While organizing your closet space and coming up with storage solutions can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, a DIY closet organization makeover can almost be fun. (And the results can be their own kind of exhilarating.) If you’ve felt mild panic before opening a closet door, you probably also know that labeled bins and cubbies, neatly stacked containers, and matching hangers have the power to induce calm—plus, when everything’s in reach (and nothing’s in danger of toppling), life is just easier.
If getting things in order doesn’t come naturally to you, borrow pro organizer Annie Schmidt’s closet-organizing philosophy. The owner of SOS Schmidt Organization Systems in Dallas equates the perfect closet to the perfect party: Just like your curate the perfect guest list (or accept invitations only for parties you’re truly excited about), “your closet should feel like arriving to a really good party, where everyone you see is someone you like,” she says. To help guide your journey to closet nirvana, below, Schmidt and more pro organizers share their most organized closets—and their tips to help get yours in shape.
When you rent, it may feel like you can’t make major improvements to your closet. But that, says Jamie Hord, owner of Horderly in New York City, simply isn’t true. This client’s closet came with a single shelf and hanging rod, which was useless, since the client didn’t need hanging space. So Hord got creative: She added a removable over-the-door closet system with bins, and slid a four-tier shelving system inside, which created additional shelves where she could stack bins to corral everything from gym equipment to linens.
Her solutions worked, Hord says, because the client had a clear vision for how she wanted to use the closet: “We see a lot of people purchase organizing products before they even know what they need to store in them.” Purge first, she advises, then put together your closet-organizing game plan before you head to the store.
This client’s playroom closet posed several challenges for Meg Markland, owner of Neat by Meg in Houston: It was small, and there were a lot of kids’ toys to fit inside. Markland started with one of her team’s go-to space savers: “We love to put games on their sides, so you can easily see and grab them out.” She used stackable bins to take full advantage of each shelf’s height, filling up the vertical space, and used wall-mounted organizers (often reserved for mops, brooms, and the like) to hold swords and other awkwardly sized toys.
“We love a closet clean-out,” says Katie Savage, co-owner of Blue Pencil Home in Memphis. But an overwhelming purge can end in accidental donations if you’re not careful. With that in mind, Savage suggests skipping the “keep” and “donate” piles, and instead putting on matching hangers the items you want to hold on to as you decide. When you’re done with the sorting, you’ll also be done with the hanging—and nothing will accidentally get purged.
Have you ever noticed how perfectly clothes are folded in stores? Kimberly Stewart, owner of The Realm in Los Angeles and Palm Beach, Florida, re-created that same uniform fold in a client’s bedroom closet, and she’s sharing her secret: “The trick of the trade is buying a basic folding board that helps you get perfectly even-stacked sweaters and shirts for a high-end boutique feel,” she says. While this closet organization trick will make your closet look fancy, folding boards cost as little as $10. She also used acrylic shelf dividers to keep the piles of sweaters in line.
Closets that store food can get cluttered quickly. But Jasmyn Coleman and Cathy Percell, who own Reclaim My Pantry in Sacramento, California, say decluttering is as simple as corralling food items in the right bins and storage boxes. But there are rules. One: Don’t buy containers that are too big for what you want to store. If your containers look half-empty, you might be tempted to buy more pasta or dried oats than you need in order to fill the space, and end up tossing unused food after it sits there for months.
“Another important tip,” says Coleman, “is labels, labels, labels!” Adding labels is especially important if you’re organizing a space that’s used by multiple people, whether it’s family members or roommates. Once you do, “everyone knows where everything is or where it needs to be placed, what item needs to be replenished.”
When Corrie Jackson, co-owner of Maison Haven in Greenwich, Connecticut, first saw this closet, it was a mishmash of mismatched gift wrap, files, and serving dishes. So the first step, she said, was deciding what this closet was going to be. She and the clients settled on a hardworking gift closet. “We’ve learned over the years that if a space looks beautiful, it’s more likely to stay that way,” Jackson says. She suggests creating a “mood board” to help visualize the space.
To keep this closet organized, Jackson created “zones” for specific items: Gift wrap is stored separately from ribbons and tissue paper. Less used items went to the bottom level, and gift bags went front and center. “Anything you’re reaching for often should be placed in prime real estate,” Jackson says. “That means between knee and shoulder height—no bending down low or reaching up high.”
We’ve grown to love organizing bins, which make reaching for a group of like items that much easier. And Trish Johnson, owner of This Organized Chaos in Cranford, New Jersey, has a tip that will keep even not-so-pretty things looking chic: Instead of clear bins, opt for opaque or tinted translucent bins to hold cleaning supplies, sponges, floor wipes, and the like. “In a closet like this, with many different types of things, I always try to minimize the visual clutter,” Johnson says. “The translucent bins make the space a little more sleek and less visually overwhelming.”
An organized closet can be beautiful if you take the extra time to color-coordinate. Here, Katia Bosley, founder of Vision and Hammer in Houston, arranged her client’s clothes first by type—shirts, dresses, etc.—and then by color. (The matching hangers not only are visually pleasing but serve a purpose: Slim hangers save space, and velvet coating keeps clothes from slipping.)
Above the clothing in this walk-in closet, Bosley divided seasonal items into bins, and then labeled them, “so our clients know what they have stored and don’t forget about it,” she says. As a finishing touch, she used hat and purse stands and jewelry organizers to corral smaller items and show them off.
“The first step to any successful closet organization is to remove all items and discard what is not needed,” says Annie Schmidt, owner of SOS Schmidt Organization Systems in Dallas. For this closet, Schmidt started by tossing old towels and linens. Divided turntables made it super easy to organize (and see) bathroom necessities, and labels on storage baskets mean this client will always know what’s inside. “Now this linen closet is not only functional but beautiful,” she says.
Jillian Kramer is a journalist who writes about health, wellness, science, and adventure. She taps into a broad network of experts to write in-depth articles for leading publications, including Glamour, The New York Times, Scientific American, Travel + Leisure, EatingWell, and Food & Wine.
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Originally Appeared on Glamour