It is now the third week of January and we are in the middle of the coldest part of the winter. Did you know that January is “National Clean out your Closet” month? For some this can be a daunting task, figuring out where to start and, in some cases, which closet to start with. In the interest of clarity, the primary focus of this blog will be on the closet that holds your day-to-day wardrobe. You know, the one where you make daily outfit choices. It’s the closet that probably collects dust on clothing that is rarely worn, but takes up precious real estate. The same closet that you throw stuff in because it does not have a home anywhere else in the house. Even as a professional organizer, I have some of these issues. I usually justify it by telling myself that I will just put stuff in my closet “for now,” especially if I am tidying up for company. The reality is that I will most likely forget about it, and there it will sit for months.
Did you know that the average person wears 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time, and the rest of the clothing sits underutilized? I can tell you that I am currently one of those “average” people. This is especially accurate with the pandemic underfoot. Currently, getting dressed each day starts with a base layer of exercise gear. Doing so eliminates the excuse of not being “ready” when I have time on my hands for a work out. Most of the time I can just layer other clothing over my work out wear for Zoom calls or grocery shopping. Look in your closet and decide which of the following your clothing collection represents:
A museum for the life that you lived historically. These are clothes that you held on to for nostalgic reasons or for a life you might go back to, whether in size or activity.
Clothes for a life you want to live but do not have: Vacation lifestyle, clubbing lifestyle, higher maintenance, (linen, silk, wool, velvet etc.).
Clothes for the life you currently live. These are items you utilize or will utilize if life goes back to full face-to-face work again. These are clothes that will be worn 80% of the time in your day-to-day life.
We need to understand why we buy and hold onto clothing that takes up precious space in our closets, closets that never seem to be big enough. Your closet should be a storage unit that assists you in starting your day quickly and efficiently. Clothing and shoes that you wear most should be available to “grab and go”. So, how do we make this happen?
The most efficient way to complete this process is to empty the closet completely. I know this seems like an overwhelming task, but it is really the only way that you can truly assess what is actually taking up all that space. BEFORE you empty your closet, please gather a couple of bins/bags to prepare for the process.
Label your bins as follows:
Toss – Items that have no real life forward and are not in the shape to truly donate. They might be ripped, stained, or overworn. These items are good for textile recycling. Where I live, we have the Pink Bags, which are good for these items. These bags are picked up on the day that our recycling bin is put out to the curb. This process prevents these kinds of textiles from going into the waste stream unnecessarily.
Donate – Clothing/shoes that are in reasonable donating shape. You can choose to consign them locally or donate them to a charity of your choice. These bags or bins should not remain in your closet when filled. Rather, they should be moved to the closest location to where they are going, which may include the trunk of your car. There are many convenient charities that have drop spots or have online contacts that will accommodate a pickup in your neighborhood.
Questionable – This is the bin that will hold those items that you are indecisive about. You might be questioning size, color, trend or whether you even still like them. Some of these items you may have loved at one point but now you are just not sure. You may have spent considerable money on the item but just do not wear it or use it. This bin should be the last set of decisions you make, as it is full of time consuming decisions, but necessary to complete.
Now you are ready to empty your closet. Take EVERYTHING out and put it on your bed or on a sheet on the floor. You can decide what “emptying” the closet looks like for you, but it should be empty to the point where you can clean from floor to ceiling. Wash the shelves and sweep or vacuum the floor. Now comes that challenging part. You need to be honest with yourself about what should be kept and what must go. Pass each item through a set of questions: Does it fit? Have you worn it in the last year? Is it damaged? When do you wear it? Do you love it, or as Marie Kondo says “Does it spark joy?” Do you need to justify keeping it? Is it out of style? Is it a keepsake that should be stored (wedding dress or even costumes)?
Once a decision is made for each item, you can begin to put them back into your closet. You can arrange them by category: Dresses, blouses, jackets, pants etc. or you can choose to organize by color or season. The decision of placement in your closet should be based on how you dress daily, which means the clothing you wear 80% of the time. These clothes should be the most accessible, enabling you to make the quickest choices, saving you time and energy. This process should be completed for all categories of clothing that you are organizing, including shoes, purses, scarves, and jewelry. You can also use this process to address your chest of drawers or bureaus.
Once you have completed the selection/deselection process for your closet, it is time to consider your hangers. The reason I did not address buying hangers earlier in the process is due to the potential downsizing of your wardrobe, which reduces the overall quantity of needed hangers. Do you want to swap out wire or plastic hangers for velvet or wooden hangers? All the work leading up to now results in a more accurate count for purchasing.
Your future self will thank you for placing your hangers backward as you put your clothes back in the closet. Of course, once you actually wear an item, you will then return it on a hanger placed forward. When January rolls around next year, all the hangers that have not been turned forward should be addressed first. These items should be seriously considered for donation or disposal.
On a separate note, consider how your shoes are stored. You can save room by placing every other shoe in the opposite direction, in terms of heels and toes. By doing so, you will gain more storage space.
Now that your closet is finished, reflect on possibly putting a few rules in place. Some ideas to consider: A. Commit to not buying any more hangers than what you own right now. B. If you buy a new clothing item, one item must be donated or taken out of the closet (the one in and one out rule). C. Do not put multiple items on the same hanger (that hides items). D. If the backward hangers in the closet do not turn over after a full year, the item on the hanger needs to be seriously considered for donation or disposal.
I hope that you have found this to be helpful and I look forward to hearing from you about your closet successes. As always, I’m here to help!