When you open your closet door, are pants and shirts hanging every which way and shoes strewn about the floor? If you have no idea where to even start organizing your closet, you’re not alone.

A recent SpareFoot survey of 18 to 34-year-olds found that 18 percent of Millennials and Gen-Z don’t have any system at all for organizing their closet!

The rest employ a specific organizing method. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 37 percent by style of clothing
  • 14 percent by color
  • 17 percent by most-worn to least-worn items

But what if you don’t have a closet organization system, or the one you’re using isn’t working? And how do you begin to dig into that mess and get it organized? SpareFoot checked in with professional organizers for tips on how to sort through the task.

1. Plan Ahead.

How much time you’ll need for this job depends on the size of your closet and whether you’ll be adding things like shelving, rails and two-tiered hangers, says Eileen Roth, a professional organizer and co-author of Organizing for Dummies.

A walk-in closet could take a couple of days, while a small closet might be tamed in an afternoon. As part of your planning, measure the closet space and shop for any organizing features you’d like to add.

2. Prepare an Attack Strategy.

If you want to knock the job out in day or two, go for it. However, if the project seems overwhelming, consider breaking it down into manageable tasks, says Marty Basher, a home organizing expert for Modular Closets.

For example, spend an hour or two purging one day, then arrange clothing by your preferred method (such as color, length or season) the next. “Don’t set yourself up for misery with an all-day purge unless that’s the only way you’ll ever get it done,” says Basher.

3. Get Rid of Unwanted Items.

You’ll need to get ruthless with what you plan to keep in the closet or give away to a thrift store or friends.

“Take everything out. When we keep things in the closet, we don’t see them,” says Roth, who applies three rules for deciding what to let go.

  • Use it or lose it. If you haven’t worn that pricey dress for a few years, pass it along to someone else. Tempted to keep an article of clothing in hopes of getting back to that smaller size? Don’t do it. Tell yourself that if you lose weight later, you’ll buy new clothes to celebrate, says Roth.
  • Is an item worth the sentiment? Ask yourself whether your high school prom shoes are worth the closet space they take up. Would a photo of a cherished item in place of the real thing suffice?
  • Out with the old, in with the new. If clothing is old and out of style, get rid of it. To maintain your closet once it’s organized, remove one article of clothing from the closet each time you add a new piece.

4. Choose Your Organizing Style.

Basher sorts by length, starting by moving low-hanging items to one side. This allows a visual of how much space you need. He recommends placing shoes in hanging organizers or on shelves in shoe boxes. Store items that you don’t need daily up high or down low in containers. Don’t get hung up on technique.

“Trying to organize by color and then subcategorizing by activity or the reverse will probably just lead to spending hours figuring out where to place clothing after laundering or dry cleaning,” Basher says.

Professional organizer Adriane Weinberg separates items by category, such as tops, jeans, casual slacks, blouses (also separated by long or short sleeved) and then color, from light to dark.

“That way, there’s only one place for every single thing,” says Weinberg. “It’s super easy to find things and easy to put things back after cleaning.”

She also recommends using closet rod doublers and hanging closet organizers to separate items.

Roth prefers to sort by type of clothing and length. Start by putting dresses in the long-hanging area of the closet. Then add suits, pant suits or skirt suits, especially those on tiered hangers. You can also sort by season so that light and heavyweight clothes are separated, or work and dress clothes are separate from casual clothes, says Roth. Pants can also be hung on individual clip hangers so they aren’t folded but hang straight down. This method prevents creases and takes less space.

For stored items, label all boxes that aren’t see-through, so you can locate them easily.

5. Find What Works For You.

Don’t get hemmed in by a belief that only one organizing method works for everyone. Mix and match the various techniques until you find the one that fits your style.

Deb Hipp is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City, MO. She writes about organizing, moving, personal finance and legal issues. When Deb isn’t writing, she’s traveling or cheering on the Kansas City Royals.