Walk-In Closet Organization Ideas to Max Out Your Space

Optimize every inch with these essential walk-in closet storage strategies.

pink clothes hanging on wooden hangers
Photo: Snapper/Getty Images

In theory, a walk-in closet should have all the space and storage you need for every shoe and sweater in your wardrobe. But in practice, your actual walk-in closet may be overstuffed and super-cluttered—and definitely not Insta-worthy in the slightest.

But with a few of the right walk-in closet organization ideas (courtesy of top organizing experts), you can transform your closet into something that works for you (and looks amazing as well).

Assess What You Have

It can be tempting to start by shopping for a closet storage system, but first you need to determine exactly what needs to be stored. "A big mistake we see when people try to get organized but still feel disorganized is that they are only purchasing organizing products to fix the issue," says Jamie Hord, founder of organizing company Horderly. "Purchasing organizing products comes last. It's important to first sort and declutter your items, then have a plan on where those items will live."

  1. Edit your clothes and accessories—mercilessly. "When you're designing a walk-in closet, it's important to create this design based on what you have and your needs," Hord says. "Declutter your items first, then take inventory of what you have so you know exactly what structures you need in your new closet." If you need a little decluttering inspiration, try some tips for purging your closet.
  2. Take stock of what you're keeping. You'll need to start determining how much space the items that remain will take up. "How many inches of hanging do you need? How many shelves do you need to accommodate your shoes? How many drawers do you need?" Hord says. "Once you know these answers, you can figure out how to maximize the space."

Strategize Your Walk-in Closet Storage

Once you have a good idea of what's being stored in your closet, it's time to start figuring out how you'll streamline it and set it up.

  1. Think about how you'll use your closet. There's no one right way to set up your closet space, so think about what makes the most sense for you. "Do what works best for you and your lifestyle," says Clea Sherer, co-founder of The Home Edit. "As long as everything is contained and streamlined, that's what matters in the end."

    Hord likes to put the items you use the most front and center. "Make sure what you're actively using is in what we call prime real estate and that you can easily access these items," she says. "If you can't easily access something you're using often, it's never going to get back to where it belongs and more likely end up on the chair or floor."

    Sherer and the Home Edit team use different strategies based on the client. "We typically recommend creating zones by item type and then arranging by color within each category. But we've also created zones by occasion, such as weekend or working."
  2. Take lots of measurements. You'll need to measure not only the dimensions of your closet, but the dimensions of the things you'll store there. Measure the longest dress or coat you'll hang in the space so you know how much length you'll need for your longest item, and assess the accessories—like bags and shoes—that will also be included. If you're more of a boot person than a stiletto wearer, you'll need different-sized storage for them, for example.

    "Have a plan on where your items will live based on the amount you have and what real estate your space has to offer," Hord says. "Once you know where those items will live, you can then measure for the right system."
  3. Get creative with your storage options. If your shoe collection or dresses take up too much real estate for your walk-in closet, consider other options for storing rarely used or out-of-season clothes.

    "Use open bins for top shelf storage," Sherer says. "Most people neglect that space but it's so valuable. The bins should all match for a cohesive look. It's great for seasonal items or anything you aren't accessing on a daily basis."

    Or look outside your closet—consider under-bed storage bins or a space in a guest room closet or another part of the house for storing out-of-season clothes.

Set up Your Organizing System

Once you have your walk-in-closet organizing strategy set, you can start shopping for a storage system that brings it to life and sets yourself up for success.

  1. Use your space wisely. Hanging rods, shelves, drawers and baskets may take up most of the space—but there are hidden pockets you can use to make the most of every inch.

    "Think about how you use the space in your daily routine and let that lead the way," Sherer says.

    You can also take advantage of negative space in your closet. "Store jewelry on a shelf under your sweaters, or create a drop spot for the purses and shoes you're going to wear again that day," she says.
  2. Choose your bins and drawers wisely. Sherer recommends using a mix of storage options. "Glass or open storage should be reserved for the items you love the most," she says. "It's a way to highlight the items that make you happy. It can be anything from your favorite handbags on acrylic risers to stacks of your favorite sweaters in rainbow order. Closed storage is for everything else.

    And while drawers are great for closed storage, shelves may be the perfect blend of closed and open storage. "Bins can act as drawers and create containment on shelves," Hord says.
  3. Don't forget about the closet doors. They're an often-overlooked space that can store more than you think. "Over-the-door systems are perfect for storing hats, scarves, any accessory you typically grab on your way out," Sherer says.
  4. Invest in new hangers. Something small—like your clothes hangers—can make a big difference. "Matching hangers are a simple yet game-changing solution," Sherer says. "It's crazy how much this elevates the look and maximizes space on a hanging rod." If your rod space is limited, thinner hangers can help you squeeze a few extra hanging items into your space.
  5. Make sure everything goes back to the right spot. It's one thing to organize your walk-in closet—but it's another to keep it that way. Labels are Hord's trick to help you maintain the look. "It's important for you to label your space—at least until you get to know your new organization and create those new habits of where to find something and where to put it back," Hord says.
  6. Add design flourishes. If you want to take your walk-in closet to movie fantasy levels, look into ways to add some design elements to your walk-in closet for extra pizzazz—like pretty artwork or wallpaper, a fabulous chandelier, or a cozy chaise to sit on while you dress.
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