Reader Request: Closet Organization for the Large and Varied Wardrobe

How to organize a large wardrobe

Christine asked this question in a comment:

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.

I’d never really thought about it, but she’s right: Even many of my own posts on closet organization describe tactics that I can aspire to, but rarely apply to my own large and varied wardrobe. Naturally, I can’t speak for all style bloggers – some of whom also own a lot of clothing, but many of whom aim for minimalism – but I’m happy to share my own tactics.

Store off-season clothing

Seasonal wardrobe separation has its pros and cons, but since I live in a climate that boasts a nearly six-month winter and requires many a bulky sweater and heavy skirt, I find this practice to be essential. My layering pieces stay in their drawers year-round, but blazers, dresses, tops, skirts, and pants get rotated in and out depending on the weather. We are lucky enough to have lots of basement storage, so I keep my off-season items on a covered rack or in sealed storage bags with mothballs.

Make use of all available space

The image above is not of my own shoes, but I use that same heel-toe shelving technique to maximize my space. I use a similar technique with sweaters in my hanging sweater rack, folding them all but stacking them one with the collar facing the opening, one with the collar facing the back of the rack, and so on. I store some of my boots on top of my armoire. Every bit of space that has been reserved for my wardrobe is in use and nothing is wasted.

Employ a variety of storage techniques

My actual closet is tiny, but it has a bar, a hanging sweater rack, stacked shelves on the floor, and built-in shelves up top. My hats are hung from a string over my desk. My scarves are stored by color in two hanging scarf organizers. My dad made me a gorgeous jewelry rack for my necklaces. My PJs, layering tees, and jeans are in dresser drawers. I have boots on shelves and shoes in racks. If I tried to fold and drawer everything or hang everything up, I’d be sunk. If someone has thought it up, I am likely using it to keep my wardrobe in order.

Pick a categorization technique

I hang my tops by sleeve length and then by prints/solids. I keep all of my cardigans in the same spot and all of my pullovers in the same spot. My button-fronts are a ridiculous hodgepodge and so are my blazers, but just about everything else is categorized and stored accordingly. I know where to find all of my stuff at any given time. I also know where all of my tank tops are, so if I need a tank top of some sort but don’t know which color or style yet, I can go to that part of that drawer and view all of my options. My own practices won’t work for every owner of a large and varied wardrobe, but finding storage and categorization techniques that work for your own items – by color, weight, season, pattern, etc. – will help you feel more organized.


When I hang clothing and replace it in my closet, it tends to get a little bunched-up – especially since my closet is fairly full. At a certain point, I will have washed, hung, and replaced just about everything in there, and all that bunching will add up. So every few months I take everything out and put it back in a few pieces at a time. Fluff out sleeves and smooth garment bodies flat. The simple act of undoing the natural re-hanging-related bunching frees up LOADS of closet space.

Know what you own

I suppose this isn’t an organizational technique as much as a wardrobe management one, but it merits mention. I love having a large and varied wardrobe because it allows me to dress in an expressive and eclectic way, but I’m aware of the risks. A large wardrobe means you may forget that you already have a gray skirt and buy another, or become so overwhelmed by your options that you only wear 10% of what you own. I purge my closet every season and I take inventory of it regularly. Knowing what I own helps me make use of my clothes. I play favorites like anyone, but I also know which items are veering off into closet orphan territory. This knowledge helps me decide what is really earning its keep and what should be donated or consigned when those purges come around, but also challenges me to build outfits around languishing items.

Related posts:

Who else out there has a large and varied wardrobe? How do you keep it in order? Would any of my techniques work for you? Others to suggest?

Image courtesy Cupcakes and Cashmere

Originally posted 2014-07-01 06:36:44.

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9 Responses to “Reader Request: Closet Organization for the Large and Varied Wardrobe”

  1. Claudia Gray

    As someone who has a fairly moderate wardrobe — but a large one for my very limited closet space — I would say that if you can in any way afford it, closet organizers are a godsend. I have two small wall closets that store things as effectively/visibly/neatly as a walk-in, thanks to those. It feels like tripling your closet space, and once everything is automatically parsed out a bit — shoes in their shelves, dresses on the longer rack, etc. — it’s far easier to keep your system in place. Worth every penny.

  2. Anamarie

    I have a small room that I use for a closet, it’s approximately 8′ x 10′. I have a couple of storage racks, and a shoe rack

    that I place in front of one of the storage racks. The shoe rack is on wheels, so I can move it easily to access the clothing rack. Since I moved my shoes out of boxes/bins to the rack, I have really started to take advantage of my shoe collection!

    I have some large structured fabric bins (from Marshalls/TJ Maxx) on some of the storage rack shelves for socks, t-shirts, yoga pants, nighties, scarves (which I fold in half, twist, and tuck the ends into the loop) and workout clothes. The shelves on the other rack are for boots – they are just tall enough. I have a tiny dresser for underwear/bras/slips. If you have the space, the racks are great. I use them on two walls of my closet room, but they would also be great for larger closets that don’t already have built in shelves.

  3. Lisa Thomson

    Great tips! I live in an apartment so limited space is definitely a factor. I always edit my wardrobe, constantly. I’m one of those who loves to shop and then wonders why I bought that whatever piece that I don’t wear. Your site is lovely!

  4. Caitlin Treml

    what is the best way to store cardigans? Hang or fold? and what about skirts? fold, hang through a shirt hanger or use a pants hanger with clips? Thanks!

    • Sally McGraw

      I fold my cardigans, Caitlin – with knits, you run the risk of damaging the fibers by hanging. And skirts should go on hangers with clips. Hope that helps!

  5. Trystan L. Bass

    I live in California, so there’s no clothing “season” really. But I’ve outsourced all my coats, bulky jackets, even heavy hoodies to the hall closet because it had space, & realistically that’s closest to wear I’d be using those items. Anything super dressy (meaning, 1-2 x a year special occasion clothes or shoes) goes in the 2nd bedroom closet (aka my sewing room/costume closet). This helps leave the bedroom area primed for only what I need on workday mornings.

    I have a walk-in closet (#1 reason we bought this house!) tricked out with tons of shelves & specialty hangers for the types of garments I use most. My dresser drawers tend to get messy, & I just have to re-organize them a few times a year; I’ll never figure a way around that, apparently. Editing what I buy & keep is the only real way to manage the whole dang thing!

  6. Carol Norris

    I agree that closet systems have been more than worth their cost for us. It keeps my clothes organized and in front of me so I don’t tend to have orphans. I also use the thin faux-velvet hangers for tops of all kinds and wooden hangers for everything else; pants, blazers and coats and skirts. all of my clothes point the same way on the hangers too. I ruthlessly clean out my closet every couple of months and if it hasn’t been worn (and is in season) then it goes to consignment. I have drawers in my closet system for underwear and pajamas and am a fanatic about keeping things up off the floor. I am one of those OCD people who puts her things in by type (shirts, pants, etc.), color and for shirts, sleeve length. It makes it super easy to get dressed every morning. The only thing that is vexing me is scarves. I did have them in a drawer but then was less likely to wear them. I think I will buy one of those hanging scarf organizers and see if that helps.

  7. Pam Armstrong Greer

    I love the fluff idea! So many times, I pull out a shirt that been all bunched up. Taking up more room than it needed too and then being wrinkled on top of that!