The (Unconventional) Way I Organize My Closet

After my recent closet clean out post, I was asked how I organize my closet.  Years ago, I used to organize my closet completely according to color.  It looked beautiful, but for some reason I didn’t love it.  I forgot about pieces I had.  Things got lost as colors blended together.  And I don’t feel like it helped me get dressed that much more easily.

I moved to a different system over 5 years ago and have never looked back.  While to an outsider, my closet may look a little random and like there is no rhyme or reason to it, I LOVE it.  It makes my mornings so much easier!  I will share my “strategy” for closet organization today.  But before we get there, I thought I’d give you a little closet tour to show where and how things are laid out.

Come on through to my closet!

Where Clothing Items Are Stored

How I Organize My ClosetDress rack inside closet organization

My husband and I share a closet.  His section mirrors what you see in the first pic (with much less clothes, hehe!) and there is a smaller middle section which connects our two sections.  Most of my clothes live in 2/3 of this shared closet–the section you see in the first pic plus the smaller section in this second pic that connects my husband’s and my side.  Additionally, I have two drawers in a dresser that I share with my husband.  My shoes, bags, and coats live elsewhere.

I mentioned we installed this Rubbermaid Closet System which is very customizable.  We installed the top and bottom rack that you see here, then a taller rack in the connecting section.

Since I live in a very mild climate with minimal seasonal differences, almost all of my clothes for the entire year are always out.  I only have a couple of small bins that are in storage, mostly holding a few thicker sweaters, swimwear, and maternity clothes.  What you see here is almost all of my clothes!

In the first shot you can see my tops, completer pieces, jeans, and skirts hanging on rods.  Then, tucked in the section between my husband’s section and mine are my dresses.

Closet Organization System Double RackCloset Organization System with Racks and Shelves

Above every rod/rack we installed shelves.

The shelves above the very top rack used to hold extra purses, but after my closet clean out they now only hold business casual pants that I don’t even need except to show you guys business casual looks.  😀

The shelf in the middle gets the most use, storing my oversized cardigans, some pullover sweaters and sweatshirts, and some t-shirts.  I fold some sweaters/cardigans AND hang some.  I hang the ones that I don’t feel like will stretch out much.

The shelf above the dress rack holds bins full of scarves.  Like I said in my closet clean out post, I also have some sweaters folded in storage bins underneath my jeans.  (You can also see some piles to the left and right of the bin which are maternity clothes and swimwear that need to get boxed up and put into storage.)

On the other side of our room is the dresser that my husband and I share.  If you’ve seen my outfit selfies you’re familiar with it!  I use two drawers which hold workout gear, lounge/sleepwear, and undergarments, and shorts.

Bags & Coats

Both my bags and coats are in the office in my closet.  I used to shove my coats in with the dresses, but it got squishy.  Meanwhile, my office closet was empty, so I moved coats there instead.  I also *could* fit all my bags on the very top rack where my business casual pants are, but they wouldn’t be easily accessible there.  Instead, they’re on shelves in my office closet.

 

Shoes

Shoe Closet Organization Shoe Closet Organization

Lastly, my shoes are stored next to the front door in our entryway closet.  My husband was kind enough to let me take over the whole thing!  I’ve had the interlocking shoe cubes you see there on the left for 7+ years, and I can’t remember the name of them and wouldn’t be surprised if they’re unavailable.  I needed more space, so just a few weeks ago I purchased a very similar set HERE that you see on the right.  They’re a little larger than my originals, but they do the trick.  I bought this style because you can configure them in any shape you like, which helps you have storage that fits a variety of shapes.  You can also build the cubes to fit taller boots–or purses!–or regular shoes.  So great!  Check them out HERE.  There are others on Amazon but those compartments look much bigger.  Make sure you check cube dimensions!

 

How I Organize My Closet

Okay, so how do I actually organize my clothes?  Simple answer?  I organize it for how MY brain works.  What does this mean?

I used to organize everything by color, and while it looked extremely pretty, I didn’t like that on a functional level.  Why?  Because when I head to my closet each day and think about what to wear, my first question is almost never, “What color do I want to wear today?”  It’s usually, “What’s the weather like today?  Is it hot or cold?  Do I need short sleeves or long sleeves?” followed by, “What am I doing today?  Is it a casual day?  Do I need to move around a lot?  Or do I need to be dressier today?”  When I realized that, I changed my organizational methods to be able to best make choices based on those questions.

Here’s how I categorize things now!

Tops

Closet TopsTops Closet Organization

1. By sleeve length (sleeveless, short sleeves, long sleeves, etc.)  Since the first thing I consider when getting dressed is the weather, categorizing by sleeve length allows me to go straight to the section with the sleeve lengths that are appropriate for the day’s temps.  Rather than scanning my entire closet for all of my short sleeve or long sleeve tops, I’m able to see ALL my options right in one place.

2. Material (cotton/casual vs. blouse/nicer) or by type (sweaters, button ups, cardigans, etc.) Since the next question I ask myself is whether it’s a casual or dressier day, I then group tops by material, within their sleeve length groupings. All casual short sleeved tops together, all dressier short sleeved tops together, etc.  Grouping tops by casual or dressy helps me further focus my attention on the right pieces.  I know exactly what my options are for the day based on temps and what I’ll be doing.

3. Separate like colors–the exact opposite of those pretty color-coordinated closets we all aspire to.  You’d think within the sleeve length and material categories, I’d then organize by color, but nope.  When I do that I lose track of tops!  Maybe this only happens to me, but when I scan through my closet and two black tops are next to each other, I’ll often only see them as ONE since they kind of blend together.  I’ll completely overlook and forget I have the other black top.  Because of that, I purposely separate like colors and mix them all up.  It keeps pieces distinct instead of blending together, which helps me keep better track of them.

All of this works well especially when I have less items in my closet!  Well, let’s face it–having less clothes helps you keep track of items better, period.  🙂

Completer Pieces

Cardigans.  I have a million cardigans, which get grouped together as oversized cardigans (folded on the middle shelf) and all of my fitted cardigans.  I store fitted cardigans in the very most right part of my closet (what I call the “back”) which is the part that is covered by the door.  It’s the least accessible and least-seen part of my closet, and I put the fitted cardigans in there because I seldom wear them anymore.  I keep them around for when I show business casual looks or more tailored looks with dresses.  My fitted cardigans are organized by color, and it’s because I seldom wear them anymore, so when I do reach for them, I am intentionally looking for one of them rather than scanning for ideas to get dressed like with the rest of my closet, if that makes sense.

Jackets and vests – like with like.  I group moto jackets, utility and denim jackets, thin vests, blazers, and puffer or quilted vests.  I used to keep them all together, but as you can see in these pics they are split up.  Sometimes I’ll move off-season completer pieces or ones I don’t wear as often anymore to the furthest right “back” section of my closet for the same reasons as above with my fitted cardigans–don’t need them as often, so they don’t need to be constantly in my sight.  Anyway, they’re grouped together, and by color, since I don’t have as many of them and they’re thicker so it’s harder for them to blend in with each other.

Bottoms

Closet Organization Jeans and Skirts

Organized by type.  Jeans together.  Skirts from casual to dressy…and a little bit in order of ones I’m most inclined to wear closest to the center and most easily-accessible part of my closet.  Again, I totally organize based on function and how my brain works, haha!

Dresses

First by occasion–special event, dressy casual, casual.

Second, by sleeve length.  I definitely mix up all the colors here since it’s hard to see this part of my closet, which means it’s easy for me to lose track and forget about dresses!

 

Organize Your Closet According to How Your Brain Works

I’ve organized my closet this way for the last several years and LOVE it.  I lose track of items way less often and love seeing all my options for that day’s weather and activities in one place.  I know it’s a little unconventional, but it’s how my brain works!  I think often we organize according to aesthetics rather than what is actually functional for us to make quicker decisions in the morning.

My specifics might not be right for you, but zooming out to the bigger picture, I’d encourage you to organize your closet according to how YOUR brain works.  What is the first thing you tend to ask yourself when choosing what to wear each day?  What’s the next question?  Perhaps your first question IS, “What color do I want to wear today?”  Or maybe it’s something else.  Whatever it is, identify it, then ask how you can categorize your closet to more quickly see your options and not lose track or forget about items.

Seriously, I’d love to know: What is the first thing you tend to ask yourself when choosing what to wear each day?  Comment and tell me!  I’m sooo curious to see how others make decisions about what to wear each day!

 


 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Sarah
    February 15, 2019 at 7:13 am

    I ask myself what the weather is going to be like (of course!!) and if I’m going to have to run errands that will require comfortable shoes. If I’m going to the office but I know I’ve got to get groceries after work, I won’t be wearing heels! 🙂

  • Reply
    Natalie Norris
    February 15, 2019 at 7:14 am

    I organize my closet in the exact same way! If I have tops or pants that are the same but different colours, I always keep those together (because if I love something, I tend to buy it in multiple colours!)

  • Reply
    Becky
    February 15, 2019 at 7:51 am

    I organize my closet in a similar way, not by color but by function. And then for each category I sort them first in, first out. So for each section the items to the left are ones I haven’t worn in a while and the items to the right are things I’ve recently worn. When getting dressed I start at the left, looking at the items I haven’t worn in a while. Before using this approach, I felt like I was wearing the same things all the time and felt like I didn’t have any clothes even though I had a closet full. This approach helps me cycle through all my clothes and avoid wearing the same thing too often. It also helps me better identify items to get rid of when I do closet clean-outs.

    • Reply
      Camille Mullikin
      February 15, 2019 at 8:01 am

      I also organize my closet in a similar way to Audrey’s method, but I LOVE your idea of first in, first out. I seem to wear the same things on a regular basis (no matter how hard I try to be more creative!), your trick would be a great reminder to mix it up a bit. Thanks for the idea!

      • Reply
        Becky
        February 15, 2019 at 9:31 am

        Thanks! So glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristi
    February 15, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Yes! This is exactly how I organize my closet. And for all the same reasons. I’ve never understood why people do it by color. I know it looks pretty but so not functional.

  • Reply
    Karen L. Grohs
    February 15, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I sort exactly like you do, by type, but then I sort by color within each category. I hang my cardigans (which I wear a lot of), and they are hung in this order: gray, navy, medium blue, light blue, pink, white, and black. I have black at the end so I don’t confuse it with navy. Everything else is the same way – tank tops together and then by color, short-sleeved tops, long-sleeved tops, and so on. It works for me. Whatever works for you is the best!

  • Reply
    Diana Zylicz
    February 15, 2019 at 10:15 am

    This is how I organize my closet…LOL!! Seriously, I think about the weather first, then the activities for the day like you. I do organize by sleeve length/inseam and then color. I wear the bulk of my clothes year-round. I move my summery things to the “back” (left side of my closet) in winter and switch in the summer. I have drawer space to store my sweaters and cardis.

  • Reply
    Diana Zylicz
    February 15, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Can’t see the closet cartoon I sent 🙁 so my post doesn’t make sense!!

    • Reply
      Diana Zylicz
      February 15, 2019 at 11:48 am

      emailed you the cartoon

  • Reply
    Tia
    February 15, 2019 at 10:23 am

    My closet is organized the same way! I tried sorting by color but that was more chaotic for me than by sleeve length. This has helped tremendously for the last 4 years! I’ve also limited my wardrobe colors to black, grey, white and blue. I work from home and there is a lot of color in my home. Since I’m always so busy, having a limited number of colors to work with calms me. Makes my travel wardrobe easier as well! Everything goes with everything!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    February 15, 2019 at 10:27 am

    I am so unorganized needed this for spring cleaning!🤗 Thank you!

  • Reply
    sweetlilvoice
    February 15, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I’m going to rearrange my closet now! These are some great tips. I plan my clothes based on the weather so my closet should be arranged that way. I also need to move my scarves some where I can see them!

  • Reply
    Lindsay Browning
    February 15, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    I organize mine the same way except after i was them the clothes go to the right in their category. That way i know the clothes to the left havent been worn recently. Helps me make sure with such a small wardrobe, I’m not wearing the same thing over & over

  • Reply
    Kristin
    February 15, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    I’m still in the color camp! Living in Ohio means I definitely have distinct seasons, so only a portion of my clothes are in my closet at one time. I leave one section of my closet (the tall dress bar) nearly empty and every Sunday evening I pull the upcoming week’s outfits from my rainbow of tops and bottoms and put them on the empty bar. I love reading about how others organize their clothes, but my ROYGBIV method brings a smile to my face every time I see it! And I really love getting everything ready on Sundays. Not only does it make mornings so much easier, but it gives me time to play and to pull together well-designed looks – especially when I’m not doing one of your Wardrobe Challenges. Thanks for a peek behind the curtain to let us see where the magic happens!

  • Reply
    Erica Autumn
    February 15, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    With our crazy Canadian weather the first question I ask myself is ALWAYS, what’s it like outside today? So I sort my clothes like with like as well. However, I sort my boyfriend’s tops by colour (ROYGBIV, of course!) because he pretty much exclusively wears graphic tees year round.

  • Reply
    PJ Eagar
    February 15, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I used to organize by category (tops, sweaters, jackets, etc.). I started organizing by color a couple years ago and it works better for me. I have a smaller wardrobe and only season appropriate clothing gets a coveted spot on my closet rod. The first thing I ask myself when I am getting dressed is “What do I want to wear today?” It’s a joyful, creative outlet for me and the color organization feels like my own fashion paint palette.

  • Reply
    Krista Dobis
    February 16, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I organize my main master closet by color. Twice a year, I move my clothes to a very small bedroom closet and dress seasonally from this capsule wardrobe (about 30 pieces). This has really helped cut down my dressing time – more thoughtful but less items. I sort those items exactly as Audrey does. When I wear something, I hang it back to the left most hanger in the right “category”. This way I ensure I am rotating through my stuff and not wearing the same things. If I get bored with items, I go shop my master closet rather than the stores.

  • Reply
    Andi
    February 17, 2019 at 5:10 am

    I have a somewhat limited palette (thanks to the Curated Closet book) so I organize my closet by that. Main colors first (alphabetically: burgundy, nayy, olive), then neutrals, also alphabetically, then accents (yep, alphabetically). Within the colors, I group pants, then tops, then completers. Since most of my clothes go with each other, it’s easy to scan and just pick what I’m in the mood to wear. I also worked out a spreadsheet of all of the combinations of outfits (I do it seasonally so it has approximately 8 – 9 tops, 6 – 7 bottoms, and an equal amount of completers). I have the date in one column and keep it in my dresser in case I want to work on automatic pilot. Again, I can do this because most items go with each other (I do winnow out the few combos that I don’t care for). I don’t always stick to those items but it’s nice to have it for rushed mornings.

  • Reply
    Linda
    February 17, 2019 at 7:34 am

    I organize my closet pretty much the same way. Just recently there were several items I was debating whether or not to purge. I hung them on the dress bar where I would see them constantly. I found I was thinking of reasons NOT to grab them when looking for an outfit, so it made it easier to let them go.
    Also, since the wall behind the door is pretty much wasted space, I had my hubby hang 2 towel bars. On one I hang my bracelets from shower curtain hooks. On the other, I hang/drape my belts. It makes it so much easier to accessorize having it all right there.

  • Reply
    SaraB
    February 17, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    I agree with all of this except for number 3. For me, I want to see if I have, for example, more than one black tank top which I probably don’t need to have. Also, I do the hanger trick: instead of putting the hangers on the closet rod the normal way, I put them all hanging from the back side of the rod. Once I wear them, I put them back on the rod the normal way. After a few months I can immediately see what I have not worn in a while and make the decision to either wear that item or donate it.

  • Reply
    Anna Wagner
    February 17, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    This is pretty much how I organize my closet. I’d like to sort my work appropriate tops a bit better and need a better spot for my maxi or midi dresses, but overall it works pretty well for me.

    I usually pick out my outfit the night before and always think through the weather first and then activities. Do I need to wear water proof boots? Is it warm enough for a dress + tights? Do I want to be a bit fancy at work or super casual? Do you I have a client meeting or am just going to be at my desk all day? Am I going to happy hour?

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