Old House, New Closet: Organization Tips

how to organize a closet in an old house

Organizing a closet in an old house can be a daunting task, but it's not impossible. The first step is to declutter and decide what items you want to keep, donate, or discard. This will help you create a more streamlined and functional closet. The next step is to sort your items by category and visualize the space you need for different items. You can then choose the right closet storage solutions, such as dividers, drawers, or hanging organizers. It is important to consider the size of your space, the size of your wardrobe, and your lifestyle when organizing your closet. Utilizing bins, baskets, and containers can help keep your items organized and maximize space. Additionally, grouping similar items together and using matching hangers can make it easier to find what you need. Finally, regular maintenance and editing of your items are key to keeping your closet organized and functional.

Characteristics Values
First steps Empty the closet, clean it, and declutter
Sorting items Sort items by category and seasonality
Storage solutions Bins, baskets, drawers, shelves, and dividers
Hanging solutions Matching hangers, hooks, and racks
Space optimisation Utilise vertical space, double rods, and under-bed storage
Organisation methods Group by type, colour, and length
Maintenance Regular tidying, seasonal rotations, and label items


Decluttering and donating

When it comes to organising a closet, one of the most important steps is decluttering and letting go of items you no longer need. This creates space for a more streamlined and functional closet. Here are some detailed tips to help you with the process:

Empty Your Closet

Take everything out of your closet, including hangers, baskets, bins, and any other items on the floor or shelves. This will help you identify items you no longer need and give you a blank canvas to work with.

Clean Your Closet

Once your closet is empty, it's time to give it a good clean. Dust the shelves and hanging rods, and sweep or vacuum the floor. Wipe down the walls, shelves, hanging rods, and baseboards with a multi-purpose cleaner. Don't forget to clean any baskets or bins that may have collected dust over time.

Sort Items into "Keep" and "Donate/Discard" Piles

With all your belongings out of the closet, it's now easier to decide what to keep and what to let go. Ask yourself: "Does this spark joy?" or "Have I worn this in the last 12 months?". If you're having difficulty deciding, create a "maybe" bin and come back to it in a few weeks or months. If you forget about these items, you can confidently donate or discard them later.

Edit and Categorise Your Items

Go through your "keep" pile and decide what items are no longer in good condition or no longer suit your lifestyle. These items can be donated, given away, recycled, or discarded. Then, categorise the remaining items by type, such as shirts, pants, jackets, etc. You can take it a step further and organise them by colour for a visually appealing setup that makes finding what you need a breeze.

Contain Your Items in Bins and Baskets

Invest in some bins, baskets, or other containers to organise your items in the closet. Leave some empty space (about 20%) in your containers to prevent overflowing and give your items room to breathe. Oversized storage baskets are perfect for accessories, towels, and bulky clothing items.

Consider Donating or Selling

As you go through your belongings, keep in mind that you can donate or sell items that are still in good condition. Websites like Poshmark and eBay are great options for selling gently used clothing and accessories. Alternatively, you can donate to charities or give items directly to people who may need them, such as maternity clothes to a pregnant friend.

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Efficient folding methods

Folding your clothes in a strategic way can help you save a lot of space in your closet. Here are some general guidelines and specific techniques to help you maximise your storage space:

General Tips

  • Roll your clothes if you want to save space, especially when packing.
  • However, folding may be more practical for everyday wear as it makes your clothes more accessible.
  • Formal wear and delicate fabrics such as silk are better off hung, but casual items such as jeans and sweaters can be folded.
  • File folding is a method of stacking clothes vertically in a drawer, instead of placing them flat on top of each other. This maximises drawer space and lets you see all your clothes at once.


  • Lay your T-shirt flat on a surface.
  • Fold one arm in at the armpit seam.
  • Fold the length of the sleeve towards the centre.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Bring the bottom of the shirt up to the top, reducing its size by half.
  • If your T-shirt has a design, start folding with the printed side down so that once folded, the design will be facing up.
  • File fold your T-shirts so that you can see all your choices quickly.

Dress Shirts

  • Button all the buttons before folding to ensure a neat and tidy finish.
  • Spread the shirt button-side down on a flat surface.
  • Bring the right sleeve towards the centre, folding along the armpit seam.
  • Fold the sleeve at a 45-degree angle down towards the hem.
  • Repeat on the left side.
  • Grab the bottom hem and fold the bottom third of the shirt up.
  • Fold again so the folded portion reaches the top of the shoulders.
  • Turn over your folded dress shirt.


  • Lay your jeans flat and smooth out any wrinkles.
  • Make sure they are zipped and buttoned, which makes them easier to fold.
  • Fold them in half lengthwise, tucking the crotch in to form one long line.
  • Then, fold the jeans in half widthwise.
  • File-fold the jeans into thirds and store them vertically in a drawer, or fold them widthwise once more and stack them on a shelf.


  • Do not hang your sweaters as this can stretch and damage the fabric.
  • Fold the sleeves in towards the centre of the sweater.
  • Bring the bottom hem up and fold the sweater in half.
  • Turn the folded sweater over and store it on a shelf or in a drawer.


  • Do not tuck one sock into the other as this can stretch them out.
  • Lay the socks on top of each other, heel to toe.
  • Fold in half, then fold in half again.
  • Use a drawer organiser to create a line of socks.


  • Fasten the back, tuck the straps in, and have the cups facing you.
  • Line them up within your drawer.
  • To save more space, keep the left cup in place, then pick up the right cup and turn it upside down so it sits flush on the left cup.


  • Lay the underwear on a flat surface.
  • For women's underwear, fold in half by bringing either the right or left edge to the opposite edge. Repeat, then fold in half from top to bottom.
  • For men's briefs, fold in thirds by bringing one side to the centre, then repeat for the other side. Fold in half from top to bottom.


Utilising wall space

Install Shelves or Racks

Adding shelves or racks to your closet walls can provide valuable storage space for clothing, accessories, and other items. Consider installing floating shelves or a hanging shelf organiser, which simply hooks onto the closet rod, providing instant storage for shoes, purses, sweaters, and more. You can even find options with cute canvas drawers.

Hang a Towel Rack with Hooks

A small towel rack with hooks can be a great way to store and display jewellery, keeping it organised and tangle-free.

Use Clear Plastic File Holders or Spice Racks

Clear plastic file holders or spice racks can be stuck onto the wall to hold beauty products, keeping your cosmetics organised and easily accessible.

Hang Wire Bins

Wire bins can be hung on damage-free hooks, providing a perfect storage solution for accessories and small clothing items.

Create a Necklace and Earring Display

For those who want to get creative, try hanging a tight length of string (or several lengths) between two nails on the wall to display earrings and necklaces. This method ensures that earrings won't slip towards the middle and get tangled.

Install a Pull-Out Pants Rack

A pull-out rack is a great way to keep trousers wrinkle-free and maximise vertical space.

Add Recessed Lighting

Adding small LED lights to your shelves will brighten up your closet, making it easier to find and colour-match items.

Hang an Over-the-Door Organiser

An over-the-door shoe rack or basket system is a great way to make use of wall space, keeping everyday items easily accessible and your floor clutter-free.

Hang "S" Hooks

"S" hooks are a simple and versatile way to create new hanging space for purses, belts, tote bags, and more.

Install a Slat Wall System

A slat wall system is a great solution for shallow closets. If you only have space for hanging items on one side of the closet, mount a slat wall on the other side to hang purses, scarves, and jewellery.

By making use of your wall space, you can create a functional and stylish closet that works for you and your wardrobe.

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Using dividers and compartments

Dividers and compartments are essential for creating a functional and organised closet. They help to maximise space and ensure that every item has a designated spot, making it easier to locate what you need. Here are some tips for using dividers and compartments to organise your closet:

Assess Your Storage System

Before investing in dividers and compartments, it's crucial to assess your storage system and understand your unique closet categories. Identify the types of items you plan to store and the amount of space required for each category. This evaluation will guide you in selecting the most suitable dividers and compartments.

Choose Adjustable and Versatile Options

When selecting dividers and compartments, opt for adjustable or versatile options. For instance, adjustable shelf dividers can be customised to fit various shelf sizes, ensuring you make the most of your space. Additionally, consider compartments that can serve multiple purposes, such as baskets or bins that can store a variety of items.

Create Zones Within Your Closet

Divide your closet into distinct zones to make finding items easier. For example, you can have a zone for hanging clothes, one for folded items, and another for accessories. Within these zones, use dividers to further separate items by type, such as jeans, sweaters, and dresses. You can also arrange items based on length and bulkiness, with shorter or less bulky items placed on lower racks or shelves and longer or bulkier pieces placed on higher racks or spacious shelves.

Use Dividers for Handbags and Accessories

Handbags and accessories can quickly become cluttered and hard to locate. Utilise adjustable clear shelf dividers to give each purse or bag its own designated space. This will not only keep them organised but also help retain their shape. Similarly, you can use dividers or "S" hooks to hang accessories like scarves, belts, and hats.

Install Drawers and Shelving

Create a comprehensive storage system within your closet by installing drawers and shelving. Drawers are ideal for smaller items that can easily get misplaced, such as socks, sunglasses, or cufflinks. Meanwhile, shelving can accommodate folded items like sweaters, jeans, or t-shirts. If installing new drawers and shelves isn't feasible, consider investing in hanging shelf organisers that simply hook onto your closet rod, providing instant storage solutions.

Label Your Dividers and Compartments

Labelling your dividers and compartments will take your organisation to the next level. Clear labels ensure that every item has a designated spot and make it easier for you to locate specific items. You can use labels for drawers, shelves, bins, or any other storage solutions you're utilising.

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Grouping by colour

Grouping clothes by colour is a great way to organise your closet, especially if you want to create a visually appealing space and make it easier to put outfits together. There are several ways to do this, but the most common method is to follow the rainbow colour scheme, starting with red and ending with violet. You can then place the neutrals, such as black, white, grey and brown, on either end of the spectrum.

However, you can also get creative and organise your clothes by season, placing spring colours at one end, summer colours in the middle, and winter colours at the other end. Alternatively, you can separate pastels from vibrant colours, solids from stripes, or put all the neutrals in one section and colours in another. If you have a lot of clothes of a particular colour, you may want to place your least-worn colour at the back and your most-worn/favourite colours within easy reach.

When it comes to hanging clothes, it is recommended that you remove everything from your closet and sort through your wardrobe, placing items back in the closet one by one, hanging them by colour as you go. For folded clothes, you can sort them into piles and then place them back into your dresser drawers.

It's important to note that you should also group clothes by type as well as colour. For example, keep all your trousers together, then skirts, then tops, and so on. This will make it easier to find specific items within each colour category.

Finally, don't forget to include shoes and accessories in your colour-coded closet. You can use a shoe rack to line up shoes from light to dark or use shoe bins to stack them in rainbow order. For accessories, you can use bins or drawers to group items of the same colour together.

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