Here's How Real Simple's Associate Editor Organizes Her Overflowing Closets
The Marie Kondo purge doesn’t work for everyone, especially if you’re a clothes-collecting fashion enthusiast.
Let me introduce you guys to my alter-ego. She abides by all of Marie Kondo’s principles, travels lightly, knows how to spend frugally, and lives in a clutter-free zone.
But here’s the thing—in reality, I’m a maximalist. And as much as I would like to live a simple, minimalistic lifestyle, my hoarding tendencies, lack of self-control when impulse shopping, and love for all things fashion doesn’t let me live the bare-minimum lifestyle that the organized side of me would prefer.
All this got me thinking: Is there a way to do clutter correctly? Being strict about clothes just doesn’t work for some people, and valuing a roomy closet over precious clothing just seems to incite a lot of regret down the line, especially if you’ve poured a lot of time and effort into building a wardrobe. (Side note: what does “sparking joy” mean anyway? I mean, all my clothes make me happy.) So, here’s the way I see it. If you can’t let go, you might as well organize it right. After years of trial-and-error, I’m proud to say that I have mastered the art of fitting as many clothes, shoes, and accessories as I can inside omy closet without it imploding. Whether you have a smaller-sized closet or a larger walk-in, these are the tips I’ve learned for making the most of the space you have. It might not pass Marie Kondo’s ritual, but hey, it brings me joy nonetheless.
Since every inch of space matters, make sure bulky hangers aren't taking up more space than they should. I use plastic hangers with a .25-inch width, ($2 for 18, target.com), which I’ve found are the slimmest ones you can find while still being durable. Use velvet options for more delicate clothing or if you need non-slip.
Tip: Having hangers in just one style and color will immediately give your closet a more orderly appearance.
When it comes to shoes, vertical space is your best friend. To take advantage of it, invest in clever door organizers and tiered shoe racks. I keep an over-the-door shoe rack for my shorter sandals, and shorter shoe racks tucked underneath my closet bars. If you’re a certifiable shoe hoarder like me, I swear by this super tall shoe rack from Amazon ($47, amazon.com), which lets you adjust the height of the shelves so you can actually fit those boots and booties that are too tall to fit on typical shoe racks.
Does your closet only come with one rack per wall? Mine did, so I just DIY’ed one myself. I installed the Mulig Clothes Bar from Ikea ($6, ikea.com) to add a whole extra row for clothing storage. You probably won’t be able to store dresses on two-tiered closet racks, but it’s great for hanging your shorter tees and tank tops.
Chances are, you most likely won't be able to fit every single clothing item you own into one closet. If the closets in your house aren’t big enough to fit everything you own, you can also utilize empty wall space outside your closet. I installed a customized rack ($28, homedepot.com) on a wall to fit my outerwear, which makes it easier to visualize what I have. If you’re unable to install things on your wall for landlord reasons, rolling garment racks, like this one from Wayfair ($17, wayfair.com), are a great alternative.
Tip: Remember to separate off-season clothing and store them away to save space. As a rule of thumb, hang up tops, outerwear, and dresses, but fold sweaters (to prevent stretching) and bottoms inside a dresser.
A grab-and-go section is a group of items, either in your closet or outside of it, that is easily accessible. This looks different for everyone. Personally, I choose to have my outerwear here so I can easily grab my final layering piece before I head out the door. You might also want to store your basics in this section, i.e., the items that you wear every day (your crisp white shirt, layering tank top, etc). You can also consider hanging newly purchased items here, or clothes you don’t wear too often so you’ll be forced to revisit pieces you forget about.
I can’t stress enough how important this is if you live in a moist area. Nothing is worse than finding your favorite clothes have been damaged by mold or mildew (which I found out the hard way), so a running dehumidifier ($60, bedbathandbeyond.com) can help.
Not sure if you need a dehumidifier? A hygrometer ($11, target.com) can help you figure out how much moisture is in the air. For preventing mold, the CDC recommends keeping the relative humidity below 50 percent. If your closet has a musty odor, that might be an indication of a bigger problem, so in addition to getting a dehumidifier, you should inspect carefully for underlying mold.
If you have a cramped closet, I’m sure you’re familiar with that “closed-in” smell (especially if you store shoes in there). The bad news: musty closet smells can affect the smell of your clothes, no matter what detergent you use. The good news: there are ways to counteract this smell. My go-to closet freshener is the Soohyang Wax Tablet ($22, soohyang.seoul.kr), which emits a subtle rosy aroma to keep my clothes smelling fresh. You can also keep a diffuser in a corner of your closet for the same purpose. Not a fan of fragrances? Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking powder in a breathable container to absorb any funky odors or try these charcoal bags.