Thursday, November 17, 2016

15 Let's Chat! Organizing By Color

I was recently chatting with a friend and she was telling me all about a new clothing closet she installed in her home. She was ridiculously excited about how it turned out (as she should be, it was incredible), so she posted a preview of her closet on her Instagram account. As lovely and organized as it was, she had some folks question her about why she didn't organize her items by color. It was insinuated that she did it all wrong... So she asked my thoughts on the subject and I thought it was such a good question that I would ask you all to join in on the conversation!

I think there are times when organizing by color completely makes sense. But at the end of the day, I told her it really doesn't matter if organizing by color works for me, it matters what works for her.

You see, we are all programmed differently. We all have different routines. We all organize differently. That is a very good thing!

She told me she ultimately decided to organize her closet by category, which makes complete sense to her (and to me as well). I cheered on her decision and reminded her that at the end of the day, the very best way to organize is based on your personal routine and what makes the most sense to you. That trying to organize something because it is prettier, considered the norm, is what everyone else is doing, etc... won't work unless that is how you work. Storage solutions should be put in place to match your lifestyle, you shouldn't change your lifestyle to match your storage.

Although I think that photos of items organized by color have a majestic quality to them, pretty doesn't always equate to practical. And you know I love me some pretty organizing.

So when does it work? Like I said, that depends on you. I have personally used the Organizing by Color method a few times. Here are a few examples of how it has worked for us:


I have said it before, but the funny thing is that this wouldn't have been my first method when it came to how we organized the bajillion Lego pieces we have floating around our home. I asked my boys to tell me how they wanted to organize their pieces, and that is what they came up with. It was a very popular post for me, and I have since received notes and photos from hundreds of people that have shared their Legos organized by color too (and let me just say, nothing makes me feel more excited than seeing those photos!). Many have mentioned that it has also worked great for them, others have said that it didn't. For us, overall, it is still working quite well. I think it is because I let my kids determine the best route for them. And we still have a couple of bins that need to be re-sorted and endless piles of creations and new builds, but I leave it up to them to manage and own.


I think another way organizing by color works is by creating color blocks. It allows your eye to easily identify a separation of categories. Technically my files are organized by category, but each category correlates to a specific color. So instead of me filtering through and reading each label, I can quickly and visually narrow down my search because I know that pink files are for my work specific items.


I know, I know, I just said that I agree with my friend in terms of organizing clothing by category. And I do! But just like the files, I personally add in a layer of color after I organize by category. My closet flows by blazers/jackets, collared shirts, long sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless... Then I try to place the items in each category near other pieces in a similar color. I did this because I first dress by the weather/occasion, and then I dress by color. So it made sense to organize my closet in the same way that I dress. But some folks may have less weather variation, or it works for them to plan their clothing by color first... or maybe they dress differently based on their tasks for the days/weeks, so they organize by what type of day they are having. Again, back to what makes sense to your routine and how you personally function.


With three boys, we often have similar items that are in duplicates of three. And when those items are not typically shared (water bottles, tooth brushes, lunch boxes, laundry baskets, journals, etc...), I try to purchase a different color for each boy. It allows us to quickly identify who the item belongs to, and I also try to keep the colors consistent from item to item for simplicity sake. It also helps me when I am jotting things down in my planner and I can place a colored dot next to the boy with the appointment.


There have been times when I have tried to organize by color, and it didn't work for me. Generally it is when I work with smaller items like crafts (paints, ribbons, etc...) because if I needed to pull or add something from the middle, there is always a trickle effect and it only seems to make the maintenance of the system more challenging in the long run.

So although my Martha Stewart craft paints look pretty stinking divine all lined in a rainbow, they are now tossed in a decorative basket and I am just as easily able to find what I need without much effort. I find the same to be true when organizing alphabetically, but that is an entirely different can of worms.

Let's summarize!

  • Do you! Organize by what fits your lifestyle, personality and routine. If you personally relate to organizing by color, then do it! There is no right or wrong way.
  • Color is a great way to quickly identify things. Whether it be a category or a person or a day of the week... There are benefits to utilizing color to create visual associations.
  • Organizing by color will always create a pretty and visually appealing appearance, but be sure that it is also functioning and helpful. Also think about how easy it will be to maintain the system down the road.

Now it is your turn, share your thoughts on the subject! I would love to know how organizing by color has helped you?


  1. I organize clothing by category. One rod is my current fall/winter capsule; all pants together, all t shirts, all sweaters, all cardigans, all vests, all jackets. I can easily pull what I need for the next day. Since the capsule is designed to all work with each other, I could dress in the dark and still look pretty darn good. The rest of my closet is considered my "shopping mall" and when I get bored, I can go "shopping". That said, I do tend to sort by color within categories.

  2. I'm one of three siblings (two girls and a boy) and my mom started color-coding us relatively young. I've found that those color associations linger - I don't dress in all-pink like I did growing up, but I sure reach for the pink or red board game figurine!

  3. I organize by category! I tried organizing by color, but is just doesn't work for me always. You said it right by saying, the very best way to organize is based on your personal routine and what makes the most sense to you.

  4. You're right it is very much down to the individual and what you're organising. My wardrobe, like yours, is done by category and then colour but my books are done by colour alone. I guess it comes down to what is the most efficient way of organising the thing you're looking at

    - Natalie

  5. When my son got into Legos, I was so excited to organize them by color, I got my whole system ready... and he only assembles sets. Like, he never just plays with Legos, he pulls out the instructions and builds as directed. So we organize them by project now. I see so many lovely "by color" systems, and they just aren't right for us. Oh, well, we're making "by project" work!

  6. When I was single and living by myself, I organized my clothes by color. Now that I'm married and have a child, I also have less time and choose to organize by category only. And since I've been switching to a capsule wardrobe, I'm less worried about color anyway. It really all does depend on the person and even their season in life.

  7. I organize my closet by category/function and then within each one I organize by colour. I have whittled my closet down a lot in the past few years, so I have simplified my categories, but they're all still colour coded. I'm getting married in a couple of weeks and one of the things I'm looking forward to is organizing a new closet with my new husband in the mix!

    Sweet Spontaneity

  8. I love sorting by color for the mood boost. But category makes more sense for me since i grab anything on a normal day and need to be fast. I find that choosing which system - color or category - depends on which i am likely to need MORE of. When im crafting i pick first by color, if i need a blue button then i also want all the blue buttons and maybe the blue-green or blue-purple too in order to find just the right shade. But the books on my shelves are arranged by size, bc space is a premium and i need more of a size to maximize the space usage.

  9. I don't organize my clothes by color. With 6 kids, I feel like I'm doing pretty good to just get everything put away out of the laundry room :-) I do love using color to narrow down categories. I use a lot of storage boxes in my office/craft room. It's nice to only need to read the labels of SOME of the boxes to find what I'm looking for. Same for files, although mine are in desperate need of a re-organize session. It's all about the individual!

  10. Depends. With some items sorting by color is most useful. Others by category. Sometimes both, or other, and sometimes it changes over time. For me, clothing is by category and I would have it by color within each category if I had a better closet. When I was younger I would have my nail polish by color. Now that I'm more serious about it, my nail polish is by brand, since I have swatch sticks labeled and painted with every color that hang on binder rings. My yarn is mostly by color with some of it by category (mini-skeins or coming up projects). As an example, If I owned legos they would be by color and then sub-sorted into categories to know how many of each shape I owned, like if I needed 10 red legos with 2 dots(?) and I only owned 8.

  11. I love to organize by color! I especially like your filing system! Thank you for all the ideas. xo, Maria

  12. I absolutely love colour, and you do it so wonderfully!

  13. This is such an interesting post. When I was single, I used to organize my closet like yours, categories first and then by color. But I also see the benefit of organizing by color. In high school I would pick a notebook to match the folder AND a colored pen to go with a subject, that would help me remember everything. And in college, I would pick a different color of pen for a different theme or chapter in a specific class so that when I was taking test I could picture my notes in that specific color. Sounds weird, but that helped a lot. Another thing I use color organizing for is for abnormally large collection of nail polishes. If I see them by color I can remember not to buy another nail polish of that same color. I don't care to organize them by brand but color I like. :)

    1. Swatch sticks are great for organizing nail polish if you haven't heard of them. Fun to put together too. I use stick ones, label them with the name and brand with my label maker, and then paint however many coats to opacity (I also list the coats in my Excel nail polish file, but that's me), and put them on binder rings so I can easily browse my colors and pick out what color I want to paint. Then I can leave the bottles by brand.

  14. I go by category. It is partly to do with my wardrobe - there is a rod that is for shirts so not as much clearance, a rod for dresses, long coats and cardigans, and blazers. There is another rod for trousers, and then drawers for things that can't be hung. So organising clothes by colour would just not make sense in my wardrobe.
    I think it looks pretty in colours, but I like thinking I need a top, a bottom and a jacket and going to those areas in the wardrobe to find them. Most of my clothes are in colours that complement each other anyway so I rarely have to work out if something goes with something else colour-wise.


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