In this article
Your Essential Guide to Organising a Wardrobe
Creating a wardrobe that’s not only easy to use and maintain, but looks amazing too, takes thought and planning.
This article explains everything you need to know to organise your wardrobe perfectly and the options you have to make it happen!
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Why organise your wardrobe?
Aa well-designed and well-organised wardrobe will:
- be easy to keep tidy
- be filled with clothes you enjoy using
- make your morning routines more efficient
- make you feel more confident and energised every day
What’s needed from a wardrobe changes over time. It’s all too easy to be hampered by old clothes that no longer fit or suit. We end up with a wardrobe that’s stuffed to the gills, but with nothing to wear.
Or maybe you have a less-than-optimal structure which you might have inherited when you first moved in. In either case it takes time, effort and energy to find the clothes you need, or keep the space tidy.
It’s not unusual to feel dragged down by a wardrobe that doesn’t work to make you feel efficient and effective. The good news is, it’s very possible to fix.
How does an organised wardrobe make you feel?
A well-organised wardrobe will save you time, money and energy, but most importantly, it will change the way you feel every day, and every time you use it.
Instead of struggling to find clothes, or feeling stressed because clothes never get put away, an organised closet makes things quicker and easier, providing a subtle but important boost to your mood at the most important times of the day.
Clear zones will dictate what goes where and regular editing means you’re not hanging on to things you don’t want. Add to this the right physical structure, and your clothes, shoes and accessories are stored efficiently and are easy to access.
When to reorganise your wardrobe
It’s not uncommon to open a wardrobe and see heaps of clothes, but feel like there’s nothing to wear. Or to find putting things away a chore after they’ve been worn. It’s often the case that the chair in the corner of a bedroom picks up the slack too.
Here’s why that happens:
Any kind of change in body size can mean clothes no longer fit. Whether temporary or permanent, the result is clothes in your wardrobe that can’t be worn and take up much-needed space.
The dress code for day-to-day isn’t as formal as it once was, but you’re still holding on to smart work clothes (count yourself in this group if small kids are now a part of your life!)
Lack of time
You’re happy with the clothes that you have, but you never have enough time to put things away properly, so your wardrobe always looks messy.
Lack of space
Too many clothes and not enough space! This could be space generally, or just not enough drawers or not enough hanging space.
Each of these reasons is a good reason to take a proper look at your wardrobe.
When is the best time to organise your wardrobe?
There are times when you’re most likely to get the best result from organising:
When you have enough time
Making long-lasting changes to any space requires planning. A hastily tidied wardrobe will last for a few days, or maybe a week or two, but if you’re struggling with your wardrobe, you need to make significant changes to get a significant result.
Planning takes time. Add this to time needed for researching, sourcing and installing any products, and not forgetting the time for the actual editing and organising!
Working with a professional will speed things up considerably, but if undertaking these changes individually, make sure you have enough time.
As a handy guide, a typical medium-large wardrobe (4-6 double doors) may take two or three professional organisers a full day to edit and organise. If working by yourself, a good rule-of-thumb is to double that time (including breaks), so between 4-6 days.
At a change of season
Late autumn or spring are good times to reassess your wardrobe and make changes. There’s a natural break in routine as you switch from wearing summer to winter clothes (or vice versa) and with the previous season fresh in your mind, you’ll have a clear view of what got worn (or not!).
After a lifestyle change
If you’ve just had a baby, or have moved from a formal office job to working from home, it’s likely that your lifestyle and the clothes you need for it will have changed significantly. This is a great time to review how your wardrobe works for you and update it to reflect your new daily routines.
When you’ve just moved house or are renovating
A new space forces you to think about how best to use it. After the stress of a move or renovation, it’s tempting to just put things away and shut the door, but taking the time to create a wardrobe that really works for you will make the experience of your new home so much better.
What are the key components of a well-organised wardrobe?
There are 4 key elements to creating a well-organised closet.
They make the biggest difference to how you use the space and manage it long-term.
- Editing – a thorough initial edit and a regular editing routine
- Structure – a wardrobe layout designed to support both your items and your natural preferences
- Zoning and containing – specific areas for different articles with clear, contained limits
- Space saving – organising products and techniques to make the most of the whole space
What about colour coding?
How to organise your wardrobe
Let’s look at how to put those 4 elements into practice in more detail:
1. Editing your wardrobe
Editing (AKA decluttering or purging) is the essential prep stage for organising your wardrobe. It’s tempting to brush past this stage, but don’t. Bypassing this stage, or not doing it thoroughly, will ensure you don’t get the significant changes you want.
Edit your wardrobe thoroughly and evaluate every single item.
The volume of clothes you have needs to match the volume of storage you have. No matter how much you love them, if you have more clothes than your wardrobe space can comfortably support, you’ll always end up with overspill.
2. Structuring your wardrobe
A good structure is the backbone to a consistently organised wardrobe. Your wardrobe needs to work for you and the things you own.
To design the right layout, you need to understand what you have and how you behave. If you have lots of soft, light clothes, or skirts, dresses and shirts, plenty of hanging space is going to be critical to a well-structured wardrobe. Equally, if you find folding a chore, opt for hanging over folding options.
There’s no right or wrong here, only right for you.
- Shelving – shelving is useful for items that have structure. If you have lots of large bags or chunky knits, shelves will work well for you.
- Drawers – drawers work well for small, loose items like underwear, or soft, casual items that can withstand a few creases like sports kit or pyjamas.
- Shoe storage – if your shoe collection is abundant, you’ll need to prioritise space to store them all. This could be drawers, shelves, boxes or baskets, but if you know you like to shop, allow plenty of space for new purchases. .
- Accessories – small items such as necklaces and earrings work well in shallow drawers, or in trays on a shelf.
- Hanging space – are you hanging long dresses, trousers, mens shirts or t-shirts? Each requires a different length to optimise the hanging space. Ensure you have enough of each to accommodate your clothes
Custom designed wardrobes
If you’re designing a wardrobe from scratch, your unique combination of clothes and accessories will determine the type of space you need.
A good interior, or wardrobe, designer will ask lots of questions about the types and volumes of clothes you have, but often wardrobe designs are based on generalisations and a standard template that works for most homes or room shapes.
To create a wardrobe that works for you and your clothes, and can easily be maintained in an organised way, function is THE most important thing.
Ask the right questions before your plans are finalised, and make sure you fully understand how your wardrobe (clothes, shoes, bags and accessories) will fit into your new space.
- What items do you anticipate being stored in each section?
- Do you prefer to hang or to fold clothes?
- Where will your out-of-season clothes be stored?
- How will your shoes be stored?
- Is there enough long hanging space (this is so often overlooked!)
- What will be stored on any shelves?
- Where will your chunky winter jumpers be stored?
- Will you need to store coats and jackets in this space? If so, where?
Changing your existing structure
Even if you’re not designing from scratch, there are often things you can do to enhance the space you have to make it work for you.
Most wardrobes can to be altered with minimal fuss.
These changes don’t need to be permanent – you can get strong tension rod hanging rails and shelves that fit any space, and a professional organiser will often add stackable, freestanding drawers or shoe racks in the dead space under hanging rails.
3. Zoning and containing
Creating clear, structured zones within your closet will help you to always find what you need.
Categorise your clothes by grouping like with like and store them together in a space that is large enough to contain the whole category. If you split categories across multiple spaces, it’s impossible to keep track of what’s where.
What goes where?
Place the items you use most often in the “prime real estate” area of your wardrobe – the part that’s right in front of you as you open the doors! The things you reach for every day should be each to grab and easy to see.
If you have clothes that you don’t wear, but feel sentimental about, they likely don’t need to be in your main wardrobe. Store them above your wardrobes, or in the space under your bed. They’ll be safe, but won’t take up mental, physical and visual space.
The same goes for items you wear infrequently. This could be gowns and black-tie, or beach and ski wear. If you can, store less-worn items in a guest room or another space that’s accessible, but not right in that valuable main-closet space.
Containing your clothes
Containing clothes is a crucial step to prevent the creep from one zone to the next.
How you contain things varies depending on what you’re storing. Chunky knits could be contained on a single or multiple shelves, swimwear in a basket, and pyjamas in a single drawer.
The important thing is to balance the volume of items against the volume of space within each “container”. An overfilled space will be awkward to use and allows no room for growth. The next time you buy a jumper, the system will fall apart.
4. Space saving
Making efficient use of space is crucial in making a closet feel relaxing to use.
The golden rule for a wardrobe is to keep it no more than 80% full. Achieving this is in part due to the edit, and in part due to space saving products and techniques.
- Slimline hangers – can save around 50-70% of space as opposed to wooden or plastic hangers.
- File folding – well folded clothes use drawer space more efficiently. This technique not only allows you to save space, but also to see your clothes more easily.
- Vertical storage – if square footage is in short supply, go up and use the height of your wardrobe. Add stackable drawers, hooks or baskets on the backs of doors or the walls of your wardrobe.
How to organising tricky areas of your wardrobe
Organising deep shelves
Deep shelves can be transformed by the right organising products. Choose deep baskets to create “drawers” so everything can easily be pulled out and nothing gets lost at the back. Alternatively, use deep shelves for single folded jeans, or chunky knitwear. And never, ever double stack!
With clothes, “if you don’t see them, you don’t wear them”, so add extendable shoe racks or clear, stackable shoe boxes to the bottom of your wardrobe to create a space where you can easily see your shoes. If short on space, shoe stackers can also help to create more room.
And, of course, for shoes you want to keep, but don’t wear often, move them to another spot, like under the bed, or in another wardrobe.
Organising high and low shelves
Visibility can be a problem in both high and low shelves. Rather than putting items directly onto the shelf (and never seeing them again!), contain them in baskets to allow easier access.
Low shelves can get very dusty, so store items like shoes here, and use a container that you can clean easily. Wire mesh baskets work well, allowing the dust and dirt to fall through.
When buying containers for high shelves, one of the most important factors is weight. Light-weight, wire framed fabric containers are a great option. The wire frame means they keep their structure, but are easy for you to manoeuvre up and down.
- Jewellery and sunglasses – Contain within your containers! Small items like jewellery and sunglasses really benefit from being stored in smaller containers. Use drawer inserts to break up the space and give structure, so nothing gets lost.
- Bags – Generally bags fall into three categories: large, structured bags; large, soft bags and clutch bags. Structured bags can easily be stored on an open shelf, whereas softer bags, or small, clutch bags benefit from being contained in a basket or box.
- Hats, gloves and scarves – if not used year round, store out of season items elsewhere, switching summer hats for winter when the time comes. Summer hats tend to have more structure and do well when hung on hooks on a wall.
Choosing the right products
Choosing the right products is key to creating a wardrobe that stays organised long-term. There are a number of things to consider when selecting boxes, baskets and all of the other bits and bobs that will keep your wardrobe in shape.
Size – don’t just measure the size of the space available, consider the volume of the items you want to store. It’s better to have a half-full basket, than one that’s bursting at the seams. A container that’s too full is difficult (and annoying) to use, will never look tidy and leaves you absolutely no room for growth. So go bigger!
Material – delicate clothes that can catch or pull, should only ever be stored in fabric (cotton or canvas) or smooth plastic baskets. More robust items, like jeans or boxers can stand up to storage like rattan or seagrass. Shoes should be stored in containers that can be easily wiped clean, like plastic or wire mesh.
But it’s not just boxes and baskets that can make a difference to your wardrobe. Use expandable drawer dividers to create structure within a drawer. These are available in both wood and acrylic, and in different colours to suit the look of your closet.
If one product had to be the superhero of them all though, it’s the slimline hanger. Professional organisers use them often, and investing in matching hangers is one of the easiest ways to transform a wardrobe.
So get rid of the plastic and wire, and opt for slimline velvet or rubberised hangers. They’ll elevate the look of your wardrobe, and save space too.
How to organise your wardrobe when you’re pregnant
Organising your wardrobe when you’re pregnant (or afterwards) can be a head-scratcher. The changes in your body and lifestyle are unpredictable, so knowing what will work long-term is difficult. Focus on how you need things to work now.
The clothes that don’t fit you don’t need to be in your wardrobe, so pack them up and store them somewhere else.
This will help when, post-pregnancy, you start to think about integrating some of these items back into your wardrobe. Use this as an opportunity to sense check what you’re putting back in – will you actually wear them again? – rather than just adding clothes on top of clothes.
If you’ve just had a baby and are in that tricky phase of not quite, but nearly, fitting back into pre-pregnancy clothes, you may want to keep everything in your wardrobe for now. Separate out any pregnancy clothes though, so there’s a clear structure to your wardrobe and it’s easy for you to see and grab the clothes that work best for you now.
Organising children’s wardrobes
Children’s wardrobes should follow the same 4 golden rules as any wardrobe.
The difference is that a child’s wardrobe is likely to change faster. Allow for this by integrating a system for managing clothes to grow into and out of. Add a basket at the bottom of the wardrobe, or in a separate space, for donations (or passing along to the next child). When something no longer fits, chuck it straight in the basket. Similarly, have a basket nearby with clothes to grow into, so when you notice a growth spurt, you can easily find the next size up.
Also consider accessibility. What structural changes need to be made to make the wardrobe work for the child? For little kids, lower hanging rails so they can reach, or add a folding stop. Put the most frequently used clothes into lower drawers. And separate school uniform from home clothes so it’s easy to find and quick to grab in the mornings.
How to maintain a wardrobe after organising
No wardrobe stands still, so maintenance is key. Create a schedule for regularly editing your wardrobe. Depending on your shopping routines, this may be as frequently as every couple of months, or as little as once a year.
If you’ve designed your wardrobe to allow for a seasonal switchover of clothes, put time in the diary to do it. Adding winter clothes to a wardrobe of summer clothes is challenging and will add to the cluttered feel.
If you have help to manage your home, be sure to share your new layout with everyone who may be accessing it, so clothes get put back where they belong. If this is you, labels are going to be your best friend! Also make sure that anyone washing and ironing your clothes knows how to fold them to fit in the space, whether it’s file folding for drawers, or single-fold for deep shelves.
Common mistakes when organising your wardrobe
1. Not regularly editing
Clothes stay in wardrobes unused and unworn for years, wasting valuable space.
2. Not allowing enough time to edit
Not allowing enough time means that the edit isn’t done thoroughly and has to be repeated more frequently. This is always demoralising!
3. Buying the wrong storage
Baskets work really well in wardrobes, on open shelves, or in the cupboards above, but it’s vital that they both fit the space and the items you’re storing. We often see lots of, very pretty, but small containers. Buy as big as you possibly can to store like with like, and to give your clothes a bit of room to breathe.
4. Not removing wire hangers and dry cleaner bags
Both can damage your clothes. Wire hangers will leave dents in the shoulders of shirts and blouses, or creases in trousers, and the plastic wrap creates the perfect, warm and cosy environment for moths. Get rid of both as soon as you get your clothes home!
5. Not working with your natural instincts
If you hate folding clothes, you’ll always hate folding clothes. Don’t try to fight this. Be honest and design a wardrobe that works for you.
6. Not allowing for seasonal changes
Winter clothes are much bulkier than summer clothes. If you layout your wardrobe in the summer, you must allow extra space for winter
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do I start when organising my wardrobe?
Always start with the editing (aka decluttering). Removing anything you no longer want sets the foundation for an organised wardrobe.
Once you’ve edited, it’s easier to optimise the structure of a wardrobe, create zones and contain things. Then it’s the right time to identify ways to save space.
How long will it take to organise my wardrobe?
Longer than you think! Depending on the size of your wardrobe, and how frequently you edit, the decluttering process alone can take anywhere from a few hours to more than a day. In addition, allow time for the following:
- Designing, measuring and planning your structure
- Researching and buying storage solutions and organising products (and returning any that you don’t ultimately need)
- Sorting and categorising your items
- Cleaning out the wardrobe space and disposing of rubbish
- Containing and labelling your items (don’t forget about the time for folding!)
- Rehanging everything on your lovely new matching hangers.
- Bagging and boxing donations
- Taking donation items to the charity shop
- Opening a chilled bottle of something to celebrate all of your hard work!
How often do I have to organise my wardrobe?
If you create a strong and functional structure and edit regularly, your wardrobe should stay organised indefinitely.
As the seasons change, or if the focus of your wardrobe changes, for example if you switch from an office job to working from home, you may decide to make some changes, but it should only be tweaks rather than a full overhaul.
How can a professional organiser help me organise my wardrobe?
Organising your wardrobe is easy with a professional organiser. They will do all of the time consuming preparation, research and hard work for you, and all you need to do is be on hand for a bit of editing.
A good professional organiser will draw from their experience of working on lots of wardrobes to quickly find solutions that work for you and the way you want to use the space.
How do I organise my wardrobe with a professional organiser?
Any good organiser should offer a free consultation call to understand your needs and explain their process. They’ll want to know what you’re looking to achieve and ask the right questions to make sure you’ve not missed anything. After that, depending on the size of the space, there may be an in-person planning meeting, and then a visit from one or more organisers.
The Home Organisation has helped hundreds of individuals and families across London and the south of England organise their wardrobes and homes. If you’d like to find out more, or organise a quick chat to talk through your wardrobe, you can call us on 020 8673 1653 or drop us a line via our contact page and we’ll be only too happy to help.