How to Organize your Closet!
Day 1 of 5 days of Organizing



Welcome to day 1 of the 5 days of organizing series!  I’m getting the biggest, baddest, most intimidating one out of the way first.  Closets.

Just how intimidating is going through your closet and organizing it?  Well … let’s see … the fella ran away from home around 8 or 9 months ago and I still haven’t moved the things from my closet into his.  (his closet was the smaller one in the bedroom, while mine was the larger walk in closet in the hall)

I’ve been wanting to/meaning to/hoping to/avoiding to move my seasonal clothes into the bedroom closet, while leaving the out of season clothes in the walk in.  3 seasons have passed without me doing this.  I’m pretty much a great closet organizer avoider.

So while you read all of these posts this week, know that we’re all the same.  We all want to have an organized, perfect life and home, but we don’t.  But if you follow each of my 5 organizing posts this week we CAN be.  For a little while, until the mess builds up again, anyway.  Which in my book is better than nothing.

Organizing your closet isn’t what you’d call brain surgery with a butter knife.  It’s pretty simple and we all know what has to be done. It’s just that it’s sometimes easier to do it when there’s a list telling you exactly what to do.  And a person you’ve never met before looking at you sternly from behind her computer screen.

So here is that list.

1.  Identify what to do with each item.

  • Keep
  • Garbage
  • Donate
  • Reuse/recycle

Put everything into separate piles and deal with them immediately.  Throw the garbage clothes in the garbage, wash and fold the donate pile and put it in a box (at the very least put it in a box and in the laundry room to wash and fold later), set aside things you know you can use for crafts and or projects later.  More on things you should save and the things you can use them for later on in the post.

The clothes you keep are the ones you wear THAT a) look good on you b) are comfortable c) aren’t hideously out of date or inappropriate.  No matter how much you loved the dress you wore when you were 25 and how good it looked at the time, chances are 20 years later you look like a lunatic wearing it.  Sorry.  But, someone had to tell you.

2.  Clean and decide how to categorize your clothing.

  • Clean your closet.
  • Buy or make shoe organizers.
  • Decide whether to group your clothing by colour or season.  (I do a combination of colour and season)
  • Don’t forget to use the back of your closet door for storage.  Hanging hooks can hold purses, belts, jewellery or your housecoat.
  • I *also* have a work category.  Clothes that I can get paint, grease or goo on without worrying.  These clothes go in their own drawer.

3.  Put it all back.

  • Hang pants and shirts.
  • Fold sweaters and put on shelf or in drawers.
  • Organize shoes.  Do NOT keep them in their boxes.  Out of site, out of mind. Even if you do that super-organized thing and take a picture of the shoes and paste it on the outside of the box, you’ll wear them less than if you can just see and grab the shoes.  We’re all pretty lazy at heart.


A shot of my larger closet “before” …

Closet Before


A shot of my larger closet “after” …
Closet After

Tips from my Closet

* Try EVERYTHING on.  It’ll remind you of how much you love or hate something. Looking at it doesn’t work.  Put it on!

(to make it less overwhelming, grab an armful of hangers and go through that pile.  Try on, separate into piles, put keepers aside, repeat.)

* Put a pair of neutral heels on and try all of your dresses on at once.  It’s just easier.  To clarify, I don’t mean put one dress on top of the other until you’re wearing all of your dresses.

* If you’re iffy on something put it in your keep pile.  Then when you put everything back in your closet, go through everything again.  After trying everything on you might decide that thing you were iffy on is actually a throw away.

There are a few ways you can recycle old clothing into new crap!


Sweaters that don’t fit, have holes or you don’t like anymore?

Turn them into grocery bags …


Sweater Grocery Bag tutorial 

… or pillows! (like Centsational Girl did)



Sweater Pillow tutorial


Jeans too tight?  Jeans too ugly?

Turn them into a hanging pencil holder.


Jean Pencil Holder tutorial


Old shirts

Cruddy old shirts?

Turn them into MORE grocery bags!


Lumberjack Sack tutorial

Or cut the fabric out and use them as embroidery hoop wall hangings.


Hanging Embroidery Hoop Hanging tutorial

Approximate time for project:  Well for me it took a whole day. But you’re much better at keeping an organized closet than I am so I’m sure it’ll only take you a few hours.  If your closet is exactly as big a disaster as mine is … give yourself the weekend.

On a side note, it’ll take you a lot less time if you make a real effort to stay focused.

I made no such effort.  You might say as I went through my closet I got a bit distracted going through all the stuff I found in there. Mind you … I was just sticking to my rule of trying everything on.

Black Wig
Crazy Wig

Consider yourselves warned.

Have your own tips? Tricks? Let everyone know.


  1. Jamieson says:

    The lighter wig somehow makes you look like Nurse Jackie! The world does not need to find out how many wigs are in my tickle trunks. Every house should have at least one wig per guest!

  2. jenny says:

    When storing shoes on shelves, you can get more room by turning one shoe the opposite direction (like they would be in the box) instead of having both shoes facing the same direction.

  3. Pati Gulat says:

    Karen, would you believe that before I read READ this, I cleaned my closet out today ???? You and I are so in tune !! Wanna go out for coffee ?? Since I live in LA….I’ll make it easy on ya & meet cha halfway…I’ll be the one sitting on the side of I-95, waving ! Lol

  4. jamie says:

    Oh yay! I adore an organized closet…for fun I went to to my sister’s and organized 2 of hers a couple weeks ago. My closet, my purse and my silverware drawer are my tidy organized spots. The rest of my world is a mess. I can’t wait for the rest of the posts. :)

  5. Stefanie Barrett says:

    Thank you for showing the before picture. I didn’t know other people lived like I do. It gives me hope.

  6. Noelle says:

    On my way! Packing stuff for value village as I type ( sort of) so i’ll do that and come grab it. Thx!

  7. Erika says:

    I just picked up one of those hanging shoe organizers (you know, the one with 24 pockets) and hung it on the inside of my closet door. I put my scarfs each in a pocket, and then did the same with my tights (separated by color), ped socks, knee-highs (yes, apparently I am an 80 year old woman), etc. each in their own pockets. Much better than jammed into my sock and underwear drawers!

  8. Wendy says:

    I don’t want to toot my own horn . . . but I am already really good at closet organizing. I purge every other season. I get rid of things that are pilled, pulled, annoying or depress me. I never regret, and I always figure it costs more emotionally to hold on to something than it does to keep it because I spent a lot on it. We all make clothing purchase mistakes . . . do we have to keep them too!?

    The rest of my house is pretty crazy. Too many toys. Too much weird stuff in my basement.

    I am very good with my things . . . not so good with my husband’s or my kids’.

  9. I see someone else with an old house beat me to the “no closet” joke. My reluctance to organize my clothes is a concern as to where my poor cats will sleep if I actually get the clothes out of the Ikea bags, and laundry baskets in which clothes often reside. I’m trying to turn the basement into a huge walk in closet with rolling racks of shoes and clothes, but I have to clean the basement first… ;/

    • Karen says:

      Well the nice little rack with shelves on the bottom you see in the before picture is on my front porch and up for grabs right now if you want to start your basement now! ~ karen

  10. Did I spy a VCR in your before closet photo?

  11. Barbie says:


  12. Barbie says:

    I’ve never done the “seasonal” closet thingy… got me thinking now….and that can be scary!

  13. Love this post! All of the comments that followed are funny too and want me to come play at your house. I have my own way to organize. Needs some improvement, but mostly works for me. My closet has a shelf with a hanging bar along the back wall. Dresses to the left (I only have a few. In fact I can count them on one hand!) short sleeve tops fill out the rest. One side wall has five shelves that I use from top to bottom: sweaters, jeans, two rows of shoes. The other side wall has two rows of hanging bars for my long sleeve tops and jackets. And yes, you guessed it – everything is grouped by color. Sad, isn’t it? It’s hard to be ocd in today’s world! But there is hope. The closet floor is horrible and proves I have no good aim!
    Oh, BTW, I never thought about turning my shoes out toe first instead of heel first. Great tip!

  14. Leslie says:

    When I’m reorganizing a closet I like to use good, sturdy, matching hangers that slide nicely across the rods and don’t let the clothes slip off. That way all the work I put into it isn’t destroyed the first time I reach in there to grab something.

    No wire hangers EVER!

    • Debbie says:

      Only wire hangers (unless the fabric is more delicate and needs the width of a plastic hanger)! Wire hangers slide beautifully and are perfect for our shirts. I wear mostly natural materials, so nothing slides off. Wire hangers take up less room and don’t easily break when the boys grab them from their closets (they bend back into shape). I love the pants hangers from the dry cleaner that have the sticky cardboard. I threaten the family not to break those (jk). Wooden hangers are good for suits. I’m not fond of the hangers that have fuzz on them as I just know that fuzz will come off on my clothes and stain them. (They won’t do that to anyone else’s clothes, just mine.)

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I think you kinda look like Betty in that second wig..Oh yeah..the closet..two more cups of coffee and I’ll be ready to rock it..

  16. toekneetoni says:

    well done. I adore that straw satchel on the top shoe shelf.

  17. Lynne says:

    Thanks so much for the inspiration Karen…I so need to get 4 kids and 2 adults worth of clothes/footwear in closets/basement cleaned through! I have to ask though…are those black Y3 boots/shoes sitting rightmost on the top of the bottom white shelf unit ? They look so funky…profile picture please?

  18. Jodi T. says:

    My closet looks about like yours… My husband had the flu last week, and I quarantined him in our bedroom for 4 days… He got so stir crazy that he (semi) organized my shoes along the bottom of the closet… I can’t walk in now. LOL… I seriously need to take your advice about throw away, keep, and donate…

    PS. Love the wigs. :)

  19. BGrigg says:

    The “overly attached girlfriend” pic at the end is hilarious!

  20. Cheryl says:

    Great post! I’ve began my house organizing a couple of weeks ago. Started with my food pantry, refrigerator, freezer, drawers and cabinets in the kitchen. Then made a list of all the meals I could make with what I had on hand (about 20!)–so now it’s on to the bedroom. I have one EXCELLENT clothes closet organization tip that I would like to share:

    Once you get all your clothes back in the closet (all the ones you just know you will wear)–then put the hangers on the rod facing backwards. Every time you wear something, after laundering, put it back on the hanger on the rod the correct direction. After a year (mark the date on your calendar) go to your calendar and ruthlessly grab all those hangers that are still backwards and throw all the clothes in a bag and get them out of there immediately. If you haven’t worn something in a year you will never, ever, wear it.

    The first year I did this I eliminated 1/2 of my clothes. Some of them had never been worn and still had tags. Donated all of them. So this week I’m going at it a second time and from the look of the hangers–1/2 more of my clothes will be toast. Then it will be on to the coats!

  21. kelliblue says:

    OMG. You would be totally incognito on those wigs! But um…no. Just NO. (esp. the second one – hello Maude!) So I’m thinkin you forgot one very important bullet point on your first list, what with the fella taking off and having to (re)move his stuff and all:

    Identify what to do with each item.

    Just sayin.

  22. AngieC says:

    I was thinking on Friday I should clean my closet out but I got sidetracked by my disaster of an office/library. Glad I waited, now I can organize along with the rest of the class.

  23. mia pratt says:

    Thanks for the reminder, I needed to face a closet-cleaning and you gave me just the nudge I needed, Karen. Four times a year is my general rule, unless it gets too cold or I have too much company or I gain or lose weight and my pants are too big or too small. Luckily for me, now I can combine the post-Christmas and before-spring reorg into one day. I like to put a marathon of a favorite TV show on the telly, since I don’t get to watch much telly here, and let it ride while I conquer and divide… Thanks for a great and inspiring post…

  24. Deb J says:

    Like that tidy closet! And those shorty boots at the front in the first shot – yum! One tip I have for keeping my closets under control is to go through about twice a year (spring & fall usually) but not to call it ‘organizing’. I call it ‘playing in my closet’ and use the time to create new outfits out of the stuff I have in there. Stuff that doesn’t work in any outfits either leaves or gets put on a ‘what do I need to make it work’ list. And I keep a box in my front door closet (the one nobody, not even guests use – they throw their coats on the chair) and I add to it whenever I come across something that should be someone else’s treasure. Things still get out of control but ….

  25. Sally A. says:

    What a great winter-time project! I still have failed halloween costume ideas strewn about the floor in my closet (one of my cats has made a bed out of one of my tulle petticoats…he has no respect for my things.) Thank you for the inspiration!

  26. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Thanks for the great laugh…love you in those wigs! Looking forward to the rest of the story…

  27. Julie says:

    In US towns you’ll frequently see boxes marked, “Clothes and Shoes” in grocery parking lots. These are a great option instead of throwing out your clothes! Most people think, “I don’t want to give my crappy clothes away. They aren’t even good enough for Goodwill.” BUT these bins are for recycling clothes so it doesn’t matter how funky they are! And it keeps stuff out of the landfill!

  28. karen says:

    uh-oh…speaking of upcycled t-shirts, in which pile did that el mismo sol dress end up?? I see it in the “before” photo!

  29. Susan S says:

    When I do the big closet reorganization which doesn’t happen often, I hang the organized clothes back up with the hangar turned around. When I take clothes out to wear I re-hang them the regular way. When it’s time to decide what to keep or not, I can then see which clothes I’ve never worn in a year. That helps make the decision to get rid of them a wee bit easier. Also, my closet was pretty dark so I took the light cover off to brighten it up. Makes it a whole lot easier to see stuff.

  30. marilyn says:

    bahahahahaha that wig!

  31. jainegayer says:

    Maybe I’ll tackle the closet tomorrow when it’s raining. It’s getting to 54 degrees today and I want to ride my fat mare. But I promise I will get to it the day after tomorrow. Promise. Next week for sure.

  32. Sandy says:

    The last wig pic made me laugh!! You are so full of personality.

  33. Meg says:

    Love this! I go through my closet in the spring and fall because I also put away summer/winter clothes then as well. I’ve been using the “put everything back with the hanger backwards” tip and it works. The next time I’m cleaning the closet and something is still in there with the hanger backwards means I haven’t worn it in at least 6 months, so likely time to toss.

  34. Mary Werner says:

    The thought of a clean closet makes me feel so good, the idea of finding clothes lets me dream of going somewhere to where them, the neatness makes me all warm and fuzzy, but the last picture? I FEEL WONDERFUL after laughing at that one. Can’t wait to see how good I feel tomorrow at the thought of a clean closet.

  35. Suzanne @ Le Farm says:

    I could just see you blasting…”Walk This Way” by Aerosmith as you modeled those wigs…

  36. Zoe says:

    If you didn’t have a walk in closet to store your out of season clothing what would be your preferred method of storing it – vacuum bags or storage bins or………..*insert amazing solution here*

    • Karen says:

      Tupperware bins in a fairly easy to find location. I’ve also put sweaters and jackets in my vintage luggage I use as decoration in the house. That way they aren’t just wasting space. You could put out of season clothing in your regular luggage if you own some too. ~ karen!

    • Adrienne in Atlanta says:

      The vacuum bags are amazing. I highly recommend them!

  37. Heather says:

    Oh good grief! You expect me to clean and organize my closet all in an evening? I need an entire day to do it properly, if not a weekend!

    And we have to try everything on?? Girl, it’s January!! As in “post holiday”, “yoga pant-wearing” month. And you expect me to try on all my jeans??!!

  38. magali says:

    I am halfway there with my spare bedroom closet, which contains the craft and building supplies. Thanks to this post I have the motivation to finish the other half! Everything is out of the closet and on the spare bed and I bought a cube bookshelf this weekend (thank you Martha Stewart, as there is no Ikea where I live) that is built and ready to go. Now I must sort and put in all back!

  39. Helana says:

    My two cents?

    One more thing to think about is whether it matches anything else you’ve got. Ideally separates should mix and match. (Yes, it’s a grand shirt. Yes, it’s neon pink and green, but it really fits well, looks amazing on you, and you just know it’ll be perfect for … well, it’ll be perfect for something, someday. That Q&A about your book, maybe. Hey, it could happen. You’ve got chapter one written. And half of chapter ten.)

    But if you’ve been hanging on to it for the past five years hoping you’ll find something, anything to wear with it, if you’re keeping three skirts and two pairs of pants that kinda work with it, well, it may be time to donate it and let someone else have the joy of trying to match the silly thing.)

    • Pam'a says:

      You reminded me of the Skirt That Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) Goes With. It was magenta-and-cream print fabric, and I’m convinced no other piece of fabric on the planet matched that cream shade. God knows I tried. So it festered, untouched, in the depths of my closet for oh, a decade or so. By then I truly despised it, and it was a distinct pleasure to banish it.

  40. Tigersmom says:

    Taking over the fella’s old closet may have been one of the first things I would have done. Reclaiming my turf. But I am just bitchy that way.

    I love that you added the fourth category of reuse/recycle. I always used the first three, but the last time I organized my closet I realized that I was maybe getting rid of some things that I could put to good/alternate use. I turned the sleeves of three sweaters into boot cuffs for when I tuck in my jeans.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for the wig selfies. Please don’t get rid of those. That short and curly one nearly had me waking up the whole house.

  41. Amie Mason says:

    Oh Yes! I’m ahead – I did this a week ago! I go through my closet every 6 months…. although I still need to put the items I don’t want up on ebay…. so maybe I’m not that ahead!

    Also, you are a little weird Karen. I noticed you place your shoes on your shelf with the heal facing out….

    • kathryn says:

      umm, for most of us, they then get pulled off the shelf the same way that we are going to put them on… no? (trying to remember a vaguely recalled push-me pull-you type cartoon character whose feet are the “wrong” way around. but mind keeps returning to Eugene Levy’s Best In Show character who has two left feet.) Amie, maybe you have so many pairs you can’t recognise them from behind and want to save yourself the embarrassment of slipping your toes somewhere unintentional? “so sorry! i thought you were a different red patent ballet pump…!” heheh.

  42. Karen says:

    Better keep the black wig in case you ever are hired as a spy.

  43. Stephanie Hobson says:

    I read this somewhere recently about helping to purge your clothes. Turn all of the hangers around backwards, and as you wear something hang it back up properly. Then you can easily see at the end of that season what you did and did not wear.

  44. sky says:

    Thanks for the lol

  45. Agnes says:

    Old t-shirts are great to turn into t-shirt yarn! So long as they’re a solid colour

  46. Patricia Gibson says:

    Well if I had closets this would motivate me to clean them. No, I don’t live in a dream house (no closets, dirty dishes, clutter, dirty laundry, and where every pencil is the same length and perfectly sharpened – my definition of a dream house. My mother wanted a house that you could clean the interior by spraying everything down with a hose. I’m beginning to see her wisdom.) Anyway my husband and I have large wardrobes so they stay fairly well pared down. But I have clothes stacked and folded that just defy going into a drawer or need to be on a shelf. My beloved, the museum director, believes in compact storage. We live in a huge Victorian with a huge attic. Do you think items that should be put away for storage should be on top of bookcases, kitchen cabinets, tall pieces? No! They go to the attic. Let me rephrase that. They SHOULD go to the attic. But they don’t. I guess my response is to stack stuff at my level. Hmmm. I think I’ve discovered the crux of the matter.
    Oh dear. I’ve written an essay. What were you talking about? Cleaning closets? Yes you were. I may have just cleaned my mental closets, so thanks for that.

  47. SK Farm Girl says:

    K – just burst out laughing and woke up the dogs ‘n my fella! That last photo cracked me up; now I have to go try on clean underwear! LOL!!! Bahahahahahaha!

  48. Marti says:

    Oh thank you for buying those wigs! I don’t know when you bought them… I don’t care. Please just put them in the back of your closet until the next time we all need another good laugh!

    If I thought I’d find anything as fun as those wigs to try on, I’d head to the closet immediately. Instead, I’m going to go brush my teeth and think about this again tomorrow.

    Maybe by then I won’t bust out laughing every time I think of you with dark frosted curly short hair!

    And there’s a whole week of this??

    • Marti says:

      PS: Maybe you could give us a heads’ up on how you’ve divvied up the excitement for the week? As in what are the five areas you’re assigning?

      I just don’t want to get ahead of myself on the excitement level here. I have to pace myself for thrills relative to cleaning…

      • Karen says:

        Well that would take all the fun out of it. If I let you know one of the days was organizing your wig drawer, that would take all the fun out of it. ~ karen!

  49. Ella says:

    I quite like the black hair look!

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