From the February/March 2020 Issue  

Organizing Your Closet with Leigh Genkinger

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Designer Leigh Genkinger

Photo by Catherine Mekovitz

Leigh Genkinger
Orderleigh Home
Little Silver | 201-406-5919 |

When it comes to cleaning out closets, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But Leigh Genkinger, owner of Orderleigh Home in Little Silver, New Jersey, knows how to overcome organizational inertia.



First, she says, begin with the basics:

  Empty the space.

  Take inventory.


Velvet, space-saving hangers have a smaller profile than plastic or wood hangers. They’re ideal for smaller closets.

During this process, Genkinger says, “people often realize they have an abundance of the same items and then they are more willing to part with things that don’t fit, are worn out, or that they never wear.”

With the remaining items, Genkinger recommends making sure every piece is easy to find. In drawers and cubicles, that means file-folding: storing folded items vertically instead of stacking things on top of each other. “A lot of times people just dump things into a bin.” That’s a problem. “The stuff on the bottom never sees the light of day.” For clothes on hangers, coordinating by color and season makes getting dressed easier.

Small-Space Solutions

If you’re working with a smaller-than-ideal closet, Genkinger understands. “It’s all about maximizing the space. There are so many options.” Those options include putting a dresser in the closet to make the most of the dead air between hanging clothes and shoes. “We either get a small dresser or use acrylic or mesh drawers.” In addition, there are “a million hanging storage options right now. Hanging bars will create a double hang section vs. just one single bar.”

Perhaps the simplest fix is to replace chunky plastic or wood hangers with smaller-profile, velvet, space-saving hangers. “It creates a more custom look and the space is going to feel lighter. On a budget, the first thing I’d do is switch out all the hangers.”

Hanging storage systems help maximize space in narrow closets.

Sustaining the System

Sometimes the most challenging element of wardrobe organization is keeping everything in its place. “To maintain order, the best thing is to create a system that works for you.” That’s true, Genkinger says, even if it means some of her hints fall by the wayside. For example, when Genkinger brings home her own dry-cleaned clothing, she replaces the wire hangers with velvet hangers. But “the truth is, that’s not something that works for everyone.” For someone working long hours, “the last thing they want to do is convert wire hangers to velvet hangers. That’s not the right option for them. Knowing your needs allows you to make a space that’s right for you.” At its best, an orderly closet is self-perpetuating. “Once there is a system that makes sense and works within the space, maintenance should be flawless.”

File-folding clothing (top and above) ensures that each piece is visible and can be removed without disturbing the whole drawer.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Genkinger advises starting with something small. “Don’t start with a master bedroom closet,” she says. And accept that there will be a learning curve. “You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll build confidence.” Be flexible. “You’ll discover that your needs change. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I have this here but I think it would be better there.’ Small changes make huge impacts.”

Tips for hard-to-store pieces:

Baskets work well for baby gear such as diapers, wipes and favorite stuffed animals.


The turnover for baby clothes is quick so Genkinger recommends file-folding frequently worn items like onesies and pajamas.  “That makes it easy to see what you have on hand.”

Keep separates together.  “I like to fold them into each other, with pants folded inside the arms; they’re easy to retrieve without disturbing the rest of the items in the drawer.”

Hang the non-essentials, such as special-occasion clothing.

Use labeled baskets to hold things such as diapers and wipes.

Stacking bins help keep jewelry organized. They can be stored on top of a dresser or in a drawer.


Scarves: “File-fold scarves and put them into baskets grouped by season and color. You can pull the basket out and see your scarves easily.”

Jewelry: “I love using stacker bins. They look like a nice jewelry box when they’re all stacked together. You can keep them on a tabletop,  a countertop or inside a drawer to keep jewelry organized but out of sight.”