How to organize a closet without buying anything – according to the pros

These six tips and tricks will not only save you money but save you space too!

Clothes hanging on a rail
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the biggest obstacles to organizing clothes closets is having to buy organizers and deal with copious amounts of hangers. For many, this is not only overwhelming but expensive too – so how can you organize a closet without buying anything? 

While we can't deny that there are some organizers that make closet organization easier, it is still relatively simple to keep your clothes organized with what you already have at home, professional organizers assure.

Here, they share their ideas for organizing a closet without buying anything, explaining what to fold and what to hang, plus how to make the most of your existing organizers in this high-traffic spot.

How to organize a closet without buying anything 

There are a few reasons why you may want to consider organizing your home without spending any money. Not only is it great for protecting your wallet but it can help you be a little more sustainable at home, too, and avoid bringing more plastic containers into your space. 

1. Save space and organizers by decluttering first

A lady sat on the floor folding and organizing clothes

(Image credit: Alamy)

Using smart decluttering tips is the first step in organizing any space, but is particularly important if you are looking to organize a closet without buying anything to free up some existing hangers and organizers ready to reuse, says professional organizer Michelle Garb, founder of Free Your Space Now. 

When decluttering your closet, ‘your first step is to go through your closet and figure out what no longer fits you, or looks good on you,’ Michelle says. 

Keep a pile of your freed-up hangers and organizers to one side to help you when you come to adding things back into your closet, grouping them into categories to help you visualize what is possible and what you might need to compromise on. 

Michelle Garb
Michelle Garb

 Michelle Garb has helped hundreds of people just like you get rid of their clutter, organize their space, and get back in control of their lives with over 15 years of experience. With compassion and no judgment, she works with clients directly to help them get rid of the things they no longer need. 

2. Make the most of your existing clothes hangers

closet with open hanging storage for shirts and blazers, round table for jewellery, chest of drawers, gold plant pot and plant

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Nathan Shroeder)

Once you have decluttered, it is a good idea to start with any hanging space, working out what absolutely needs to be hung to get the best use of your existing closet organizers and hangers.

Things that need to be hung up include thick trousers such as jeans that are bulky when folded, and anything that creases easily, says Darla DeMorrow, professional home organizer and founder of Heart Work Organizing. You can test what creases easily by performing a crush test, she explains. ‘Ball the fabric up in your fist, crushing it in your palm for three seconds. If the material holds onto deep creases when you release, then the garment is best hung.’ 

Although not ideal for quickly seeing what you have, you can also opt for a space-saving closet technique and economize your clothes hangers by layering several garments on one hanger, Darla adds. ‘Create sweater sets with a blouse and a cardigan on one hanger, for instance, or loop several camis over the hook of a single hanger. This reduces your reliance on hangers and mitigates the need to buy more.’ 

Velvet Slimline hangers | $30.35 for 50 at Amazon

Velvet Slimline hangers | $30.35 for 50 at Amazon
If you are going to invest in any storage for your closet, velvet slimline hangers are a must, experts say. Not only do they keep your clothes in one spot without any falling, but save space too for a streamlined closet.
Acing your hanging space will ensure the rest of your closet flows seamlessly.

Darla DeMorrow

Darla DeMorrow is a certified professional organizer, productivity expert, home stager, and author. Her company, HeartWork Organizing, based in Wayne, PA, offers seminars and training as well as hands-on work with residential and business clients.

3. Nail your folding technique to keep stacks of clothes uniform

File folded clothes organized in a dresser drawer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After organizing the hanging space, it is time to turn to your shelves and drawers. While these open expanses can be tricky to tackle as clothes slide and fall over when digging through, there are some smart folding techniques you can rely on to avoid buying dividers, says Julianna Poplin, professional declutterer and founder of The Simplicity Habit.

Picking a method, such as file folding, will help to create neat pockets of clothes that do not come apart when you sort through them looking for something specific and can be stacked up against one another like files in a cabinet to make it easy to see what you have in once glance.

‘Try to stick with one folding technique once you have found something that works for you, Julianna says. ‘No one method works best for everyone, but having your clothes folded the same way consistently will help them look more organized.’

Julianna Poplin

Julianna Poplin loves to help clients discover an intentional life through organizing and decluttering their homes, having become a professional organizer in 2017 to help others find simplicity in their everyday lives. 

4. Rearrange existing shelves to add or remove height for storage

custom clothing storage with shelving and drawers

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Many pre-made shelving units will have adjustable shelves, making them easy to move to suit your storage needs without buying any dividers or extra drawer units, suggests professional home organizer Darla DeMorrow. All you have to do is move the pins and relay the shelf.

This can help to make space to stack folded clothes – especially bulkier items like sweaters and knitwear and store taller shoes and boots without crushing them. 

5. Repurpose existing storage units from around the home

An organized closet with shelves and folded items

(Image credit: Horderly)

As with organizing a bedroom with no closet space, reusing and repurposing old or alternative storage units you have in your home is a great way of expanding your storage without making additional purchases, suggests Darla DeMorrow, a professional home organizer.

‘Combine closet space with vertical storage you already own, like a small bookshelf that you can tuck in a large closet to hold shoes, boots, and keepsakes – or use it as shelving to fold clothes onto. 

‘Using a shelf might work permanently, but it can also give you an idea of how to upgrade to a professional closet system in the future,’ she adds.

If you do not have anything around the house, check local groups and online marketplaces for furniture people are getting rid of for free that can be used as is or redecorated as a fun DIY project.  

6. Shop your home for existing bins or boxes to double shelf space

In a similar manner, it is a good idea to think about what baskets and boxes you already have in your home, and how they can be used to create more storage nooks or contain clothing and accessories. Old shoe boxes also work well for this if they are made of thicker materials.

‘You can create more usable space on a single top shelf by using boxes turned on their sides, with the opening facing you,’ Darla DeMorrow says. ‘This will allow you to create functional stacks that won’t just fall over – it is like creating your own shelf dividers.’


How do you use unused closet space?

If you have a lot of dead unused space in your closet, consider if you can use it for any of your out-of-season clothing or accessories. Or perhaps it could be used to house your shoes, getting them out of the entryway.

However, if you are not struggling to find more storage in your home, then unused closet space is not a bad thing. Having empty space will give you more room for new purchases or large items that are difficult to store anywhere else.

How can I make my closet more functional?

To make a closet more functional and simpler to use, consider how you are using organizers to work out what is not working. If you have too many pieces of clothing hung up, for instance, consider what you can fold instead to make more space to flip through items on hangers and take things in and out.

When folding clothing, think about adopting smart folding techniques such as file folding to help you see everything in a drawer or on a shelf in one glance to avoid losing pieces or making your organizing system messy when hunting for a garment.  

These tricks for organizing a closet without spending any money are great when you are in a pinch or looking to be a little more sustainable. That being said, it is important to invest in some good clothes hangers to keep garments in good shape.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.