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15 Things You’re Doing to Your Closet That Professional Organizers Wouldn’t

If you’re making any of the following mistakes, your closets are a whole lot messier than they need to be. Here's how to get organized—and stay that way.

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The secrets to staying organized

Have you ever wondered how professional organizers manage to keep their closets quite so tidy? It may seem like an impossible dream for the average person, but it isn’t. (We swear!) The issue is that you’re making a few critical mistakes that torpedo your ability to get organized and stay that way. But we’ve got some good news for you: They’re all easy to fix. We asked the experts what you’re doing that they never would and how you can give your closet a simple but much-needed makeover. And once you overhaul your closets, check out these 50 organizing tips for the rest of your home that you’ll wish you knew all along.

Woman's Hands Selecting Clothesbymuratdeniz/Getty Images

Feeling guilty about tossing things

The first rule of organizing a closet: Be merciless. If you don’t use it, toss it. “A professional organizer would never keep something in their closet if they don’t wear it. Yes, even if it still has tags on it,” says Birdie Brennan of Birdie Brennan Custom Closets & Organizing. “Everybody makes a bad purchase once in a while. Let go of the item—and let go of the guilt.” If this is a tough one for you, check out these 9 ways to get rid of junk (without guilt).

many clothes in closet.Johny007pan

Hiding clothes

Hanging longer items over shorter ones makes it impossible to see everything in your closet—and what you can’t see, you won’t wear. Bringer of order and owner of Room to Breathe Jessica Dolan says that long items have a section of their own in her closet. This ensures that nothing gets accidentally lost and forgotten about. One good option: the Rubbermaid Configurations Custom Closet Starter Kit, which provides space for tops, pants, and longer pieces. And speaking of shorter pieces, have you ever wondered why shorts don’t cost less than pants?

Rearview shot of a young woman standing in front of her closet choosing something to wearkupicoo/Getty Images

Waiting to purge

Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life!, cautions against yearly purges. Instead, he suggests, culling your closet a lot more frequently. “The next time you pull out a garment and determine that you don’t like the way it looks on you—regardless of whether it’s about size, color, shape, [or] condition—when you make the decision not to wear it, the next action should be to put it in a pile of things to give away,” he says. Here are another 26 secrets from personal organizers.

Donation box with clothing in male handsMakidotvn/Getty Images

Letting donations linger

We’ve all been there: We wait until we’ve gathered a few bags’ worth of unwanted items to take to our charity of choice. (And then we usually drive around with all of those bags in our trunk for a while, but that’s a topic for another story.) The key to keeping your closet organized? Donate more regularly, says Tamah Vega of Tamah Vega Design. Here’s how to ensure this actually happens: Place a bag on the neck of a hanger, and when it’s full, drive it over to the donation site, then replace it with another empty bag. With a bag conveniently located inside the closet, there is no excuse for donations to pile up. Check out these 10 bizarre things you didn‘t know you could donate.

Close-up of dry-cleaned garments on hangers.Darak77/Getty Images

Leaving clothes in plastic wrap

If you don’t remove that ubiquitous plastic wrap from the dry cleaner, you’re going to have a few problems. First, the wrapping makes it difficult to see what’s inside. And second, it can actually damage your clothes over time. If clothing needs to be kept covered, put it in breathable garment-storage solutions, says productivity specialist Laura Leist, author of Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life. These lightweight and dust-proof Zilink Hanging Garment Bags should do the trick. Aside from the fact that you need to unwrap your clothes promptly, these are 17 things your dry cleaner won’t tell you.

sports fan jersey mixed in with other clothes in a closetMae Lander/

Mixing in memorabilia

Organizing Goddess Sharon Lowenheim, a certified professional organizer, shares her tip for keeping sentimental items. “If an item of clothing is no longer worn but you are keeping it for nostalgia purposes, then get it out of the closet and into a memorabilia box,” she advises. Nesting treasure boxes can be the perfect place to store those items you just can’t part with. By the way, you might be sitting on a goldmine if you have these 10 hidden treasures in your garage (or closet or attic or wherever else).

shoes and clothes on the floorDstaerk/Getty Images

Leaving shoes on the closet floor

Stop wasting time looking for the mate to your favorite sneakers or dress shoes in a pile at the bottom of your closet Mellen recommends keeping shoes “up on a rack where it’s easier to find them and keep them clean and dust-free.” He prefers a modular and flexible shoe rack that can accommodate even the tallest of boots. Keep the rack by the front door to collect shoes on the way in. You’ll know why once you read up on the 5 reasons you should ban shoes in the house.

Shelves with women's shoesMagMos/Getty Images

Keeping uncomfortable shoes

Colleen Ashe, a certified professional organizer and the chief expert organizer at Ashe Organizing Solutions, recommends letting go of shoes that were “worn once, never to be worn again.” This includes shoes purchased for a special occasion, high heels that hurt your feet, and any others that have been in your closet for months (or perhaps years) but are never worn. Keep your shoes looking great by learning how to clean every type of shoe.

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Leaving extra hangers on the rod

Dolan always uses a set number of hangers so that she doesn’t get carried away stuffing her closet. “I know that when I don’t have an empty hanger and I bring something new in, something old has got to go,” she explains. Dolan prefers narrow velvet hangers because, she says, they take up less space and things don’t slide off them. Here are some genius uses for those extra coat hangers.

Row of men's shirts in blue colors on hanger on white backgroundTatiana Dyuvbanova/Getty Images

Hanging clothes “correctly”

Yes, you read that right. According to Ashe, professional organizers don’t hang their hangers “correctly” if they want to keep things organized over the long haul. Instead, her secret is to “turn all the hangers around, so they face backward on the rod. When you wear an item of clothing, turn the hanger around, facing forward.” This helps you see what you’re wearing regularly—and what you’re not. This system doesn’t lie. Betsy Fein, president of Clutterbusters, seconds this technique and offers this timeline: “After six months, decide what may be donated.”

things hanging in closetphotopalace/Getty Images

Forgetting to cascade

Organizing is all about, well, organizing. It’s important to have a general idea of where to find what you’re looking for so you don’t have to rifle through your entire closet. Vicki Norris, organizing expert and “life reclaimist” of Restoring Order, reveals her secret: “I chain-link the clothing using linked hangers, creating vertical columns of similar clothes.” And remember: You don’t necessarily have to group by type of item. Certified professional organizer Amy Trager invites you to think about grouping clothes by how you dress—for example, activewear, work clothes, and formal wear. “However you dress is how you should group clothing” she advises.

navy and black clothes hanging in a closetmarieclaudelemay/Getty Images

Not having a system for confusing colors

When you’re in a rush in the morning (or it’s still dark out and you’re trying not to wake your partner), it can be difficult to tell what’s what. You end up taking out way more items from the closet than necessary and can potentially make a mess that has to be dealt with later. Professional organizer Jodi Granok, owner of Organizing Magic, says you can use a laundry marker to “put a single dot or the letter ‘N’ on the tags of all your navy-blue-colored clothing.” No more wasting time trying to tell navy and black clothes apart—or, worse, leaving the house before you notice the mistake. Now that you can tell your clothes apart, never lose a sock again with this genius laundry trick.

various jackets in a closetJoyce Grace/Getty Images

Forgetting to separate everyone’s items

Hall closets can easily become a mess. But grouping jackets and coats by family member can help you prevent this problem. “When the cooler weather comes around, you may forget what you have unless you see all of yours grouped together,” says Lowenheim. Try using write-on clothing-rack dividers to separate the coats. And remember: Human family members aren’t the only ones who need to stay warm during the colder months. Here are the 12 coziest dog coats for winter.

baskets lined up on a shelfJannHuizenga/Getty Images

Using deep bins

As they say, out of sight, out of mind. In this case, it’s easy to forget about accessories when they’re stored in deep bins. Instead, Lowenheim suggests these clever storage solutions for hats, gloves, and scarves: “Put scarves on the hanger with the coats that you wear them with. And tuck hats and gloves in the pockets of a clear shoe bag hung inside the closet door.”

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Stuffing your master closet with anything and everything

Your bedroom closet should be for clothes—and that’s it. “If the master closet is not designated for clothing only, you might hide your kids’ holiday gifts, find last year’s tax documents, stash extra linens, or even have your dog crate in there for when company comes,” says certified professional organizer Ellen Delap. Instead, she suggests designating the space for the single purpose of storing clothes. Sure, you might think that tucking those other things in there is a temporary solution, but those temporary solutions have a way of becoming permanent when life gets busy. Avoid this problem altogether by finding other hiding spots for everything else. Need a little nudge to get started on all this? Check out these 10 inspiring home organization makeovers.

Jamie Novak
Jamie Novak is a globally recognized professional organizer who regularly contributes to She has more than 20 years of experience covering the home-organizing industry. Novak wrote Keep This Toss That: the practical guide to tidying up, a top selling book for Reader's Digest. She’s been seen on HGTV, QVC, and national morning talk shows. Her work has appeared in magazines from Better Homes and Gardens to Real Simple. Connect with Novak at, @JamieNovak, or using the hashtag #KeepThisTossThat