NOT a museum for the clothes you own.
I know that this is a topic most of us would prefer to avoid. The messy, disorganized closet. The weather is cold, and the world is opening up, a little. My wardrobe of the past 18 months has consisted primarily of washable tops, shorts and a few pairs of comfortable pants. Now that I see people (occasionally) I want to have more choices when I get dressed. I am re-thinking my closet. Here are some ‘first principles’ I’ve learned. This process can be applied to your closet, kitchen cabinets, garage or storage closets. Solo or team event? I need to make choices on my own, but I have friends who enlist a buddy to power through the task. Laughter and wine might help.
Empty everything out of the closet and clean it.
Have space set aside to put out the clothes as you sort them.
Marie Kondo (ASE article) famously advises that you pick up each item and ask whether it ‘gives you joy’. Consider when you last used it, and if the answer is, “More than a year ago”, you probably don’t need it. Give yourself permission to violate the one-year rule for things you’ll want at special events – which just haven’t been possible. Good questions to ask yourself are:
Do I love it?
Is it not really me anymore?
And is this a ‘maybe’ which deserves a few more months of consideration?
You may find it easier to part with clothes if you know that they will be useful to someone else. Have a donation plan. Know how to sell valuable clothes.
Organize your closet for clothes you wear, not clothes you own.
Most closets are too small to serve as museums to your favorite outfits. For clothes that you no longer wear, but you keep for nostalgia, consider finding a picture of yourself in a favorite outfit and ask if that memory is enough – without holding onto the garment itself. For many of us, there are a few items with which we cannot part, but really don’t wear. Move those out of your active closet if you can find dry storage somewhere else.
Consider the frequency of use when you organize your closet. Put the most used items in the most convenient places.
Store clothes which go together in the same place. Hang the sleeveless dress next to the pashmina. Put a bathing suit with a pareo and the long underwear with thick walking pants. Tennis clothes with the visor. You get the idea.
Some of us rearrange our closets seasonally. That floppy sun hat belongs on a convenient shelf in the summer, but it can go to the hard-to-reach top shelf for winter, or into deep storage.
Leave intentional space for clothes you are wearing this week.
Unless you live in Downton Abby and have a valet, or more time than the rest of us, you probably wear some clothes more than once before you wash them. Leave space to hang up a shirt or stack a sweater so that they will be handy and unwrinkled when you wear them again. Check anything you plan to wear again. If an item is dirty, put it in the hamper right away.
Bring order to your chaos.
Label shelves or drawers, or at least know where things belong.
Put similar colors together when hanging clothes. In a small closet, it is amazing how restful it is to have your white shirts together.
Have a place for everything, with some space left over. If you don’t have a place for the sweater you just took off, it tends to drift around the closet, getting in the way and looking messy.
If you have a drawer or a shoebox for the loose ‘stuff’ everyone has – extra sunglasses, keychain, loose change and note pad – you will put it away. If not, it will accumulate on the surfaces in your closet.
Here are some tools to have at the ready when you take on your closet project.
A full-length mirror so that you can be realistic about what is worth keeping.
Arm yourself with a stain stick so that when you see a spot, you can treat it and put the garment into the laundry to see if it can be cleaned.
An ironing board so that you can smooth out wrinkles and be realistic about how fresh a garment can be made to look. Give it its best chance to please you.
Give yourself bright light to see clearly. Put a higher wattage bulb in the ceiling light, bring in a lamp if you have room.
If you have a rolling clothes rack and a table, use them to store items while you sort.
Shopping bags with labels for:
Deep storage away from this closet, and
Consign – I am newly aware of the option to consign items. Many options exist to sell designer clothes and bags. Consignment options.
Now that you have purged your closet of all but your core wardrobe, here are some hangers, racks and shelves which will help you put what remains away neatly. Conceptually, think about maximizing your usable space. If you have adjustable shelves, make them just high enough to hold each group of items. Minimize the width of your hangers to make more space on each bar. Use racks to stack shoes. Use bins where you have space on high shelves or on the floor below hanging.
Package of 40 thin non-slip velvet hangers, $34.99.
This Umbra Dublet Closet Rod Extender hangs off your closet hanging bar to hang short items like shirts and pants on an open hanger. This doubles your double capacity. $14.99
This shirt stack separator comes in regular and small. The separator is a stack of thin sheets of stiff plastic, nothing bespoke or elegant, but they make it possible to slide out any shirt from the middle of the stack without messing up the others. You can also purchase a shirt folding board which makes it easy to fold shirts into exactly the same size each time. 20 Stack Holder, $29.99. Shirt Folding Board. $16.99
Dividers to separate stacks on wide shelves. $14.99 per divider.
Expandable Dresser Drawer Divider. $20.99
4″ Expandable Drawer Divider Clear package of two. $21.99
Vacuum sealing bags to take volume out of clothes going to storage. Space Saver Bags Vacuum Storage Sealer Bags. Small and Jumbo bags. Combination of eight bags. $22.99
Put a lock on a drawer to secure jewelry, cash, passports and other valuable. Unless you have DIY talents, get a locksmith to add this lock.
Clear PVC storage boxes so that you can see what is inside. $22 – $30.
Clear Plastic Storage Bins with Handles, no lids. $2.99 – $5.99 each.
Label maker. $88.79