Sorting Your Wardrobe

how to organize your closet

Fancy hangers, stacking shelves, and over-the-door racks are all marvelous for keeping your closet in order. But the absolute simplest way to keep track of your duds is to create a system for sorting your wardrobe: Organize your clothing …

BY TYPE
Keep shorter skirts together, longer skirts together. Keep cardigans in one spot, pullovers in another. Keep long-sleeved dresses together, short-sleeved dresses together, and sleeveless dresses together. This system is helpful for those who build outfits on the fly: If the ensemble requires a miniskirt, you know just where to look.

BY OCCASION
Store anything super formal aside from your everyday wear, then sort workwear separately from casual and weekend wear. This system is pretty broad, but helps minimize scouting time. If you don’t have to flip through your tees and hoodies while getting dressed in the morning, it saves on prep time and aggravation.

BY APPLICATION
Stash outer layers – such as blazers, cardigans, vests, and toppers – in one area. Keep your top layers – such as button-down shirts and pullover sweaters – in another. Layering tees and camis can be stored separately. This system is most useful to those who live  in cooler or changeable climates, as it benefits expert layerers.

BY FREQUENCY OF USE
Basics go in one spot, favorites in another, and accent pieces in yet another. I recommend this system for those with small, well-edited wardrobes only since it encourages frequent use of the same garments. Those with larger, varied closets should make sure non-favorites are visible and in-rotation, too.

BY COLOR
If you’re a design geek, sorting your wardrobe by color is sure to appeal. And building outfits based on color mixes alone is a fun and creative way to go!

Many people prefer to keep their clothing organized on multiple levels … I know I do. So feel free to implement multiple systems to create a closet that’s easy for YOU to navigate!

Image via Alkemie.

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  • I sort by type, then organize by color.

  • I’m a color girl. Because we only have one season (hot as hell swamp life) I don’t have a lot of wintry type clothes. So I don’t need to change my wardrobe seasonally, which saves me tons of time.

  • Jen

    My wardrobe is sorted into two places-closet and dresser. In my dresser the drawers are by type of item: t-shirts, pajama/yoga pants, sweaters, pretty sleepwear coupled with swimwear and shorts in a drawer, and then the top drawers are underclothes and socks. The closet has two sections-tops and bottoms. The tops are sorted by color. It makes it easier for me to find items I’m looking for at the ungodly hour I awake. The bottoms (I’m sad to say) are sorted by size so I can find what I’m looking for based on how I feel in the morning. I keep my jeans and chords folded on a shelf in the closet, and my shoes on a shelf as well. Nothing is neatly put away though…I’m super hard on my clothes, a fault my husband reminds me of all the time. I’m trying to get better though, I swear!

  • Hilary

    What about fat days and thin days?

    • Yes… what about those days?!

  • This post could not be more timely for me. My closet is a disaster right now. Already stuffed to the brim with less than optimum use of space, it is screaming for a purge. I have been replacing and updating the collection over the last month or so because my warm weather public clothes were screaming for back up. Since I work at home now, I try to stay stylish and comfortable but ready for public view at the drop of a hat. I do still need more tailored clothing for other purposes, but now I really need a new system. Yes, I have a lot of clothes and shoes and No I am not going to give that up. The photo gives me some incentive to get going. Thanks.

  • Not at all, to be true. I once sorted by type, but somehow have abandoned that over time. I like the idea of sorting by color though! I does look a lot nicer all of a sudden 🙂

  • Cel

    To be honest, I don’t sort my wardrobe at all. I tried, but it sort of… failed. I have a really small closet, and everything is just jammed right in there. The closest I come to sorting is keeping the short things hanging over the shoe rack so nothing drags on my shoes. XD

  • Type, occasion, and then color. Skirts are in one area, the ‘work appropriate’ ones on the right lined up by color (mostly blue gray & black), the ‘casual’ ones are on the other side. Same with dresses.

  • Rachel K

    I sort by type then by color – with a very specific color system. White, brown, black, then red thru purple based on the order the rainbow is in. It sounds crazy, but I was an SA at PacSun in high school and that’s how their clothes were hung in the late 90’s. I picked that up and haven’t ever changed it, probably from countless hours of re-organizing clothing racks. My shoes are organized by type, then heel size, then occasion, then color.

    Now that Spring has arrived in FL all my winter clothes will go back to the guest room closet. It’s time for a re-assess and probably a thrifting trip.

  • SarahN

    By occasion and type. My casual clothes are pretty much jeans, tees and sweaters, so those go in dresser drawers. My actual closet is reserved for office wear in this order: jackets, tops/blouses, trousers, skirts, dresses, all on wooden hangers. Then on casual days, I can raid my closet to pair jackets and work tops with jeans.

    Jewelry is in a large box, scarves are folded in a drawer. A drawer each for bras, panties, and tights/slips. More drawers for sweats, pjs, and lounge. OK, this all sounds anal rententive, but I swear it’s not!

  • I have a smallish wardrobe, plus a chest of drawers. Organising the wardrobe is easy – from left to right, dresses, skirts, button-downs, jackets and coats – but the drawers are a mess, which is a problem because that’s where the bulk of my everyday clothes live. It’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind” – clothes hidden under other clothes just won’t get worn, because I’ll forget that they’re there. I’m going to try your method of sorting by application because I have a feeling that might simplify things.

  • Velma

    My system is very similar to SarahN’s, with the clothes hanging in the exact same order. 🙂 I have somewhat limited drawer space, so my jeans and yoga pants and sweatshirts are folded on a closet shelf. Shoe racks are under the shorter hanging things.

  • I sort by type and then by color. I have lots of shelves, which mostly house my shoe collection, but I do keep my jeans in there, too. My poor hubby has one measly row of clothes while I take up the other three LOL!

    My wardrobe is a bit unorganized in places at the moment and I really need to go through it and do some purging. There were several things that have not made it off the hanger in a few years and they really do need to go to charity or the consignment shop. I’ve been able to maintain my weight now for over a year so I think I can get rid of or alter my bigger clothes that I had.

  • Colleen

    Here is my closet, from left to right:

    Formal wear – Casual dresses – Skirts – Belt rack – Cardigans – Blouses

    Since my “uniform” is either blouse+skirt+belted cardigan, or dress+belted cardigan (today’s choice), this makes it easy for me. Formal wear is kind of stuffed to the side behind the wall, skirts are in the middle surrounded by the dresses and cardigans so I can see as many options as possible.

  • I worked in fashion retail for a few years and now I can’t NOT sort by colour. I have my jackets/blazers together, shorter skirts together, a long-hang section for dresses, a pant-high section for trousers, long skirts and blouses, and 2 shelves for vests and sweaters. My sweaters are in stacks based on sleeve length and by cardigans.

    It helps that I have a custom-built closet! http://sheilaephemera.blogspot.com/2011/03/cleaning-out-my-closet.html

  • Tab

    Type, and within each type, color. Just like we did at Plato’s when I worked there. I’m soooo looking forward to the large closet I’ll have soon!

  • I sort my (very) small closet by Type, Occasion, and Color. Casual clothes on the left side of the closet (these are all on shelves), work clothes on the right side (these all hang except for cardigans). Shoes go on the floor between the two sides.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve commented. Thanks for writing such great stuff!

  • Didi

    I have a huge wardrobe and an organizational streak as wide as a highway. I sort by type then color, right down to my underwear. I only switch out seasons on espadrilles/boots and summer/winter-weight dresses.

    I hang my top level of the closet by short-sleeved tops, long-sleeved tops, blazers, dresses then pants (I don’t wear pants a whole lot, except jeans, as I look better in skirts). The bottom row is only for skirts. They hang in color order and then by weight. My flat shoes are stored on small open bookshelves and heels are on an over-door rack (the kind that will hold the boxes) and they are all in color order as well. I also “nest” my shoes with the left one on the bottom and the right one turned upside down and backwards on top (like they come in the box, but standing up), even on the hanging rack, to maximize space.

    I think the best thing I did to ensure my items were worn in a rather regular rotation was to purchase a large cubby-style unit for my closet to replace the dressers that were in it: there are nine cubbies and they are open so that I can easily see every item stacked in it (of course each color family in its own cube), holding my sweaters and tees. It is easy for me to see everything in my closet except my jeans and tank tops which are in dressers along with the pjs and undies, so it is easy to build outfits and get some inspiration to wear something that I haven’t worn for a while.

    I have to regularly purge the closet as I love to shop and promised my husband he would always have half the closet for his clothes, even if his half is the two short walls. : D

  • Courtney

    I sort by type and by last use. When something’s just been washed, it goes to the back of it’s drawer/section of closet and everything else gets shifted forward. That way things I haven’t worn in a while are the first thing I see when I get dressed and I get more use out of them.

    • Susan

      I do the same thing. It also makes it easy to identify what needs to be purged. It’s what you keep reaching around to get to what you actually wear!

  • I sort bottoms (pants-skirts) on one side of the closet, tops (dresses–blouses) on the other side. Within the tops, it’s by color.

  • HM

    I sort by heavy rotation. Things at the bottom of the pile rarely get worn. For shirts that are clean enough to be worn more than once, they go to the left of the closet with the just back from the dry cleaners stuff to the right.
    -HM

  • I sort by type (shirts together, pants together), then color, & then formality. “Color” probably seems silly bec. I wear so much black, but it does work for me 🙂 Formality is primarily to keep office clothes separate from weekend & random fun/too-weird stuff. Sorting by formality also keeps the couple of amazing (but not often worn) cocktail dresses & hard-to-wear shoes in one spot.

  • Marie

    I sort by type– short sleeves, 3/4, long sleeves, pants, skirts, dresses, coats, etc– then by color for the shirts only. It works well for me.

    It seems like every picture showing an example of closet organization has a perfect variety of every color and type of item (and lots of each, all hanging at exactly the same length). I only wish my closet looked that great when organized! 🙂

  • I sort by type & then within that, by color. It also helps me to see when I have a lot of one garment – white tops, for example, I know I need to NOT buy any of those, no matter how enticing. I have plenty.

  • In my closet I sort by general type (tops, pants etc.) and then by color, from light to dark. In my drawers I sort more granularly by type – right now I’ve got short sleeve tops, long/3/4 sleeve tops, tank tops, etc – this varies by season depending on what I have out, of course. And in drawers I don’t bother sorting by color.

  • Oh, and I forgot to say – there’s a spot for out-of-season clothes in my closet, and there’s also a small section for special occasion wear, costumes (I used to volunteer at a historic farm where I had to dress ala 1870s) and sporting gear.

  • Lydia

    I sort by type, and then colour and pattern. I used to share a really, really small closet and chest of drawers with my husband in a tiny place. When we moved, I said the first thing I wanted to save up for was a closet with an organizational system. We finally settled on an Ikea Pax system — it was cheaper, and surprizingly better quality than lots of other options we examined.

    I have two rows of hanging space — the top houses blouses and dresses, the bottom pants and skirts. Next to the hanging space are shelves where I keep knits, and tops, and there are a couple of drawers for jewelery and scarves, and four drawerws for things like camis, undiies and such. I can see all my stuff at once, which is nice (although a friend once remarked that I had way less stuff than most women she knew!). I go through phases where I like organizing my closet, and then when I get lazy, especially after a tiring work week.

  • I sort by CLEAN vs. DIRTY.

    CLEAN in closet somewhere.

    DIRTY on floor somewhere.

    I can be organized if it’s something that registers in my brain as important enough to organize given the time it would take to organize it. My tiny, dark, black hole of a closet (and my husband’s and kids’ closets for that matter) don’t make the cut. Maybe when I win the lottery I’ll put that on the list of luxuries I’ll pay for… closet organizer. Or for that matter I’ll do it myself b/c I’ll have less need to work for money 🙂

    I comend you for your organizational skills tho!

  • Jak

    I tend to sort by type, by occasion, and by color. I have a bit of a thing about colors.

  • I sort my clothes by type, application and frequency of use. I tried colour at some point as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t work for me at all.

  • Taryn

    Agh. The idea of sorting my wardrobe gives me anxiety. Not only do I not have enough storage at the time being for all of my stuff, even when I do semi-organize it, it never seems to stay that way.

    Great tips, though. Maybe when I have a walk-in closet. Siiiigh. Pipe dreams. 😉

  • GlamaRuth

    I sort by type and length. Two smallish reach in closets with folding doors – one for long skirts, dresses, formal wear, evening and vintage purses (on a set of hanging shelves), plus a set of plastic drawers (under the shorter dresses) for less-worn tops, Ts and sweaters. This closet has an odd cubby in one wall that is just the right size to stack shoe boxes with less-worn shoes. Other closet has a top bar with a set of hanging shelves for cardigans, then blouses and blazers (layered on hangers – it helps that I have a good visual memory and know which blouses are under which jackets). Bottom bar: left, skirt; middle, plastic drawers with camis, ts, jersey tops, thin pullover sweaters; right, shelves with folded jeans and pants, with leggings rolled and placed between the stacks. Most-used purses in a rack on top of the drawers, scarves on top of pant shelves. A shelf over each bar holds shoes, with the upper shelf supplemented with wire shelves going up into the ceiling cavity to hold shoes and boots. Platform bed with under bed drawers – one side holds sweater desses, delicate vintage knits, plus my large collection of vintage costume jewelry, stacked in divided trays with glass lids (from a store supplier, bought by my mom). Other side, underwear, socks/tights, workout clothes and photo boxes. I do switch cold and warm weather clothes, so about 1/3 gets switched twice a year, going into space bags in the attic. Luckily, my husband has a long reach-in closet in his office, as well as a chest of drawers. His closet, far left- little worn or nostalgic pieces (like old jerseys); left, button downs and casual jackets; middle, hanging shleves with folded jeans, casual pants, shorts; right, suits, blazers, dress pants. Shelves above rod, sweaters and knits. Rack on floor below shirts for shoes. Dresser – socks, underwear, Ts, workout clothes.

  • Jessica

    My organization system has two steps. First, I sort by type and occasion. For example, I’ll group all my tops on one side of the closet, with casual, dressy, and office-appropriate tops forming distinct sub-groups. Second, I assign physical locations within my closet according to which groups of clothing belong together. Hosiery and slips are located near skirts and dresses; layering tops reside somewhere between my regular tops and my cardigans. This makes it easier for me to pull an outfit together.

  • Roberta

    Color first and foremost. I tried this a year ago after seeing a similar photo as above and it helped me break out of a repetitive rut. Within color I sort by type, and now I just think about a starting point – purple – and then go from there. I rotate the color groupings around once or twice a year. Otherwise I tend to shop from what is right in front me. I have a color wheel from Academic Chic posted as well.

    I also adopted copycat fashion this year, and have a bunch of outfit pictures stuck to my (sliding) closet doors. Sheila, Sally and Style Underdog are all on the wall of fame.

    I do not know how I dressed myself without the internet.

  • I sort my closet by occassion. Work suits, church clothes, weekend wear, Hula outfits, and special event dresses. I like this system because I just go to the portion of the closet that addresses the needs of the day.

  • rb

    Do you know what I like about that photo? That closet has a lot of clothing in it! Most closet company ads and magazine articles show an “organized” closet with, max, 10 items in it.

    • Sal

      Hahaha. That’s SO true!

  • rb

    so, my closet left to right is –
    blazers
    long cardigans
    short cardigans
    long sleeved blouses
    short sleeved blouses and shells
    skirts
    pants
    dresses
    formalwear (way back in the hard-to-reach area)

    Clothing is on those flocked, slim hangers. Only skirts are on a different kind of a hanger – the clip kind that you get from stores when they leave the skirt on the hanger. Otherwise, all slim hangers – no wire hangers! Ever!

    Shoes are in cubbies above and on racks below. Shoes are my weakness.

    My closet has one rod and it’s probably about 6 to 8 feet long. There is just a standard size single door to the closet and there is no room to step into the closet – that is, it’s not a walk-in. It’s the depth of one of those typical closets with folding doors, so accessing anything that’s not within a three foot radius of the door is just about impossible

    Somehow I manage to fit a heck of a lot in my tiny little closet. And because it’s all in a certain order, I can always find what I’m looking for. If it weren’t in that order, I couldn’t find anything. I know this for a fact because occasionally my dear husband decides to help me out by putting some things away in my closet and really, it can be weeks or months before I see them again.

  • I sort my clothes by type and color.

  • I sort by type and season (sleeve length, etc). I used to sortof sort by color but not much any more. No room to. I live for the day I can really build my own storage system where I can organize to the teeth. =D

  • Both my “real life” closet and virtual closet are sorted by type and then color. Then again, there isn’t a tremendous amount of color in my wardrobe so perhaps I should say I sort my closet by neutrals. 🙂 I would be completely incapable of making a single outfit decision if my closets weren’t organized.

  • Bre

    Such a great post. I sort by type, then color, then length. I had even really thought about it before. Maybe I could try re-organizing it to see if another way works best. Mmmmm…
    Cheers,
    Bre

  • I sort blouses by color, then sleeveless, short-sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve. Slacks together, jackets are sorted by sleeve-length, short, 3/4, long, vests together, raincoats together, coats. Sweater sets are sorted by color. On shelves I have sweaters folded and sorted, along with jeans, exercise clothes, t-shirts are stacked according to sleeve length (sleeveless, short, long), jammies are folded and stacked according to summer and winter. Shoes are shelves below. You can see a few pics of my closet here: http://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com/2011/03/from-fashionista-to-raganista.html#links

  • Ivy

    I tend to sort by type, but I’m giving some serious looks to occasion. My workplace is super casual, so jeans and tees are fine for work, which is why I haven’t bothered. But I’m trying to step up my work wardrobe game, and my personal style is evolving to something a little more unique, so that might be useful.

    I also have a costume drawer, with things like steampunk pockets, corsetry, etc. Which gets a lot more use than one might think.

  • I organize like things together except all tops (just not blazers and cardigans are folded) are roygbiv. http://scrapandrun.blogspot.com/2010/09/color-rotation-challenge.html the banner on that page shows many how that area is organized. I did remove some pink, red, and blue from the closet so they didn’t overpower the photo.

  • I sort by type and sleeve length. My closet goes like this from left to right: jackets, cardigans, long sleeves, shirt sleeves, cap sleeves, sleeveless, coats (my closet opens in the middle so these are easiest to reach in the winter), belts/scarves, skirts, pants, suits, dresses. That’s organized enough for me. 🙂

  • My wardrobe is very “Well edited” in that first I started the transition to clothes beyond my jeans and t-shirt college uniform. Then I lost 20lbs and am now, essentially starting over. *sigh* The good news is I have a lot of room to sort. : )

    I have several different systems going on at once:

    I sort first by type:
    Top rack: Suits, sweaters, t-shirts, tanks, camis
    Bottom rack: Jackets, skirts, pants
    Small area for long items: Dresses and clothes just back from the drycleaners or new from the store

    Then by clean/worn once:
    All clean items are on the left side of the rack, to the right, in the same order are clothes that have been worn but are not yet dirty enough to wash

    Also, I segregate out clothes that I think I am no longer wearing, if I pull them out of “purgatory”, then they got worn and are back in rotation. If they sit in purgatory for too long, I donate them. Things go in purgatory if I find myself avoiding them or trying them on and then deciding against them too often.

    Scarves, hats and gloves are in a basket. Undergarments, pajamas, socks, and home repair clothes are in the dresser. Shoes are kept in a shoe organizer/on the wire shoes depending on type and room. Jewelry is kept on top of the dresser (necklaces), on a hanging organizer (earrings and some necklaces) and in a jewelry box (sentimental, rarely worn).

    I hate having unused, unnecessary things around, and clothes that I don’t enjoy and am not wearing are just clutter that make it hard to see the clothes I DO want to wear. I don’t bother sorting by color because I have so few pieces that it isn’t necessary.

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  • Wow, fantastic, exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks a lot for shearing.