How to Organize Closet Accessories

Decorating & Design

Clothes are not the only items in your closet that can create a disorganized mess. There are many more accessories that you may not consider preventing you from reaching closet nirvana. Belts, shoes, jewelry -- even the hangers themselves -- can all add up to an overwhelming nightmare. In this article, we will look at the different ways to organize the accessories in your closet. We begin in this section with a look at the benefits of plastic hangers.

Plastic Hangers To The Rescue

Keep wire hangers out of your closet! They are constantly tangled because their necks are too small and narrow. Wire hangers are dirty and they snag and damage clothing. They are always falling off the clothes rod, creating clutter on the floor. And they seem to multiply once the closet door is closed and the light turned off.

Simply switching from wire hangers to any one of the many alternative styles available will add uniformity and appeal to your closet. But don't be hasty. Some hangers perform their duty far better than others by implementing helpful features. Other hangers actually hinder the smooth functioning of a closet's performance by becoming snarled on the closet rod.

The plastic tubular hanger is usually the first alternative hanger to be considered. It's easily available and inexpensive, and it comes in a wide range of colors for decorative coordinating. But it only furnishes the single function of hanging clothes. Many varieties of plastic hangers are inferior in quality, and they break, bend, or sag. Purchase only the sturdier, thicker models. Many of these hangers include "notches," but the vast majority of these notched hangers are flawed. Whenever the thin shoulder straps or the hanging loops inside the waistband of a skirt are put in the notch, they slip and slide out.

Another type of hanger, called an attachable hanger, can be used to take advantage of the amazing amount of usable space that is wasted in a traditional layout. We will explore the attachable hanger in the next section.


Attachable Hanger Basics

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Attachable hangers have hooks in the center that can hold other hangers.

Typically a closet rod runs the length of the closet, and from this rod all your clothes are hung. If you look to the bottom edge of these hanging garments, however, you will see an invitingly empty area. At least a third of the hangers from the rod could be removed and repositioned in this vacant space using attachables. Attachable hangers are also known as add-ons because these hangers have an extra hook in the center that allows other hangers to be attached to the hanger above. Clothes can then be aligned vertically in the closet rather than horizontally across the closet rod.

This vertical arrangement, called layering, enables you to hang two to eight garments, yet the closet rod holds only one hanger. This is perhaps the single most effective organizing technique you can initiate. It's also the most economical in terms of time, energy and money.

Attachable hangers convey other advantages as well. Hanging garments aren't crammed together on the clothes rod, so wrinkles are minimized. Also, clothes are not shoved from one side of the closet rod to another when retrieving an item. By arranging each layer in its proper color sequence, a system for maintaining order is automatically established. When a garment is replaced, you need not insert it between garments in the layer. Instead, merely hang it at the bottom of the color-arranged row, and it will recycle itself.

The best advantage of all is the extra space you gain when you use attachable hangers. By changing from standard (wire or plastic) hangers to attachable hangers, your closet's hanging capacity can be greatly increased. If additional hanging space isn't essential, using attachable hangers opens up space for shelves, cubbyholes, drawer units, or other storage devices.

Attachable hangers also come in a variation for hanging skirts. These skirt hangers do a superb job with strapless dresses, silky undergarments, and shorts, and they never lose their hold.


Another style of hanger that is useful is the open-end slacks hanger. These hangers pack a mighty wallop in gaining control of your closet space. Slacks slide on and off the unencumbered opening of the hanger without the bother of removing the hanger from the rod. The neck is bigger and rounder than most any other type of hanger, so it won't snarl or snag with the other hangers on the rod. These hangers are also smaller in stature, being three to four inches shorter in length and width. The smaller size opens up areas of the closet where a standard-size hanger cannot go. This provides better use of space, allowing for more innovative and creative designs.

Attachable Hangers 2

Attachable Hangers 3
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Using attachable hangers to keep categories of clothes
together greatly increases storage capacity

It's time to branch out from clothes and look at all the other space-hogs in your closet. In the next section, we will examine the different systems for organizing your accessories.


Systems for Accessories

how to organize closet accessories
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
One principle of organizing is dividing larger spaces into smaller, more manageable ones. Shelf dividers perform this function.

When organizing a closet, one objective is to store each classification of accessories effectively and efficiently. If each group of accessories were handled independently, they could be stored in the least amount of space, with maximum accessibility and visibility. But all your accessories must be dealt with at once: You need to find a method of storage for your shoes, sweaters, belts, neckties, handbags, and jewelry that is compatible and efficient for all accessories. This is known as maximized space utilization. For example, if you have an arrangement of modular shelf/drawer units, storage capacity can be nearly doubled by inserting additional shelves between the existing shelves.

At the same time, the length, depth, and height of the storage unit itself is unchanged, occupying the same amount of floor space and wall space. This same idea can be applied to any closet in your house.

Divide and Conquer

Dividing larger spaces into smaller, more manageable segments that more closely resemble the size and shape of the items they hold eliminates the stacks and piles of garments and accessories that are so common in closets. Drawer organizers work well for positioning and arranging articles in a drawer so that each article is plainly visible. Regarding shelf storage, acrylic shelf dividers provide an adaptable and easy yet sufficient way to segregate a whole shelf into specifically assigned storage compartments. These dividers are perfect for handbags, sweaters, hats, or any other conceivable item.

Remember, with any storage system it is important to choose only those storage methods that are easy to use. This does not mean that the product or hardware should be a simple design but that the method of storage should be appropriate for the items. If the method does not coincide with your own routine usage, your closet will soon be in disorder and disarray again no matter how well-intentioned or disciplined you may be.

Accessories 2
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Drawer organizers can also
help you organize space.

For example, a plain two-inch hook is about as simple a piece of hardware as can be found. And screwing a row of hooks into a wall of your closet for hanging belts, ties, and scarves is an easy method of storage. But difficulties will arise when two, three, or more items are hung on the same hook. You then have to search and remove all the items to retrieve the one you want. In this case, the method that will guarantee smooth and unencumbered efficiency is to hang only one article on each hook.

After deciding where your hanging clothes will be inside your closet (but before you actually hang those items), you should consider what to do with the smaller sections of space that will hold your accessories. These smaller areas are the shelves, the floor, the side walls, and the wall space above and to each side of the closet door.

Shoes are the main contender for most of this remaining space. The good news is the methods for storing shoes can be flexible, compact, and innovative. We will cover those methods in the next section.


Shoe Storage Basics

how to organize closet space
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
The traditional floor rack wastes space and doesn't hold as many shoes as other methods.

If your shoes are in a giant pile on the floor of your closet, you are wasting valuable space and valuable time sorting through the mess. Perhaps it's time to invest in a shoe rack. Shoe racks come in a wide vareity of styles to suit every closet shape and size. To begin, we will look at an old favorite -- the over-door shoe rack.

The over-door shoe rack resolves shoe storage in a practical, space-saving manner. This type of shoe rack will often work effectively on sliding doors as long as it is installed on the inside surface of the innermost door. This rack can also be hung on the back wall of the closet (behind the hanging clothes) or on the sidewall of the closet (if you can spare five inches of clearance).

This basic idea was streamlined and its versatility improved by reducing the rack to a single compact strip that can fit in even the tightest wall space. You can arrange one, two, or more strips in whatever configuration suits the wall space and the number of shoes to be stored. Several strips of this shoe storage rack can hold many more shoes than other, more traditional methods of storage.

The simple molded plastic floor rack for shoe storage has probably been purchased more than any other type of shoe storage rack. But most of the time it is left sitting on the floor unused, with shoes in heaps around it. Even more distressing, its existence prevents you from doubling the hanging capacity in your closet because it occupies the space where a second, lower closet rod could be installed. And these racks don't store shoes in the least amount of space.

Simple Strips
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Simple strips of shoe racks can be
arranged in any configuration and
number you want.

If you kept your shoes in their cardboard boxes or in transparent shoe boxes on the shelf or floor, the shoes occupy less space. The secret for the successful application of this method lies in how the boxes are stacked, aligned, and combined. If the stacks are more than 3 or 4 boxes high, the system will be too awkward to handle. The exception is with a self-supporting system of shoe boxes that has a structure surrounding the boxes. Then the boxes can be slid in and out without disturbing the other boxes.

Consider your own set of variables -- the space available for shoe storage and the number of shoes you must store -- and keep the following guidelines in mind.

  • how to organize closet accessories
    ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    Transparent shoe boxes in a self-supporting system also work well for shoe storage.
    First target the places in your closet that are unused and unproductive. These areas can usually handle shoe storage well but can't handle other items, like sweaters. Don't use rod space for shoe storage, even if you own a perfectly dandy shoe bag designed for the clothes rod.

  • Never use more space than necessary unless the system is so efficient it warrants extra space or your closet is so spacious it can afford the luxury. Never choose a system based only on its beauty or uniqueness.

  • Allow a little extra room for new acquisitions. Sometimes you must recognize that you don't have enough space in any one area of the closet to store every pair of shoes you own. In that case, divide your shoes into separate categories, such as casual, sporty dressy and the like, and select spots that will accommodate these smaller groupings.

Now that you've stored a traditionally-bulky item like shoes, it's time to move on to another closet item that just seems to take up space and get in the way: sweaters. In the next section, we will cover the basics of sweater storage, including how to properly roll and hang a sweater.


Sweater Storage Basics

Because of their bulk, sweaters are by far the most confusing and complex accessory to store. It is inadvisable to lump all your sweaters together into one category because sweaters serve many purposes from warmth to fashion. Sweaters can be for outer-wear or inner-wear, dressy, casual, turtleneck, beaded, appliqued, or embossed. With so many sweaters, it can be difficult to find the one you want. Instead, you may just end up wearing the first one you encounter as you search through your drawers and shelves. Most people apparently have grown accustomed to the familiar ritual of retrieving, refolding, and restacking sweaters and have concluded that any storage method for sweaters is too bothersome.

What Kind of Sweater Person Are You?

The majority of people fall into three groups when it comes to storing sweaters. The first group stuffs their sweaters into drawers or sliding wire baskets. Next is the group that never gives sweater storage a thought, and they hang sweaters in the closet. The last group will carefully fold their sweaters and then pile them on the closet shelf. If you use any of these methods, pay close attention to the following discussion.

Drawers, no matter how diverse or where located, furnish the poorest visibility and accessibility to sweaters of any method. If drawers are your only recourse for sweater storage, roll the sweaters rather than fold them. Place the rolled edge up and align the sweaters in the drawer single file from front to back or side to side. Now each sweater is visible and handy.

How to Roll a Sweater
©2006 HowStuffWorks
To roll a sweater: 1. Lay the sweater front side down (except V-necks).
2. Fold the arms and a small section of each side so the sweater
is only 12 inches wide.
3. Flip up one-third of the bottom and start rolling at this fold.
4. The result is a smoothly rolled knit!

Delicate knitted garments can easily suffer "hanger-burn" if they are hung as though they were just another blouse. Even if you hang sweaters on a hanger made especially for knits, wrinkles, puckers, and creases will soon appear, although the wrinkles and such are minor compared with hanger-burns.

©2006 HowStuffWorks
Hangers made specifically for knits
reduce "hanger-bum," but they do not
store sweaters as well as rolling.

There's nothing wrong with positioning stacks of sweaters on a shelf in your closet, but ways exist to improve this method by preventing the stacks from toppling over and keeping the stacks neat.

Dividing Space

Dividing shelf space into smaller, more manageable sections works well for storage. A system for doing this involves using acrylic shelf dividers. There are styles, shapes, and sizes of shelf dividers on the market to suit anyone's taste and budget. Some are inexpensive plastic stackable shelves; some are laminated modular shelf units; and some are merely boxes with a zippered or flip-front opening.

Any of these shelving styles can be positioned on the shelf to create the desired compartments. They can also be stacked and combined on the floor of the closet, creating a wall unit for storage.

Putting sweaters in sweater boxes, sweater bags, or zippered sweater cases will not provide the high level of performance you are striving for. A system of plastic bins placed on the shelf is inadvisable because they function in the same manner as a drawer with the same disadvantages.

With bulky items like shoes and sweaters in their place, it's time to focus on storing little accessories like belts, ties and jewelry. Find out how to store those items in the next section.


Small Accessory Storage

Small items like belts, ties and jewelry can get easily lost in the big expanse of a walk-in closet. Yet there are good ways for storing each item. This section addresses the easiest ways to keep track of those small but essential items.


A belt ring muddles belts together. Equipping your closet with one will cause the same frustration as a simple nail in the wall holding numerous belts. A belt ring has another negative attribute: It occupies space on the closet rod. Rod space should hold only hanging garments with no exceptions. Any style of belt rack that provides an ample number of hooks for the placement of individual belts and that can be installed on the side or back walls of your closet is the best type of rack for belts.


Many tie racks actually make ties inaccessible and are designed to hang from the closet rod. Many of the ties will be too well concealed from sight. To get to those ties, you'll have to maneuver through a large portion of ties you don't intend to wear. Just like the belt rack, a style of tie rack that has hooks for each individual tie and that can be installed on a closet wall is the best type of tie rack to use. With some of these tie racks, you can see the full complement of ties by extending their arms outward for easy selection and access. Afterward, the arms fold back into the unit, and the unit slides back into its original position. The above applies to scarves as well as ties.


The biggest mistake regarding jewelry is thinking that it's OK to store it in your dresser drawers. It doesn't make sense to keep delicate rings and necklaces in a large drawer without protection. And jewelry should not be kept in the same drawer with hairbrushes, cameras, pencils, and the like. Jewelry requires containers that are scaled to their size; jewelry boxes, bags, pouches, chests, and cases meet this requirement with varying degrees of success.

closet accessories
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
There are many ways to store jewelry, depending on what type of jewelry it is.

Necklaces, for instance, are far better served from a hanging position rather than stashed helter skelter in a drawer, even if the drawer is in a jewelry box. Just about any sort of gadget or rack for hanging necklaces systematically will serve your purposes. As with the storage of other items, placing your jewelry in transparent containers is always beneficial. The increased visibility saves time, since the contents of each container can be seen. There will be no more searching through all your jewelry boxes looking for the one item you want.

Storing accessories in a closet can be a difficult and time-consuming practice. But with the right approach and methods, you can soon be picking out your sweaters from your shoes and your belts from your ties. It's good to be organized!

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