Bye-bye, overflowing dresser drawers! Clutter doesn't stand a chance when you follow our no-fail plan for clearing the chaos in this messy personal spot.

By Brian Kramer
Updated May 19, 2020
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Project Joy is a weekly column about the projects we’re doing at home that bring us a little piece of happiness.

If you often find yourself battling a stuffed drawer overflowing with clothes, it may be time for a lesson in dresser organization. Follow our six step process for decluttering your drawers and reassessing your wardrobe. With a clear organization system, your drawers will look neat and stay that way. Plus, it'll make picking out the perfect outfit easier than ever.

1. What Do I Actually Own?

A clutter-free clothing dresser begins with a thorough inventory. Empty the entire dresser and sort it all into piles. Put like with like on the bed or floor. Avoid editing at this point, which will slow you down. Take another look at your biggest piles and sort and subcategorize some more. Tops might be further subdivided into tanks, tees, and long-sleeved, for example. Make labels as you work. Although labeling piles may seem silly, knowing all your options eliminates overthinking and speeds up decision making.

Editor's Tip: Take a moment when your dresser is totally empty to check that every drawer is sturdy and moves smoothly. Tighten corners with wood screws and run waxed paper over drawer sides and glides.

2. What Do I Actually Wear?

Now you can start editing. Apply these four clarifying questions to figure out what to keep and what to let go of:

1. Do I Love it? Keep anything you truly love. You'll always remember (and probably regret) giving away something you love. But be aware that keeping a beloved item might mean you must get rid of something else in order to make room.

2. Do I Use it? And if so, how often? Keep anything you use—and start storing the stuff you use most frequently in the easiest places to access.

3. Do I Have More than One? If so, edit down the best one. Of course, having more than one flashlight makes sense if you store them in different, useful places. Two waffle irons, however, may be tough to justify.

4. Can I Get Another? If you think you might suddenly need an item or it could miraculously come back in style, remind yourself you can usually buy or borrow one.

3. Is a Drawer the Best Place to Store This?

You may have better storage spots for specific types of clothing—or perhaps all your clothes. Consider hangers and hooks for work clothing. Try open shelves for folded garments that stack well, such as jeans, sweaters, and sweatshirts. Undergarments may be more conveniently stashed in a bathroom. For a kid's closet, cloth storage bins are a great option for pajamas or loungewear.

4. What is Each Drawer's Duty?

Assign one duty only to each drawer. Designate drawers for each type of garment (accessories, undergarments, tops, bottoms). Or it might make more sense to designate drawers by purpose like work, workout, casual, dress-up, or seasonal. Use sticky notes for the first few weeks to help your designations become habitual.

5. How Much Can I See Instantly?

Do everything you can to eliminate layers in drawers. Roll or refold clothing into packets that stand on end. Use spring-loaded dividers, bookends, and boxes to keep clothing standing tall. When clothes are folded and stacked in piles, the items at the bottom are often forgotten and rarely seen.

6. Where Do I Check My Look?

Consider moving finishing touches out of the bath or closet and establish a final primping station, using the topmost drawer and dresser top. Use a drawer organizer to keep brushes, bottles, and creams in place. Just remember to return hair and beauty products back to the drawer when you're done.

Comments (5)

Anonymous
June 17, 2018
I am amused by the anal versus un-anal responses lots of silly judgements about organizing clothing and how it will change your life. Steady income, good health, and good family/friends are what makes the rest of us happy. If it tale me a few more seconds to locate a piece of clothing that means nothing to me.
Anonymous
June 7, 2018
This is nice, however, most apartments type homes do not have the closet space shown in the demo. It would be nice to include apartment floorplans in the mix from time to time.
Anonymous
June 6, 2018
My long scarves are either on hangers made for scarves or hanging with the outfit I most often pair it with. ([I keep costume jewelry in a small bag like you use for party favors)On the hanger as well.) Small square scarves are in zip lock bags in a drawer, binder-clipped together with openings out like a book Socks are rolled and placed in a bin with small squares made for storing tthem
Anonymous
June 6, 2018
I roll scarves on saved rolls from paper towels. I line these up in a drawer and actually have them in a double layer. It is easy to see what I have and my scarves are fresh and unwrinkled when I need one.
Anonymous
June 6, 2018
How many people can stack shoes all together on shelves? Or lay socks out neat so each pair can be seen? Looks wonderful but not a reality.