Photo: Kelsey Pudloski

Two months ago, I moved into a 500-square-foot studio apartment with a reach-in closet that offers plenty of vertical space (bless you, nine-foot ceilings), but little in the way of built-in shelving. Because I live in Los Angeles, my rent is astronomically high, which makes my budget for things like custom closet solutions rather low. So when professional organizer Jane Stoller offered to help me overhaul my closet for less, I jumped at the opportunity.

In total, I spent $28 on a hanging clothes organizer and a set of drawer dividers recommended to me by Stoller — a small price to pay for less chaotic mornings. Before she arranged my shirts by sleeve length and convinced me to donate two pairs of jeans that no longer fit, Jane and I sat down to discuss easy and affordable closet fixes that make a big difference.

Photo: Kelsey Pudloski

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1. Invest in matching velvet hangers

“Streamline your closet by purchasing matching velvet hangers. It might be a big investment in the beginning, but then you’ll have them for the rest of your life,” says Stoller. Obviously, I have yet to fully commit to this myself (I am ashamed of those flimsy plastic hangers), but Stoller says that’s a-okay. “You don’t have to buy them all at once, but just start with one type. I really like velvet hangers because they’re skinny — you can fit more of them in your closet — and also clothing doesn’t slide off them.” Another favorite of Stoller’s are the aptly-named BUMERANG hangers from IKEA. “These are perfect for blazers and jackets, they’ll keep their shape a bit better.”

2. Understand what to fold and what to hang

Photo: Kelsey Pudloski

“If you hang a sweater on a skinny hanger, you’re going to end up with indent marks,” notes Stoller. “Anything that’s going to be really heavy on a hanger, you want to be careful with.” According to Stoller, sweaters, knitwear, t-shirts, jeans, sweats, lingerie and special dresses (ie: heavy beadwork or anything that might stretch out of shape) should always be folded. If you lack shelving or want to avoid creasing your favorite cardigan, choose a larger hanger with padding. “When you invest in your clothes and want to keep them for long term, the tools they sit on are really important.”

3. Be honest and sort your clothes based on what you wear most often (even if it’s yoga pants)

“Group items based on your lifestyle — 80 percent of the time you’re reaching for the same type of clothes, whether that’s business attire or Lululemons,” says Stoller. “Have those accessible front and center, and tuck away everything else.” When organizing my closet, Stoller moved my dresses and jumpsuits to one section and the shirts to another. She then set about categorizing my shirts by sleeve length, which makes it easy to find exactly what I’m looking for when getting dressed in the morning. “The way you categorize your closet should be based on what you wear, not necessarily how it looks. It doesn’t have to be Instagram-perfect!” adds Stoller.

4. Use vertical storage for seasonal items

Photo: Kelsey Pudloski

Vertical storage is both a blessing and a curse. My closet is about nine feet tall, which is awesome because it allows me to store oversized items, but it’s also a pain in the butt every time I have to stand on a stool to access them. Stoller recommends storing seasonal items in these harder-to-reach places.

“This could be something like heavy sweaters — you put them up there because you don’t need them for six months, and then when you do you, switch them out,” says Stoller. While decorative storage baskets may be aesthetically pleasing, they’re not the most practical organizing solutions. “I like to use clear containers because you can actually see what’s in them,” says Stoller. “Or, I’ll take a picture of what’s inside and put that on there. It’s pointless to have these beautiful boxes if you don’t even know what’s inside!”

5. Repurpose everyday items instead of buying new

During my initial consultation with Stoller, she suggested I pick up these handy drawer dividers, which are both inexpensive and efficient. However, an upcycled Amazon box could work just as well as my most recent Amazon purchase. “We don’t want to buy more stuff during the decluttering process,” notes Stoller.

“Boot shapers are expensive, so I actually use empty San Pellegrino glass bottles instead,” says Stoller. “I also like to use napkin holders for storing hair and makeup items or clear vases for things like handkerchiefs.” Note to self: raid the recycling bin before spending your entire paycheck at The Container Store.

6. Show off your personal style

Photo: Kelsey Pudloski

Beyond those seafoam green hangers (which apparently have gotta go), there’s not much personality to be found in my closet. Stoller suggests I add hooks for handbags that I want to show off or prominently display a favorite blazer. “You could display books in your closet, or a special card from a friend, or anything that’s sentimental. Put something you love front and center,” says Stoller. Adding removable wallpaper to the backs of built-ins, hanging a mirror or integrating a runner are other ways to glam up your space without spending big bucks.

7. Don’t forget about proper lighting

Do you often feel the need to don a headlamp when hunting for your favorite black t-shirt? Then it’s probably time to invest in proper overhead lighting for your closet. But there’s no need to hire an electrician to do it, says Stoller. “You can go to Home Depot or Canadian Tire and for under $20, get these stick-on, motion-sensing lights,” says Stoller. “And that just brightens up your whole entire closet — it’s so easy and there’s no assembly required.”

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