Wardrobe Organization: How to Find the Perfect System


Even the most well-curated wardrobe becomes useless if you are going to store it crumpled in your bedroom corner or, equally bad, in a ‘one size fits all’ standard closet. Apart from the obvious, housing your clothes and keeping them in a good condition, the perfect wardrobe organization system can also do wonders for your personal style, by supporting the structure of your wardrobe and enhancing your own unique approach to creating outfits.

The perfect storage solution should fit the contents and dynamics of your wardrobe and not the other way around. Do not pick a pretty closet and then figure out how to fit in your clothes; instead, spend some time analyzing how you use your wardrobe and only then start looking for a closet with a set of criteria in mind.

This post will show you a simple three-step method for finding your ideal wardrobe system. Even if you are not on the market for a brand new closet, the tips below will help you pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your current system. A few tweaks and a bit of shuffling your clothes around might be all you need!

Just to avoid confusion: I will use the term wardrobe to describe your collection of clothes and closet as the physical container used to store them.

Step 1: Analyze how you use your wardrobe

Most people organize their closet by categories, i.e. they hang all of their dresses together, store their jeans on one shelf, their chunky knits on another, etc. The standard category system works by taking into account the content of your wardrobe and is definitely a valid method, however it should only be the second step in the process. To find the perfect storage system for your wardrobe, you first need to figure out its dynamics, its underlying structure, in other words, how you use the contents of your wardrobe to create your outfits in the morning.

Below you will find three common approaches and a corresponding suggested system for organizing your wardrobe. You probably have used each one of these approaches at one point or another, however, most of us have one predominant process that they follow far more often than the others.

The ‘Basics + Statement Pieces’ Approach

You have a collection of basic pieces that go with everything (denims, tops and jackets in neutral colors, etc.) and several bolder ‘statement pieces’ and accessories. Each morning you start with a foundation of basics and then choose one or more statement pieces to be the focal point of your look.
Ideal storage system: Set up two separate sections in your closet: one for your basics/neutral items and one for your accessories and statement pieces. Organize by categories within each section.

The ‘Set Outfit’ Approach

You tend to wear your items in ‘sets’, e.g. you always wear your Levi’s pastel jeans with your black crew neck sweater and black ankle boots and your white Zara shirt with your khaki chinos and rose gold jewellery. You rarely mix and match items between sets.
Ideal storage system: Store sets together and organize by occasion, e.g. casual, work, nighttime, and so on.

The ‘Modular’ Approach

You have a uniform, i.e. a certain favorite combination of items that you wear all the time. You own several different items for each ‘ingredient’ of your uniform and mix and match these each morning.
Ideal storage system: Allocate the top spot in your closet to uniform items and store them separately from non-uniform pieces. Organize by categories within each section.

Step 2: Assess the contents of your wardrobe

Finding the perfect closet means finding a system that matches the exact storage requirements of your wardrobe. Once you have analyzed the dynamics of your wardrobe and decided on a general categorization system, it’s time to bite the bullet and find out exactly what is in your closet, including every forgotten tee and every sock that’s hiding in the back of your drawers. If you haven’t edited your closet in a while, it’s a good idea to do a wardrobe detox first (click here for a step-by-step guide).

Clear your bed, pick up each item one-by-one and create little piles using the category system you chose in step one. Then, make a list of all categories and count the items in each pile.

The below list shows the item categories of my own spring wardrobe that I developed for the Building a Capsule Wardrobe 101 post. I definitely use a modular approach when creating outfits so for me it makes sense to have two separate sections in my closet: one for my uniform items and another for additional items. Within each section I then divide everything into the regular item categories like jackets, skirts, tops, and so on.

Step 3: Brainstorm storage methods

Next, consider each category separately and brainstorm ways to store the respective items, e.g. rolled in drawers, on hangers on a garment rack, folded on shelves, anything you can think of. If you haven’t done so already, now is the right time to scour the web for inspiration and immerse yourself in the world of wardrobe organization. Keep your list of categories on hand, and whenever you see a cool storage method that you could possibly use for one or several of your categories, note it down. Bear in mind some standard garment storage guidelines, for example that heavy knits should always be folded to avoid stretching them out and that items that wrinkle easily are best kept on hangers. At the end you should be left with a list like this one:

For each category, I brainstormed a few different storage methods and underlined my favorites. My ideal closet would include a garment rack for my tops (uniform longsleeves and non-fitted thin knits), shelves for trousers, skirts and special occasion wear, and at least three drawers for nightwear, layering tops and underwear. Shoes and jackets would be stored separately, ideally at the front door.

Using your own list, you can now start honing in on your ideal closet system that will fit the contents of your wardrobe and, more importantly, your unique approach to building outfits and expressing your personal style.

Modular wardrobe systems (such as IKEA’s Pax system) and open storage solutions allow you to pretty much create any kind of structure you could think of, but even traditional ready-made closets can be customized with a bit of creativity. For example, you can easily use boxes in place of drawers for extra segmentation, or replace a garment rack with a couple of shelves.

Even with a lot of careful planning, you might find that certain elements of your new system don’t quite fit your process. Keep tweaking and polishing it until it’s perfect and don’t be afraid to consider unconventional storage methods.

For a ton of wardrobe organization ideas, check out my pinterest.

*image via flodeau.com


  1. I think I use the ‘set outfit’ approach. I had never thought about it, but I will definitely restructure my closet now.

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