Revamping your closet doesn't have to be a daunting project. Be ready with a game plan to declutter and reorganize and you can transform that black hole of forgotten fashions into a smart use of space for your outfits. Have a huge shoe collection? A gaggle of long gowns for black-tie events? Stacks of denim? "Consider all the things you need to store before you embark on your closet design," advises Nicole Gibbons, an interior designer who splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles. "Think of two things: making it stylish and making it functional." Take the guesswork out of dressing for the office or the weekend with a little order.
Ramp up the romance
Whether you reside in an apartment or a house, it's likely that the closets have been painted a standard-issue neutral tone. Enhance the interior with a splash of color, hang decorative wallpaper or lay down an area rug for a personal touch. Lighting can also add a sense of drama if you have a walk-in. "I love the idea of hanging a little chandelier or beautiful light fixture from the ceiling to make it feel more special," Gibbons suggests. "With your lighting, you should be able to see your clothes really well. You can make it feel like your own little dressing room."
It's gotta be the shoes.
Instead of letting your footwear pile up in a heap on the closet floor, store shoes in clear boxes from The Container Store for instant order. "I am a big proponent of seeing everything you have," says New York City-based interior designer Danielle Colding. "Clear shoe boxes allow you to stack them while still knowing what's inside." If budget is no issue, a custom design could be a go-to solution. "Inclined shoe shelves are great," says Gibbons. "They allow you to fit more shoes. You can line them up and have them look really beautiful and organized."
Hook it up.
Some of the most nifty and cost-saving items are decorative hooks, according to Colding. She recommends heading to Anthropologie to find the best selections. "There is an incredible range of options and they can bring in beauty and style while being functional," she explains. "I use hooks to hang scarves, bags, belts and hats. It's so important to display what you own.… If it's hiding in a box, chances are you won't grab it on your way out the door."
Group by color or category
Gibbons says if you have the time and energy to color-code your wardrobe, it will be that much easier to find what you're looking for. Colding admits ? to taking a two-step approach to organizing her own closet. She groups together her skirts, shirts and dresses, then she arranges them by color. "What I love is that it gives me a real sense of what I have and a real sense of where the holes are," she explains. "In my case I have like 8,000 black dresses but not a single go-to white shirt. When shopping, that kind of information is invaluable."
Just leave it hanging.
Take a cue the Joan Crawford character in Mommie Dearest and get rid of the wire hangers. Opt instead for sturdier alternatives like this bold set from T.J. Maxx below, with no-slip faux-velvet fabric. "Having all your hangers look the same will automatically make your closet look more organized," Gibbons explains. Colding concurs. "Uniform hangers are a game changer," says the HGTV Design Star season seven winner. "There is something about a uniform size, shape and color that brings instant clarity and order."
Reduce the stress
If you still feel as if you're in over your head, seek out a professional. "There are a ton of companies that specialize in helping you to determine what closet layout will work for you," Colding offers. "Use them. Use us. Designers and organizers are here to help with all those practical needs."
Former ESSENCE editor Nazenet Habtezghi is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist, documentary filmmaker and closet-challenged mom of a 1-year-old.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now!