10 Tips for Organizing a Small Closet

10 Organizing Tips Pin

When I first decided to create a post about organizing my teen’s closet, I envisioned creating some pretty pictures to complement the post. Then reality set in. If you have a small closet and a teenager there is nothing pretty about that. However, with a Viking warrior spirit, I tackled it anyway and I apologize in advance for what you are about to see.

The truth is, I can seriously sort and purge stuff all day so creating this post is therapeutic for me. Usually I am not allowed to pursue my sorting and purging passion beyond my own things because people get mad when you sort stuff that isn’t yours without their permission. Pffft…

10 tips for Sorting and Organizing Clothing

Tip 1:

To combat overflowing closets I have stopped buying hangers and bins for the most part. Buying more hangers enables us to keep shopping and to not wear most of what is already in our closet. Whether you have 40 hangers or 100 try and make what you have right now enough. In this photo there are about 75 hangers. I was kind of shocked when I counted to be honest. And not to sound all Mommy Dearest, but there is one caveat to my no-hanger-buying strategy. A few years ago when I did a thorough purge of my own clothes, I treated myself by replacing plastic hangers with wooden ones. It really makes a difference when I open the closet and see pretty wooden hangers vs. the thin ones you can buy to cram as much as possible in your closet.

Before the Cleanout

Before the cleanout

Tip 2:

When I clean out a closet, the first thing I do is pull out everything that is hanging on rods. If you have a rolling rack this is a perfect time to use it, If not, lay all the items on your bed. If you lay it on your bed you are more likely to get through it faster because you are going to want that space back sooner rather than later.

The Sorting Rack

The Sorting Rack

Tip 3:

Once out of the closet, I like to organize shirts by color first and then sleeve length (for example: white short sleeve, white long sleeve then blue shorts sleeves, blue mid-length sleeve, blue long sleeve). This gives me a better idea of how many items I have in a certain color. For patterned items I usually organize it by whatever the dominant color is.

Sorted by Color

Sorted by color

Tip 4:

Next I start looking for trends. What color is standing out the most? Do I own 15 peach colored shirts? No I don’t, but I know someone in my family who does. They like peach and it is a flattering color on them. If you know a specific color flatters your skin tone AND you really like that color you have hit on a winner for a wardrobe staple. The tricky part is that when you are shopping you will probably be drawn to that color which is fine, but remind yourself how much you have of it at home and consider walking away.

Tip 5:

Time for my favorite part: sorting and purging. I make 5 piles: Keep, Sell, Giveaway, Recycle and Repair. First I look for any items that are damaged, stained or haven’t worn well. I always start with white clothes first because it is the easiest color to spot stains and wear and tear on. I assess whether any damage is fixable and whether it would be worn again if it was fixed. Then I put it in the proper pile.

Tip 6:

Clothing that is too worn or damaged and wouldn’t sell, I put in the Recycle pile. You can label a bag “recycle” and give it to Goodwill. They will know not to sort it to be sold in the stores and put it in with their recyclable fabrics.

Tip 7:

I use the four “F’s” to determine what stays and what goes.

    • Fit: Does it fit? Too big or too small goes in the sell or giveaway pile.
    • Fresh: Is it in good shape? Is it pilling or fading? Into the giveaway or recycling pile it goes. I find that the average t-shirt (Gap, H&M, American Eagle etc…) will last about 6 months before they start to look faded or misshapen. There is a reason they are cheap.
    • Fashionable: Is it in style where you live? Some styles are timeless, but a lot of clothing purchases are trendy and will be passé in a few months. High-waisted pants are back in fashion but that doesn’t mean you should fish them out of your bin from the 80’s (if you have one) and wear them again. You may however want to sell them online or consign them if they are in good shape.
    • Feel: Consider how the rest of your clothes make you feel. This is a new one for me. I read a few organizing books and first encountered this concept in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I didn’t buy this book to read. My sister bought it, tossed it to me and said, “read this and tell me what it says.” For some reason I did. In Kondo’s book she advocates keeping only items that “spark joy.” Try considering how a piece of clothing makes you feel when you look at it, handle it and wear it. Instead of looking at your clothes in a negative manner, find the ones that make you happy and feel good. Hang onto those and reconsider the rest.


Tip 8:

Bins in moderation. I do use some bins but only to swap out seasons because I have all four where I live. There is a brief window in spring and fall where I can have shorts, sweaters, boots and flip flops all at once in my closet. It can get cluttered up for a few weeks, but once the season truly changes storing off-season items in a bin is perfectly reasonable. I stick to one bin for myself. Any more than that and I feel like I don’t wear those clothes enough to warrant keeping and storing them.

Tip 9:

Once you have your “Keep” pile ready to return to the closet, look for things you could fold instead of hang. My daughter doesn’t have a lot of drawer space in her room so her tank tops were all on hangers. After the cleanout I folded the ones that were left and put them in a bin above the hangers. Purses and scarves also found new homes above the shelf. They are still easy to reach but now they aren’t taking up prime hanger space.

New home for purses

New home for purses

New home for scarves

New home for scarves

Tip 10:

Don’t forget to actually clean your closet before putting everything back in. Get the vacuum out and clean the walls and floor. Dust any shelves and baseboards too. You don’t want to put all those nice things back into a dusty closet. Your clothes work hard for you, show them a little respect by putting them back into a tidy home.

Finished Closet

Finished closet


I added a shoe shelf and decorative rug to jazz up the closet

Fun sidenote: When I was in the middle of this cleanout I took all the clothes off the sorting rack that didn’t conform to the new dress code at my daughter’s school. Here is what was left:

School appropriate clothes

School appropriate clothes

She didn’t find it funny, but even with what is just on the rack in this photo she has over 60 clothing combinations available to her. Of course she was not left to function with only these items but it certainly put into perspective how much we really have and can make do with. For the record, no non-school appropriate clothing was harmed during this exercise.

What about you? Do you like your closets neat and tidy or is organized chaos more your style? What cleanout tips work for you? Let me know in the comments below!



Share It:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.