Streamlining your closets can feel like a whole fresh start—just in time for the new year. Begin with this overarching closet strategy: Organize your stuff the way you use it. Group clothes and accessories by purpose based on your lifestyle. For example: One approach would be to store your business and dress clothes in one area and your casual clothes in another. Keep crossover clothing (e.g., silk T-shirts) in the middle.
Bonus tip: Mark your calendar to donate the clothing you're not wearing regularly. If you haven't worn something in a year, give it away. Instant closet-booster!
To make the very most of your usable closet space, hang double bars, at 82 and 42 inches. These heights should allow enough room to store blouses, shirts, skirts, men's and women's suits, and double-hung pants. Then design an area with single rods for clothing that needs more vertical space. Plan on 69 inches for long dresses, 52 inches for robes, 45 inches for regular dresses, and 44 inches for cuff-hung pants.
Bonus tip: Using clip hangers? Tuck pieces of felt underneath the clips to avoid the marks often caused by this type of hanger.
Store jewelry in a shallow drawer with partitions to keep pairs of earrings grouped together and to keep necklaces and bracelets from tangling. You'll be amazed at the time saved by knowing where to find your favorite bracelet!
Some types of clothing should always be hung on wooden hangers. Think all-cotton blouses and dresses, garments made from linen and rayon, pressed shirts, suits, and coats.
Bonus tip: Use sturdy contoured wood hangers to support the shoulders of heavy garments (e.g., tailed jackets, coats), too, to prevent distortion from long-term storage.
For short-term storage, hang cashmere sweaters and silk or satin garments on padded hangers pretty enough to put on display. The padding keeps the garments' shoulders from distorting and stops them from slipping onto the floor.
When storing sweaters long-term, avoid hanger marks by folding them for storage. To avoid creases, place acid-free tissue paper between the folds and position the sweaters so the lightest ones are on top and the heaviest ones are on the bottom.
Bonus tip: Make sure your winter garments, especially ones made from wool, are clean before you store them. Taking this step helps discourage moth and beetle larvae from taking up residence.
Use zippered bags or storage boxes with lids for storing folded clothes. Stack by season and style for easy retrieval.
Bonus tip: Never store clothing in dry cleaning plastic bags; humidity inside the bags can cause yellowing.
Shelf dividers keep stacks of clothes organized and visible. Equally important, dividers keep clothes from slipping from the shelf to the floor where they get exposed to dirt, dust, and pet hair.
Keep handsome silk ties wrinkle-free by hanging them, rather than folding them and storing them in a drawer. Ties need at least 27 vertical inches of hanging space.
For a more efficient morning routine, hang ties, shirts, and jackets next to one another to make it easier to coordinate the day's wardrobe.
Stand back and evaluate a shirt-tie combination by hanging them from hardware attached to the closet wall or cabinetry frame. You could use a pullout rod or a regular hook for this purpose.
Bonus tip: Valet hooks can also help you organize outfits for parties or other special occasions.
You'll need 44 vertical inches to store pants by hanging them from their cuffs or hems on pant clamp hangers. If you don't have the space, use trouser racks or pants trolleys with rounded wood dowels (never wire) to keep them from developing horizontal creases.
Store shoes where they remain visible and easy to coordinate with the rest of your clothing—never on the floor where you left them. Shoe cubbies make it easy to keep the shoes organized by pairs.
Angled shoe shelves keep shoes visible and upright, letting you see everything you have at a glance. Whether you choose shoe cubbies or shelves, take special care when storing footwear long term. Use cedar shoe trees (or crumpled tissue paper) to help shoes and boots maintain their shape.
Bonus tip: Extra-tall boots may require that you lay them flat for storage, so hold onto the original box.
Short on closet space? Use plastic or cloth shoe bags hung on the back of your bedroom or closet door. Hanging shoe bags need 38 to 60 vertical inches of hanging space.
Store out-of-season casual shoes (made from canvas, linen, or other fabrics) in bins. Label the bins to make it easy to find your favorites once the season changes.
Labeled bins work well for storing folded sweat pants, sweat shirts, bathing suits, and other casual gear meant for sports, working out, or taking an exercise class. Grouping them by activity makes it easy to find what you need fast.
Keep your belts from getting tangled up or lost forever on the closet floor by storing them on hanging racks or hooked hangers. Save space by attaching hanging racks on the back of closet doors.
Keep delicate scarves free from fold lines by draping them through wood scarf hangers with perfectly smooth holes to prevent snagging.
Drawer organizers make it easy to keep accessories neatly organized and quick to find when needed. Think socks, lingerie, gloves, and belts—the latter of which should be coiled for most efficient storage.
Hang purses from durable hooks to keep them from slumping and losing their shape. Organize by color and season to make it easy to find the handbag you want.
Bonus tip: If you don't have enough closet space to hang purses (as shown here), fill them with crushed acid-free tissue paper before storing them in boxes or drawers. The tissue paper will keep the purses from getting crushed.
Keep your fedoras, Panama hats, and other shaped headgear from getting crushed by storing them on a hat rack or shelf (never stacked). Only hang hats from knobs or clips short term to avoid distorting their shapes. For long-term storage, wrap your hats in acid-free tissue paper and store them in boxes at the top of your closet.
Just like you tell the kids: "Those dirty clothes shouldn't live on the floor, your chair, or back in the closet." Place a hamper or a laundry bag somewhere handy so you actually use it.