Closet Organization Pros and Cons


No two closets are organized in the same way. Even closets that have identical fancy organizing systems installed are going to be used by different people with different needs and different ideas of what should go where and why. And as someone who has tried many different ways of keeping my own wardrobe in order, I’ve realized that just about every tip for making your closet more functional has pros and cons. Don’t believe me? FINE! I’ll prove it.

Keeping everything visible

– Forces you to see the depth of your wardrobe
– Allows for spontaneous inspiration (colors, patterns you otherwise wouldn’t have thought to combine)
– Can help prevent accidental acquisition of doubles, triples, etc.
– In the case of decorative options (using your hats as wall decoration, etc.), can warm up your rooms and add personality

– Exposed items may fade or gather dust
– Requires an enormous amount of space
– Can be overwhelming if you attempt to process the breadth of your choices on a daily basis

Storing off-season items

– Frees up closet space
– Protects items from damage (as in wool that gets stored in moth-proof containers)
– Forces a seasonal re-evaluation of what is worth storing and what should get donated

– Can enable accidental acquisition of doubles, triples, etc. (Items are often still in storage when the SHOPS begin showing us coming-season items.)
– Requires extra space/storage
– Allows you to stash items that should probably be donated

Sorting by color

– Makes it easy to find items if you have a color scheme in mind.
– Is visually pleasing. Really. Just ask your local Goodwill.
– Helps you easily identify wardrobe holes. If you keep reaching for a gray cardigan that isn’t there, you can bet that buying one will be a good use of your cash.

– May prevent seeing unusual color combinations
– Allows you to gravitate toward your favorite or dominant colors, and skip over the rest
– Can make all items in a color range blur together

Sorting by frequency of use

– Keeps your most useful and best items front and center
– Helps in quick outfit assembly, since your guaranteed winners are close at hand
– Can aid in culling, as items that drift to the back and never get pulled out eventually seem like natural additions to the donation pile

– Creates closet orphans by hiding more challenging items from view
– May cause beloved items to wear out faster since they’re getting top billing at all times
– Discourages mixing well-loved items with hard-to-style ones

And so on. Just goes to prove that what feels perfect for one closet will be irritating or impractical for another.

How do you organize your wardrobe? Do you store off-season stuff? Try to keep everything visible? Are there any methods you use and love, but also see some disadvantages to utilizing?

Image via Apartment Therapy.

Originally posted 2014-01-21 06:41:33.

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43 Responses to “Closet Organization Pros and Cons”

  1. Jessica

    Great post!

    I do a number of things:
    1 I do keep off season stuff packed away in clear bins, but easily accessible. Protects clothes from dust, moths, etc.
    2 My walk-in closet is essentially a dressing room. All my clothes are there along with accessories including jewelry. Allows for efficiency. Only things like sweatshirts and exercise clothes and jeans are kept in my bedroom dresser.
    3 in my closet, clothes organized by type and color.

    My system works for me.

  2. Cel

    I don’t have tons of space in the place I live now so I’ve been forced to start storing off-season things – which doesn’t stop me digging my way through the snow to get to pieces I thought I’d never want to wear all winter – but I prefer being able to see it all at once, so I can’t forget about anything.

  3. tracy_a

    One thing I don’t see often is – make your prints/accent colors visible, and keep your solids/neutrals in drawers. There are pros and cons to this, but I generally know which black, white, beige cardigans I have – I keep those on a top shelf. Same with neutral skirts/pants/jeans/t-shirts. Anything utility – turtlenecks or tanks that I wear under things. If that drawer/container gets too full – time to cull. Colored pullovers and colored cardigans – front and center among the sweaters. Same idea with interesting knit shirts. I guess this kind of works for me because I don’t have enough accents/highlights – and I don’t have a lot of clothes that need to be hung.

    • Jen

      I would be interested in knowing how you store prints, Sally. I’m also a lover of prints, but find that I have a hard time knowing where they should hang in my closet. I do sort my closet by color. Currently I have some printed shirts hanging with the dominant color in the print. Others with no clear dominant color I group in the “rainbow” section of my closet. This works okay, but I would love to know if you have a better solution.

      • Sally

        Ah! Interesting question, Jen. I use a system that’s fairly similar to yours, but I sort mainly by sleeve length. So I have solid long-sleeved tops together, printed long-sleeved tops together, solid short-sleeved, printed short-sleeved, etc. This works for me because I know which blazers and cardigans can work with long-sleeved options, and which ones cannot – sleeves are the main concern for me.

        If sorting by color works for you, I think your system is brilliant, actually. If a print has a dominant color, hang with that color. If not, put it with miscellaneous. You could also put black & white prints with your black or white items, since they often read as neutral.

        Anyone else have a suggestion for storing/filing prints?

  4. Anamarie

    I have a room that is approximately 12 x 10 that I use as my “closet.” I have two large fixed racks with shelves and closet rods filling half the room along two sides. My clothes are on the racks on slimline velvet hangers, the shelves are for boots and cloth bins for scarves, socks, pajamas and workout clothes. There’s also a medium sized regular closet with deep shelves where I store my large bags. The closet rod is for hanging bags (on S hooks). Shoes are in plastic boxes on shelves on the remaining short wall, with a vanity table. Jewelry is on one of the fixed shelves below shoes, and necklaces are hanging on the wall on tacks on a cork-tiled wall area (6 12″x12″ tiles). I like the tacks because I can move them around as my necklace collection changes.

    The back of the room door has a mirror. Both the room door and closet door have over-the-door racks with hooks for hanging either my outfit for the day, or clothing I have already worn and want to air out before returning to the racks. I have one small dresser for underwear/bras. I’d really like the rolling metal rack from Crate & Barrel for my shoes, but it would have to be placed right in front of one of the clothing racks and I don’t know if I can deal with that aesthetically. I tend to forget about the shoes that are put away in boxes. I really like having my clothing out and visible, because I end up wearing more than a handful of my favorite pieces.

    I recently started storing my off-season clothing, and decided to use ONLY two bins. One bin is for off-season shoes. The other is for off-season clothing. I made myself go through my off-season clothing carefully and donate everything that didn’t fit into the bin. Same with shoes. I know I will buy at least a couple of “new” things every season, so it’s not like I have to start over. I also wear many of my clothes year-round. So I don’t really need or want a lot of storage. The two bins get stacked in my purse closet, and are easy to move if I have to.

    • Eleanorjane

      Woah, jealous of your dressing room! My dream is one day have a large enough bedroom that my husband and I don’t constantly bump into each other as we’re moving around getting dressed.

      I’d love my own large wardrobe and a dressing table with a mirror and a seat and good lighting for doing my make up.

      • Anamarie

        Thank you! We have a super old house with tiny closets. I lucked out getting a small basement room for my “closet.” I should also say this arrangement is necessary for the sake of my marriage. I am a total slob and my husband is a neat freak. If my clothes were stored in the bedroom, we would have to sleep on a pile of clothes. I love my closet so much, I mostly keep it clean. Mostly.

      • Anne

        I had such a room in our old Victorian house in Pennsylvania. It was lovely with its south facing window. It was on the third floor so I had a great view of the yard, too. I had room for hanging items, drawers and coat hooks for regularly worn items. I haven’t thought about that room for 15 years. Thank you for bringing up these pleasant memories.

    • Alex

      Your “closet” sounds like my dream. Unfortunately, right now I’m living in a studio apartment, so for obvious reasons I won’t be able to create my own closet-room for a while yet, but you’ve given me some great ideas! đŸ™‚

  5. Sue

    I’ve found that I need to keep everything visible or I forget I own certain items. I do this by hanging just about everything. I’m lucky enough to have a long, narrow walk-in closet with about 17 feet of hanging space on one side. The other side has an equivalent amount of shelving space where I store my shoes. My in-season shoes are out and visible, and out-of-season shoes are further back and in clear boxes. The short wall by the door has hooks for my jewelry. The short wall all the way in the back has deep shelves for out of season bedding, and my boot boxes. I also have hooks above the shoe shelves for belts, and hangers that aren’t in use.

    I also sort by type, and then by color within the type. This helps me avoid buying duplicates, see any gaps, and contrary to above, can help me put together unusual color combos. I can grab an item and hold it up against the other colors and see what works.

    I do put some out of season items in a different closet. Most of my wardrobe can span all seasons, but the heaviest winter items get put away in the summer and the very summery items get put away in winter.

    The only thing I don’t do is sort by frequency of wear. I’m really good at figuring out which items are getting ignored, and make a point to try to wear them. If I keep rejecting them after several attempts, they go into the donation bin that sits right inside the door to the closet.

  6. Andrea

    Great ideas! By the necessity of a small closet, I have to keep off-season items stored in bins under the bed, though camis and tanks stay out year-round, as I wear a lot of cardis. Accidentally buying duplicates (like right now, when spring items are coming out) is very possible, but I have an app that is really helpful for that, called Stylebook. Now I have photos of most everything I own on my iPad, and as I wish-list or add new items, I can combine them virtually with the items I already have to make sure I don’t buy something too similar, and that anything new I do buy will fit in well with the pieces I already own. It was a bit daunting to take photos of everything, but I just broke it down & did bit by bit, and was finished before long. Super useful.

  7. Christine

    I am curious how you, Sal, and other style bloggers, who by definition tend to have a lot of pieces, keep everything accessible and in order. So much closet organizing advice seems tilted toward a minimalist perspective.

  8. Sarah

    I store off-season items.
    in addition, I sort stuff by type of garment:
    long items, like dresses, slips (I don’t do half-slips), and pants on hangers that allow them to hang down straight instead of folding go in the back so they don’t obscure smaller items.
    shorter/smaller items in front: pretty scarves, cardigans and twin-sets, then skirts, then pants folded on hangers, then shirts and tunic tops. If I’m rotating in sleeveless summer tops, they usually go in near the skirts and cardis.
    within that, i like to alternate dark and light colors so i can easily differentiate items.
    I also group things by bright colors vs neutrals, so I know where to reach if an outfit requires either a bright or a neutral (eg., if i look at my outfit and realize “gee, I’m wearing all grey and black, lets grab a bright cardi”, or the opposite, “this outfit is a bit loud, let’s put on a grey or beige item to tone it down or unite 2 different brights”).

  9. Lauren

    I once had a nice, big walk-in closet, sorted by type of garment and then by color — so I had all skirts together, all dresses, all shirts, all sweaters/jackets, etc.
    However, I just moved in with my partner, and we share the tiniest and most poorly designed closet I have ever seen. The closet is not deep enough to have a horizontal bar because most hangers will not fit, so we have two bars on each side that go front to back. Of course, I cannot see anything in the back because I cannot physically get into the closet, and I only have one half of the closet (the other half belonging to my partner). It’s so challenging! I have stored everything that can be folded in under-bed bins and I have a dresser where many things live, but I am looking for ideas for this tiny ridiculous closet, if anyone has any.

    • Shawna

      Would it be possible to make two bars, one higher and one lower than the usual placement? This should work unless you have dresses or maxi skirts to hang. If that is the case, perhaps you and your partner could share the side with two bars, using one each, and you could hang your longer things on the other side where there is just one bar of appropriate height.

  10. Annabeth

    I don’t store off-season items, mostly because I live in a warm climate and so only have a handful of winter things, which can be kept with the rest easily enough.

    My bedroom has two small closets (the joys of an old house), both of which have organizers in them for shoes and bags. I break it down by clothing types only: Dresses and skirts in one closet, pants and tops in the other. I put the fancier dresses in the back of the closet, and I have all the tops arranged in order of coverage – sleeveless, short-sleeved, long-sleeved, cardigan, sweater. The shoes are also organized: lace-ups on this shelf, boots, booties, Mary Janes, neutral flats, colorful flats, heels, and so on.

    My closets are small and well-lit, so there’s no need to sort by color; I can figure out exactly what I’ve got. Frequency of wear is just something I keep track of in my head. I find separation by type allows me to most easily assemble outfits.

  11. BamaCarol

    I have to say that several years ago we splurged and put in the custom closet systems in all our bedroom closets. It has helped both of us be neater in our storage and allowed us to see what we have and not duplicate. The only thing not in my closet are my winter coats and if I am diligent enough to get rid of things once I retire this year, I hope to make room for those. We both sort by type and then I also sort by color within type. It actually helps me when I’m pulling out my clothes for the next day and I’ve done a lot of different color combinations as well since my scarves are hanging in view too.

  12. Eliza

    I much prefer being able to see all my clothing, but hate having it visible in my bedroom. My solution is to edit down until it all fits easily in the closet..I hang all my clothes, even t-shirts and camis. I’d rather have fewer clothes all stored in one place, so that I can easily see what I have. I sort by type, then color.

    I live in an old house with few/awkward closets. My bedroom closet is about two feet wide, but very deep, so I actually have a second rod in the back of my closet. I use the back rod for out-of-season storage, and the front one for everyday my clothing. My regular rod gets a bit crowded in winter, since I store coats in there as well.

    • Shawna

      I hang my tee shirts too. Or at least the tee shirts I consider the good ones. If it’s something I would wear with sweat pants it goes into my special pyjamas and sweat pants drawer.

    • jamie

      I love this idea. I have bins of miscellaneous t-shirts and tanks, way too many. I’d love to edit down to just have enough to hang in a closet and have that be it.

  13. Shawna

    I have a walk-through closet, which is both walk in closet and also access to the ensuite bathroom. It doesn’t have any fancy organising system in it so it definitely could be used more efficiently, however I don’t have a lot of clothes compared with most who are interested in clothes. I have one long dowel and a shelf above it, the say closets are always made in a basic builder home. Mine dates back to 1982 so it’s even made with wood. I keep sweaters, both pullover and cardigan as well as jeans on the shelf. I hang my dresses and tops. I don’t wear dressy pants or blazers. I also hang all my belts over the dowel but if I had a partner he would probably insist that space be for his clothes. I keep pyjamas, underwear, tights and leggins in my dresser. I need to install something from which to hang my scarves. Shoes are arranged along the floor of the closet but boots are in my hall closet.

    • Shawna

      Oh and my bags are arranged in a large basket also on the floor with the shoes.

      • Shawna

        Gah! I keep hitting enter before I am finished. Is that a sign that I am talking too much?

        I don’t arrange by colour as I don’t really feel the need to though I do tend to group things into the summer clothes and the fall/winter clothes. When spring comes I do a bit of mixing them. I like to make outfits and hang them together in the closet so often a skirt is hanging with a top because I have decided that next time I will wear those things together. I sometimes even style it on the hangers, adding a scarf or some jewelry and draping it over the hanger.

        Okay, I will stop now.

  14. Lisa

    Due to space limitations, most of my clothes are folded away in dressers. Only my coats, jackets, and blazers are hung up. My shoes are all in shoeboxes stacked away.

  15. BamaCarol

    I meant to add Sallly that I have missed your outfit posts lately and hope that you are not sick but that it is just the weather not cooporating. I can’t imagine getting out in the cold and snow up there. I fuss about it being a high in the 40s here even with bright sunshine and having to get out!

    • Sally

      Oh thank you, BamaCarol! Actually, with the new job I am not able to do as many outfit posts as I used to – but there will be a new one tomorrow!

  16. Gracey the Giant

    I store my off season stuff but my clothes are still in about four different places (sharing a closet is for the birds!) so I tend to sort by type and then by color if I need a further breakdown. So, all of my sweaters, well, most of them) are together and then sorted by color. The same is true of my dresses, skirts, pants and jeans. And for shirts, long-sleeve tees together, turtlenecks together, etc.

  17. Katy

    Personally, I rotate per season. Locking away the not-used stuff in a separate closet elsewhere in the house. I organize my closet by clothing type and then by color. It works for me. Every now and again I go through the closet and make sure to look at everything so I give a fair wear to each item. – Katy

  18. The Raisin Girl

    I tend to go through my clothes once at the start of winter and once at the start of spring, to remove things that no longer fit, that I don’t enjoy wearing anymore, or that are damaged (some of these get put aside for repair). I only pull things out for seasonal storage that cannot transition (sweater dresses and super heavy coats, snow boots, and sweaters go away for summer; really flimsy, thin tank dresses that layering won’t make warm enough and my sandals go away for winter).

    As for the organization of the closet itself, I have a somewhat unique situation: when my best friend and I moved to a new apartment together for the third time, we decided it was her turn to have the big bedroom, since I’d had that privilege at our previous two apartments. This left her with a huge area to convert to a walk-in closet, and me with a hole in my wall barely wider than my shoulders for a closet. Solution? I was given the entryway closet as an extension.

    I have a chest of drawers that houses socks, underwear, bras, other undergarment-y things, stockings, leggings, sweatpants, hats, gloves, t-shirts, and tank tops. The closet in my bedroom gets my dresses and blouses, as well as my luggage on a shelf at the top and my laundry basket down below. The closet in the entryway gets my shoes, umbrellas, scarves (draped over hooks along the back wall), coats, jackets, vests, cardigans, sweaters, pants, jeans, and any other layer-y things. I sort everything by type, and don’t much bother with an order within that.

    The pros? I can put on my basics in my room and then grab shoes and pieces to layer with and spice up the outfit from the entryway closet. It forces me to take some extra time to consider my options. The major con? It’s really annoying to run back and forth between my front hallway and my bedroom, to the point that I’m considering mounting a full-length mirror on the inside of the entryway closet door.

  19. Rebecca

    This post just reminds me how desperately I need to go through and re-organize my closet. It’s been on my “to-do” list for weeks now!

    Thanks for the great tips! I used to arrange according to colour, but now I arrange according to type of item (all skirts together, all jackets, all cardigans, all heavy jumpers, etc).

    I think I might try packing away my super “summery” dresses this winter, however packing away too much is tricky as I live in a place where the climate is variable all year round and you just need to layer, layer and layer.

  20. TexasAggieMom

    Since I have recently purchased Sally’s book and the related on-line materials, this topic is of great interest to me. Her previous posts on closet organization have been very helpful, and the various ideas and systems all of you are using force me to think logically about what works best for me. I am in the process of adding extra bars in the closet (closer to the floor, for short items like tops) and extra shelving on top for handbags, shoes, etc. I hope to return to some semblance of what I had in my previous house with its unlimited closet space, which was items sorted by type, with out of season items stored in another closet but accessible. (Here in Texas it’s hard to say what season it is; yesterday it was in the 70’s, but it is much cooler today.) One thing I hope to use more is the hangers that hang multiple items from clips (great for shorts or capris and I plan to sort by length) and the pants hangers with space for four or five pair – great for sorting dark jeans, colored jeans, skinnies, etc. Keep the great suggestions coming – I need all the ideas I can get!

  21. lydiag

    It is always so intriguing to learn how others organize their closets. my closet is mainly organized based on the fabric weight/ season of the material as well as type (skirt, top, pants, etc…) I have a closet with a sliding door (7×7 feet), and then within the space, I have the pax system from ikea, which I share with hubby. (standing room feels like a small changing room — but with shelves and rods).

    I have two rods, (top and bottom), where I have blouses, dresses (on the top rod), and skirts and trousers (on the bottom rack). I store these mostly by type (skirt, pants), then maybe by fabric Iightweight or summery fabrics — light cotton, chiffon, silk, and winter fabrics -wool, heavier cotton, jaquard. In the fall, I move the warmer blouses to the front, and vice versa in the summer — I don’t really put away seasonal clothing, but I do shift them within the closet, to ensure I wear them.

    Not really sure if my wardrobe would be considered large or small though. (what is ‘lots’ or not ‘lots’ in terms of clothing anyway?)– it feels like I have lots of clothing because I see most of it at once, but I when I last counted, I had 25 dresses, 15 skirts, and five trousers, and 12 jeans. about 20 tops — short and long sleeve, and 30 cardigans (my weakness) + undies, bras, a couple of jackets..29 shoes and boots….explaining for the illustrative purposes here — I do not really have a gauge of whether I have a lot — my mother has more clothing, and my sister less, so I guess I am ‘in between’ them?

    I fold the sweaters/ cardis/ knits on shelves based on how they would work in warmer/ colder weather. I have clothes that I view as ‘summer’ — not only based on fabric, but print — sure I could layer them up in fall, but if I associate them with hotter weather, then even if it is a warm fall, I still veer away from them.

    Under bed containers hold spare jeans, and winter hats, gloves, and such in summer, and summer hats extras in winter. I pick out two or three pairs of jeans to hang at a time (in a smaller linen type closet), and fold the rest (ongoing). Purses are in a hatbox above the closet.

    This is a timely post in my life, because I just completed a major closet purge
    and though I still need one more small ‘sweep,’ I am very proud of myself for parting with ‘ye old favorites’ (some oldies but goodies were velvet jackets I owned for 11 years!). It took ages to let go of stuff, but since it served me well, I finally did it… I have replace and re-vamp… not sure If I am ready for that yet!

    I entirely agree with Sally regarding closet organization, because no matter how a closet is organized, each system will lead you in a specific direction — with pros and cons no matter how things are arranged.

    Sorry for rambling — I am getting over a migraine and I cannot seem to write clearly!

  22. jamie

    I’ve been arranging by color for years, just to make my wardrobe a bit more visually appealing. I do store off season items, but just in bins in the same closet as I’m a bit tight on space. What I’ve realized is that through the majority of the year, having all my clothes in one space, is that I wear the same things over and over again. I think I maybe wear 20% of my closet on a regular basis.

  23. hollyml

    Seasonal rotation makes no sense in a temperate climate, but I doubt I’d store off-season things even if I lived somewhere with more dramatic weather changes because it takes too much TIME! Packing and unpacking that much clothing two or three times a year is a housekeeping chore I’d rather not do.
    And for much the same reason, I don’t sort my clothing by color or any such scheme. I do group by type, for space efficiency, but sorting within types would call for more energy than I want to spend on putting the clean laundry away.
    On the dust-and-fading issue: I lost a lot of old favorites when, after a year and half of wearing maternity and nursing shirts, I returned to “normal” clothes. My shelved knit tops hadn’t been unfolded in so long that many of them had a stripe of sun fade right across the middle front! Now that was a time when I should have put more of my clothes in more protected storage.

  24. Courtney

    I have actually been doing reverse organization by frequency of use for years, and I love it! Everything is sorted by type of garment in my closet and drawers (pants, short sleeve tops, skirts, dresses, etc), then when I do laundry the clean clothes go in the BACK of their respective sections. So when I go to grab a pair of pants, I’m confronted with a couple of pairs that I haven’t worn recently. This makes me think through my closet orphans, and encourages me not to get into ruts. If I’m not feeling inspired or if I had something else in mind, I can always reach past them to the more frequent use items, but as a terrible pack rat, that little bit of mental friction is really helpful for keeping me on track with closet culling!

  25. meli22

    I’m thinking about doing a post on this just because I think it’s fun to see how other people store their things đŸ™‚

    I have a 4-drawer dresser. Top drawer is underwear, tights, and socks. Second is PJs/workout/gardening gear. The third is sweaters and camisoles, and the fourth pants and my one lone pair of shorts. My dresses, coats, skirts, jackets, and tops are hung up together by category. Tops are divided into two sections but next to each other- work and casual/not work appropriate at the very back. I have 1 bag for clothing needing alterations/repairs and another for donation/sell. My shoes are on a little two-shelf stand and boots are next to them.

  26. Emily Stowe

    My closet is a huge mess and I needed this to inspire me! I have my stuff loosely organized by type- coats and party dresses that I rarely wear in the back, skirts and work pants, tops, cardigans, and casual/work dresses. I have a separate basket full of leggings, and want to create another one for camis and tank tops. I also have a tall skinny dresser for socks, undies, etc with a large jewelry box on top. This sounds organized, but that’s because I didn’t mention the heaps of stuff on the floor, on the chair, everywhere surrounding my closet. It’s time to purge!

  27. Shelley

    Out of season clothes are not in my closet. (I have my usual A/W that covers 8-9 months of NE England’s weather; a summer-ish wardrobe for the other months and a resort wardrobe for when we travel to really warm places). Clothes may or may not be sorted in any particular order. On Sunday afternoon I take the first item from the far left of my closet – whatever it may be – and find other pieces required to make it an outfit, selecting items from the left to the right of the hanging items. They are put together with accessories. Then I chose the next left-most item and repeat until I have 5 working outfits for the coming week. Every item has to eventually be used in a season or a) it has to go or b) I have to buy whatever it needs to make it wearable.