Closet Organization

There are some very popular theories for closet organization that tell you that you need to organize your closet into a split-level arrangement that puts all your tops in one area and all your slacks and skirts in another. This is fine if you are someone for whom this approach works. It never did for me. So I'll share my approach to closet organization and then you will have some alternatives that you can use to figure out a system that works best for you.
The first division for my closet organization is by season. In the Spring all the winter things are put away and in the Fall, all the summer things go into storage. If you are blest with enormous closets, storage might just be the back of the closet. If your space is very tight, you might need to use under-bed storage containers. I built a whole second level above the regular rack in my closet (very high ceilings made this possible) and the off-season items go there. Wherever your storage area is, you will need to protect against mildew and moths. I won't go into that here since our topic is organization, but there are lots of resources on the Internet for ways to protect your clothing.
My next closet organizing division is by function, that is the least-used items such as fancy-dress clothes in the back and the most commonly used items in the easiest access area with all the intermediate usage clothing in between. Unlike other closet systems that separate pants and tops, I like to pair them up as I want to use them to save time when I'm getting ready - this way I don't have to think about which items go together as they already are. I use skirt hangers to pair pants and tops that go well together, often with a matching overshirt, sports jacket/blazer or sweater, Voila! A complete outfit all in one spot. So for the space of one item (the slightly larger skirt hanger), I've stored three items. There's no wasted space below my clothes because shoe racks take up the floor, close to the level of the clothes.
When I make the switch between spring/summer and fall/winter clothes twice a year, I use that as an opportunity to quickly review the status of each item: does it still fit? do I still like it? does it get used? If the answer to any of these questions is no, off it goes to Goodwill or to someone I think can better use it. Items that survive the cut either go into the main section of the closet or into the upper storage area. Paper bags make routing the eliminated items easy.
To make the process of sorting things faster and easier, I haul everything out of the closet and lay it on my bed, usually spread out by type (i.e., dresses in one pile, slacks and nice blouses in another, and the jeans and shirts in a third). This makes it fast and easy to go thru the items to identity what to keep and what to get rid of, and helps the process of sorting where things go in the closet. I used to think that it would be nightmarish to take everything out and that it would take forever to get it all back in, but actually, once I wrapped my mind around doing it, it goes pretty quickly, even when I slow it down by trying on things I haven't worn in a while. Part of it is like painting, the secret is the preparation. I remove my hamper and any other items that live in the closet area temporarily so that they will not be in the way and slow me down while doing this switch, have the opened paper bags sitting near the bed, extra hangers of several kinds on hand.
Two final sorting refinements that may be more than most folks would want or need to do: I sort items in sections by whether they are complete outfits or single pieces, grouping them together, and then by color. It takes an extra moment to maintain this system but it sure makes finding what you want easier, especially if your closet is crowded, difficult-to-access, and/or has poor lighting.
To organize belts, I use a man's tie rack, one of those little circular things. Works well if you don't have lots. My closet has cubbies for hats and outdoor scarves, which I like a lot but there are probably many good ways of dealing with these. Coats and jackets have special hooks along the walls of the closet. They take up too much space and are too heavy to hang them on the closet bar with the clothes.
I would love to hear your ideas for organizing closets. The point of all of the above is not my particular system, but to illustrate that you can have a well-ordered, highly functional system without spending a fortune to do it. 

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