Categorizing, Colorizing, and Containerizing... Who Knew Your Closet Could Look This Good?!

Over the years I’ve noticed that closets are one of the areas that really stress people out. Some people simply shut the door in despair, and it becomes the “anything goes” zone. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I promise.


Any closet organizing project begins with editing your wardrobe. One well-known school of thought is, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it.” For some of my clients this is simply too extreme, so I’ve come up with a softer approach. We identify the lesser-worn (but still loved) clothes that tend to be buried, organize them into the mainstream area of the closet, and see if they make the cut after that. Six months later if they’re still there waiting to be chosen like a girl at a middle-school dance, it’s probably time for the purge bag.

Trust me when I tell you that an ongoing purge bag is essential to your happiness. I keep one in my coat closet, which gives me permission to toss clothes--to be donated or recycled--in it as often as possible. When it’s full, I pass it on to its rightful owners and start another one. Why the coat closet? It’s out of my everyday sight so I am not tempted to retrieve anything. Genius, right? Number One Purge Bag Rule: Nothing ever gets taken out of it and reinstated!

Now that you have only the clothes in there that you wear and love, using matching hangers is my next trick for a fab-looking closet. I recycle wire hangers back to the dry cleaners and use only the same kind and color of hanger throughout the closet. Huggable hangers from The Container Store maximize hanging space, look great, and nothing slides off them. I use additional wooden hangers for any jackets that need a little extra support.


Hanging or folding? That is the perennial question. I fold anything that gets distorted by hanging, as well as all my T-shirts, sweaters, and jeans. I like to store sweaters in clear boxes organized by color for easy choice when I’m getting dressed. Or, depending on the configuration of your closet, you can store them in neat stacks on shelves using shelf dividers to keep the piles in line.

Categorizing and colorizing are important in any closet, and it doesn’t matter which one you do first--some people like to sort by color and then type, or vice versa. I categorize like items and then colorize within their genre. (“Colorizing” is a fancy word for starting with white and progressing to black along the color wheel. If something has a mixed pattern, I choose the dominant color and file it that way.) Seeing your clothes in this kind of system is the ultimate eye candy for us organizing types.

Do you have jewelry you never wear because you can’t see it or have forgotten you had it? We’re all familiar with that pile of “kill me now” snarled necklaces and earrings. Organized jewelry has a high ROI because it complements what you wear every day. It’s most efficiently and safely stored in a closet drawer with jewelry organizers, but since we don’t all have the luxury of an extra drawer, hanging jewelry bags are another solution. It’s worth the time it takes to do and maintain it. Every outfit will thank you.

Shoes can take up significant space in a closet. The plastic shoe boxes with lids from The Container Store are amazingly affordable--and they stack. If you have to store them high up, take a photo and affix it to the outside so you can see from the floor which pair you want to select.  Just like a label on a box, the photo will save you time and streamline your system when it’s time to replace them.


If you do have storage up high in your closet, make sure a small folding step stool is easily accessible. No, having one downstairs in the utility closet won’t suffice. (That just means you’ll balance one foot on the laundry basket and one on your rolling suitcase in a valiant attempt to grab your shoes. You may end up taking down a lot more than you planned on--including the shelf--and then you have twice as much to put back and organize!)

Once you see your closet categorized, colorized, and containerized, you’ll never want to close the door again.

Happy Organizing!