Whether in a studio apartment or a two-story house, closet space is something we all probably feel we could use more of. Clothing, shoes, and accessories can pile up fast, leading to a lot of clutter in what’s usually not a lot of space.
Even if you did luck out with a walk-in and plenty of shelving, it’s still on you to keep things organized—which isn’t always an easy task. For tips on how to create a system that works—and won’t fall to the wayside by next week—we’ve enlisted entrepreneur Michael Jones of By Michael Todd, who once had a closet-editing service in 2017 to help New Yorkers get the most out of their wardrobes.
First things first, he says, “Accept your space for what it is and adjust accordingly, because you’re not alone. Think of the limited space as an opportunity to continuously polish your style and edit your closet to make sure that what’s in it are actually pieces you love.”
To do so, he recommends dividing what you own into three categories: “Heroes,” the foundation of your wardrobe, “Empty Hangers,” or essential styling pieces, and a “Pass-it-On Pile” of clothing and accessories that you don’t wear or no longer suit your lifestyle.
“Style is such an emotional and personal part of our lives—after all, you choose virtually everything that goes in your closet and on your body,” says Jones. “So anything that makes you feel anything other than the best version of yourself should be tossed in your Pass-It-On Pile, regardless of the story you tell yourself to justify keeping it.”
Taking this approach should feel slightly less militant than going full Kondo, while giving you a great opportunity to find better homes for pieces gathering dust in your home, such as an organization (try Dress for Success, Big Brother Big Sister Foundation, or a local charity in your neighborhood) or even a friend, family member, or colleague.
Once you’ve pared down your closet to only what you want to keep, it’s time to organize: Jones suggests merchandising by category (tops, shorts, skirts, dresses, pants, jackets/outerwear), then length (short to long), then color (light to dark). As for accessories, he says, “It’s true what they say: out of sight, out of mind. So my advice is to set up a ‘styling station’ (either on your dresser or small table) to keep your jewelry and other essentials visible.”
Working with a New York City apartment, Jones sets up a rolling rack in his living room to keep his favorite pieces easily accessible, and stores shoes for the week underneath. Handbags, meanwhile, can be hung on hanger clips, which help free up shelf space and maintain the shape of the bag.
“Lastly,” he says, “remember that how you shop directly affects the makeup of your closet. Consider your space, not just if the piece is on sale or on-trend, before you buy it. Because closet maintenance isn’t a once-a-season event; it’s a constant work-in-progress.”
Below, see 30 examples of how to organize your closet, whether you’re working with a spacious walk-in or a single garment rack.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2014.