12 commandments for organizing your closet

12 commandments for organizing your closet

Why organize your closet?

It may seem like a superficial goal, but it's really about preserving your investment and lifting your mood. If you know what's “ready to be worn”, it's easier to prepare for the day, but if you have to seek-and-find, it can be exhausting. Organizing is also also about mastering "aesthetics" through the ability to view your wardrobe at a glance.

Are you organized?

Some of us are more challenged than others when it comes to being organized.Emma Thompson, in The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay Diaries, once said “Got up this morning and could not find my glasses. Finally had to seek assistance. Kate [Winslet] found them inside a flower arrangement.”

I can tell the same story as Emma Thompson, although with a different result, as my Maison Bonnet glasses were eventually found in the freezer.

I've come to understand that being organized is more about “caring” than about being an obsessive bore who approaches organization with the same approach as using a soulless spreadsheet.

Author Victoria Kahler expressed the purpose of organization in an anecdote from her novel “Their Friend Scarlet”:

“When everything was laid out before her, she felt safe, loved even. She was always trying to be more organized than she was. She knew it was weird and blamed her mother, with the lists and notes she’d leave whenever she and Dad went out of town. The labeled dinners in the freezer and the 20 emergency numbers on the phone showed she cared, even when absent, she cared.”

Caring for our clothes and being able to quickly find what we want to wear can clear the mind for other purposes. Efforts used to locate a lost sock or spot-clean a forgotten dirty shirt may not seem like a big deal, but at some point such experiences deplete our energy.

If you like good clothing and are ready to stop making excuses for being disorganized--getting your closet in order will allow you to enjoy your clothing investment. Remember, the absence of organization can eventually become maddening and cause a trap in cerebral thought and inaction, creating irritability and restlessness.

A warning though : obsessive organizational maniacs are more tiring than feeling disorganized. The act of order should bring joy and calmness to life, while the spirit of 'nit picking, judgmental finger-pointing, and a know-it-all attitude' destroys a sense of peacefulness.


If you're already well organized, you may want to skip this section. However, if you find yourself to be "organizationally-challenged":

1. Try identifying and always keeping upwith one "stable object". For example, my stable object is my car key. I always know exactly where my car key is located (in the blue cup on the coffee table).

Defining a stable object and tracking its position will help make an element of organization part of your life. Whether a passport, wallet, eyeglasses or a car key, knowing where your stable object is at all times can boost your interest in becoming more organized.

2. Break the cerebral cycle of “all thought and no action” by completing a simple task from A to Z, like clearing your desk or cleaning the inside of your car. A completion of a task from A to Z will set the mood to tackle bigger projects like organizing your closet.

3. Document your success through photography. Take a photo of a section of your closet that you like, and/or photograph your favorite suit ensemble so you won't have to “reconstruct from memory” outfits you put together well. Visual reinforcements are reminders of how the results are worth the effort.

To make gradual steps forward, you may find the most success through tackling one or two points at a time, until you eventually master all twelve. Pay particular attention to the types of hangers that you use--this infographic is very good for hanger selection:

men's closet hangers


I. Long sleeve shirts shall be hung neatly together with the top two buttons fastened


Shirts are a great place to start the organizational process. Use lightweight hangers to hang dress shirts (but avoid flimsy wire hangers). We like to use clear plastic hangers with silver hooks for our shirts since wooden hangers seem like overkill, but to each his own. Button the top two buttons of each shirt and hang shirts in groupings of similar colors or patterns.

II. Casual shirts/sweaters shall be folded and positioned where they are easy to see

shirt dividers

If too many types of clothes are hung-up, it can be visually overwhelming. Try folding casual shirts/sweaters using a method as described here. You may use dividers as shown above to help keep folded shirts in place.

III. Trousers shall be (1) suspended from the hem using sliding-clip hangers, or (2) hung using the "Savile Row Fold"

savile row fold

Hanging trousers upside-down in a row returns trousers to their original shape, keeping them free of wrinkles and allowing them to air out. If you choose this method, use hangers with sliding clips to adjust to the size of pant leg. Group colors and patterns together.If you prefer the "Savile Row Fold" for suspending trousers, it is described here.

IV. Casual pants shall be suspended by the belt loops and positioned near formal trousers

men's closet 3

Suspending casual trousers by the belt loop is a newer method which helps to mentally separate dressing-up versus dressing-down, with the idea again, to keep all trousers together for easier mental processing.

V. "Sturdy hangers" with shoulder support shall be used to suspend suit coats, blazers and jackets

men's closet 1

Use sturdy U-shaped hangers with rounded sides to preserve the shoulder form of the jacket, suit coat, or blazer (as shown in the hanger guide above). The large size of the hangers is also helpful since it separates suits from each other to allow for more air circulation. Hang coats together in a row, according to purpose, color and pattern. Most bespoke tailors will provide you with the right sort of hangers.

As Kirby Allison from the Hanger Project puts it, “you tailor your suits, now tailor your hangers!".

VI. Neckties shall be suspended on a hanger(s) with pegs

men's ties

Suspend ties on a pegged-hanger alongside your suit coats and jackets. Although above we see a customized hanger, individual pegged hangers are easily found for purchase at places like The Hanger Project and The Container Store. Remember, neckties which are rarely worn can be put away elsewhere, to keep the area clear of rarely-used items. Belts also may be organized using pegged hangers or pegged panels installed into the wall.

VII. One drawer shall be dedicated to (only) socks


A dedicated sock drawer will ensure that every sock goes to the same place, and no other item will share the drawer with your socks. Organizational tools like this by orgjunkie.com can prove useful in keeping socks in place.

VIII. Small boxes shall be used to organize pocket squares

pocket square organization

A set of dedicated pocket square boxes help ensure each pocket square stays in its place and is less likely to be lost. Small boxes inside a drawer also work well to display pocket squares.

IX. Shoes shall be kept in clear view with shoe-trees ALWAYS inside the "most recently worn pair of shoes"

storing your shoes in closet

While it would be best for all shoes to have their own pair of shoe trees, if it’s not possible, then remember shoe woods are crucial only during the first two hours after shoes have been worn to maintain the form while the shoes are drying from sweat and outdoor elements. The good news is that with two or three shoe trees, you can easily maintain ten or more pairs of shoes! [Note: Keep a 'buffing glove' within reach to buff away pesky dust which gathers on shoes].

X. Dirty, unironed, and unpolished items shall be placed beside clean items (to the far left!)

Here, we address the more advanced area of organization: clothing maintenance. Position items that need to be washed or maintained to the 'far left' section of each category to be tended to later, as discussed below (i.e., washing, ironing, polishing). Adopting this method means dirty clothes should never be strewn about, lost or forgotten, because such items, whether dirty or clean, are all kept together.

XI. Thou shalt wash/iron/polish your clothes and shoes each (or every other) weekend

sunday an ironing day

All your dirty clothes and unpolished shoes should be to the far left of your clean clothes and polished shoes waiting for maintenance.If a once-a-week schedule for clothing maintenance is not possible, opt for bi-weekly maintenance--that is, if you can wait two weeks to reuse your clothing and shoes. Above we see an image of shuao74's Instagram Sunday ironing ritual.Set your cleaning and polishing schedule to your liking, but at least have a rough schedule in place.

XII. You shall occasionally air out and brush suits, and use cedar in your closet--and almost always avoid dry cleaning

wool and cashmere spray

Suspending your most-worn suits and overcoats outdoors will allow the sun and wind to refresh your clothing. Before airing your clothes, it's a good idea to brush your suits and overcoats to loosen and release debris on the fabric. When placing your cloths back in your closet use a cedar based method to spot clean and to repel those dreadful moths (above offered by net-a-porter.com).

To brush your suit, brush from top to bottom in a downward motion, preferably in the direction of the lay of the wool fibers. Also brush behind the collar and around the armpits in downward motions. Finally, lightly shake your suit to release any remaining debris.

Remember, chemicals from dry cleaning break down the fibers on your clothes and may not be healthful for skin contact or inhalation. Often tumbling and aggressive ironing is involved in dry cleaning, which further deteriorates your suits. Dry cleaning a suit once a year may be necessary, but use a cleaner who knows how to handle bespoke suits (e.g., some professional cleaners have been known to do dastardly things like “pressing” lapels, thus ruining suit coats and jackets). Also, if you choose to steam your suit, avoid the canvassed area at the front of your suit coat, jacket, or blazer, since canvas can be sensitive to the high temperatures and humidity.

To air out your clothes outdoors, this simple outdoor drying rack can be purchased here for $45.00.


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Unless otherwise indicated, most images are by Zillow.com -- contemporary closets . Contact us if we have used one of your images and we will amend as you indicate.

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