25 Ideas for How to Organize a Walk-In Closet

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated January 24, 2023
A woman in a walk-in closet selecting her outfit
Photo: photology1971 / Adobe Stock

Take back your walk-in and design a closet that you can’t wait to show off

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Many of us dream of having a walk-in closet with all the space we could ever need to store clothes and feel organized. However, without a proper storage system, it doesn't take long for even the most spacious walk-in to become a cluttered mess. 

Read on to discover 25 actionable tips that will help you learn how to organize a walk-in closet to permanently maximize the style and function of your storage space.

1. Clean Out the Closet

Before you do anything else, it helps to completely empty and clean your closet space. Work from the bottom up to remove every single item, from shoes and clutter on the floor to hanging clothes and shelved items at the top. Once your closet is totally clear, wipe down all the shelving and vacuum the floors. You'll be left with a clean, blank slate to organize.

2. Edit Your Current Wardrobe

A box full of clothes for charity
Photo: Carol Yepes / Moment / Getty Images

The secret to organizing a closet is minimizing your stuff. Take feelings out of the equation as much as possible and honestly assess your items. With everything out of your closet, sort pieces by type, such as jeans or shoes. Put out four bins—one each labeled:

  • Donate or sell: Items in good condition that don’t fit or that you have too many of

  • Throw away: Damaged items or those that have seen better days

  • Move elsewhere: Out-of-season items can go in an attic, guest room, or in storage bins under your bed

  • Keep in the closet: Items that will remain in your walk-in for easy accessibility

3. Run the Numbers

Take inventory of your “keep in the closet” items to determine your storage needs. Make a list with subcategories, like blouses, noting how many of each type of item you own. If you have several pairs of knee-high boots, you’ll see that you need shelves to accommodate them. Similarly, if you own 20 handbags, you’ll want to plan for sufficient cubbies, shelves, or bins.

Use a tape measure to get your closet’s dimensions. Note factors like a sloping roofline or windows. This step will ensure that the storage solutions you purchase fit properly in your space. Finally, determine a budget for your project.

4. Plan Out Your Storage System

Based on your budget, decide whether to DIY a closet system, buy one, or hire a local closet designer or interior designer specializing in closets. Envision using the top, bottom, and corners of the space. Corner and high shelves work well for bags and low shelves or drawers for shoes and socks. Double rods increase hanging space, with pants on the top and shirts on the bottom.

Open or transparent cabinets let you view your items. Enough square footage may allow for an island, three-way mirror, hamper, dressing seat, or a foldable stool to access high shelves.

5. Buy and Install a Closet System

Closet systems are prefabricated shelving units with drawers and clothing rods that offer more organizational options than standard builder-grade rods and shelves. They come in two types:

  • Wall-mounted systems attach to the wall directly or via rail. They’re economical and quick to install, with coated wire baskets or racks and particleboard or wood shelves.

  • Floor-mounted systems have floor supports and particleboard or wood shelves. They are pricier and more time-consuming to install than wall-mounted systems but are a bit more elaborate.

Illustration comparing a wall-mounted versus floor-mounted closet system

6. Add an Island

Walk in closet with a view
Photo: PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Large walk-in closets tend to have a center space that otherwise goes unused. An island with drawer storage offers additional space for smaller folded items, freeing up your wall space for additional shelving or hanging rods.

The flat top of an island gives you space to display your favorite items, decor, or a vanity mirror. Alternatively, you can use it as a functional surface to fold and put away clean laundry. If you don’t have enough space for an island, consider a pull-out shelf or one that folds down.

7. Stagger Shelf Heights

Whether you’re choosing from prefabricated systems or going the custom-built route, consider having shelves of staggered heights to account for different types of clothing items and accessories. For example, a special bottom shelf that’s the right height for your boots will allow you to store them standing straight up like the rest of your shoe collection.

8. Protect Your Clothing

If your budget allows, glass-front cabinet doors offer more than just a beautiful jewel-box effect. Hanging your clothes in cabinets helps to keep them safe from dust and pests, while transparent cabinet doors keep them in full view so you can always find what you’re looking for quickly.

 Cabinets also offer additional shelf space for other accessories. If you can’t afford glass, go for clear plastic with a glossy finish.

9. Include Inserts and Organizers

A woman organising socks in a drawer
Photo: lenblr / Adobe Stock

Fill out your closet organization system with additional storage pieces. When considering storage for a walk-in closet, think about these options:

  • Closet dividers help stack sweaters and tops on shelves evenly.

  • Bins and drawer dividers to store socks, underwear, gloves, and hats. Choose from cloth, plastic, crates, and baskets, or use old shoe boxes as a budget divider option.

  • Hang hats, belts, and ties on hooks, stands, racks, or a wall-mounted pegboard.

  • Ice cube trays make great budget jewelry organizers for rings and earrings.

  • Consider a coat rack and over-the-door organizers for shoes and purses.

  • Cubed shelf storage units fit perfectly between two sections of hanging clothes.

10. Put Everything Away Based on Frequency of Use

When placing everything back in your closet, store items you need less often in less accessible locations, like high-up shelves. Store frequently worn clothes in prominent, easy-to-reach spots. These are typically the shelves and rods at eye level that you don’t have to reach far for.

Arrange clothing and accessories by type (like sweaters), then color, putting similar items together. Use the "file fold" method to store your clothing upright to maximize space.

11. Keep Your Closet Storage Accessible and Functional

Your walk-in closet shouldn't just look organized. It should also be functional, with all items easy to find and reach. For example, keeping a shoe rack near the floor under your hanging clothes maximizes the space you have to walk in. You can place bins and baskets on high shelves where you can grab them and pull them down easily without spilling or knocking over other items.

12. Label Boxes and Bins

After storing your clothing pieces in boxes and bins, label them before placing them on your shelves. Not only will this make it easier for you to find items, especially if you store them at the top of your closet, but labeling will also help you maintain your organization system over time.

13. Swap Out Items Seasonally

While you may wear your favorite coats, sweaters, and scarves daily in the winter months, they only get in the way once the weather gets warm. Have specific bins for seasonal items that you swap out for better accessibility as needed. For example, when it’s summer, you can store your winter items in an attic loft or a guest bedroom closet.

14. Maximize Your Closet’s Height

Walk in closet with clothes hanging
Photo: Colleen Michaels / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

In a small walk-in, vertical space is your friend. If you have lots of items to store, add shelving and clothing rods all the way up to the ceiling. Dedicate at least one wall entirely to clothing rods to double hang shirts, jackets, and pants. Have a rod with enough space beneath for long dresses, coats, or robes. Keep a foldable footstool handy so the highest items are accessible.

15. Utilize Door Space With Hooks

Hooks can add hanging storage to the back of your closet door so that otherwise unused space can be functional. Hooks also work well on empty walls tucked behind hanging clothes, where they can hold scarves, belts, shoes, and other items you don't necessarily need to have on display.

You can also use hooks to hang purses to keep them from creasing. Tying scarves and belts around hangers and placing them on hooks can help most of your hanger space.

16. Buy Thinner Hangers

Clothing on hangers may seem like it takes up a lot of space, but this is often actually due to unnecessarily thick hangers. By using thinner hangers for your clothes, you can maximize the limited rod space in your small walk-in closet and hang more items. To create the most attractive-looking clothing rod setup, purchase hangers in colors that match your decor.

17. Bring in a Dresser

With the right closet layout, a compact dresser can fit nicely into a small walk-in and drastically increase your storage potential. Even if you don't have room for a dresser, other standalone drawer systems may fit into unused corners or between sections of hanging clothes. You can even paint it to match your decor and make it look like a part of your prefab storage system.

18. Organize Your Shoe Collection

Shoe shelves are the ideal way to use floor space in a small walk-in closet. Rather than let shoes pile up on the floor, install shelves or tension rods that are the same depth as your smallest pair. To fit even more shoes in each row, alternate the way every other shoe is facing.

 If you have tall boots that sag and look cluttered, one budget-friendly idea is to cut regular pool noodles and insert the pieces in the boots so they keep their shape when standing.

19. Contain Your Dirty Clothes

The closet is the perfect place to store dirty clothes so they're not an eyesore in your bedroom. However, you'll need floor hampers to store them and prevent them from becoming a messy pile in your otherwise organized closet space.

A lined wicker hamper is one stylish option, and you can keep a few on rotation for laundry day. Alternatively, try a segmented hamper to separate white clothes from other colors.

20. Decorate to Fit Your Personality

Dreamy wardrobe with shoe closet
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Even if your walk-in is small, you can still design it like any other room. Now that the organization is complete, it’s time to have some fun with your closet design to make it pop. If your space features a window, adorn it with an attractive window treatment. Infuse color and personality plants, metal cabinet hardware, and decor art.

Another great piece of decor to add to a walk-in is a rug. Rugs can make bare floor space more appealing and provide a soft surface to stand on while you’re picking out clothes and getting dressed.

21. Add a Mirror to Make Your Space Feel Bigger

Hanging a floor-length mirror is an easy DIY way to upgrade a small walk-in closet. The reflection of a mirror creates an illusion that makes a small space look larger and feel more open.

Plus, you'll have a practical piece of decor that allows one more angle for you to check out outfits while you're getting ready. This addition makes your walk-in closet feel like a personalized dressing room you'll love to spend time in.

22. Paint or Paper the Closet Walls

The right paint color can create contrast between your storage system and the walls behind them to help your space look more organized. Pick a color like white or cream that will let your clothing and accessories shine, or have some fun and go bold with black, a bright hue, or patterned wallpaper. Think about using a satin finish paint to hide scuffs and streaks.

23. Install Closet Lighting

Illumination helps you easily grab accessories or put together an outfit. If your closet isn’t wired for lights, try wireless options like battery-powered motion-sensing LED strips or touch lights.

For between $100 and $185, you can hire an electrician to add another light switch or outlet. Try a chandelier or pendant lights for a design statement ideal for a closet with high ceilings. If you’d rather choose a practical, discreet strategy, plan to use recessed or track lighting.

24. Aim for Freshness

A fresh, clean space is one you’ll take pride in and feel motivated to keep organized. Air out and deodorize your closet to maintain your clothes and make your space more appealing to spend time in. Open the window or use a fan, AC unit, or dehumidifier. Add cedar or pine closet liners, lavender sachets, or eucalyptus sprigs to repel moths and make your closet smell inviting.

25. Maintain Your Closet

Woman choosing clothes from her closet
Photo: jeffbergen / E+ / Getty Images

Regular closet maintenance will help prevent your newly organized walk-in from becoming cluttered all over again. Every month or so, reassess your inventory and get rid of items you think you’ll no longer use. Make an effort to put items back where they came from after each use, and fold or hang them neatly. This step will keep your space clean and serene.

In addition, plan a yearly or seasonal purge where you assess your items again. This routine will help you rotate out unused or worn-out items as you buy or receive new ones. To motivate you, plan to donate your clothes to a favorite charity or local thrift shop so you can feel good about saying goodbye to old items.

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