Reader question: Closet clustering separators

Reader Te sent us the following question:

I was just “hipped” to using clustering to organize the clothes in your closet. I really like the idea, however I am trying to imagine a neat looking closet that is organized in that fashion. And I also cant see an efficient (visually pleasing) way to see the distinctions between the clusters. I know people use those little round things that they have in department stores but I think there should be something better, maybe longer like a piece of material that can make a cleaner distinction.

What are your thoughts on this method of closet organization and making it so that it is not visually cluttering?

Clustering by type of clothing can easily make a visual distinction between groups of clothing in your closet and you probably won’t need a separator to indicate the start of a new section. This is how I organize my closet and, moving left to right, I have suit coats, slacks/pants, short sleeve tops, skirts, long sleeve tops, and dresses. The types of clothing are different enough that it is an abrupt change and no extra identification is necessary.

I’ve also seen fabulously designed wardrobes built out of the Elfa system where different clusters are hung at different heights so that no group hangs immediately next to another group. If you have such a system, then simply rearrange the hanging rod heights to eliminate the side-by-side confusion.

When people cluster items, however, they don’t always cluster slacks with slacks, short sleeve shirts with short sleeve shirts, and suit coats with suit coats. Some people cluster by color, season, type of situation where they would wear the clothing (office, client site, home, garden, exercise), or another clustering system that makes the most sense for his or her life. When this is the case, I can see a desire to use a more formal separation system on a single hanging rod.

The following list contains just a few ideas I’ve seen successfully used in the past. I think the possibilities are endless, so be creative and go where your style leads you!

  • Ribbons. Tie a piece of ribbon around the hanging rod and make it loose enough that it can move, but tight enough that it doesn’t slide around when you don’t want it to slide. Frilly types might want to make it into a bow, others might want to tie a knot and nothing more.
  • Cedar blocks or lavender sachets. Using one of these items, you can ward off pests and separate your clothes.
  • Clear suit bag. The person I saw who did this with her closet had a suit start every cluster of items. You wouldn’t have to use them for suits, though, and simply put the first item of each section in one of these.

If any of our readers have more ideas, please share them in the comments!

27 Comments for “Reader question: Closet clustering separators”

  1. posted by Louisa on

    My friends make fun of me but I organize most of my clothing by color. I put dresses and skirts all the way to the left. Tops (which take up most of my closet since I fold most of my pants), though, go in Roy G. Biv order, with grey/black on the end. Silly? Maybe. But if I’m wearing my funky green corduroys, I know that only certain colors will do, and I go right to those sections. Belts and sashes hang over the door on a little rack with hooks. It looks organized and pleasing to the eye!

  2. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    Good timing with these tips! I’m taking tomorrow off and planning to completely go in and reorganize my closet, donating items that I haven’t worn in years. I see the upside to organizing by color, but I like doing it by season.

  3. posted by Bethany on

    Erin, I organize my closet almost the same way! My closet goes in this order: professional shirts, pants, jeans, sleeveless shirts, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweaters, and dresses. I also organize each section by color. It sounds completely anal but it’s actually REALLY easy to keep organized.

  4. posted by Lori on

    I organize by type, then by color within type, for the most part. I do have one cubby strictly for “messy” clothes (painting, grass cutting, etc.) and another for workout clothes. I’ve never felt the need to create dividers, but if it helps you, more power to you.

  5. posted by Lisa Z on

    This reminds me of the entry you did concerning my closet organization over a year ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long!

    Anyway, I can easily find different sleeve lengths because my closet is (still) organized in rainbows from whites/greys to reds.. all the way to purples.. then browns and blacks. Where there’s blacks and then abrupt to white, I know I’ve got a new separation of clothes styles. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. posted by Rue on

    I have wire shelves in my closet (not by choice – they came with the apartment). There are sections of 1-1.5′ that are separated by a little wire between them, and I use those to section off my clothes. I have one section of long-sleeved tops, one section of work clothes (including work pants), and one section of T-shirts and jeans. (Dresses and skirts, which I don’t have many of, hang behind my husband’s suits as that shelf is higher and the dresses don’t drag the floor.)

    I organize my husband’s shirts on his side of the closet by button-downs, T-shirts, polo shirts, and pants. On the other side are his dress pants, dress shirts, and suits.

    Organizing by color looks nicer, but personally I think it’s more important to organize by type of clothes as it’s more functional. Of course, to each his (or her) own. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    One big tip I have: Don’t underestimate how important it is to have the same hangers for nearly everything! Even if your clothes are organized haphazardly, having everything on the same hangers makes it look so much better. I find the thicker plastic tube hangers to be great for most clothes – they don’t rust, and they retain the shape of clothes pretty well. You might want bigger hangers for coats and suits though, as they tend to weigh more.

  7. posted by Michele on

    I organize by type, but I don’t sub-organize by color. Types include business-casual sweaters, sleeveless tops, short-sleeve tops, 3/4-sleeve tops, long-sleeve tops, slacks, skirts, suits, blazers, etc. When I take one piece of clothing off a hanger, I take the hanger out and move it to a “hanger section” all the way over to one end.

    With this system, and with only one closet, I haven’t found a need for dividers of any kind. I’d only note that, for economic reasons, I probably have less clothing than most other people.

  8. posted by Morfydd on

    I standardized on two colors of plastic hangers (wire hangers catch each other too much) and alternate them, so I can see the colors change on the rod level. Also each group is arranged light to dark, but, um, most of my clothes are black, so that’s of limited utility.

    So it goes: Tank tops on blue hangers, short-sleeved shirts on white, long-sleeved on blue again. Skirts on wooden clip hangers, dresses on blue hangers, pants on wooden, blazers on white hangers. I have a second closet for fancy-dress clothes on black and white hangers, and the blazers switch between closets as one gets too full.

  9. posted by Anne on

    OK .. I do this completely differently. Every so often (can be once a week or more often or less often), I “go shopping” in my closet. I put together outfits. I hang everything (except shoes) on one hangar for that outfit. Jewelry, top, bottoms, scarf. specialty underwear etc. Obviously there are a variety of outfits according to different occasions. Some are “every day”, some are “visit clients”, etc. Then I have several completed outfits hanging in the front of the closet all ready to go. This method avoids “back of the closet searching” and wearing stuff I don’t like. The other clothes are hanging further back in the closet organized by type and season. My friends and family think I’m nuts, but it works REALLY well for me. Just another approach.

  10. posted by KathyHowe on

    Anne and I have a very similar closet organizing process. I have shelves in the middle of my closet with rods on each side and one in front of the shelves. I use that front rod to hang my outfits for each week and into the weekend. When I prepare my outfits I think about the week ahead – what will the weather be like, what meetings am I scheduled to attend, etc. Then I hang the clothing in the order that I plan to wear them. If anything changes with my schedule during the week I can quickly grab something from the outfit stash or reorder the outfits. Every night before bed I make sure the next outfit in line is still appropriate for the following day then pull out matching shoes and stockings. This works well because then I can plan everything when I’m wide awake. 6am is no time for such detailed planning and configuring! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. posted by shris on


    I organize by type, but I made my own dividers out of simple cardstock. I cut it into rectangles about 4″ wide by 8″ long, then about 2/3 up from the bottom a 1″ diameter hole for the rod. Make a slot from the hole to the bottom for insertion. Then write on the top portion if you actually want to name your sections.
    I did, just so I’d remember–this system is pretty new for me.

    After dividing by type it was easy to see which items I have too many of (I use separates, so I want a certain number of items of each type) and which are too few.

    I am considering doing DH’s closet the same way to show him he has faaaaaar too many of certain types of items. ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. posted by Sarah H. on

    What a neat idea! I organize my closet by clothes type, then color, but I see how using separators could be quite useful. They would help me put each clothes item back in its proper place better, because sometimes I get lazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. posted by Amanda on

    I organize my clothes by type and haven’t found a need for division as there is a visual one. Pants hang long, button up shirts next to them are shorter, skirts next to the shirts are on hangers that can be laddered (one hangs off the next) and I ladder them in 4’s so it longer than the shirts. Dresses next to them are shorter, then suit jackets.

    My divisor is a visual up and down. I hope my explanation makes sense.

  14. posted by Matt on

    Many of the suggestions above for clustering devices could be regarded as just more clutter. My system involves color-coded plastic hangars. I only hang shirts and jackets, everything else is folded and stacked on shelves in my closet. All the pants are on one shelf, and all the jeans are in one pile on that shelf; all the sweaters are on one shelf and are organized by thickness/warmth, etc, etc. I have a VERY basic wardrobe, so luckily I only need two colors for my hangars: white for items that I can wear to work and black for casual stuff. The white hangars all go on an upper rod, the black hangars go on the lower rod. If you want/need more categories, just buy more colors.

  15. posted by Sue on

    This is funny. I’ve been “clustering” my closet since college (I never refered to it as clustering). It’s one of the few truly organized areas of my house and is very easy for me to maintain.

    My shirts are divided roughly into short-sleeves and long sleeves, and each is in order from white to black. I don’t sweat prints – the dominant color is usually obvious. Since sleeve lengths vary, the “short-sleeve” category holds sleeveless through 3/4 sleeves. Within colors, I try to keep it from light to dark shades but I don’t worry if something’s one place off.

    Skirts, pants and dresses are my other categories. I arrange pants roughly into office and casual, and all of these from light to dark.

    I don’t need “separators”. The visual break between each broad category is enough for me to easily know where things go. Separators would just get in my way.

    I have a lot of clothing, but it’s so easy for me to pick an outfit. There’s usually one item that speaks to me each morning (or night before if I’m really ambitious), so I pick the rest of the outfit around that item.

    It’s so frustrating to me that I can be so good about my wardrobe, but so disorganized and cluttered in just about everything else.

  16. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    clustering is such a great idea. I just have a hard time keeping it clustered. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I love the Elfa system. We installed a huge office/wall system that is fabulous. next project – the closet!!

  17. posted by April on

    How interesting to hear how everybody handles this. I have “clustered” for a while, but like others have said I didn’t know there was a name for it! ๐Ÿ™‚ My clustering isn’t super strict, but generally speaking I have casual tops clustered together, then khakis, then black pants, then jeans, and the other side of the closet has a section for dressy clothes (for weddings & such) and a section for work tops and dresses. (I work in a fairly casual office & usually wear the same pants for work & casual occasions.) Once I have worn and washed or cleaned an item of work clothing, I put it in the back of the work clothing section, and try to rotate through my work clothes systematically so I don’t wear the same things over & over. (That’s a holdover from my junior high days, I’m afraid, when I lived in a snobby neighborhood and would have been *mortified* to be caught wearing the same thing twice in a week. I didn’t have the designer clothes other kids had, but gosh darn it, my clothes were spaced out. ๐Ÿ˜› )

    I tried working with a professional organizer a while back, and she tried to convince me to cluster my work tops & dresses/skirts separately. It didn’t make sense to me to do that when my system works for me!

  18. posted by k on

    Our closet is a 10-ft-long reach-in closet. There are two sliding doors, so only half of the closet is available at any given moment.

    The right half of the closet has one long rod across the top, which is for my dresses and skirts and my husband’s suits. Below the skirts is just enough space on the floor for a 3-section laundry cart. (

    The other half of the closet has two rods, so my husband (the taller of the two of us) gets the top rod, and I get the bottom rod. I try to arrange it so that I just have tops on the right side of the closet opening, bottoms on the left side of the closet opening, and empty hangers in the middle. (The bottom rod usually follows this arrangement; the top, not so much. *insert eyeroll here*) As clothes get returned to the closet, they get put in closest to the empty hangers on the appropriate side. Clothes with less frequent use therefore migrate toward the ends — this way I can see which clothes have been getting neglected or need to be purged.

  19. posted by Pete on

    I cluster, and use the style and colour of coathanger to differentiate.

  20. posted by Darci on

    I’ve got a cheaper option than those little hangy-thingies. I used to work in the fashion industry, doing large-scale fashion shows. To keep models’ outfits together, we used large circle clips (purchased on the cheap at office supply stores). If you need more differentiation, you can hang tags off the clips (tags also cheap at office supply stores). I use this method when “shopping my closet” and putting clothes together for the week. You can also hang the clips around clothing rods to partition sections (tees from pants, etc). It’s cheap but handy!

  21. posted by Alara on

    Organize It has their garment storage on sale. The Clear Suit Bag that the post lists is even less than the Amazon price.

  22. posted by Sandy on

    I cluster too. Pants on the left. Short sleeve shirts on the right and long sleeve shirts and jackets at the back. I was reading Real Simple this morning and one of their little trivia blurbs stated that the average woman owns 8 pairs of casual pants, not including jeans. I know I have more than 8 pairs of pants. How many pairs of pants is too many?

  23. posted by gypsypacker on

    Coats go to the far left, then work sweatpants, sorted by color, work sweatshirts ditto, then a multi-shelf shoe organizer holds t-shirts and shorts, rolled, with 3 in each cubby, and houseshoes and heels in the bottom cubbies.To the right of that are slips, then blouses, slacks, skirts, dresses, and finally two tie hangers full of panties. An antique wooden packing crate holds dirty clothes, a second one, miscellaneous clothing items, and a third has socks. Out-of-season dress clothes/work sweats go in Space Bags, then in plastic 18-gallon totes to prevent decompression.
    I was looking forward to the day when I would never again need a week’s changes of little blue job-hunting suits but the economy refuses to cooperate!

  24. posted by Lorie Marrero on

    We have a product that is made just for this! It’s our Simple Divisionยฎ Garment Organizers. They are available in the Container Store as well as in our online store at

    Ours are better than the round kind because they have a rectangular, straight surface to make it easier to attach labels, like from a label maker. Also they are balanced so they don’t spin around on the rod. You can see them here:

    I would love to give Unclutterer readers a special deal. Until November 30th, you can get 20% off with the coupon code “unclutterer” on this product. We have them in 12-packs with labels included, and we also sell them in bulk Professional Packs of 50.

    Lorie Marrero
    Creator of The Clutter Dietยฎ

  25. posted by Liz on

    This is great for baby clothes, too! Using dividers has helped a ton, since I can’t always instantly tell if a dress is a 3-6 month size or a 6-9 month size.

  26. posted by Barbaa Krisel on

    I am looking a clothes separated that is make of metal , wraps around the clothing rod and had approx 6-8 loops that hold wire hangers in perfect distance. Any one know or this? A friend found it in a garage sale.. It is wonderful especially if you are OCD.

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