How to Organize Your Closet

I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem. It consumes my daily thoughts. My problem? Organization.

I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem. It consumes my daily thoughts. My problem? Organization.

I love to organize stuff. It’s kind of ridiculous and occasionally out of control, but worse than that, I’m not always so good at maintaining my systems. (Shh! Don’t tell.) The only place I’ve really managed to get a good system going is in our closets—and each person’s closet (or section thereof) has evolved over the years to suit the way it is used by that person. Why am I telling you this? It matters (to me anyways).

I’ve replaced many builder-grade closet systems (aka one shelf with a bar under it) and have found that there is no one standard fit for each person. Closets require a mix of shelving options suited to the number and size of items that you’re folding, hanging and storing.

Here’s where a measuring tape comes in handy. Don’t freak out: I’m not saying you have to measure everything in your closet—just a few items to garner a general idea of your needs. The following is my suggested list of items to measure—only measure the largest one of each to give you a minimum baseline measurement.

Hanging storage (including hanger):

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  • Hanger depth
  • Shirt length
  • Shirt count or width of all shirts hanging together
  • Pant length
  • Pant count or width of all pants hanging together
  • Dress length
  • Tie, scarf or other hanging accessory length
  • Accessory count or width of all shirts hanging together

Shelf storage:

  • Sweater (even if you’re doing this in summer you want to make sure you have room for your bulkiest items)
  • Sweater count
  • Jeans or other folded pants (whichever is bulkiest)
  • Pant count
  • Purse, travel bag and other accessories (If storing all together, you only need one measurement from biggest bag. In not, get largest measure for each category that will have its own bin.)
  • Shoes (largest pair)
  • Shoe count
  • Boots (measure these separately only if you’re storing them differently from standard shoes)


  • Length
  • Width
  • Height

Once you’re armed with these measurements, you can start formulating a plan for your closet space. Draw out the space on a piece of paper, and use your measurement from above to calculate hanging space versus folding space. Here’s where you determine if you’ll want one or two hanging rows and the number of shelves above and below. (If you’re not feeling artistic, there are plenty of free online programs and smartphone apps available that do all the design work for you—all you do is plug in the numbers above. Just be aware that some of these programs are tailored to particular closet systems.)

When selecting your systems, consider the amount of flexibility you’ll need for the shelves. If you’d like to be able to move the shelves to adapt to your needs, consider getting a track system. (Track systems are my preference because they give me the ability to change up storage options to suit the season and accommodate clothing-size changes for growing children.)

You’ll also want to take materials into consideration. If you have allergies, wire systems collect less dust than wood or other solid materials; though, solid materials prevent small accessories from literally falling through the cracks. Weigh the pros and cons before proceeding. Many systems allow you to do a combination of both, which is what I did for our son’s room, blending sliding wire and canvas baskets to accommodate his needs. In the master closet, I used two different systems—an out-of-the-box wire system that worked well for that wall’s shallow depth and an assemble-it-yourself system from IKEA that allowed us to customize the number and size of drawers and shoe organizers.

Before you finalize your plan, go over the design with the person using the closet to see if it fits his or her needs. Tape off heights to make sure everyone can reach the most commonly used items for easy stowing and retrieval. (It’s great to consider that your spouse or teen is taller and can reach higher, but think about if you’re typically the one putting stuff away.) Adjust your plan as needed to accommodate.

Once your closet organizer is installed, (my favorite part!) sit back and marvel at the awesomeness you’ve created for yourself and those you love.

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