How to Detox and Organize Your Closet

Staying at home has motivated me to tackle some projects around the house. Over the weekend, I decided to take another whack at my closet organization. This time, I focused on winnowing down and tidying up my shoes. I probably should have taken a “Before” photo, but frankly I was too embarrassed. 🤦‍♀️ There were loose pairs stacked on some of the boxes, and the ones I’ve been wearing most often were in a jumble on the floor.

Shoe storage in clear plastic boxes. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I cleared out over 1/3 of what I started with. Here’s how it looked once I was done.

Shoe storage in clear boxes. Details and more shoe storage tips at une femme d'un certain age.

I like these clear plastic boxes for shoe storage. (I use the Women’s size for shoes, Men’s size for my ankle boots or bulkier shoes.) They’re not airtight, so air can circulate, but they keep dust off. (Moisture and mildew aren’t an issue in our climate, but in some climates you might want to add some of those silica packets.)

The leopard slippers at the bottom right are my new House Shoes.

Closet Organization in 7 Steps

I’ve done a few passes through my clothing over the last few months, and think I’ve edited down reasonably well. I’ve found that a Marie Kondo-esque everything-at-once purge-and-tidy session just feels too overwhelming, so I’ve developed a process over time that works well for me:

  1. Divide and conquer. I tend to work in smaller chunks by clothing type (tops, bottoms, jackets, shoes) but you could also go by work vs. at home clothes, or season, whatever makes sense for you.
  2. Pull everything in the category you’re working on out of the closet, and put it on a bed, the floor, any space where you can spread out and see what you have.
  3. Before you start organizing, remove anything that you know right away isn’t going to make the cut. Move aside to sell/consign, swap, or donate pile.
  4. Organize what’s left (with my shoes, I arranged by boots, sneakers, loafers, oxfords and sandals).
  5. Take another look…what duplicates or worn out items can you let go of? Pull those out.
  6. Decide how you want to organize the keepers. Do you want to arrange by item type, by outfit, or have most-worn items in the most accessible spot? What system will you be able to maintain over time?
  7. Only then, put it away.

My Own Closet Organization

Some of you have been asking to see how I’ve organized my closet. I still have some more work to do, but here’s how it looks as of now:

Our walk-in closet. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

We have a narrow walk-in closet. (It’s a bit dark even with the overhead light, so I’ve brightened the images for better detail.) Le Monsieur has right-hand side, I have the left. (Yes, those are some Wallace & Gromit stuffed figurines on the shelf; they were a birthday gift to le Monsieur back when we were still dating.)

Closet organization: pants. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Our closet was designed and built about 17 years ago, when I was still working in a corporate setting and needed more hanging space. I don’t have a separate bureau so still hang almost all of my clothing. After some experimentation, I’ve found that organizing items first by type (e.g. pants), then by color works best for me.

Closet organization: longer hanging items, jewelry & scarves. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I have four short racks, and one taller one which holds a few longer jackets, both of our bathrobes, my “scarf condo” and jewelry. (The scarf condo needs a bit of reorganization.) I have two hanging jewelry organizers, one with the clear pockets shown, and one behind it for necklaces.

Closet organization: hanging sweaters. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

As there’s not much shelf or drawer space, I hang my sweaters. You can see my method here: How to Hang a Sweater.

These are the hangers I like.

Closet organization: tops & tees. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Behind the open door are my tops and tees…

Closet organization: jackets. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

And jackets.

So there you have it!

What closet organization challenges have you found a way to master?

Stay in touch.

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  1. March 30, 2020 / 4:07 am

    I used to organise by 2 seasons – warm/hot & cold/freezing . Now that we live in a better insulated house it has to be 4 with changeovers at the equinoxes & solstices . Approximately anyway since I now have hanging space and 3+ shelves above across one side of my/the guest bedroom . The hanging space takes the current season’s trousers , jackets , shirts + the odd skirt or dress and my salwar kamiz suits . The lower shelves take the current seasons foldables with underwear and silk scarves in cardboard mini chests of drawers . The higher shelves are for other seasons and all is folded and stacked in heaps – which is then a problem at changeover time – but not otherwise .
    Shoes ? They go (by season) in the cardboard boxes from the shop on the floor under the hanging space with the description and sketch at the front where I can see them . I’ve been tempted by plastic see-thru boxes and mini chests of drawers but luckily went for cardboard which I have found to last longer and protect colours from fading .
    My perennial problem is socks ! Unlike tights & stockings they are too small and bouncy to fold neatly and do not come in flattish packets . Often they fall on the floor when I open any of the sliding doors .

    • Janet D.
      March 30, 2020 / 4:37 pm

      Rukshana, the instant you said “socks” I flashed to the hanging organizer with the clear plastic pouches Susan is using for jewelry (see her photo): could you fold the socks flat & tuck each pair into a pouch? You could see them easily but they wouldn’t be bouncing all over the place like they do when rolled up.

      • Pat
        March 30, 2020 / 9:12 pm

        I had the same problem with socks. I found these square cloth-covered boxes with 24 sections. I got 2 and they fit perfectly in my dresser drawer. I have one pair of socks in each section – organized by color.

      • March 31, 2020 / 2:54 am

        Thank you so much for this ! I then realised I could adapt the idea using our excess of small net laundry bags for delicates . I can sew them together so that they will attach to a hanger .

    • Sally dale
      March 30, 2020 / 4:44 pm

      Thanks Susan! I ordered the scarf caddy and jewelry organizer. Great ideas.

  2. Ann in Missouri
    March 30, 2020 / 4:32 am

    Thanks for this, Susan. You really have cleaned out the closet. It’s got only YOUR colors in it now. Really admire that.

    Marie Kondo must live in a different time-space continuum than I do. I need more frequent dopamine rewards of “finishing” tasks than her method would deliver. 😉

    • Cathy
      March 30, 2020 / 7:05 am

      I laughed out loud at your Marie Kondo comment; my thoughts exactly.

  3. Mudra
    March 30, 2020 / 5:07 am

    I really appreciate your closet tips and that your closet seems similar to my size and I share with my husband. Could you please share dimensions of your closet? Many thanks!

  4. March 30, 2020 / 5:09 am

    I just attempted to purge a bunch of stuff for a scheduled Friday pickup by the Lupus Foundation. They sent me a reminder on Monday about it and on Wednesday, I emailed them to ask if it was still on with the the pandemic and all. They said yes. So I gathered up two big bags of stuff, made my charitable donation list, and woke up early on Friday morning to make sure it was outside by 7am (I put it out at 7:15 once and missed them).

    Then they didn’t come. At the end of the day, they messaged me to tell me that they had suspended pickups because of the pandemic.

    And Goodwill is closed for the time being. So I have two bags of stuff (including some very dusty shoes, which was how I decided to get rid of them – if I pulled them off the rack and choked on the dust from them, I haven’t worn them in a long time and probably won’t ever again – sitting in my front room.


    • Sally dale
      March 30, 2020 / 4:44 pm

      Thanks Susan! I ordered the scarf caddy and jewelry organizer. Great ideas.

  5. Rita
    March 30, 2020 / 5:14 am

    I don’t like to hang pants by folding them over a hanger bar, because it makes a crease at the fold. So, I hang them straight fro either the leg hems or the waistband. That does use up more space, though.

  6. Rita
    March 30, 2020 / 5:15 am

    “from”, not “fro”.

  7. March 30, 2020 / 5:35 am

    The configuration of my closet dictates that the shoes are stacked above the hanging clothes. Like you, my shoes are in clear boxes. In addition, I take pictures of the shoes and use my label maker to describe them and tape that to the exterior .

  8. Jeanne
    March 30, 2020 / 5:35 am

    I don’t have the advantage of a walk in closet, so it’s a cobbled together system of two closets, two dressers and under bed and bin storage. I live with four seasons and therefore many more clothes. Your closet is an inspiration to cull out more and trim things down. I have a lot of clothes compared to you, and it can get overwhelming. Goals are to purge more. It’s getting easier a year or so from retirement.

    • Elizabeth
      March 30, 2020 / 10:14 am

      Jeanne, Thank you for your comment about not having a walk-in closet and living with four seasons. My situation is the same. Just the coats, boots and accessories for long winters take up a lot of storage space. I feel a little better about not being as neat and organized as Susan yet!

      • Lagatta de Montréal
        March 30, 2020 / 2:28 pm

        Yes, old houses and flats with small closets, and long winters. I do hang on to too many worn clothes though (obviously for doing house and yard work). I think I need a specific space for “manual work” clothing, and to take the rest to a charity or recycling (mostly natural fibres). My turnover will never be as swift as yours are; more limited funds and focusing on buying “better” garments, and it is not so easy to find the “winter” clothing that suits me, in colours other than black. I have some forest green and cool reds, as well as some zinc grey, but not always available.

  9. Anita Weissman
    March 30, 2020 / 5:43 am

    I like that thing you have your jewelry in. I think the style with larger pockets is for shoes. What do you call the one that you have with the smaller pockets? Not sure what it is called so I am having trouble searching for it. Thanks!

    • Susan Blakey
      March 30, 2020 / 7:33 am

      Hi Anita, it’s a hanging jewelry organizer. You can find it here:

  10. Belinda
    March 30, 2020 / 6:15 am

    You should post a Before and After if your closet since Red Leopard experience! It’s so full of colors now! It was always neat and organized just black!

  11. March 30, 2020 / 7:03 am

    A couple of things: Do you know where you got those hanging contraptions you have for jewelry and whether they are still available? I could use a couple. Also, I was visiting my mother and we went to a Container Store near her (great store but there isn’t one near me) and I found wooden hangers billed as for “juniors.” They are an inch or two smaller than a standard hanger. They were reduced in price (they may have been discontinuing them) and I bought all 60 they had in stock for me and my daughter as regular hangers tend to poke out the sleeves of our garments. You might have the same issue since you are a small size.

    • Susan Blakey
      March 30, 2020 / 7:32 am

      Hi Cathy, you can find the jewelry organizers HERE and a similar one for necklaces HERE.

    • Shari
      March 30, 2020 / 7:58 am

      I have one that I got on Amazon! It was a real life changer! I wear more jewelry now because I can see it! It’s white with a mirror and fit on a wall in my walk in!
      I can’t tell you how much I love it!

  12. Lagatta de Montréal
    March 30, 2020 / 8:18 am

    Yes, I love the little people at the top back of your closet!

  13. Téa
    March 30, 2020 / 8:29 am

    Great visuals, Susan!! I did a similar chore yesterday with my 23 year old daughter – she’s very HONEST and a good sounding board – we had A LOT of laughs! Changing out from cold to warm requires a full weekend…this time I was RUTHLESS! Thanks, as always, for the MOTIVATION!!!

  14. Nancy
    March 30, 2020 / 8:35 am

    Wow Susan, looks great. You’ve made great use of the available space. It looks like “Spring”. Don’t see any (or maybe 1) black items.
    How often do you cull the closet ?

  15. Maria
    March 30, 2020 / 9:20 am

    Always, but especially now, just want to thank you for your sensibility and inspiration.
    With so much going, your blog brings serenity : )
    P.S. love, love the closet redo!

  16. Lyn
    March 30, 2020 / 9:26 am

    That necklace hanger is a great idea. I can’t wear rings anymore because of enlarged knuckles, so I have been wearing more necklaces lately and am having a hard time organizing them. I’m inspired to design and sew my own (since I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands).

  17. Betty Goldberg
    March 30, 2020 / 9:37 am

    Hi Susan, Thank you for showing your closet – Great Job.
    I organize my closet pretty much the way you do. I live in Arizona , so don’t have to many winter items.
    I give myself 2 seasons, i.e. if I don’t wear an item for 2 seasons, I probably won’t wear it again and out it goes for donation, etc. I will keep some classics that I wear on special occasions.
    I live in a small condo so space is precious. I have never regretted giving away clothes.
    Merci beaucoup for sharing! Always love your blogs.

  18. Pink Azalea
    March 30, 2020 / 10:21 am

    Good post and your colorful clothes are uplifting. I am wondering, as we transition from fall/winter to spring/summer, is it necessary to dry clean all our woolen sweaters and pants before we put them away? We live in a warm climate (Gulf coast) so some of our fall/winter clothes rarely get worn. If they appear clean and don’t have odors, is it OK to just store them?

    • Susan Blakey
      March 30, 2020 / 10:26 am

      Thanks! I would recommend hand washing or cleaning any sweaters containing wool or cashmere before storing. Moths will be attracted by skin oils and dirt that aren’t detectable to us. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my laundry tips for fine washables.

  19. March 30, 2020 / 11:13 am

    I picked up a great tip, can’t think where now, for creating more space for hanging clothes. You use tabs off of soda cans and put one hole over a hanger and hanging another hanger from the 2nd hole. It’s amazing how much space it saves! It’s great for organizing, too. You can hang similar colors or outfits together. I also found a special hanger at Ross that holds 8 camis. They come in packs of 2 for just a couple bucks.
    Those slippers look really comfortable and like they have a bit of support. My ankles are starting to hurt from only wearing slippers everyday. Time to invest in some cozy and supportive house shoes!

  20. Berenice Wolpin
    March 30, 2020 / 11:57 am

    Great job, Susan. I continue to struggle with closet organization. I pulled everything out a while ago (we don’t need to talk about the floor accumulation), but re-organizing it was a bit challenging. I also don’t keep my shoes in my closet, as I live in a climate that is frequently wet so all shoes are on/off at the front door. And despite trying approximately 983,654 ways to organize over the last years, I STILL haven’t hit on a system that works for me – and twins in a house that has no real entryway. Sigh. It is amazing to see the lack of black. I still have way too much.

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      March 30, 2020 / 2:43 pm

      I have always loved black (the colour of black cats!) and always will, but as we get older dressing all in black can make us look dreary. I have found some tops and jeans in deep, sonorous colours (deep violet, forest green etc) and have RED fabric Doc Martens Mary Janes! Ideal “house shoes”.

      Livia looks fine all in black though, though her collar (for outings) is red, of course.

  21. Margot
    March 30, 2020 / 12:57 pm

    Your closet looks great – I wish I could be so realistic with mine – lol! My 2 biggest closet challenges are scarves (which I have a weakness for – I even have some that my mom wore in the early 70’s) and jewelry. I don’t have a jewelry box and wouldn’t want it out on a dresser. I seem to frequently try new methods and just haven’t stumbled across the method that works for me.

    • Rondi
      March 30, 2020 / 7:30 pm

      This is what worked for me for jewelry. I do have one traditional jewelry box on the dresser. But the bulk of my jewelry is in a top dresser drawer. It is divided by different size plastic boxes. I can find everything so easily. Maybe something like that would work for you?

  22. March 30, 2020 / 1:18 pm

    I have too many scarves and hate to part with any of them. After trying various storage and organizing systems I find the scarf condo/hanging shoe bag is the absolute and most efficient. I keep them all in front hall closet, along with most everyday shoes stored in stacking IKEA canvas shoe boxes.

  23. March 30, 2020 / 6:50 pm

    Your closet looks so organized and colorful! I separate my clothing by type and color also and by Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter (the off-season clothing taking over the guest room closet!). Keeping your shoes in clear plastic boxes makes it easy to see what you are looking for and stack by type. You have done an excellent job of organizing your closet. Keep the ideas and inspiration coming. We all have more time on our hands than usual and organizing is a great way to spend it (besides reading and Netflix).

    Love the kitty looking over the box at the top of the closet! Stay well.

  24. De
    March 30, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    Do you find folding your long pants causes them to have a line across them. I worry they would and not look very nice when wearing. I hang mine from the waist straight down but interesting to see your reply

  25. Patricia
    March 30, 2020 / 10:03 pm

    I’ve been using your method for hanging sweaters ever since you first posted it – it works so very well!

  26. Jill Ann
    March 31, 2020 / 10:54 am

    I switch out some things in my closet twice a year. I live in Houston, so don’t have a lot of truly “winter” clothes. We have a walk-in closet; I have one side and, to be honest, half the other side! My husband is not a fashion plate and is also retired, so he’s fine as long as he has room for his golf shirts. I keep the current season on “my” side, so what I’ll probably do this week is put all the sandals and canvas shoes there, and move the booties, loafers, etc, to “his” side. Same with short sleeve vs long sleeve tees, and sweaters will get washed and packed in canvas bags.

    I keep all my shoes in their original boxes, but have taped pictures of each pair to the front of the box. That way I can see exactly what I have, plus haven’t had to invest in tons of plastic boxes. My closet has shelves built in that can hold boxes stacked 3 high, which is manageable. Any higher, and you risk an avalanche!

    Now if only I could dress up and go out somewhere! Looking at my clothes is honestly making me kind of sad, lately.

  27. Juti
    April 1, 2020 / 9:07 am

    Your closet is such an inspiration!

    I use the type/color arrangement, too — it saves a lot of time in the morning, when I’m picking out what to wear for the day. It also makes it easy to see what I have that’s in good shape, and what needs to be replaced.

    My dresser is going to be the organization project for the stay-at-home period. Everyone’s comments have been so helpful in thinking about this!

  28. Jennifer
    April 1, 2020 / 6:05 pm

    I also use the type/color arrangement, except for my scrubs. I hang those with the most recently washed on the nearest side, so I don’t wear the same 3 favorite scrub tops every time I work. It works well for me. My regular clothes are color coded, though.

  29. Marybeth
    April 25, 2020 / 1:26 pm

    I love your technique for hanging sweaters… have been doing it your way since you 1st posted the “how to”… Thank you, Susan! Oh! & you visited my town in NoCal not too long ago! PETALUMA! ((;

  30. Kay
    June 3, 2020 / 8:55 am

    Hi Susan, How do you all store your handbags? Mine are a mess! Any recommendations from the ladies here, would be much appreciated!

    • Susan Blakey
      June 3, 2020 / 9:03 am

      Hi Kay, I use those clear plastic shoe and boot storage containers for some of the smaller and higher end bags. And my “fun” bags (straw, fabric, novelty) are currently stored all together in a clear plastic storage tub. I’m not convinced this is the best system, but haven’t found one that works better for the bags and space we have.

  31. Carole
    January 3, 2021 / 7:25 am

    I also use clear plastic shoe boxes. They are on a higher shelf so I reverse the shoes and can sometimes get two in a box. I also label the boxes on one side I might put tan/summer and on the reverse side I might put black/winter. For my jeans/pants, I use clip hangers as I can get 4-6 pair and hang by color (all black, grey, blue, etc). On one top long rod I have all winter tops and on the bottom the reverse season summer tops. I organize them by color and then sleeve length. This year I purchased wire crates and stacked capes, shawls, scarves, etc. I used to hang them, but they took up too much room. Now I can see them.

    When I purchase an item, I really like it and eventually will donate or consign clothes. Several times I’ve repurchased my own items. I mostly use store credit in consignment shops.

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