Faced with an under-performing closet, one urban couple got serious, prioritizing and discarding contents before reorganizing the space. See what simple steps they took to clear their closet of clutter.

By Pamela Porter

For help reclaiming their messy master closet, homeowners Joy and Chris turned to Certified Professional Organizer Yvette Clay of LivingOrder Austin. Some problems inculded insufficient shoe storage, misuse of closet space, and hoarding rarely worn clothes. After assessing the situation, Clay determined the couple had plenty of space but needed a major purge and appropriate organizing systems.

Before: Inefficient Storage

Their main charge from her was to get rid of anything that wasn't absolutely essential or regularly used. Any remaining items that weren't clothing or accessories were designated to be stored elsewhere in their townhouse. "My rule of thumb is that if you can't wear it on your body, it shouldn't live in the closet," Clay says. "Clutter is postponed decisions. Don't put it down—put it away."

After: No More Wasted Space

To jump-start the couple in what can be an overwhelming endeavor, Clay introduced her A-B-C-D prioritization concept, with A items being those used most frequently and D items those used least or not at all. After thinning out and redistributing misfit items, Joy and Chris took a true inventory of their belongings and joined Clay in devising a plan.

Before: Step in the Right Direction

Before the makeover, Joy had the right idea with this hardworking cubby unit positioned behind the door. Clay helped Joy go a step further, by eliminating the useless hang bar and organizing the jumble of bags, books, and footwear.

Clay determined the single-hang rod on the short side of the closet could fit Chris's items, which meant Joy could utilize the longer side and back wall. "One thing became quite apparent," Joy says. "With more than 50 pairs of shoes and boots between us, footwear storage was a big priority."

After: Best Foot Forward

Although an awkward shelf was replaced with cabinets, the modular cubby unit stayed put. Canvas drawers and baskets stow socks, intimates, and accessories. One drawer is for items to give away. When it gets full, Joy makes a trip to a donation center.

A new shoe tower on her side and two shoe shelves on Chris's addressed their needs perfectly. After calculating the linear footage of her long and short clothing, Joy had the closet components cut accordingly to accommodate double-hang rods on one side of the tower and single-hang for her dresses on the other.

The existing cubby unit stayed put, displaying and keeping handbags accessible. Two cabinets on top provide convenient space for folded clothing and allow just enough room for the carry-on luggage Joy uses almost weekly.

In a closet, accessibility is paramount. But having everything visible can quickly look chaotic. Drawer space for sweaters and jeans was not available elsewhere, so Joy added cabinet units above the cubbies to hide folded belongings behind closed doors.

Before: Cramped Quarters

Shoeboxes, bedding, bins, and bags crammed the couple's master closet from floor to ceiling before their big purge. Although it boasted ample hanging space, the closet didn't adequately address their shoe storage needs.

After: Raise the Bar

The key factor to the closet's success is a nine-shelf tower that showcases Joy's shoe collection. "The sight of it makes me happy every morning," she says. Joy also loves the bed with built-in storage they purchased to house the closet's overflow items.

Before their closet makeover, Joy and Chris had to step over piles on the floor. Afterward, a single-hang rod remains on Chris's side (on left), providing room for a hamper below. New double-hang rods accommodate Joy's clothes, which she now organizes by category (such as short-sleeve tops) and sorts by color within each category. A small folding step stool puts higher-up items within Joy's reach.

Knee-high boots call for horizontal boot bins, which help the long shafts keep their shape. (Rolled-up magazines inside help too.) The clear, lidded bins let Joy see inside and keep boots dust-free and off the floor. Storing seasonal boots up high also keeps them out of the way during the rest of the year.

Clay believes in getting everything off the floor, and these easy-to-assemble shoe shelves did the trick on Chris's side of the closet. Their capacity even allowed him to move a few pairs of shoes out of the front entryway. Matching hangers give the closet a neat, finished look. Joy prefers non-flocked hangers so clothes slide on and off easily.

Alternating the direction of shoes helps maximize shelf space, and the sleek rail keeps shoes from sliding off angled shelves. Joy opted for a shallow angle, which allowed for an additional shelf. By measuring the height of her shoes beforehand, she was able to install the shelves at various heights to accommodate flats, heels, and ankle boots.

Once your closet is in order, don't stop there. "A critical step many people don't take is maintaining their newfound order," Clay says. "Establish daily routines to sustain your system and devote an hour every few weeks to revisit your plan and determine what's working and what's not, then make adjustments if needed."

Hang Time

When it comes to hangers, one style does not fit all. Take a look at the different kinds of hangers you can buy, and make sure your closet has more than you need to accommodate future clothing purchases.

Pants (top): This hanger's open end allows pants to slide on and off with ease.

General Use (middle): These are available in many forms; find one you like and stock up.

Skirts (bottom): Clips let you hang skirts rather than piling them, eliminating wrinkles.

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Comments (12)

mm_66436
September 2, 2018
I love the idea of an organized closet. We have a fairly small closet that doubles as our laundry room. Any suggestions for keeping it organized? And how do I size down clothes, when I have to have three different style of clothes?
ritabohn202192499
September 1, 2018
Love the idea of an organized closet, however ours is in a dormer with a 12/12 pitch -- suggestions??
psheilahro
August 31, 2018
Tp pairs of shoes! I'm lucky to own 3 and a pair of snow work boots.
bsehnke55
August 31, 2018
It looks nice, but I'd have to be 8 feet tall to get things off the top shelf. I know we can all downsize our clothes, but somehow I just can't seem to throw away things just because I haven't worn them in 6 months
elizabethmeson1
August 31, 2018
I love the order of providing a place for everything, but I would say that most people keep way too much stuff and should first get rid of anything that they haven't used in a while or that doesn't fit them to their liking. I am constantly going through my drawers and closet to get stuff out that I no longer use. Sometimes it's hard because we use the "maybe I'll use this..." excuse, but my experience is that what I don't use regularly I'll never use.
smokeysmom82732
August 31, 2018
I agree. My husband keeps too much stuff; he thinks he can use or wear something until the end of time...sorry, honey. When I see that things are no longer used, out they go.
susanwolfen
August 31, 2018
Agreed! We don’t need to hang on to too many/shoes. That right there solves the messy closet problem!
lily8907972
August 31, 2018
That is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many pairs of shoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
neddy143
September 7, 2018
I wish I could post a picture on here. Then I could show you what a lot of shoes looks like!!!!😂😂
Cathy12484
August 31, 2018
One of my problems is scarves, which look messy hanging on the closet door to display them; what if I rolled them up in transparent boxes, to allow a quick pick in the mornings?
sandyallessandr
August 31, 2018
rookie....
ctaycin
August 31, 2018
that is nothing I have had 220 shoes, boots, slippers at one time in my life.not now I'm retired and don't really care as much.