This post is from staff writer April Dykman.

An organized closet is a practical thing to have. It saves you time in the morning, since you don’t have to dig through a sea of shoes for a sole mate. It can save you money, as well. I know I’m guilty of buying something without realizing I already owned something similar.

But a major closet overhaul can be pricey. Built-ins are expensive, and closet systems like those at The Container Store aren’t cheap, either. The good news is that there are inexpensive solutions for closet organization problems.

Separating clothes is step one.

Step one: Sorting
The first step is to clean out your closet. You knew I was going to say that, right? But it’s crucial to distinguish between the good, the bad, and the ugly before you spend any time organizing.

For the purpose of closet organization, divide your clothes into the following six piles:

  1. Throw away
  2. Give away
  3. Repair
  4. Out-of-season clothing to keep
  5. Special occasion keepers
  6. In-season clothing to keep

Get rid of clothes in the first two piles and take the clothing in the repair pile to a tailor.

Now you’re ready to begin organizing.

Step two: Organizing out-of-season clothing
Next, address your out-of-season clothing. It’s best to only keep the things you’re actually wearing in your closet, especially if you’re tight on space. There’s no point in spending precious morning time digging through sandals and flip-flops when it’s 20 degrees outside.

You don’t need a new wardrobe closet to free up closet space, though. Inexpensive or free ways to store out-of-season clothes include plastic crates, a trunk, or suitcases you don’t use often. My winter clothes get stored away in a trunk that doubles as our coffee table. (Granted, I live in Texas, so I don’t have a need for a lot of bulky winter clothes!)

Old suitcases are great for storing out-of-season clothing.

Step three: Special occasion clothing
Unless you’re a socialite or have a busy schedule of cocktail parties and black tie events, you also can move special occasion clothing out of the way. Ideally, these items would be stored in another closet, but if that’s not an option, hang the items together and put them in the back of the closet.

Step four: Dealing with the in-season stuff
All that’s left at this point should be the in-season clothing you love and wear often. You can easily spend thousands on built-ins, shelving, shoe racks, and the like, but it’s not necessary for a streamlined closet. The following solutions to closet organization problems will help you organize on a budget:

Problem: Shoes piled up on the closet floor.
Solutions: Use the original shoe boxes to contain shoes, and add a label to the outside of each box for easy identification. Other options are to purchase clear, plastic boxes (about $1.50 each); stacking shoe drawers ($6-$8 each); or an over-the-door shoe organizer ($10). As for tall boots, instead of letting them flop over and lose their shape or spending $10 on plastic boot shapers, Kendi Lea of the blog Kendi Everyday had a great tip in her recent series on closet organization: “You want to know a hint? Put a few clean and empty wine bottles in your boots to help keep them upright. Want to know another hint? Don’t drink wine while organizing your closet.

Old suitcases are great for storing out-of-season clothing.

Problem: Not enough shelf or drawer space.
Solution: Instead of custom shelves, hang canvas shelves (about $16 for six shelves) from the curtain rod to hold sweaters, t-shirts, and other items you want to fold. Other inexpensive options include large canvas boxes (about $15 each) or clear plastic drawers that stack on top of each other (about $8 per drawer). You can stack the bins low enough to hang shirts above it, saving space in cramped closets.

Problem: Accessories are a mess.
Solution: The pocket over-the-door organizer ($10) also is a great way to organize accessories, like ties, tights, dress socks, scarves, and other items you need in the morning, such as shoe polish and a lint brush. If your necklaces are often tangled, hang the ones you wear most on a wall-mounted coat rack or a pegboard mounted inside the closet door. A pricier option for bigger jewelry stashes is a canvas organizer with clear vinyl compartments that hangs on a closet rod or hook (about $25 at The Container Store).
Old suitcases are great for storing out-of-season clothing.

With your in-season clothes and accessories in their designated places, you should have a working closet. To keep your closet streamlined, constantly eliminate clutter: Every three to four months, sell or donate unused items.

An organized closet doesn’t have to cost much. What are some of the creative ways you keep your closet organized on a budget?

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