When our closets become overwhelming, it is easy to point the finger at overspending on clothing. But, if cutting back your clothing collection still leaves your closet feeling cluttered, it may be time to turn to the other items you have stowed away in there.
We asked professional home organizers to share the six things that are making your closet look cluttered – that aren’t your clothes – so you can finally declutter without slimming down your wardrobe choices.
Things making your closet look cluttered
An area doesn't always look cluttered because you have too much stuff. Rather, it can simply be poorly organized or mismanaged, meaning items that should fit comfortably stick out like sore thumbs. Once you have tried decluttering your clothes fast to make a dent in overflowing clothing rails, try addressing these six things that make your closet look clumsy for a more organized space.
1. Piles of loose items
One of the first rules of home organizing is to not leave anything loose when it can be grouped and contained in storage. While this is primarily to make things easier to find and stop them from getting damaged, it also helps to make spaces look less cluttered and more put together, says Brenda Scott, professional organizer and founder of Tidy My Space:
‘Anything from piles of loose shoes and boots on the closet floor all jumbled together, piles of dirty or clean clothes on the floor, and items thrown on shelving instead of folded or in baskets can make a closet look chaotic,’ she explains. The chances are you have the room for all of these items, they just need to be stowed away to make them less stressful to look at.
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Brenda Scott is passionate about home organizing, decluttering, and creating a safe home. At Tidy My Space, she helps people to keep their homes tidy when life gets busy. Brenda shares useful tips and gives practical help with sorting and editing her clients' spaces, leading them to feel less stressed and bringing the luxury of time to be spent with family, friends, or on themselves.
2. Various styles of organizers
'There are several key storage products professional organizers can’t live without, such as bins, trolleys, and hangers – but that doesn't mean you have to throw every single one into your closet and hope it all sticks,' reminds Darla DeMorrow, professional organizer and founder of HeartWork Organizing. 'Putting too many different organizers into one space can make it look less organized than it was before.'
Avoid mixing various types of hangers and container shapes and styles in one spot and opt for uniformity instead, Darla recommends. What’s more, ensure that they are not jutting out at awkward angles – containers should be firmly on shelves and lined up neatly, and hangers should be able to slide on and off rails without resistance. If this isn't the case, then you need to try some decluttering tips first.
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. Items in front of other items
When we have deep shelves or floor space, it is logical to stack items in front of one another to make the most of our home storage. Doing this in a closet just makes it look full to bursting, however, Amélie Saint-Jacques, professional organizer at Amelie Organizes and certified KonMari® consultant warns:
‘If some items are hidden at the back of the closet, you will forget that you have them. Or there will be so much stuff in your way that it'll be too much of a hassle to get them,’ she points out.
If you must stack items, put taller things in the back, or use shelf risers so that you can see everything clearly for better accessibility.
Amélie Saint-Jacques is a certified KonMari Consultant and professional organizer based in San Antonio with years of experience in professional tidying.
4. Mixing clothing categories
There is more to organizing clothes than throwing them on a rail or in a dresser and leaving them be. They need to be organized into categories, usually by type of garment, length, and color, to help establish clear zones and make getting ready and tidying up easier, says Darla DeMorrow, professional organizer:
‘Long and short hanging clothes, randomly mixed so the bottom edges are at varying heights, like a cityscape in reverse, is one of the main causes of a closet looking cluttered, even when there is room to spare.
‘I like to hang dresses together, tops together, longer tops together, pants together, etc, and arrange them so they flow from one end of the closet to the other, shortest to longest.’
5. Items that aren't to do with dressing
Your closet storage should be reserved for getting dressed and the occasional related items such as luggage for traveling (which you will pull out handout clothes into, etc.), says Gabriella Dyson, Solved section editor for Homes & Gardens. Anything else is surplus to purpose and will get in the way of the closet's main function.
The issue with storing everything from your sporting equipment to your spare towels and linens in with your clothes goes beyond making your closet look cluttered too, she adds. It makes your closet more overwhelming and makes getting dressed in the morning more difficult, meaning you are less likely to enjoy your clothes and feel worse about yourself overall.
Try to find alternative storage for bulky items, such as organizing under-stairs storage or repurposing a hallway closet.
Gabriella Dyson is Head of Solved at Homes & Gardens, editing and writing practical advice for homeowners in the process of cleaning, decluttering, or attempting home improvements and DIY projects. Gabriella previously worked on Homebuilding.com, writing features about issues surrounding historic and listed building projects.
6. Mixing seasonal items
'If you want to make your closet more uniform and less cluttered, taking things out and putting them into storage is one of the best ways to go about it,' says Amélie Saint-Jacques, professional organizer. Leaving everything together will confuse the eye and make your closet look cluttered, she explains.
‘Things that are not used in the current season can be stored further back or at the end of a rail if you need to organize a closet without seasonal storage, but you need to remember to rotate them out seasonally to keep your closet looking best,’ she urges.
How many items of clothing should you own?
How many pieces of clothing you own is subjective and depends largely on your style and the size of your closet. Ideally, you do not want your closet to be overflowing, so try to maintain your selection by using the one-in, one-out method, or restyling pieces to use them for multiple outfits. When your closet becomes difficult to use because you are fighting against a full rail, consider decluttering a little to make some functional space.
What makes a bedroom look cluttered?
Besides having the obvious items lying around everywhere, a bedroom will look cluttered if you have too much furniture in the space, or furniture that is too large for the space, reducing the amount of free floor space you can see and use. Ideally, you want to keep at least 36” between pieces of furniture to give yourself ample room to move around. Any less than this in several places, and the room will begin to look cramped.
If your closet looks cluttered, consider trying to organize a closet without buying anything to make use of anything you already have and avoid adding anything new. Buying organizers without decluttering and measuring the space and items first is like putting sellotape on a burst pipe – it will only overflow and become cluttered again.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, 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.
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