Wardrobes are not easy spaces to master, if they were there wouldn’t be a booming Instagram industry dedicated to the details of organisation; or thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of space-saving, clutter-busting hacks on Pinterest to get lost in.
It’s not an easy prospect, whether you’re moving into a fresh new space that’s yet to feel the weight of your wardrobe, or wading through years of family detritus. It’s why celebrities call on help from the likes Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design, who has helped reshape and reorganise the wardrobes of Reese Witherspoon, Tyra Banks and Khloé Kardashian.
“My philosophy is that every item has its place in the closet. I don’t leave it to chance whether or not there will be a drawer for swim or a shelf for boots; it is a meticulous process and I hold myself accountable to all the items that I have seen and measured,” Adams, whose ingenious organisational and storage tips make up the bulk of this article so you can deal with the bulk of your wardrobe worries.
Scroll on for wardrobe wisdom and hard truths about your storage issues. And, most of all, happy organising.
Step one: plan your attack
“To start, we take inventory in order to do the space planning,” Adams suggests. “Every wardrobe should accommodate your style and inventory, regardless of budget and size, and be functional. It should maximise the space (e.g. using the height and depth efficiently) and have the right proportions of hanging (short, medium and long hanging), shelving and drawers.” In short, don’t just start “organising” blindly, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Adams warns that this planning and stocktake is pivotal to getting your wardrobes organised, as are some non-negotiables: “Every closet needs to have a valet rod and a mirror!! In addition, consistent hangers are a non-negotiable for me; this is an easy fix and makes a tremendous difference in how your overall closet looks!” Hangers, whether you’re a velvet-only kind of human or need multi-hangers to save space, now come in such useful iterations and pretty colourways, you really have no excuse not to make your uniform.
Step two: maximise space
Adams, whose LA closet design offers turn-key services including designing, building, and organising closets, says it’s imperative you use every inch of your wardrobe to avoid losing precious space and coming unstuck regarding organisation.
“People are not utilising the corners of their closets properly and effectively, so they tend to be awkward functionally and aesthetically,” says Adams, explaining that “the proper depths are not being used for shelving versus hanging versus drawers” either. “I will see shoes either drowning or hanging over the edge of shelves and hangers sticking out beyond the cabinet,” Adams continues.
Reassess what areas of your wardrobe are being used for your pieces and ask yourself are you capitalising on space, or did you just throw those pieces in? Did you place them there simply because they look good, or because it’s useful to you? Are your shoes taking up too much room just because they look pleasant? What disservice are you doing yourself here? These are the tough questions, but to get results you need to be honest with yourself.
Step three: overcome accessories
“Just like any other item in the closet, and especially for accessories—each item has to have its place. It sounds like a daunting task, but once they have a place, then it’s just a matter of maintaining the organisational system,” Adams explains, noting that drawer inserts and shelf dividers are the perfect way to overcome the accessories issue.
“Initially, my clients will get intimidated when I suggest that they roll their belts in a partitioned drawer; my response is that they don’t have to roll 50 belts every time but just the one belt they use!”
If scarves or necklaces are your downfall, think about where you can hang these vertically so as not to take up room, but not add to visual clutter either. Marie Kondo loves hiding hats inside bags and smaller bags in their larger counterparts. If that doesn’t work for you the answer is simple: hooks and baskets. This may be particularly useful for those who are tight on space, as inserting hooks on the underside of shelving means bags can sit above the floor and make room for shoes. Likewise, baskets that can be adhered to the inside of a wardrobe door and should become home to bulky accessories, leaving floor space free.
Step four: be consistent
It doesn’t matter how big your wardrobe is, or how thorough you are with your organisation if you don’t have a system and stick to it. This system must include consistently editing your pieces and your wardrobe, which you can rely on storage for, naturally. “I recommend that people take action with their items on a daily basis rather than a seasonal or yearly edit,” Adams advises. “I like to include a hamper liner for laundry, dry cleaning, items to donate or items to take to the tailor.”
This may seem like a hassle but it will save you time and energy in the long term, and perhaps, the accumulation of piles of clothes that need ‘fixing’ or ‘cleaning’ that you move from floor to bed to couch, back to floor on a regular basis.
“If you pull something out of your closet and it doesn’t fit, then take immediate action versus putting it back into your closet. It requires this type of diligence!” says Adams.
“I also tell my clients to space their hangers at least ½”-1” (1.27cm – 2.54 cm) apart; this mentally helps to combat the urge to over-stuff your closet and you become better at the one in one out rule. If you buy something new, you already know that one piece needs to go. Like any other habit that forms in 21 days, overcoming clutter is the same!”
Adams says this systematic approach to storing items that need attention and being thoughtful about hanger space leads to better management of your shopping habits too, which is a key consideration.
Adams explains the phenomenon: “You will find that you will get out of the hamster wheel of buying the same black top that you keep buying because you cannot find it in your closet. When your closet has space and isn’t cluttered, you will get used to it and learn how to not clutter it by only buying things you love and have space for. It’s a remarkable process!”
If you’re working with a small wardrobe…
“I would recommend the following tips: 1. Use slim-line hangers; 2. Add drawer inserts to every drawer and re-fold items that are currently being stacked in drawers (when you open each drawer, the goal is to see every item in that drawer at first glance!); 3. Add shelf dividers to keep stacks tidy.”
If you’re working with a large wardrobe…
“1. Create areas in the closet for different functions (e.g. resort, workout, etc.); 2. Add drawer inserts to every drawer; 3. Include a staging area to help with editing, packing and incoming items. You have more space to work with, so it’s important to create a separation of space for the various items and functions to stay organised!”