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How to Organize Your Closet, According to Women Who Really Have Their Lives Together

An exclusive look inside the real closets of women who are organized, successful, and have all their hangers lined up just so.

By Madeleine Kim

Working from home over the past year has given many of us a newly intimate look into our coworkers’ home lives. We’ve seen kids make adorable appearances in the background of Zoom calls, learned who does and doesn’t arrange their books by spine color, and discovered that cats seem to really like walking across keyboards. 

But there’s one tantalizing space we don’t usually get access to, and that’s the closet. How people keep their clothes can be very telling, and often educational, which is why I asked eight aspirational women to give us a glimpse into their organization systems—including our Chief Creative Officer, Miyako, whose closet I’ve always been very curious about…

Sofia Rainaldi, Senior Product Marketing Associate

“I organize by type (jackets together, shirts together, etc.), then by color. This makes me aware of my own tendency to basically wear the same four colors—navy, light blue, deep red, and dark green—but I’m okay with that. If I have a lot of one thing (black dresses, for example), I organize by sleeve length—a trick I learned at M.M. Pop-ups once upon a time. My closet is small, and I chose to use space in my room for a desk instead of a dresser, so every inch of my closet is packed. The benefit of this is that it keeps me organized: I immediately know if things are out of place, because nothing will fit. Knits and T-shirts are stored flat or rolled, but everything else hangs. 

I’m very much an out of sight, out of mind person, so I try to rotate how things are stacked or hung so that I don’t forget about them. Every few months, I put away things that I’m not wearing or attached to. The way I keep track is by reversing the hangers every now and then. If I pull out the item to wear, it’ll be hung normally. If it’s still hung backwards after a few months, then I know I’m not using whatever it is. Then, it goes in a suitcase under my bed, and if it lives there for a few months and I don’t miss it, it gets donated. Like I said, space is at a premium!

I’m a big believer in rolling—all my T-shirts and workout gear are stored that way, and it really does maximize space. I bought some strip LED lights and stuck them inside my closet, which helps me sort through all the black shirts that inevitably look the same. I also love keeping something nice-smelling in my closet. Right now it’s cedar and pine needles, but for a long time it was lavender. 

I spent most of the pandemic using one suitcase worth of clothes (I thought I would be home in Colorado for 2-3 weeks, but I stayed for six months). That really showed me how much I could trim down, so I’ve Marie Kondo’d a lot of old things since returning to NYC. I had a whole extra shelf for a few months! That was exciting. But then I saw the sample rack after stopping by our office, so that’s over.”

Annette Harris, Owner & Founder of Harris Financial Coaching

“Clothes that I hang in my closet are my work clothes, evening wear, and weekend wear, all organized by category and sorted by color from light to dark. My pants are organized from formal, to capris, to jeans. Sweaters are rolled and sorted by color on a middle shelf. On the top shelf of my closet are all my purses, organized by color, and the floor is where I store my shoes, organized from weekend wear to work wear. 

This method of organization allows me to get my day going faster—I don’t spend time standing in my closet trying to figure out what to wear. It’s also a money-saving technique I use to reduce clothing purchases. Knowing how many of an item I have and what color it is reduces my urge to purchase another black dress.”

Nyjerah Cunningham, Brand Stylist

“I prefer to organize my closet by category first, silhouette second, and color last. (Sometimes I like to switch it up, but that depends on my mood or the season.) Also, I’m saying this proudly: I am a pants hanger! I love to see my wardrobe holistically and treat it as a visual merchandising project, so I hang whatever I can. Of course, fabrication and formality matter as well—so, no, I don’t hang my leggings or sweatpants. Delicates, of course, are folded in drawers and categorized the same way.

I like an easy, well-thought-out path to my wardrobe, which makes life easier when I’m in a hurry to get out the door. Every piece is in a designated location to make it easier to find in the morning. I enjoy getting dressed, so I schedule in the proper time to pull myself together. (However, less time getting dressed means more time for a cup of coffee and reading a book in my favorite nook.)

I swear by velvet hangers, because (1) they’re aesthetically pleasing, and (2) they keep your clothes from slipping. Ikea’s drawer organizers are also budget-friendly and add a little order to your dresser

I haven’t changed my organization system during the pandemic, but the extra time at home has allowed me to spend more effort maintaining my closet, which is a love language for me.”

Chadvee, SEO Copywriter and Marketing Strategist

“I’m a copywriter, and the best part of my job is that I get the work from anywhere. That’s why, in the last 3 years, I have joined the digital nomad club and have been traveling the world while working remotely. Now things get interesting when it comes to organizing my closet. Since I move around a lot, being organized has become more and more important. I used to be a messy closet kind of girl, but all that changed in recent years. 

I am now a minimalist, which, in my case, means that I have fewer clothes and only buy a new piece if it sparks joy. 

I have a capsule closet—a few dresses, 4 bottoms, 6 tops, and other types of clothing (cardigans, a scarf, an Indian outfit, a Cambodian outfit, and other things I picked up in my travels). The first thing I do whenever I am in a new place is hang my dresses and tops. Hanging helps decrease wrinkles and makes it easier for me to see what I want and quickly grab it. I also love to coordinate my outfit by season (summer/winter) and function (sporty outdoor/occasion/loungewear/casual outdoor). 

I often find myself grabbing the same pieces when going out for a casual walk in town or grocery shopping, which has led to prioritizing these pieces toward the front or at the top of the pile.”

Miyako Nakamura, Chief Creative Officer

“I organize my clothes by category and how they need to be stored. Woven items and trousers go on hangers, while knits and T-shirts get folded. For suits, I hang the jacket and trousers together. Within those categories, everything is organized by color. I tend to dress tonally (I usually do not mix too much color into an outfit), so this system helps me put outfits together.

I have A LOT of clothes, so they normally don’t fit into closets that are built in apartments. I use clothing racks that my husband made so that we can keep our clothes out nicely. They’re made so that separates hang nicely on one rack, and dresses and long coats hang nicely on the other—it’s been a game changer. For the same reason, I use (mostly) wooden hangers. I think hangers are a very important tool for keeping your clothes in shape, and if I had more space, I would use jacket hangers (ones that are pretty thick on the shoulders) for all my jackets and coats.”

Shaina Kerrigan, Founder of Molly J.

“To start, my closet is split on two sides—one for when I want to look put together (think dresses, jumpsuits, business attire, etc.), the other for casual wear. This includes two shelves of jeans (I have way too many!) and a hanging rack of tops. Everything is organized by color, because I’ve learned that, while I care about how fabrics and shapes pair up, I’m particularly critical of how shades mix. I started organizing by color about 6 years ago, and I swear it’s cut my dressing routine time in half!

That said, there’s one secret about my closet. For pretty much all my life, I’ve always had some version of ‘the chair’—a place to throw clothes I tried on but didn’t wear and don’t have time to hang back up. I’ve always averted my eyes in shame about ‘the chair,’ telling myself I need to stop being so messy and take better care of my clothes. 

Maybe it was the pandemic or the self-love I’ve been prioritizing lately, but about a year ago, I decided to take a different approach. There’s a tabletop space in my closet above a few random drawers that I never really knew what to do with. About a year ago, I moved the content of ‘the chair’ to ‘the tabletop’ and told myself I could use this space freely and without judgement, just as long as I tried at least to fold the discarded clothing. Fast forward to today when I use ‘the tabletop’ as a space for all my sweaters, folded nice and neatly but with zero color coordination or excuse for being there.”

Callie Kant, VP of Brand and Creative

“I have a whole system when it comes to closet organization:

  • First, I group everything by category (dresses, tops, pants, etc). I hang my pants and skirts using add-on pant hangers, so they take up less horizontal space, and I group them based on type (e.g. jeans in one group, black pants in another, work trousers in another, etc). 
  • I hang most of my tops and dresses on velvet slimline hangers—they take up less space in a NY closet, and they prevent garments from slipping off. I group tops by color and sleeve length in rainbow order. So for example, I start with red tank tops, then sleeveless, then shortsleeve, and onto orange. Then I start over again with long-sleeve tops (since I wear short-sleeve and long-sleeve in different temperatures and seasons, it makes sense for me to have them separated).
  • Dresses: I arrange these mostly by formality or use case. Formal event dresses are in the least reachable section, sundresses live together, etc. 
  • Sweaters are all folded (our knits designer would be proud!) and stacked on shelves. I group them by weight and style (cardigans and zip-ups together, sweatshirts together, etc.)
  • Other knits or more casual items (T-shirts, gym clothes, PJs) are folded in a dresser.

And of course, I also have go-to tools that keep me organized:

I very much dress based on how I feel in the morning. If I feel down, I’ll wear my softest, coziest sweater to bring me comfort. If I feel blah, I’ll put on a bright top to cheer myself up. And if I have an important meeting that I need to feel “on” for, I’ll step it up a bit. My system works for me in that I can open my closet and easily zero in on what is most fitting for my mood that day. 

Especially during the pandemic, I’ve found that it can feel hard to put things away at the end of the day. I’m more sluggish than usual, and sometimes, a big pile builds up on my dresser before I get around to putting things away. Then I get fed up with the mess and clean up in one fell swoop (very satisfying).

But otherwise, I’ve actually had the time to clean out my closet, getting rid of items that no longer fit me (I found pants from 15 years ago!) or that I no longer care for (strapless sundresses? Never shall we meet again). I’m also finding that, probably like many people, I’m reaching for different things now than I was a year ago; I’m gravitating toward my cozy knits, easy-care items, and stretchy pants. So I’ve brought some of those items more to the forefront, whereas some of my more structured or formal garments have been pushed aside for the time being.”

Diane Lowy, Professional Organizer & Founder of New York at Home

“As a professional organizer, I’ve seen a lot of different ways to organize a closet. The right way to do it is—of course—the right way for you. With that in mind, this is what works for me!

I hang as much as possible (including T-shirts), because if I don’t see it, I forget I have it. Dresses are always a deliberate choice, as separates are my go-to—so my closet is arranged accordingly. I have two sections to my closet: One is easy to reach and has all my tops, and the other is mostly behind a door, so only the front is easy to use. That’s where I keep my pants, skirts, and dresses. All the way in the back are my out-of-season items.

I have three sections of tops: solid shirts are on the left, patterned shirts are in the middle (since this is mostly what I wear), and cardigans and hoodies are on the right. I don’t sort beyond that—by sleeve length or color, for example. I don’t have enough clothing for that to be necessary. For me, having an easy-to-maintain system means not needing to think too hard. 

I also have three dresser drawers: the first is for underpinnings, the second is for workout clothes, and the third is sleepwear. Since I’m a visual person, I keep my shoes on shelves of a bookcase by the door so I can find them easily and not bring too much of the sidewalks of New York City into our home.”

Madeleine Kim

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is a Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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