Introduction: Organizing Your Wardrobe: Women in College

Messy Wardrobe? We’ve all been there. You leave one shirt on a chair and suddenly there is a pile there that resembles Mount Everest. It seems like a never-ending cycle. Every time you do laundry, every time you get dressed, and every time you buy something new presents an impossible challenge: where am I going to put all this? There’s room somewhere.

This list is here to empower you to get your wardrobe under control. This document will help you through the following steps:

  1. Cleansing
  2. Planning
  3. Organizing
  4. Maintaining

By making a conscious decision to organize your wardrobe, you’re deciding to make your life easier. You can keep track of your clothes, see all your options, and get ready faster, which saves you time for more important things. Everyone’s wardrobe is different. We’ve presented general guidelines and a variety of organizational options. Customize this plan in a way that’s best for you and stick to the plan. An organized wardrobe is as simple as that.

Step 1: Cleansing

Purging your wardrobe of things you don’t need, don’t fit, don’t really want, don’t have room for, is an essential first step in organizing your wardrobe. Think of it as a spiritual cleansing of your room. Once you realize how much unnecessary stuff you’ve been holding onto, it’ll feel like releasing a burden you didn’t even realize was there.

There are two likely scenarios you’ll be facing: a semi organized wardrobe (clothing hung up, clothing in drawers, shoes in a general area, etc.) or maybe your closet looks like an overgrown department store jungle. Either way, we’re here to help make this step as easy as possible.

What you’ll need: 2 large plastic garbage bags or large cardboard boxes.

1. Search your closet for any clothing that is dirty, and wash it.

2. Begin sorting your clothes into two piles, “keep” and “discard.”

Depending on the current state of your wardrobe, you can either begin sorting through categories (shoes, hanging clothes, folded clothes, etc.) or you can start by working from the bottom left corner all the way to the right side of your closet going top to bottom.

A. Go through literally every piece of your wardrobe, individually considering the following questions:

  • When is the last time I wore this? If it has been a year or longer, it’s time to say goodbye.
  • Does this fit me? If you’re in doubt, try it on!
  • Does this item bring joy into my life? If your first instinct is no, say goodbye. Why hold on to something that doesn’t add joy to your life?

B. Create the piles

  • Clothes/items in the keep pile: Be sure to hang them on hangers or fold them nicely so you can be ready for the next steps of organization.
  • Clothes/items in the discard pile: Put items into a large plastic bag or cardboard box. At the end of your organizational process, you can donate your old belongings.

Step 2: Planning

1. Set Goals

In order for your wardrobe to work best for you, you need to set goals for yourself. Those goals can be whatever you want, but use the questions and ideas in this section to guide your thinking. Be realistic and consider how you actually live, not just how you want to.

Think about how you use your wardrobe

  • Do you want to get ready faster in the morning?

- Put the clothes you wear the most in the easiest to reach spots.

- Organize by the activity you wear them

- Institute a clothing rotation and cycle through each shirt you have before repeating an item.

  • Do you want your wardrobe to look nice?

- Organize by color. This can be helpful for organization, but it also looks good when you open your closet doors.

2. Plan how to work with your space

Now you know what you have and what your goals are, think about where you’re going to put your clothes. In order for your wardrobe to be effectively organized, you need to plan ahead. By planning a set organization for your closet, everything will have a place to go and your closet will stay organized for longer. You can also find your clothes quicker.

In order to understand your space and make it effective for you:

A. Define your storage options: Where can you put your clothes? Usually, this breaks down into three areas.

  • Closets:

- Closets are the best place to store clothes because you can open the door and see what you have, instead of opening every drawer.

- If you don’t have a closet, get a standing rack; you can find them on amazon and etsy, or you can make one yourself.

  • Dressers:

- For smaller items or clothes that shouldn’t go on hangers, your drawers are great for holding things together and out of sight.

  • Extra storage:

- Consider where else you can store your clothes. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

- Bins can turn the space under your bed into useful storage for less-used items of clothing.

- Drawer bins can help organize the floor of your closet.

- Your walls are also large surface areas that can be used for storage, nails in your wall can turn your hat collection into decoration and can organize them out of the way.

B. Only include what you need

Closets get unorganized when items don’t have a set location or when they’re overcrowded. The best way to combat the clutter of the latter problem is by removing items you aren’t wearing.

  • Consider a seasonal rotation. You don’t wear the same clothes year-round because the weather probably isn’t the same year-round.

- Winter: As temperatures decrease, you’ll wear more layers. You don’t need shorts, sundresses, or swimsuits within arm’s reach. Store those items while you’re hiding behind the furry hood of your parka for four months.

- Spring and Fall: During these transition seasons, it can be hard to strike the right balance. Bring out the Halloween or Easter sweaters. You can probably start to store items from the season before, but be prepared for a randomly hot or cold day.

- Summer: Bring out the shorts, sundresses, and swimsuits. The parka, gloves, and scarves can go back under your bed until the first snow hits later on this year.

C. Don’t forget the non-clothing parts of your wardrobe:

  • When planning your closet, remember everything else.
  • Hang towels and robes out of the way; laundry should have its own bag or bin in your room.

- Think about every drawer, shelf, and hook. Any surface you don’t plan can become a home to wadded, unorganized clothing.

Step 3: Organizing

1. Closet

Now that you have decided which clothes will be in your closet, decide which clothes will be hung up in your closet, and what clothes you would like folded. If you have a large closet, hang more clothes; short closet, fold more clothes.

  • Items that should always hang: Dresses, structured coats, and blazers should always be hung. Keep as much of your nicer quality clothing hanging in your closet as possible.
  • Items that should not hang: Knit sweaters, even nice wool ones, should be folded instead of hung. Hanging stretches out the woven fabric.

Begin Organizing

Depending on your goals, you will begin organizing by activity, color, or type.

  • Activity: One way to separate the clothes you hang up is by the activity you use them for. For example, you could have different sections dedicated to:
  1. Formal
  2. Casual
  3. Exercise
  4. Work
  5. Date-night
  6. And so on
  • Color: Separating clothes by color makes it easy to see what different shades you have of the same color, and makes throwing together an outfit much more organized.
  • Type: Having a different section for pants, shirts, blouses, scarves, skirts, and so on, also makes it easy to see all that you have and quickly decide what you want to wear.
  1. Nice clothes that need to be hung, but don’t need to be readily accessible
  2. Coats
  3. Blazers
  4. Dresses
  5. Nice long sleeved shirts
  6. Nice short sleeved shirts
  7. T-shirts and favorite jackets (for easy access)
  8. Hanging rack shelf for athletic T-shirts and a few sweaters
  9. Tank tops
  10. Dress pants

2. Drawers

What you put in any extra drawers in your closet or dresser depends a lot on what you use the most or what you have room for. Some common items that you may put in drawers are: t-shirts, socks, pajamas, work-out clothes, undergarments, hats, scarves, or swimsuits. While what you put in your drawers will be personalized, here are some tips on how to organize them regardless of what you choose to store.

A. If you don’t feel like you have enough drawers for all of your items, try combining two items in one drawer.

B. Decide whether rolling or folding your clothes is more efficient.

  • While most of us are used to folding items of clothing that we put in drawers, often it can be more effective to roll the clothes. Learn how to do this here.
  • Rolling your t-shirts helps you to see more of them at once and also can help you to see the graphic or design on the shirt without having to pull it (or other shirts) out of the drawer.

C. Use a drawer organizer.

  • This drawer organizer adjusts to the size of your drawer and allows you to decide how many different compartments to make.

- With this you can just separate two different types of items or choose to separate by more specific criteria.

3. Shoes

Shoes are an essential part of every wardrobe, but can be hard to keep neat and organized. Depending on the layout of your closet, some of these tips may work better than others. Choose which option (or combination of options) works best for you!

A. If your closet has a door that swings open (picture), a good way to store shoes is a hanging shoe organizer like this one. This allows you to save floor and shelf space for other items. The downside is, not all of your shoes will fit in this organizer; it is ideal for tennis shoes, flats, and sandals. You will need put boots and heels on the floor or in another open space in your closet.

B. If your closet does not have a door to hang an organizer on, or you simply prefer your shoes on the floor of your closet, another great option is a shoe rack. Some shoe racks like this one are even extendable so you can adjust them to fit the amount of space in your closet. Shoe racks can often be used to store most types of shoes except for tall boots.

C. If you don’t have space on a door or the ground, try a shoe organizer that can hang in your closet like this. This has the same space restrictions as the over-the-door shoe organizer so you may have to put boots and heels in another part of your closet.

Step 4: Maintaining

By organizing your wardrobe, you're doing a lot to help yourself live a more organized life, but things can easily get out of hand. If that happens and the clothes start to pile up, take a deep breath. Because you organized your closet, you have a clear course of action to take to get it back under control.