How to Organize Your Closet

By Jenn Rose Smith
Inside the closet of Jennifer Rose Smith | Camille Styles

Three months ago my closet was a mess — and when I say a mess, I mean I had to call in the professionals. With a little help from Jill Siegel and Peter Stafford of California Closets, I was able to transform the scariest room in my house into a place of inspiration. Getting ready in the morning — what was once a truly dreadful task — is now a relaxing and creative experience. It was an incredibly fun process, and along the way I learned a few great tips from Jill and Peter that anyone can apply to their current closet situation, no matter the budget. Read on for some solid tips on organization, and to see my dramatic closet transformation in action:

photos by Chad Wadsworth and Jennifer Rose Smith

Edit your wardrobe.

There’s nothing quite so luxurious as a little space between your hangers. The first step towards getting my chaotic closet under control was editing down my possessions: “If a garment doesn’t fit well or look good on you, or you haven’t worn it in over a year, remove it from your space,” advised Jill. “The stagnant energy of clutter is draining and can have a negative impact on your cognitive functions and your mood! Getting dressed can be a positive and creative experience every morning. Purge immediately and have fun doing so by enlisting a friend — trust me, it feels great.”

Designate a place for both folded items and shoes.

Before the remodel, my jeans and work out clothes were stacked in a pile on the floor. Invariably, they’d become so tangled and messy that I didn’t know if they were dirty or clean, and some of my best shoe options would be forgotten hiding underneath! Design consultant Peter Stafford and I worked together to create a design that would give my shoes a designated place and allow me a bit of “surface area” for stacking jeans and other folded items as well.

Buy matching hangers.

This is one of the simplest ways you can dress up your closet and give the space a cleaner, more luxurious feel. I purchased these inexpensive wooden hangers from Ikea. Jill also recommends the no-slip low profile, velvet type hangers available at stores like Target.

Organize by grouping like items together.

Your personal sense of organization is key here, explains Jill: “You may prefer to categorize by type -– you might have all your tops in one area but separate the casual pieces from the dressier ones. Then you can sort each group by color, light in front and dark in the back.”

I grouped my clothes by length and then color (my love of white shirts made for an easy section!) and I’ve already found that I’m creating new outfit combinations from my same old clothes just because I can better “see” them now.

Bring in a little inspiration.

We tend to treat our closets like purely functional spaces, so a few decorative elements can totally transform the feel of the room. Something as simple as a lamp, rug, or framed photo can do the trick. Peter and I worked together to create a space for a DIY inspiration board over my dresser, which ended up being one of our favorite parts of the finished project.

“I love that the design is a reflection of Jennifer’s personal style,” Peter says. “Especially her homemade bulletin board. She has a very expressive style and I think the new closet is going to act like a pallet for her.”

Designate a place for accessories.

I ditched my jewelry box for a custom drawer insert from California Closets. I love this solution because I can easily see all my accessory options at once. And I’ve got my collection of crazy cuffs displayed on this inexpensive bracelet holder from Hobby Lobby.

Keep a donation bag.

It’s a good idea to think about donation/consignment as an ongoing process in order to maintain an uncluttered closet. Jill suggests practicing the “one in/one out” rule when it comes to shopping:

“Whenever you bring new items into your closet space, take a few moments to go through your wardrobe and decide what’s not working for you any longer. Think about these things consistently when you bring clothing in so you don’t overload your space with pieces you’re not wearing and stay true to keeping your wardrobe full of useful things that you love.”

Consider enlisting a pro.

If you’re interested in an overall upgrade of your closet, consider hiring a professional. Establish your budget and research options in your area. I met with Jill Siegel, Creative Director of California Closets, to begin my total closet transformation…

From there I worked with design consultant Peter Stafford to collaborate on an initial design. Peter even did a site visit to my closet to get a better feel for the space.

“I normally start by making sure I understand the functional needs for the space,” he says. “Once I understand that, I am free to focus on the aesthetics and flow of the room. The design process is actually a lot of fun! We use a 3D modeling program so you can really see the project coming to life. Everything we do here is completely custom so you have tremendous voice and freedom.”

One of the most fun parts of the process was choosing my finish outs from the vast options available through California Closets. In the end I went with a high contrast light and dark wood scheme with polished chrome handles.

I couldn’t wait to see the new look of my closet. Because when I say it was a mess…

I mean it was a disaster.

Not the place you want to start your day! I was pretty embarrassed when Peter did the site visit, but he assured me the space had potential.

“I look for opportunities to make a client’s home environment feel amazing and special, ” says Peter. “If you start your morning feeling this way, it sets the tone for the entire day. During a site visit, I also look for clues and ask a lot of questions to understand their lifestyle: How do you get ready in the morning? How often do you travel? What else do you need from this space that it does not currently provide?”

Citing the biggest challenges with my closet, Peter says, “Jennifer needed to use the space as more than just a closet. She needed areas to keep documents, projects supplies, archives, and equipment. I wanted her to have really easy access to those things without it feeling like a supply closet. So we put a lot of emphasis on creating a great wardrobe feeling throughout the closet. I think the balance of doors, drawers, shelving, and open hanging spaces came out perfectly.”

Two of Jill’s favorite touches were the pendant light fixtures I found from Schoolhouse Electric. A few tips from Jill on closet lighting:

“Adding custom lighting to a closet creates mood, adds warmth, and personalizes your space in addition to the practical effects of the light. Think of the fixture as you would in accessorizing your wardrobe — what vibe do you wish to create? Your light fixture will be like a piece of fine jewelry for you to enjoy every day. You can add a chandelier to make a statement, use a pendant in an area that needs direct lighting or simply add a ceiling-mount for a more understated design aesthetic. Lighting will define the space by adding visual interest and also bring focus to a particular element or area in your closet so placement is key.”

When asked what she loves most about her job Jill says, “I love being surrounded by beautiful things and having the opportunity to create everyday. I also love helping others reach their goals – both our clients and our team members.”

She definitely helped me achieve my closet goals, and then some! Thanks Jill and Peter, for turning my terrifying closet into one of the best rooms in the house.