Grouping: An Easy Route to a Happier Closet

organize your closet

A disorganized closet can cause SUCH style woes. Feel like you’ve got nothing to wear? That could be because you can’t find anything in that muddled mishmosh of a wardrobe. At a loss for inspiration? Well, if you could see colors and textures spread out before you, your eye and imagination wouldn’t have to work so hard. Wearing the same combinations over and over? Maybe if you grouped your garments a little differently you’d be inclined to mix it up a bit more.

And it really is all about grouping. Yes, labeled storage bins and fancy hangers and neatly folded sweaters on well-spaced shelves are all grand … but many of us lack the money, time, and inclination to completely remodel our closets. If you’re looking for an easier way, here it is:

Group by type

Pants with pants, button-downs with button-downs, cardigans with cardigans. Seems ridiculously simplistic, but we’re starting with the basics, here. If you’ve got all your pants living harmoniously together in Pantsville, you know where to go when you’re planning a pants-based ensemble.

Group by fit

I keep all of my shorter sweaters together because they’ll only work with skirts. I keep all of my longer tees hung in a specific part of my closet because they’ll only work with pants. I keep all my too-tight-for-wearing-alone tops in a drawer specific to layering pieces. Organizing items by fit will force you to think about which items work together and why, and may even help you visualize previously unworn combinations.

Group by length

Miniskirts, knee-length, floor-length. Pants that only work with tall shoes, pants that work with flats, ankle-length, capris, shorts (if you hang ’em). Grouping this way helps determine shoe and accessory choices.

Group by application

Sequined, low-cut, satin, and anything else formal lives together. Hoodies, thermals, and graphic tees in a group. Work-appropriate dresses separate from dresses that only work on weekends. Now, I mix it up a lot and wear everything all the time … but I still separate my clothes by application. It helps me create balance in my ensembles. After all, I may be delighted to wear something super frilly and fancy to work … but I need to balance it with several items from non-fancy categories to make the outfit work as a whole.

Group by frequency of use

My wedding dress lives with all my other dresses. It is waaaaaaay in the back. Since I don’t wear skirts as often as I used to, they’re crammed in a corner of the closet. Keep the groups that get used most front and center. Attempt to keep EVERYTHING in view, though, so that lesser-used garments aren’t forgotten.

Group by color or pattern

Grouping by color is a dream of mine, but one I’ve yet to realize. I do, however, keep patterns with patterns and solids with solids. Either/both of these will aid in creating outfits that are visually engaging, but balanced.

I’d wager that most people group their clothes by type. But adding several more levels of taxonomy will help you keep track of what you’ve got, and focus on imagining new and better combinations. It’s hard to maximize your wardrobe without familiarizing yourself with your wardrobe. See if it doesn’t help you feel more creative and engaged when choosing your outfits!

Image courtesy rachel a. k.

Originally posted 2009-11-12 07:00:00.

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32 Responses to “Grouping: An Easy Route to a Happier Closet”

  1. FairyFiligree

    This is very interesting. I used to shove everything in together until I saw this shop with rainbow colour arrangements so I started sorting out my wardrobe by colour. But your other suggestions are just as handy and may help in other ways when one gets stuck in a rut… any advice on having more space in the wardrobes?

  2. CompassRose

    My biggest problem is that most of what I own is black. Or charcoal. And stuffed into my minute hundred-year-old closet, with no light.

    I don't have SPACE to organize my closet by anything other than the "cram method", unfortunately.

  3. Meli22

    my problem is that I don't HAVE a closet. I live in an apartment that fits in about 5 office cubicles total. It's TINY. My husband and I share 3 dressers. there is a tiny little coat closet in the living room/kitchen, that has the hubby's bulky coats and mine crammed up with two dresses of mine. There is two big plastic tubs, one with my summer clothes and shoes. My stuff STILL overflows. So does the hubby's. >< I want to move to a bigger apartment with a real closet, so I can hang up everything or mostly everything.

  4. ShopKim

    About a year ago we remodeled our house and in the process gave ourselves a walk-in closet. It's made such a difference! Now I have most everything visible and not tucked away in drawers. Now I can see all my options. I've also recently grouped things by type from a tops perspective. Jackets, buttons downs, long sleeve, mid-sleeve, short sleeve, sleeve-less. It helps when I'm looking to layer. I agree that organizing is a big advantage when trying to make the most of what you have.

  5. Kelly

    I sort of combine these methods. I have a walk-in closet (one of the parts of my house I was SO EXCITED ABOUT when I moved in!) with tops on one side and bottoms on the other. Then everything is grouped by color. The exceptions are my dresses, which all live together with no real rhyme or reason. Maybe I don't care as much about sorting those according to color because if you grab one, it's an outfit, and you don't usually have to search around for another piece!

  6. Kate Bagley

    Organizing your closet in groups is incredibly helpful! Most people who have seen my closet have made fun of me, but it really works. I group very simply, pants with pants, skirts with skirts, dresses with dresses. I have two rows for tops. The top row is for nicer blouses, sweaters, and jackets. The bottom row for t-shirts and tank tops. Each of these rows is organized by sleeve length. It definitely makes it easier to find clothes, and it also makes it easier to put clothes away because every item has its own place.

  7. Joceline

    I group by type then color…it's fun to sort by color because when you open your closet you have a pretty little rainbow! Makes your clothes look a lot more colorful.

  8. SR@MyStyle

    Hi there-this is a really good post and I also store away by group type too, sure does make life a lot easier, great tips as always my dear!

  9. Kathryn

    I have a small-ish walk in closet but it's big enough to put tops, jackets a few dresses on one side, bottoms on the other. When I wear bottoms, or get them back from the dry cleaner, I put them at the far end. This keeps things I haven't worn for a bit moving towards the front. If I bypass something at the front over and over again it's time to purge it from my wardrobe.

  10. kathy

    I group by type and then by color (except for the dresses, which unfortunately live back on the side of my closet, so they're organized by wherever I can reach).

  11. Missy

    I group by color! I love to look at the colors all aligned. I actually need to do a nice closet cleaning one of these days, thanks for the tips.

  12. Hanako66

    I have been working to achieve an easily navigated closet for months! little by little, i'm getting there!

  13. saturdayjane

    This is an AWESOME post! Makes me want to get home, get all my laundry done, and ORGANIZE things!

    Thanks, Sal!

  14. metscan

    My hb and I share a walk-in closet, bags,shoes extra pillows are there too. It is not a big closet, but then again, we both have very little stuff. Call it minimalism or functionalism, but I don´t want to have much. If something comes in, then something(s) must go out. At a glance I see what I have, actually I don´t have to see it, I know what I have. I like it this way. I don´t have to wear different clothes every day, but I want my clothes to be of high class, clean and fresh.

  15. teresa

    What a timely post! I just organized my closet and drawers last night. I use a combination of the techniques you proposed. One new idea I'm trying: When I stacked my cardigans, I put the black, white and gray sweaters on the bottom and the colors on the top. I know I have those nuetral basics when I need them, but sometimes I forget that I have colorful choices to try.

  16. Christina Lee

    aahhhh–you write this post just for me, I KNOW IT!!! I absolutely can't find anything–mainly b/c we have no closet space to begin with! Great tips, Sal!

  17. budget chic

    Girl, I need somebody to come in and do all that "grouping" for me. Right now I have all the skirt together, all the dresses together, etc. then I sort by color. The clothes I wear the least is in my second closet, thats like the best I can do.

  18. lisa

    I don't have much of a closet, so most of my stuff lives in dressers. Grouping by type (delicate shirts, tees, sweaters, skirts, pants) makes my life so much easier.

  19. Candice Virginia

    Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for this excellent guide to closet organization. I really have plenty of clothes, but I usually have a lot of trouble putting outfits together because I can't SEE any of my clothes. I just did a major closet purge; now I'm going to work on grouping my clothing/shoes/accessories. Thanks again!

  20. Eyeliah

    I group by 1, 6, 3 then 5.
    First type, then color, length and frequency. 🙂 My closet is ridiculously organized and I love it – I know where everything is!! I also have a seperate spot just for new things so I remember to where them right away (and don't yet have a place in the closet)

  21. kristophine

    I misread "grouping" as "groping," there for a minute. It added a layer of hilarity to the post… Good tips, though. I have issues with organization.

  22. Luinae

    I do a mixture. In my closet, the top left rack has shirts/jackets organized by colour and the bottom left rack has skirts/trousers organized by colour. The right rack is longer and it has my dresses/coats organized by colour. My shoes are in a stand in the middle.

  23. enc

    I've been doing this for years, due to my very "organized" nature. I'll go you one better, though. I group by color range as you suggest, but IN RAINBOW ORDER. How geeked-out is that?

    and truly appropos: my captcha is "pompheous."

  24. Rosie Unknown

    Thanks for the great tips!

    I adore organizing my closet!

    I will hopefully be renovating and expanding my closet in the near future, and I can't wait to actually be able to see things.

  25. bekster

    Yeah… I previously had it all organized (at least the stuff in the closest), which was great, but lately I have said "the heck with it" and it is all just a mess now. However, you've got me feeling that kick in the butt to do it up nice again.

    Something else that I have been planning to do once I have more space (my husband and I are looking to move from our apartment into a house) is to stop using drawers and start using baskets on shelves. I find it a real pain to shove garments into drawers, and it is almost as bad trying to find anything in them. I have the impression that open-top baskets that I can take down and rifle through will make things easier. (I suppose I could even fold and sort things from the dryer right into the baskets.) Plus, the thought of a bunch of rolled-up socks in a basket just makes me giddy. 🙂

  26. Miss Peregrin

    Grouping by type works pretty well for me – but then my wardrobe is an insane mishmash of different colours, styles and patterns to begin with, so it kinda works to just throw in all in there. I do have my t-shirts sorted by color though, I've got far too many of them to just wing it.

  27. gina

    Great post! I've been doing the color grouping for years, and it was such a change from everything being all mixed up.

    I used to hang my suits together – jacket and pants/skirt on the same hanger. That made sense when I had to wear a suit to work every day. It's been a year and a half though since I changed jobs to a less formal office, and last month I finally reorganized my closet to hang all jackets together, all pants together and all skirts together – even if they are part of a suit. It's really helped me see the individual pieces in a different way and start getting more use out of them.

  28. Sheila

    I group by type (short skirts, long skirts, jackets, pants, blouses and dresses all get hung, sweaters are folded by type (vests, shrugs/summer cardis, regular cardis), and then by colour (I worked in a clothing store – I can't NOT sort by colour). It works well when looking for items to go together. My dresses are also hung from strapless to full sleeve and sorted by colour within that.

    Man, I sound anal! Ha! Helps that I have a custom-built closet – highly recommended and worth every penny!

  29. Audi

    I reorg'd my closet about 2 years ago and it has made life so much easier. I'm fairly loose in my categories (arranged by type only), but it does save me a ton of time when planning my outfits, and I find that I wear my items more.