Dude, is your closet out of control? Have logo sweatshirts, vintage Air Jordans and nonwearable clutter turned a workingman’s wardrobe into a hoarder’s nightmare?

Cheer up: there are easy ways to reclaim and maintain an orderly closet, simply by understanding how it got into that mess in the first place.

How the Mess Got Started

Los Angeles professional organizer Justin Klosky says closet dysfunction is often rooted in our past.

“It has a lot to do with the way our parents taught us to do things and the way we saw people around us interact with their things,” he explains. “As we get older, you either need to change that structure or build upon it, because it’s already a solid foundation.”

The career we choose can have an impact on our closet as well.

“I’ve found that my clients who are busy entrepreneurs and have their ‘business’ together, so to speak, tend to be a lot more meticulous because they have to be,” Klosky says.

While clothes hoarding is certainly not exclusive to men, Klosky says the problem goes far beyond sports paraphernalia.

“The men who are afraid to get rid of clothes often just don’t know where they are in terms of fashion, what they should or shouldn’t be wearing, or what looks good on them,” he says. (Hence dad jeans.)

What Men Can Learn From Women

Chicago professional organizer Erin Kelly says men may tend to let their closets go because they can.

“Woman, we have more categories of clothes; we have our blazers, dress shoes, casual shoes, our cute little jackets, jeans, capris, slacks, dresses, skirts,” she explains. “Men’s closets are actually a lot easier to organize because they have a lot less categories: shoes, nice shirts, polos and tees, shorts, suits, slacks and jeans. I can whip those out with my eyes closed.”

Men tend to scowl when Kelly delivers her two rules for closet organization: sort by category and color.

“Everything should be your cut, your color and your size. Women are more color-oriented; men aren’t,” she says. “Because men have a lot fewer categories than we do, visually it’s easier for them because, even if their closet is a mess, they can still ‘find it’ because they only have three kinds of shirts.”

Wardrobe Basics

Here’s a list of closet essentials for men:

  • Jeans
  • Khakis or chinos
  • Chino shorts
  • Tee shirts
  • Polo shirts
  • Casual stripe or plaid long-sleeve shirt
  • Dress shirts, white and solid blue
  • Dress and casual belts
  • Sneakers and casual slip-on shoes
  • Navy blazer
  • A full suit, preferably in navy or gray
  • Several coordinating ties
  • Leather dress shoes: black lace-ups, brown slip-ons

If your wardrobe is brimming with excess threads, it is past due time to shed items you don’t wear or don’t fit.

Purge Until You Find the Real You.

“Know your style,” Klosky advises. “Know who you are, and then get rid of everything in your closet that doesn’t really represent who that is anymore.” Then make it a semiannual event every fall and spring.

Box Up Those ‘Memory Clothes’.

“Men have attachments to tee shirts and sweatshirts of their college, fraternity or favorite sports teams, so a lot of times they’re keeping stuff that doesn’t fit or is faded and worn,” says Kelly. “I think ‘memory clothes’ should be binned up if you can’t wear them anymore and stored elsewhere.”

Assess Your Space

By estimating your closet’s ratio of hanging space to shelf space, you’ll find it easier to decide whether hang or fold your clothing.

“If you fold your tee shirts, jeans and shorts, it saves quite a bit of space, provided you have the shelving,” Kelly says.

If you hang, avoid wire hangers, which can leave unsightly creases in shoulders. And always hang your pants by the waist with clip hangers, as folding them over a hanger can leave a line.

Consider Open Shelving

“Open shelving units like the Kallax line at IKEA usually have nine to 12 square openings that you can use with or without baskets,” Kelly says. “But a lot of that depends on your space and aesthetics. Do you want to have your clothes basically on view? A lot of people are fine with it, while for others, it doesn’t match their décor.”

Relocate Seasonal Shoes.

“Seasonal shoes such as hiking and ski wear don’t need to take up prime space,” says Kelly. “Keep them in a hall closet or mudroom.”

Leave Some Breathing Room.

Hanging clothes stay fresher longer if there’s some room between them.

“My closet only looks good because there’s space in it and everything has its place, and the things that I do have an excess of kind of look like art,” Klosky says.

Sentence Occasional Wear to the Spare Bedroom.

“If you don’t wear suits every day, definitely consider putting them in the spare bedroom closet,” Kelly advises. “That’s where I advise women to put their cocktail dresses.”

Flip Your Closet Seasonally.

Adjust the contents of your closet to suit the season.

“If you need to, it’s better to flip than cram it all in,” Kelly advises. “Or, if your closet permits, you can move the winter stuff up high and the summer stuff down low and just switch the clothes on the shelves when the weather changes.”

Jay MacDonald