Cut Clutter with These Closet Hacks

Sarah Moore Impact Mill Contributor

I love me a clean closet, and I’m proud to say I’ve had one for a solid 10 years now. Sure, I toss the occasional dress (or half a wardrobe) on a chair when I’m experiencing an “I have nothing to wear!!!” moment, but I usually clean up quickly, and all because I’ve got my closet system down pat.

An organized closet is more than a chance to brag, though. When you know exactly what apparel you’re working with, you’re far less likely to let clothes go to waste, or to buy duplicates of those you already own. This is good for the planet, good for your wallet, and just all-around good for you. So here are my top tips for keeping a clean closet.

Start by Cleaning House

The first thing most people do when it’s time to organize is…try to organize. They rush out to buy bins and stackers and fancy multi-tiered pants hangers and clever wall hooks, et cetera ad infinitum. But if you haven’t first determined what you actually use, it’s hard to actually organize it in any meaningful way.

That’s why Gretchen Rubin recommends you don’t get organized. Instead, get rid of the things you don’t use that often first. Once they’re gone, you’ll be amazed how much lighter and freer your closet seems, no bins required. Here’s how to start.

Track What You Wear

If you, like many, are not quite sure what in your closet you do and don’t wear, try this little trick: Arrange all your clothes however you like them on your closet bar. For this exercise, you should even hang items you don’t normally hang up (jeans, cotton tees, and so forth).

Now hang a marker at one end of the bar, like a belt or a scarf. Every time you wear something, move it to the far side of the marker. At the end of one week, see how many items are on the other side: These are the ones you’ve worn. Of the remaining clothes, you should at least be able to ditch some obvious items … say, the ones you haven’t pulled off a hanger in 5 years.

Put Items in Order

Okay, now that you’ve whittled down your closet’s contents, it’s time to organize. And there’s no better teacher to help you figure out how than Marie Kondo. Author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo has spent decades learning exactly how to organize various items most effectively. Her advice on closet organization is, for instance, to group everything that hangs first by type (pants) and then by color (khaki, denim, etc.). While you may not fold things in quite as dedicated a fashion as Kondo, her tips are still an excellent crash course in overall organization.

Control closet clutter with pro organization techniques | image: jingdianjiaju1/Flickr

Control closet clutter with pro organization techniques | image: jingdianjiaju1/Flickr

Once you’ve tackled the big stuff, turn your attention to smaller corners of your closet. For instance, you might try finally cutting through the chaos of your panty drawer. Or turn your attention to shoes…and never turn it back, cuz there is seriously no end to shoe-storing hacks. Just sayin’. Organize one item type at a time, collecting like objects – hats, scarves, belts, gloves – and dealing with them all at once.

Make It a Tiny Room

Lastly, make your closet a place you want to be. As with any other room in the house, if you’re not inspired by the space, you’re much less likely to take care of it. The walls of my closet are hung with framed photos and lights, and occasionally I even burn some incense in there.

And make sure your closet is accessible. Personally, I hate those hideous folding doors that many come with. I always take them off their tracks and put up tension rods hung with nice curtains instead. You can usually find curtains at second-hand stores if you look carefully, or if you’re handy with a sewing machine, make them yourself.

One Last Hack

And my favorite closet trick: I keep a laundry basket on the floor. That way, when I take off a tank top I don’t have time to fold or ditch my yoga pants for going-out duds, I have a catch-all spot for the discards so I don’t toss them all over everything and disrupt my overall wardrobe serenity. Three or four times a week, I pull out the basket and regain total organizational perfection. Boom.

And that’s it! Obviously, the world is awash in closet organization hacks, so you can take things as far as you want. However, I find the above tricks lead to a very useful and clutter-free closet.

Sarah Moore is an Impact Mill contributor and freelance writer who focuses on sustainability, local food, and the weirder side of science. In her spare time she enjoys writing fiction, running, and cooking. Sarah lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, two children, two dogs, and an unshakable colony of June bugs.