How to Organize a Closet for Showings and Stage It Like a Gorgeous Display

The typical American household contains 300,000 things. So, dear homeowner with three Christmas trees and a shopaholic’s shoe collection: Show us your closets. We dare you.

“We’ve actually had clients who will turn around and walk out of a house because there’s not enough closet space,” says top-selling Cincinnati, Ohio real estate agent Jon Bowling.

“I personally worked with a woman who would walk to the nearest bedroom, open a closet, and say ‘Nope, we can leave.’”

That means you need to sell buyers on every square inch of closet space your home has to offer.

Whether you’ve got shallow reach-ins in every room or a Carrie Bradshaw-inspired master haven, let’s break down how to organize a closet methodically and stage it for showings like a Bloomingdale’s retail display.

how-to-organize-a-closet

Give your closets a deep cleaning so they look and smell fresh

A dirty home can knock thousands off your asking price, and buyers will investigate what’s behind every closet door. You need these spaces to look as sparkling fresh as the rest of your house for showings.

Unfortunately, closets collect dust, grime, and cobwebs, and closed spaces absorb odors, like the fumes wafting out of your gym bag you left in the corner weeks ago after a sweaty spin class.

So the first step of your closet organization project is to bust out your rags and roll up your sleeves for a thorough cleaning.

  • Start by removing everything from the closet. Don’t attempt to take huge armfuls at a time. Pick up one or two items and start the sorting process. Try to decide whether to keep, toss, or donate the item within no more than 30 seconds.
  • If your closet walls are a dark color, the space will inevitably look smaller. Your best bet in that case is to add a fresh coat of paint in a light neutral beige like Sherwin Williams’ Biscuit or Behr Vanilla Mocha before you deep clean.
  • Once the closet is totally empty, get a step ladder to reach higher surfaces, and clean from top to bottom.
  • A damp rag will do the trick for wiping down surfaces and won’t leave behind oily residue on your shelves. To tackle odors, use an all-purpose cleaner like Mrs. Meyers or pour half a cup of white vinegar in a bucket of warm water.
  • Use an extendable duster, like Swiffer’s Synthetic Super Extender Dusting Kit for just $11.99 at Home Depot, to clean off cobwebs on the ceiling and hard-to-reach walls.
  • Tackle any moldy spots with a mild warm water and bleach spray solution (add one or two capfuls of bleach depending on how severe the mold is).
  • If your closet has carpets, run a vacuum over the closet flooring. Use a dust mop or Swiffer Wet Jet for hard closet floors.
  • Let the closet air out. Leave the doors open and make sure all the cleaning solutions have dried before you put any items back in.
  • Leave scented dryer sheets in closet drawers, shelves, and even your clothes pockets, to keep your whole closet smelling like you just popped your laundry out of the dryer.

how-to-organize-a-closet

Cut your closet clutter in half to make it look bigger

American homes weren’t always built with excessive consumption in mind, but storage space is nevertheless valued at a premium among today’s home shoppers, with 45% of first-time buyers saying a master walk-in is essential.

According to Bowling:

“If you’re working in an area with an inventory of older homes it can be difficult to find homes with adequate closet space. That wasn’t the focus 50 years ago in the same way. If you have an older house and can make the most of your storage space, then there is value in that.”

In other words, even if your closets from the ‘70s aren’t big enough to twirl around in or do cartwheels, real estate experts recommend creating the illusion of space with one simple rule: less stuff.

Take out a handful of hangers, move a box or two over to the garage, and you’re done, right?

Not so fast.

Closets must be ruthlessly decluttered to show well. Follow these rules of thumb to make sure you’ve eliminated enough stuff to make an impact:

  • Once you’re working with a clean slate, continue the process of sorting items into separate piles based on what will stay in the closet, and what will go! As a rule of them, 50% of the items originally crammed into your closet should be boxed up, sold, donated, or otherwise relocated for the purposes of staging, real estate experts suggest.
  • Remove enough linens and towels from your linen closets to leave open space above each stack. Same goes for folded clothes: If there’s no wiggle room between shelving, the space looks crowded.
  • Let hanging clothes breathe with at least 1 inch of space between hangers.
  • You should be able to see the back of the closet wall as you look into it.
  • Closet floors should look as clear as possible. No shoes, totes, or clothes scattered about.
  • At the end of the purging process, 20-30% of your closet should be wide open space.
  • Store any boxes and items that you plan to keep at a friend’s or find a cheap storage unit while your home’s on the market. You want to avoid cluttering up another space with your closet overflow during showings.

how-to-organize-a-closet

Stage the closet like a gorgeous display

Now that you’re working with a manageable level of stuff that’s proportionate to the size of the space, it’s time to put the closet back together and get down to organization brass tacks.

  • All of the hangers in your closet should match in color and style. Mismatched hangers create a sense of chaos and disorganization.
  • You can buy packs of 40 black huggable hangers with a non-slip velvety finish at the Container Store for around $30. If you go with the plastic variety from Walmart or Target, then stick to a neutral scheme: all white, all black, or all tan. No plain wire hangers from the dry cleaners, please.
  • For coat closets, solid wood (like this pack of cherry wooden hangers) shows best and holds up to the heavier weight.
  • Make sure all the hangers are pointing the same way. Experts recommend having all your clothing items facing left.
  • Sort and arrange your clothes, towels, and linens by color, and within each color, organize by style. So within the red section, you’d have dress shirts, short sleeves, and then tank tops, etc.
  • Get your shoes off the floor. You can use a hanging organizer, like this one from Umbra, or these stackable silver mesh shelves to stage your shoe collection.
  • Replace clear plastic bins or bright boxes that look like they belong in an elementary school classroom with a classic and opaque option, like these country woven baskets.
  • Put away belts, jewelry, gloves, scarves, and other miscellaneous items into drawers, baskets, or bins. If your jewelry warrants prominent display, show it off with a wall mount like this rustic organizer from Amazon.
  • Shed light on dark corners and brighten up the space in general with additional lighting. These simple tap lights from Amazon come in multipacks and can install on a screw or just with adhesive. Turn them on for listing photos and for showings so that buyers can admire every inch of that organized space.
  • At the very least, make sure all the closet light bulbs are in good working order. Swap out dim bulbs for brighter ones. Remember that “lumens” measure how much light a bulb gives off while watts reflect the energy spend. When you switch out bulbs, make sure that the fixture can handle any extra heat (aka wattage), or you’ll create a fire risk.

how-to-organize-a-closet

Don’t underestimate the closet demands of today’s homebuyers

Today’s consumers are constantly spoiled by images of beautiful homes on social media, in magazines, and 24/7 on HGTV. They’ve been trained to think that every closet will look like this:

So their expectations will be sky high when it comes to your home’s closet potential.

In a split second, they’ll make a judgment call about whether you storage space can reasonably store their husband’s massive hat collection or the clothes they spend $1,800 to purchase every year.

And to be honest, buyers don’t have a ton of imagination, so it’s up to you to paint the picture of a dream closet for them with your own expert organization techniques.

“It is a ‘make or break’ for a lot of people,” says Bowling—so are your closets set to impress?

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