’re best served to give this project some well considered thought before anything else. An expert can give you great suggestions when they have something to work with, without having to work around your beloved junk.

Clothing stores organize their wares for attractive presentation and easy selection. This is something you can do at home.

What should I consider for Rational closet decluttering and Effective redesigning?

Dream a little dream first? You might not have thought about an orderly dressing area, as the whole idea of a tidy closet hasn’t seemed likely in this lifetime…until now, I hope.

In truth, you can do this well and brilliantly…with a little effort on your part and a little help from the “expert” of your choosing.

Just for fun, go to Pinterest and search for images of the closet space you never thought you could have.

Whether you want to hire a professional closet design service or DIY by sorting out the details with someone at your local hardware store, flipping through images and perhaps pinning some ideas on a board might help you with design clarity.

For that matter, stay alert for items of interest you see anywhere, live or in any on-line publications. All input is good.

Take a mental inventory of all the different types of things that will need space consideration

One closet company I’ve worked with had a sophisticated and fun method of helping clients to visualize what style of storage they would prefer by using colorful “paper dolls” of options like drawers, hanging storage, shelves etc.

women's lace trimmed t-shirts on hangers
Your dressing preferences very personal. Don’t hesitate to use hangers for anything you wear.

What are your preferences for storing your clothes 

  • Do you want to hang your blouses and/or shirts or keep them folded from the laundry and stacked?
  • Do you have a preference for hanging trousers vertically from the cuff or folding them in half over a hanger?
  • Do you fold your jeans or hang them?
  • Are there clothing items you would prefer to store in drawers?
  • Do you want your shoes in individual cubbies, on floor racks or shoe bags?
  • How do you want to store the accessories such as neckties, scarves, necklaces and handbags? Do you want them to hang or be arranged in some type of “organizer” on shelves?

Be clear about your clothes storage preferences regarding hanging vs folding your clothes.

closet design from a storage specialty company
This is a great example of a successful DIY closet organization system

Visit the best closet decluttering stores

Browse stores like The Container Store for starters, to find out what’s available in the storage/container world. They have all manner of baskets, hangers, shelves on sliders, etc. to solve some of the “where I’m I going to put this?” questions. Better yet, visit the store in person if possible.

too full closet needing decluttering
Sometimes clutter propagates when you aren’t paying attention

Are you sure you don’t have enough closet space?

I REALLY HATE TO BE REDUNDANT BUT…in virtually every post I write to help people get started sorting out their home design in a way that will be most beneficial for them, I always have to remind everyone to edit ruthlessly before trying to make any kind of alterations in their living space arrangements.

It’s human nature to operate with a form of “selective inattention” in our environments when there is something we don’t like or don’t want to deal with Right Now. Those “un-noticed items” can have a rather weird way of propagating while you’re not looking.

Our clothes closets need decluttering often, because they tend to accumulate a great many “blasts from the past”.

man with tattoos looking in closet
Does this shirt still look like “You”?

Do you still dress the same way you did 5 years ago? Or did you follow some trend right off a cliff one year and you promise never make that mistake again?

Some things are hard to let go of because they remind you of something or someone you loved. I have a few things of this nature too…don’t we all?

The key to understanding your truth is the quantity. Do you have reasons/excuses to keep a lot of things you aren’t using? Making a list of these special things is very helpful. Out of your head and onto a readable format means you can count and add up the real quantity. Be patient with yourself. This can be a process rather than a quick trip to the dumpster.

You might want to head over here for a great post on Clutter Management 101

READ MORE>>>How To Make Your Remarkably Cluttered Home Look Lovelier 

woman constructing closet space
Guessing at your space measurements won’t work

After decluttering your closet space, What hard data will be needed to redesign the space effectively?

Regardless of whether you want to plunge into this yourself or hire a consultant and/or company dedicated to closet design such as California Closets, the particulars for the redesign are dependent on hard data to determine how much real space is needed for what you want to store.

start with assessing the potentials for the storage area

  • What available space, measured in feet and inches, do you have have now?
  • Can more space can be made with creative rearrangement?
  • What will be the best way to designate types of storage space based on your needs and preferences.

These are the details and points to consider first. It’s an ineffective band-aid fix to just “move a few things around”. Real organization means structure, along with editing discipline as discussed above.

Here are the steps to take and questions to ask for reality based closet design

Measure the closet space completely

You’ll want not only width and depth, but clearance for existing shelves. Backs of doors and interior wall space can be usable storage surfaces too.

Are all the items in the closet in the most logical location for easy retrieval?

Good closet design insures that the things you use most frequently are readily accessible. 

  • This means if you only go fishing once a year, the rod and tackle box don’t have to be in the same closet with your best business suits. 
  • It also means that out-of-season clothes can be stacked on higher shelves until next season when you put them into rotation again.

measure for clothes you want to hang

  • Measure the short hanging items as a group, then the long hanging items. There should be at least 2″ of space between hangers to prevent wrinkling and mustiness. This will give you the lineal number of feet you’ll need for your design. Double hanging the short items on two rods is a great space saver. 
  • For double rod hanging, the heights should be about 42 and 82 inches from the floor.  Measure the vertical space you need by measuring your longest garment, plus the hanger neck, plus 4 inches. Determine if there storage space available above the long garments or space to use a shoe rack below them. With luck, you’ll have room for both.

standard measurements to approximate how much shelf or drawer space you’ll need

Make a list of each item that you want shelf or drawer space for, count the items and take into consideration the measurements listed below.

General sizing for typical clothing items

  • A folded sweater is app. 14 inches deep by 10 inches wide.
  • A folded shirt is app. 14″ deep and 8″ wide
  • A handbag is app. 3″deep and 11″ wide
  • Pairs of shoes: Men’s shoes are 12″long/9″ wide. Women’s shoes are 10″ long/7″ wide.


When you have a clear idea of what you will need (given the space you have)
for a decluttered (this equals more found space), then re-organized closet, you’ll be better prepared to work effectively with a closet system designer or truly prepared to brave it alone.

You may want to head over here for the whole story on clever small space design. You’ll find some interesting ideas to create storage you might not have thought of.

READ MORE>>>How To Make The Most Of Tiny Rooms

hanging hawaiian shirts
If only one could dress for “holiday” everyday

decluttering your closet and redesigning the space is only the first step to improving your daily dressing life

“When I get up in the morning, I examine my mood and dress accordingly”

Anonymous Clothes Horse

We dress in some fashion every day, but we don’t necessarily make the connection that our dressing areas should work as efficiently as our kitchens and baths.

Why does this matter? The obvious answer is to save yourself time in assembling all the items you need for the day’s dress code. The times when you are not well and need to stay indoors or even in bed are life’s unavoidable but built in “dog days”. Hopefully these are few and far between. But even then, being able to switch out your sleepwear with ease is a boon.

The less obvious answer as to why you want to design your closet space for maximum efficiency has to do with your identity and how you present yourself to the world. We all take clues about who someone thinks they are, by the way they dress and groom themselves.

Sometimes this is all we have to work with. It can be awkward to get a straight answer by asking someone point-blank, “are you a thief, womanizer, dead-beat or a psychopath marquerading as a normal someone, etc?”…although, I’m not sure how one would dress if they were one or more of those types….

A well designed closet space has more than various methods of “managing your hang-ups”

Some people manage it by only wearing black.  Others have designed a kind of multi-purpose Uniform and have several copies of each critical piece.  Still others think in terms of Concept Dressing. There are, of course, those blessed souls who don’t give “dressing” a minute’s thought but think clean (or at least odorless) and relatively wrinkle free is a good idea.

Chances are excellent that those good people aren’t particularly concerned about well ordered closets either. However, at some point, almost everyone has to spiff up appropriately for some occasion, however random.

Whatever your personal views on your apparel may be, there is more to dressing well than a tidy presentation that’s all zipped up with the right buttons meeting their designated button holes.

wooden clothes hangers
Treat your clothing with respect and care

What items should be in a well appointed dressing area?

Indispensable tools and truths

  • Flattering light and a proper full-length mirror to get a good head-to-toe look at what you’re wearing. Don’t you just hate it when you get out in broad daylight and notice that your color choices aren’t actually what you thought they were when you dressed?
  • The wrong hanger leaves its mark and misshapes your clothes while they are innocently hanging in your closet. It’s nice when all the hangers match because your clothes all hang at the same height.  Dresses and delicate tops are best hung on fabric-covered or padded silk hangers. Shaped wood hangers are an excellent option too.

Dearest gentle readers, you know better than to use wire hangers.
At the very least, use plastic.

a well appointed closet is also stocked with the essentials for clothing maintenance

Command Central.  Your “everyday clothing” benefits from attention to detail as much as those “outfits for special occasions”. Wherever you go to pull yourself together, clothes-wise, here’s what you want to have on hand, in a basket or drawer too:

  • Lint brush/tape roller
  • Safety pins – in case a cuff or skirt hem rips out and you have no time for repair
  • Sweater de-pillers – Electric sweater shavers works too.
  • Beeswax or candle wax – Great for lubricating stuck zippers
  • A hand-held steamer – Takes care of any and all wrinkles
  • Detergent pens – Very handy to remedy a stain and save you a complete change of outfit.
  • Some version of a sewing kit – it’s a good idea to mend tears or replace buttons when you notice them. At least mark these repairs for the cleaners.
clothes closet organized by type and color
Well organized clothes closet are lovely to look at too

How to organize your closet to dress quickly and look pulled together

If you consider the  various activities in your life that have their own dress code, you can organize your closet for your convenience around them. Separate your clothes and accessories into categories. You can take this further by grouping types, styles, light and dark colors or even length.

How To Subdivide and Conquer your clothing options

  • Sweaters: separate the turtlenecks, cardigans, cashmere, and bulky knits. By the way, aromatic cedar is a natural moth repellent.  You can find aromatic cedar shaped in balls or blocks.  Stuff these around your sweaters before you store them for the season. Have your garments cleaned before you put them away or the cedar won’t protect against moth damage.
  • T-shirts: by color, style, long or short sleeves.
  • Skirts/pants: can be sorted by style, occasion, color, length and/or season. The same is true for suits.

There is no right or wrong way to order your clothes

It depends on where your first “daily dressing thought”  takes you. A woman might hang her skirts or pants at eye level because she knows she will build the rest of her outfit from this starting point. She might also have her shoes arranged so her “date shoes” are in the same area as the date dresses, or her sneakers with her jeans.

Like any other form of home design, learning how to organize your clothing closets to your advantage is another giant step towards creating a living space that supports what you want to do and how you want to live to the fullest


Over To You

I’d love to know what you think...

Was there a tip that was especially helpful? Hopefully, you found a little inspiration and maybe even resolved a long standing quandary brilliantly!

are there other topics you might be interested in?

Setting out to create the best version of beautiful home design, tailored especially for you, has a lot of potential questions built in. Please let me know. I’m here to help.

Don’t miss a thing!

Follow me on Pinterest, or Facebook better yet, why not subscribe to the Decoding Decor Newsletter?

Get all the “How-To’s” and “Logical Whys” you can use to decode your own home decor delivered right to your mailbox. You’ll have the latest posts in the Library from Elements of Decor and Design & Style to help you, help yourself to the home you’ll love to come home to. Sign up in the box at the bottom of this page!

Pin this post To read later

Is the prospect of decluttering your closets overwhelming? Take heart: Closet clutter, occurs less often because you are inherently messy and more often because the right storage types and spaces haven't been designated. That, and you have to stop hoarding all the stuff you haven't worn or used since last decade. This great guide from Decoding Decor will help you "let go", re-organize logically AND give you ideas for features that will help you look buttoned up and tidy, even on a bad day.

about the author

Cindy Bergersen is a professional design consultant turned full time writer about home design: what is it, how it works and how to make it work for anyone. Decades of experience as a design consultant to private clients, retail clients for well known, high end furniture retailers has proved to be invaluable training. She is both passionate and committed to sharing her experience and knowledge to help anyone, to help themselves to a beautiful, comfortable home, without feeling confusion or overwhelm about where to start and how to proceed. She lives in New York with Olivia, the cat. When not writing posts, she can be found cycling through city parks, watching a lot of film, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.