How to organize your wardrobe

January is as good a time as any for a wardrobe fix. It’s not about throwing things out and taking them to the charity store in a Marie Kondo frenzy, but creating the perfect conditions in which clothes can thrive, or at least survive. Clothes you can’t see or reach can be forgotten, “lost” or worse, damaged. An organized space that saves time and energy and creates a sense of calm. But how do you achieve that? Experts step up.

Design a wardrobe around your clothes

A business wardrobe needs a functional system and the ideal is to have a wardrobe tailored around the clothes you own. Philip Nagel, director of London-based Neatsmith, which designs the wardrobe and other storage spaces for the home, talks to clients in depth about their clothing. “Someone might have a lot of sarees, for example, that need a long hanging space. We also have clients who are elite athletes who have a professional collection. We have built custom drawers for biker bibs and shelves for very particular tennis coaches.”

On a basic level, Nagel says, a functional wardrobe needs hanging space, three drawers, three shelves and shoe storage: “At least three drawers for small items, underwear, and socks. Sweaters and shirts on the shelf—the big drawer is useless because you can’t see any Something and its cost triples. Since the width of most clothes is 30 cm, we design shelves up to 30, 60, 90 or 120 cm. A shelf of 40 cm is a waste of 10 cm.

Double hanging rails are “the least attractive option but the most efficient in terms of space and finances”.

Nagel recommends using stackable rails or pull-out shoe drawers—although that depends on how many shoes you own. “Recently we took out the second bathroom in the apartment of a 22-year-old Russian client and made it a room for 326 pairs of shoes.”

Make everything visible

A table top with perfume bottles and utensils containing makeup brushes, jewelry and lipstick on a vanity plate

Camilla Hewitt, editor of Well Curated magazine, recommends reusing beautiful glassware and investing in custom-designed ceramics for dressing table storage.

Wardrobe organizers often mention that if you can’t see it, you won’t be wearing it. “I love displaying things on open shelves or shelves in wardrobes — bags, shoes, scarves, jewelry,” says Danijela Coha, founder of London-based Wardrobe Fairy. “If you can make it beautiful, why not?”

Some of their customers have large wardrobes with long shelves and backlit mirrors that make this easy. But many of her clients don’t have walking spaces, and for them she recommends hanging as many clothes as possible, folding T-shirts and knits on shelves and using clear storage – clear garment covers for dresses, coats or knitwear, and Muji acrylic cases for everything from underwear to jewelry and eyeglasses. Sunglasses and beauty products.

Sort by color or season

Sunita Kumar Nair, a freelance and creative fashion editor who has worked in London and New York, based her own wardrobe on a glimpse of the “supersonic wardrobe organization” early in her career, when she was asked to re-dry the man as a magazine editor. His wardrobe “was a cabin, made of dark walnut. An automatic light was turned on and all of his shirts and suits were organized in this dizzying spectrum of navy, grey, black and muted colors,” she recalls. “The cashmere jumpers were pleated and lined with tissue paper. The socks were perfectly folded and stacked in the Japanese KonMari style. It was insanely gorgeous and showed reverence for the garment.”

Clothes are wrapped in wire baskets
Drawer dividers let you collapse or roll items and store them into subcategories © Alamy

Although Kumar Nair had no walking space, she had a compact unit specially designed by a local carpenter. It has hanging space suitable for long dresses and coats, and more width for thicker hangers required for jackets. Shirts, pants and mini skirts are gathered together on velvet hangers. While Coha advises hanging clothes in colors from dark to light, Kumar Nair organizes her ties according to the season. “Black for fall and winter, pink for spring and summer and gray for non-seasonal. Visually, it makes finding things really easy.” I love the Songmics velvet hangers for their rose gold swivel hooks (£23.99 for 30, songmics.co.uk)

Store small things in small spaces

Storing clothes or small accessories in small places is easy to find and keeps things organized. Nagel recommends building partitions inside the drawers: “Watch, jewelry, and stockings compartments, whatever, you can fit in drawers lined with leather or vegan leather.” If you’re stuck in deep drawers, Coha recommends drawer dividers where you can wrap different items and their subcategories (John Lewis sells lingerie drawer order, £8, johnlewis.com).

Nair keeps the wool socks with lavender (try the Natural Perfume Bags from Clothes Doctor, £4.50, wearthlondon.com) in the drawstring pouches that often envelope skincare and fragrance brand Aesop their product.

Protect your woolen textile

Fold or roll knitted garments and stack them on the shelves according to their weight—knits, midi, exact measurements—as with such: polo neck, round neck, and V neck. Consider storing cashmere in individual bags ( £8.50, amazon.co.uk) as does Kumar Nair.

If you’re moving knitwear out of your closet for summer, a zip-up linen chest for dresser top or under the bed comes in handy (£22, muji.com), and you can tuck in some cedar or lavender mothballs. Keep woolen coats protected in sheer clothing covers (£12 for two, johnlewis.com).

Casting your own jewelry

Trinket box containing watches

Trinket boxes by August Sandgren are an attractive way to keep jewelry and watches tidy and within easy reach

Transfer jewelry from individual cardboard boxes to something attractive and useful. Danish brand August Sandgren offers beautifully simple leather jewelry boxes (from £186, augustsandgren.com) and watch boxes (from £230). Stow London’s elegant nail boxes, watch wraps and trinket cases (from £95, stowlondon.co.uk) come in a range of colorful leather and are as useful for a dressing table and inside a wardrobe as they are for on-the-go storage. The company’s leather service trays provide a handy bedside table landing station (on sale from £68).

Use refillable beauty products

The first rule of cosmetics and makeup preservation is to buy a few. Even if you religiously use every last drop, many cosmetic packaging still cannot be recycled. Camila Hewitt, makeup artist, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Well Curated magazine, recommends refillable makeup brands like La Bouche Rouge and Kjaer Weis or, for ultimate precision, Trinny London stackable utensils. “Ouai, Diptyque, and Susanne Kaufmann are now repacking,” she says. “I love Wearth’s Amber Refillable Bottles for Pouring” (from £6, wearthlondon.com). She uses beautiful glass candle jars for her makeup brushes, pencils and pens and recommends reusable makeup pads (£10 for 10, wearthlondon.com).

“I’m also a big fan of investing in bespoke ceramics or glassware from Kana London or Maud & Mabel for my dressing table,” Hewitt says. “I feel like supporting small brands, showing artwork and being practical.”

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