When was the last time you organized your closet, and I mean organized it – created the most optimal workflow for efficiently finding and combining pieces of clothing so that you can feel confident that you look your best, every day? If you’re like most guys, your response is: “Ah, never?”
It’s not your fault. Good personal organization isn’t taught in school or at your job – either you have it or you don’t. Strong closet organization means you’re seldom at a loss for what to wear and how to find it. Weak organization means you burn time and mental bandwidth every time you have to get dressed. Think about it: when was the last time you paused in front of your closet, staring blankly, until you just grabbed something? I’m willing to bet it was today. This morning.
The problem for anyone – even if you don't have a ton of clothes – is being able to see the trees from the forest when it comes to your day to day style options. Dressing well isn’t just about having the right stuff – you need to be creative, varied, and smart about how you combine it, and that means creating the conditions for success: clear closet organization, clear choices, and minimal clutter. You know the closets you see in movies. Immaculate and perfectly thought out? That can be yours. The question is – where to begin?
We’ve spoken with top experts in personal and closet organization and men’s fashion to bring you a simple, direct guide with ideas on how to organize your closet or wardrobe. It’s not the most complicated, fancy, or color-coded on purpose. This system is one you can implement in half an hour of dedicated effort, or in stages over a few days or weeks. We’ve kept it simple so you can get organized and focus on what matters most: looking and feeling your best.
As organizing expert, author & blogger Felice Cohen put it to us: “Putting together a great outfit is like solving a puzzle. It’s easier to assemble the puzzle if you can see all the pieces. Your chances are much greater if you’ve put your pieces in good order.”
Cull the Herd
Clutter is your enemy, and clutter is caused by having too much stuff for your space. By constantly having to mentally skip over the things you never wear, you're less able to see the things you do and how they could go together. Here’s how you cull the herd and leave only the strong standing.
1. Keep or toss?
Decluttering expert & speaker Alison Kero shared her simple three-part test for determining if you should keep or toss an item while organizing your closet. Whatever it is, it has to be something you Like, Use, and Wear. You have to like something, actively use it, and have worn it at least once in the past year. Haven’t worn something in one year? Automatic toss. Not certain you like it? Toss. Enjoy that paisley tux jacket you snagged on sale but never worn it? Toss, definitely toss.
It can be daunting to cull your stuff, especially if they carry sentimental value. “To make it easier,” Allison recommends, “do one area at a time. Start with socks, then do t-shirts, etc.” Trimming the fat will also make it easier to focus on style. “You will notice a huge difference in your confidence levels if you choose to keep what looks and feels good on you now,” says Alison. “You'll find that when you have a closet filled only with what you like, use and wear, that you'll actually want to keep it looking decent so you can continue looking decent.”
2. Does It Belong In Your Closet?
This one is simple: Does a particular item absolutely have to be in your closet? Alison points out, “Keeping only must-be-hung items in your closet will enable it to look and feel less cluttered. Non-hanging items should be folded into a small rectangle then stored vertically.”
Closet Organization Ideas
Closet organization is intimidating because there’s simply so many ways to go about it. Should you do it functionally? Autobiographically? We’ve solved that problem for you. Here, in two steps, is a simple organizational scheme that will last a lifetime.
3. Hot & Cold Zones
Expert Felice Cohen, whose 90 square foot apartment went viral on Youtube due to her saavy personal organizing hacks, devised this system of Hot and Cold Zones for closet organization ideas and hacks. “Hot Zones are for items you wear more often and should be kept in reach. For Cold Zones, that's where off-season attire should be stored and that is on the top of a closet, the extreme ends, or under the bed.”
Hot Zones put your important pieces in easy reach. Important but off-season items should be kept in groups in your Cold Zones. Sweaters, long johns, etc. are winter-season examples, while summer-weight suits and pants can be stowed during the cold months.
4. Hang by Category
Closet organization experts have been known to get in knife fights and dance-offs over this next point: category vs color. Luckily, our experts Felice and Alison are in agreement: separate by style.
Felice recommends, “For hanging clothes, break them down by style. When organizing tops, for example, hang by short sleeve, long sleeve, then sport coats, and so on. Same with pants: dress, khakis, jeans – then by color. Then you can see what you have, and it's easier and takes less time to put together an outfit.” If possible, she says, fold items like sweaters (for longevity) and sweatshirts (because they’re probably not what you’re picking out for work in the morning). If you need to hang them, however, do so in groups.
The same rules apply for folded clothing: keep separate by style, with one shelf (or drawer) for t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, and so on.
At this point, you might well be saying, “This is great – if I had the space!” We hear you. Check out these closet organization ideas and hacks to both save space and make your wardrobe more visually organized (and therefore easier to use).
5. Tie Rack
Felice’s #1 closet hack for guys: a quality tie rack. “There are various ways to store ties,” she says. “Some guys like to roll them up, some like to hang them. But since we are trying to see all parts of our wardrobe, I recommend hanging and as thinly as possible.”
Picking up a horizontally-oriented tie rack is a great place to start, and Ties.com has you covered with a bunch of styles depending on your space and how many ties you have. These racks are a life-saver and are one of my favorite closet organization ideas.
6. Hanging Shelf
A simple, durable hanging shelf instantly creates orderly storage space, especially if you have some vertical room to spare in your closet. Felice likes this hanging shelf that connects to a hanging bar. “This is good for light sweaters you wear with suit jackets, undershirts, and other lower-weight items,” she reports.
7. Shoe Cubby
Both of our experts agree the #1 way to store shoes is a shoe cubby. They’re cheap and you can organize them by usage: your go-to’s at eye level, so you don’t have to think hard about what to pair with your outfit.
8. Invest in Decent Hangers
There’s a few reasons to upgrade your hangers. Matching hangers create a visually uniform presentation – no plastic colors or textures to interfere with clothing choices. Additionally, your clothes won’t fall off the hanger or hang improperly. But most importantly, proper hangers better protect your clothes. Nothing can distort the shoulders of a suit jacket or blazer or cause creases in places like collars than an ill-fitting, too-thin hanger. Ikea sells wood hangers for ridiculously cheap. Target isn’t far behind, cost-wise.
9. Learn how to Fold
“Learning how to fold properly can double your storage space,” says Alison. There are tons of online guides, so feel free to pick one that suits you. She recommends a simple, “Fold in Half, Repeat” method. “Start by laying your item flat and then folding one half to the middle and then the other side to the middle, keeping a small amount of space in the center. Fold in half. Continue this process until you have a small, manageable rectangle.”
If you’re really on a time crunch, try this nifty sub-two second method.
When it really comes down to it, any logical system for organizing your closet is better than a chaotic free-for-all. How do you organize your closet? Did you love this guide or loathe it (I'm sure we'll be hearing from the color-coordination camp!)? Let us know in the comments section and share your own closet-maximizing hacks!