The Most Important Rule for an Organized Clothes Closet

wood hangers

Baskets are nice. Specialty organizing systems are impressive. You can sort clothes by color. You can arrange them by category.

No matter what technique you use for your clothes closet, one rule remains the most important:

Don’t crowd your clothes.

However organized your closet may be, if your clothes are jammed in there, it won’t seem organized at all. It will make you want to shut the closet door and reach for the same outfit you always wear.

You need to save room to slide clothes over so you can get out what you need, and then hang up the fresh clean clothes. If there are too many, it will be a hassle to hang them up, and they’ll remain in the laundry basket.

I share a closet, so I only keep half of my clothes hanging in the closet. The other half (the off-season clothes) are stored in the cedar chest out of the way.

It’s an effort to move the clothes around twice a year, but that’s the time I sort out the clothes I no longer wear. It’s also a gentle reminder that I don’t need to buy more clothes. I already have plenty.

Hint: if you think you need to buy more hangers, try weeding out a few items first.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Crowded closets–I’d say you nailed it! For some frustrating reason, no home in Germany has closets. Anywhere! Everyone loves these big bureaus where they hang clothes. What I wouldn’t give for a good ol’ closet, crowded or not.

    Katie at´s last blog post..A Round of Thank Yous

    • From what I remember from my German classes back in 1492, closets in Germany were taxed as “rooms”. No closets meant lower taxes. Still inconvenient, but more understandable.

      • That’s a very interesting point. I wonder if it was the same in England? We also have no closets. I can’t stand the heavy bureaus so I have two clothes rails in my room.

        rachella´s last blog post..

  2. My clothes live in a pile on my sofa. It’s terribly effective (at wrinkling clothes!).

  3. We live in a very small house for all of us… so we sort clothes by being minimalistic! Everybody has three drawers – top one for undies, socks, pajamas, middle drawer for shirts and tops, bottom drawer for jeans and shorts… if it doesn’t fit in the drawer then you have to much stuff and you have to donate. It minimizes delays with choosing clothes (pretty much one on and one in the wash). Special hand-downs I keep on a separate shelf, but when the shelf is full I have to shuffle and donate to fit anything new on it. We have done this for a couple of years and it is astonishing what a few clothes we actually need, considering most people just rotate their favorite outfits anyway.

    se7en´s last blog post..Saturday Spot: The Kitchen Tour.

  4. I group my clothes first by colour, and then within the colour, by sleeve length – sleeveless, short-sleeved, 3/4, and long :)

    I like se7en’s idea of the 3-drawer system!

    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen´s last blog post..My heart melted this morning

  5. yikes.. I’ve never organized my closets. But honestly… the key for me is to not have much. My husband and I share about 3.5 feet of closet space and it’s just fine.

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah´s last blog post..What’s for Dinner?

  6. I only have about 3 feet of hanging clothes. The rest are slouches in my drawers, worn for bed. I have three pair of jeans, three pair of pants, about 5 t shirts and 5 nice shirts. That’s it. Oh, and a dress or two hanging up on the other side. And 3 sweaters. Not too hard to organize.

  7. I like the poll. I REALLY like an organized closet. My hubby and I also share a walk-in closet. I do all of the laundry in our home, so when I notice that something hasn’t been worn an entire season it gets moved out of the closet. This works well for us. I don’t get rid of anything without permission so I have license to organize as I wish.

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..What Am I Going To Do With These Kids?

  8. The best way to sort closets and clothes is to have less! I rotate through clothes in spring/summer and then in fall/winter since Maine has very pronounced seasons. I get rid of unwanted clothes during that time. Even though I buy very few clothes, and only as needed (I’m not a shopper) I still seem to collect clothes – friend’s hand-me-downs and such. I share 1/2 of a small closet with my husband and have 2 drawers in a dresser and I still have too many clothes. I simply can’t imagine having enough clothes to fill a walk in closet!

    renee @ FIMBY´s last blog post..Setting the record straight

  9. Kimberlee says:

    The worst part is that our closet is also home to other things – Christmas decorations, spare linens, old photos, etc. Living in FL, we really don’t have seasonal clothing, so putting things away just doesn’t work. But I’ve been weeding out things I haven’t worn in 6-12 months and giving away. :D

  10. Every few months we “weed”. My problem is what to do with the bags of things that we want for the future (baby clothes being #1). No hangers or breathing room for those things- they are relegated to garbage bags. Sigh.

    Evenshine´s last blog post..Love Song #6

  11. I periodically clean out my half of the closet, but Mr. Savvy doesn’t. His clothes are taking over! Thankfully, we’ve worked it out that we need to store his “when I lose a few more pounds” clothes so that he doesn’t look at a closet full of clothes and think he has nothing to wear. Now all we need is a few minutes to get started organizing.

  12. Evenshine:

    I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, and they each have their own closets (luckily). What I do is place the hand me downs/future clothes in plastic drawer storage in the closet by size-each drawer has it’s own size (for each season for us). My oldest son’s clothes go to the youngest one’s closet after they are to small for him, so I have the appropriate clothing in their closet. It has worked out so well for us!

  13. I’m wondering if I am the only one that has to have the same kind of hangers to feel positive about my closet?? :)
    Great post!

    Shilo´s last blog post..Jack Frost’s Handiwork

  14. Just cleaned out my closet yesterday! Great affirmation. It’s amazing how much space I have now. And how much mending. I’m newish here and really enjoy your blog.

  15. I like to re-organize my closet every 4-6 months. I usually ask myself if I’m really using or loving an item that’s in there. I also try to look critically at how I’m using my space and not always feel the urge to put something in a space just because it’s there. Having a little breathing room can do a world of wonders!

    I also keep a mental note of how many of something I really need – for example – socks. If I do laundry regularly enough, I don’t need 30 pairs, though I’m still trying to break my husband of that habit from his bachelor days. He would have 30 t-shirts, 30 pairs of underwear, etc. so he didn’t have to do laundry more than once a month. Now that we have to share closet space with our son’s clothes, he’s gotten better at letting go of some of the excess.

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last blog post..Sometimes decluttering isn’t optional

  16. Welcome, Elizabeth! I cleaned out my closet yesterday (which prompted this post), and I have a lot of mending to do too. It’s hard for me to make time to get around to it, but I really need to.

    For those who use drawers instead of closets, the same principle applies: don’t make them too full. Crowded drawers are the worst!

  17. I’m an order by type kind of gal – in the closet and the dresser drawers.

    The picture in this post reminded me that a few years ago, we bought all wood hangers (like those shown) for our closets. It has been SUCH a great motivator for keeping our clothes actually hung up. There’s just something about those wooden hangers that feel so neat, tidy, and even a little luxurious. Best closet investment ever (for us)!

  18. Not only are the clothes hung up up by color but they face the same direction and within each color I have the arrangement of no sleeve, short sleeve without collar, short sleeve with collar, long sleeve without collar, etc. Whites start on left then going to the right is the assortment of colors that end in black. Skirts and my one dress is hung up at the end. I know it sounds crazy but it helps me keep things sane.

    Lynnette´s last blog post..Crafts to do list #2

    • Congratulations!!!

      Your post was the most helpful!!! I have so many lovely clothes–but they don’t look lovely when they are in the closet in such disarray.

      I will implement your suggestions and look forward to an orderly closet.

      Just bought big over the door shoe bag in a soft sage color. My first indication was to grab the pretty raspberry—but then my decorating rational side took over. Could not imagine openind two closet doors every day and having “raspberry” staring at me.

      Best to all of you out there—
      Letz Doooooo It!!!


  19. I am so psyched to really get my clothes and stuff sorted out. The house we’re buying has big Ikea closets and we’ll also be getting a new 8 drawer dresser to match. I’ve been dreaming about new hangers, drawer dividers, shelves, etc. for weeks!

    Jessica´s last blog post..Pants and Such

  20. You hit the nail on the head. Getting your clothes less crowded in your closet not only helps you get uncluttered but it gives you a phychological boost. When the closet is not too crowded there is no mental hangup to just going in there and rehanging your clothes for the day, etc.

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post..Jan 24, The Household Manager Newsletter – Subscribe Today

  21. My closet is organized similar to Lynnette’s. I swap my clothes around each season from the unused end of the closet to the accessible end. When I do this, I like to put all of the hangers in “backwards” (hook facing me) and then when I wear something, I move the hanger around. That way at the end of the season I notice what I haven’t worn and get rid of it. It’s really simple to see what I love and what I don’t.

  22. I sort by work clothes (business casual), outing clothes (dressy shirts, nice jeans, skirts), and casual clothes (T-shirts, work-out clothes, old pants).

  23. Most of the clothes I have hanging in my closet are for work so I sort by type of shirt. (Sleevless, Short sleeve, long sleeve, button down ect.) I have a few dresses, but not many that I also have hanging up. I have a shelf for shoes, and a rubber maid tub for t-shirts. I have so many t-shirts and it is hard for me to get rid of them. Many are from my days as a collegiate athlete and so I wear them to work out.
    I have a bag that I keep in the closet where I drop in clothes for Goodwill. I try to take them every other month. I really like to keep things minimal.

  24. I used to hang clothes by type, but started hanging them by color last year. I find that I am making more combinations of my separates now, and therefore getting more use out of my clothes.
    Everyday pants and all sweaters go on the shelves of the closet organizer.
    It’s still not perfect; closets always need tweaking! That’s why I enjoy reading all of these comments!

  25. Love that. I’m in the process of getting rid of everything we’re not using in the apartment–especially clothes. It feels like losing dead weight.


    kitchendoor´s last blog post..Booty Call

  26. Saw you on OhDeeDoh today!

    Sharna´s last blog post..BAD mail days.

  27. Mine is organized by type of clothing and then color-coded. I have half a closet and dear hubby has the other half. I always joke that I have a walk-in closet only when I walk in it I don’t go anywhere. It’s just one of those small sliding-door type closets.

    I do try to weed out my clothes occasionally. And my shoes.

    momstheword´s last blog post..I’M ALLERGIC TO MORNINGS

  28. I’m working on having less in my closet, first by only buying things I need and love, second by getting rid of things that don’t fall into those categories!

  29. TheBoy and I share a rather large closet trapped in a pretty small bedroom. So, instead of purchasing a dresser to take up huge amounts of bedroom space, we carefully use our closet space to hold all our clothes. I hang slacks, t-shirts, and dresses, placing skirts, sweaters, and tank tops on a tall, skinny shelving unit (maybe one foot wide). He hangs his slacks and button-downs, shelving (on another tall, skinny shelf) his t-shirts, sweaters, and ties/belts (in a bowl!). We use the big top shelf for our out-of-season items and share a short, wide shelf in the middle for bins holding socks and underpants. Our system works wonderfully, both to keep our wardrobes manageably small and our bedroom dresser-free.

    psuklinkie´s last blog post..20 Sustainable Pasttimes for Martin Luther King Day

  30. EverythingI just washed and have recently worn is furthest back, constantly keeping the flow going. I can go back and grab a favorite, but it keeps me wearing my not-favorites, but clothes I still like just fine. I also switch out by season, keeping a few t-shirts and sweaters out year-round for unpredictable Minnesota weather.

  31. I am new here. I like the post very much, and totally agree! I have a big problem with clothes. I just have too many. There was a time when I didn’t have enough and everybody was telling me I need new clothes; not anymore. I went berserk buying clothes sometime back and am paying for it now – with my precious space. I do not have a closet but I have a big enough wardrobe. And it is always in a mess. It all comes down to me being lazy, I suppose. And the fact that I have so many clothes. I sort and arrange every few months. But then I get fresh laundry and I feel too lazy to put stuff in their proper places; I just open the wardrobe and push the washed clothes wherever I feel like. And in a few days – welcome back, mess! I wish I could give away some clothes, but it seems like sacrilege because they are all new!

    Manju´s last blog curiousity

  32. My clothes are hung in a closet but it is very unorganized. Though the closets are pretty small, I don’t have a lot of clothes. I need to at least organize them by type.

  33. Because I live alone, I have more than one closet. The closet in my bedroom holds my office and dressier clothes. The closet in the other room holds jeans and gardening clothes.

    In each closet, summer and winter clothes are bunched separately. We don’t have any other seasons here, and really, you often can wear light clothes in the winter. So they all tend to run together.

    Funny about Money´s last blog post..And did I mention we were through the looking glass?

  34. ‘However organized your closet may be, if your clothes are jammed in there, it won’t seem organized at all.’..Jamming the stuff in is a sure sign that the closet is too small or it needs a makeover. OR.. maybe you’re lacking the determination to straighten it up and keep it straightened. Organization is not automatic, even with a ten thousand dollar closet it will be a wreck without your ongoing tending. You have to tend it like a garden- pull the weedy stuff and keep giving it attention so it doesn’t get out of control. I’ve seen outta control gardens and outta control closets – neither is a pretty site.

  35. SHANNON BAYLON says:

    okay i am still deciding what to do with my closet. I go shopping almost every weekend and use my clothes all the time i have a medium-large closet and dresser with drawers its still not enough to sort out my closet the way i wanted them, I have been cleaning it out every 6 months or so. I want to keep some of my clothes since i know i will need them in the future but i dont have any closet apace or room space to put them in. Any suggestions, advice. I really dont know what to do but i need to find a way to either stop shopping so much or trying to let go of my clothes. advice and sugestions will be appreciated
    my name is Shannon Baylon

    • Shannon, try those vacuum storage bags. There are several sizes, and you just add clothing,bedding and remove the air from
      the bag with a vacuum and store anyware.

      And follow Bonnie’s suggestion from January 26th above.

  36. I see this is an older blog, but I am in the process of swapping my closet for the seasons (I do it twice a year, same as mentioned above) and through the year, try to “trade” something new for something old – I LOVE some of the suggestions here, especially the hanger backwards one – I previously tried everything from colored electricians tape (I used a new color each month when I put something away – I thought by the end of the season I could tell how long it had been since it had been worn, if at all), but one day my husband pulled out a shirt and said, “are these my fat pants or my October pants?” I got the point – obsessive = not good. Anyway, the trading something new for old (to be donated or reclassified to “if only..” if not fitting ideally) works really well; but I’m in a sorting slump. I do formal on the outside end, suits, jackets, sweaters, long sleeve, short, etc. then within that by type (collar/no collar/hoodie) then also by color – and I think I’ve taken it just too far. I have a big closet with a lot of clothes, but never anything to wear. My sister is organizing by outfit, then by style, but I like to mix and match… maybe just go by color? I’m afraid my shells will get hidden by sweaters… but I guess what I’m reading here is that if there is a chance, then there is still probably too much in the closet….

  37. I just took my closet doors off. My bed also happens to face my closets, and I store a lot of school supplies in the top part. It forces me to keep my closet in check so that stuff doesn’t spill out all over the floor.

  38. Season – Type – Color.

    So all my clothes are Summer – Fall – Winter – Spring and then into clothing type and color within the season category.

  39. I have always grouped by type, but in the last year I noticed I was wearing the same clothes over and over. So now, I always put clean laundry away at the BACK of the proper section. This way, I know the clothes closest to me haven’t been worn as recently, and they all get worn more evenly. I still reach for my favorites more often sometimes – the point is to diversify, not restrict :)

  40. 2 ideas work for me. Empty CLoset and sort clothes the way it works for you. Hang all clothes with the hanger backwards (not over the rail, but from behind. Once worm, hang the regular way. At the end of the year or two any clothes that are facing backwards you never wore and get rid of!
    Also, is I buy 1 new top, I get rid of 1 old top. 2 tops? get rid of 2 old tops….. your closet will never have to be cleaned and purged again. Been doing this for years.

  41. I have a bad case of closet overflow. I don’t think I can remember when I was able to close my closet doors. I just ordered some organizers from Meritline (pretty good deals!), and I’m excited to hopefully become more organized.

  42. I wish i had a real closet. I use to have a 1/2 cedar lined closet walk in, ah those were the days, now i have converted a pole and shelf boards to a place to see everything on the wall of my small bedroom. If i am really despartate, i use the shower, curtain works well to hide it. :) good thing we have two showers. why couldn’t i have just got a closet instead.