How to Organize Your Closet in 30 Minutes Flat
It doesn't matter how many color-coordinated hangers or scarf organizers you buy: There will come a day when you look at your closet and wonder, How the heck did it get so messy?!
The daily barrage of clothing you pull out and put back in (and maybe, sometimes, only hang halfway onto that color-coordinated hanger) can turn this functional space into a hassle. Raise your hand if you ever buy new stuff without taking out the old, or if you ever stash non-clothing items in your closet. (No judgment!) We called in a closet organizing pro to help break these habits and establish a closet organizer system that works.
"I recommend organizing your closet on a seasonal basis," says Cary Prince, a certified professional organizer in Los Angeles. Doing it this way gives you a chance to think about what you've worn and liked that season (or what you've ignored completely) and do some editing before the next season starts. So if your closet needs a reset, set the timer and get going: You've got 30 minutes to get it working for you again.
1 Minute: Gather Your Materials
Before you open the closet doors, find a few trash bags or bins to help you sort. The two basic piles you're going to make are for clothes to throw out and clothes to donate. Prince also suggests two more categories: clothes to give away (like maternity clothes to a pregnant friend) and clothes to sell (a pristine bridesmaid dress you'll never wear again).
"But don't buy anything!" Prince instructs. You may be tempted to buy more hangers or bins to get your closet organized, but save those purchases for later in the organization process, once you know exactly what you need.
In addition to prepping for your piles, bring along cleaning supplies like damp rags, multipurpose cleaner, and a broom and dustpan or vacuum cleaner. If you think you'll need help making decisions, enlist a friend. An objective bystander can make it easier to decide what to keep and what to toss.
3 Minutes: Pull Everything Out
The bed is the logical place to gather clothes as you pull them out of your closet: Just dump everything on there! Hopefully, your garments are already loosely organized—all the shirts or dresses together, for example—so you can pile them onto the bed by type. Pull out any organizers and bins to give yourself a totally empty closet.
3 Minutes: Clean Your Closet
Now that your closet is empty, wipe down the shelves, closet rods, walls, and baseboards with your rag and cleaner, then clear the floor of debris with a vacuum or broom. The space shouldn't be too dirty, so it won't take a lot of effort to get yourself a fresh slate here.
3 Minutes: Look at Your Closet
Before you think about putting anything inside your now spotless closet, take a step back and look at the space. Consider how it has and hasn't been working for you.
"The prime real estate is right in front, so think about your most-used items, what you're always struggling to reach, or which things would be better folded than hung," says Prince.
If your current closet system is in good order but has just gotten out of whack, that's great—otherwise, tweak it!
15 minutes: Go Through Your Clothes
This step can certainly take longer than 15 minutes but can go quickly if you're decisive and do it every few months.
Now is when you take every garment out of the pile and decide if it goes back into the closet.
"You don't have to go full Marie Kondo, but as you decide, ask yourself four questions to figure out if you should keep something: Does it fit? Have I worn it in the last 12 months? Will I repair it (for items that are damaged or need alteration)? Do I feel confident in it?" says Prince. If you answer "no" to any of these, put it into one of your piles instead of back into the closet.
"I always say that if you use the word 'should' to justify keeping it, that's the first step towards knowing you should let it go," says Prince.
Once you've made your decision, put the garment back into the closet in roughly the right spot and move on to the next item. Work by type (pants, skirts, blouses, jackets) and try to move quickly rather than getting caught up thinking about the clothes you used to fit into or wear for an old job or lifestyle. The goal is to make your closet work for who you are today.
If you've seen any episode of "Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo," you'll recognize this moment for what it is—a closet organization danger zone. This is when your resolve may falter, and the process could slow to a halt. Does parting with your size 4 dress mean you're giving up on your old, thin self? Does donating your decade-old thigh-highs suggest your wild-partying youth is behind you? All this overthinking can turn a 30-minute task into a three-hour one—or make you abandon the project altogether.
"I find it's helpful to focus on what you're keeping instead of what you're getting rid of," says Prince. "Look at all these awesome clothes left in your closet that make you feel fabulous!"
4 Minutes: Make It Nice
Once your closet is filled back up with only the keepers, take a few minutes to straighten everything out and make sure it's all organized by garment type and by color (even if you've been sort of doing it as you put it away). "I love a ROYGBV!" Prince says.
1 Minute: Wrap It Up
Take your bags out and get them on their way. Put your donation clothes right into the car, so you don't just leave them sitting around and get any other items (like the give or sell piles) ready for the next step.
And who knows? Maybe your next closet organizing experience will only take 15 minutes!