By Sara Pedersen
Having a fabulous wardrobe can really boost a gal’s confidence and outlook on life! But if those gorgeous new outfits don’t have the proper places to “live,” it can lead to frustration as she tries to make order of the piles of t-shirts, scarves, and skinny jeans. Sound familiar? Not to worry…As a professional organizer for 15 years, I’ve organized my share of closets, dressers, and off-season clothing storage areas. (No, the treadmill in the corner of your bedroom is not an option!) So I’m going to share my favorite process for getting YOUR closet in order, as well as some tried and true tips to keep it “always organized.”When preparing for the perfect closet, the goal is to come up with a system that will allow you to maintain it with minimal effort, while maximizing your space, time, and wardrobe. And remember that the closet works in conjunction with other storage spaces as well — you’ll want to also cull through clothing in your dresser(s) during this process, as well as any other clothing stored under the bed or elsewhere in your home.
Seven Steps to a Perfect Closet
1. Do the laundry. This might sound like a strange place to start, but make sure that any dirty clothing is laundered before you begin the process so you can see everything you have.
2. Once all your clothing is rounded up, start sorting. Pull out everything from the closet and dressers, finding logical categories. Put casual clothing in one area on the bed or floor by category (t-shirts, tanks, yoga wear, shorts, pajamas, etc.) and work or dressier clothing in another (skirts, dresses, dressy pants, button-downs, sweaters, jackets). Also group together shoes, belts, scarves, and other accessories. Even socks, bras, camis, and underwear need to be sorted.
3. Once everything is sorted into categories, now is the time to pare down. Once you have everything sorted, you may discover that you own multiples of the same item. How many black t-shirts do you really need? This is your chance to get rid of those items that don’t fit, are out of style, or are not practical. Remember, it’s important to let your clothing have a little breathing room to keep it wrinkle-free, as well as to allow you to easily view your closet’s contents. Toss out anything stained, ripped, or out of shape. Did you know that most people wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time? Donate or consign items that don’t flatter your figure or coloring. If you haven’t worn it in the past 12 months, let someone else enjoy it!
4. Now, figure out where everything is going to “live” and assign a “home.” Consider the storage spaces in your bedroom… both your closet and dresser(s) will come into play. Designate a shelf, section of rod, or drawer for each category of clothing. There is no single “right” way to do this, but it will be helpful to separate your closet by item type, then group similar items by color. Button-down shirts, dress pants, blazers, dresses, skirts, etc. should all be batched together so you can quickly see and assess your options when you look in your closet. Dressers are a good option for your folded casual clothing, such as t-shirts and yoga wear, as are shelves in your closet. And where will off-season clothing go? Only keep your “A” team or current clothes in your main closet and dresser. Shift seasonal clothes, maternity, and “other size” items to another storage space, such as under your bed. Many people can reduce the amount of clothing in their closet by half if they follow this guideline.
5. Reconfigure your closet if necessary. If the closet only has one rod across the top, you may want to consider redesigning your closet for maximum space efficiency. Consider simple, inexpensive modifications such as adding a double hang closet rod to double your hanging space. You may also be able to adjust your shelves and rods to better accommodate your space needs. Be sure to use the entire closet space, including the vertical space under hanging clothes. For instance, underneath short-hanging garments, place a low trunk full of sweaters. A set of plastic drawers or a simple wooden dresser could hold lingerie, swimsuits, and socks. Really want to make over your closet? Give it a clean, fresh coat of light-colored paint. This reflects the light and gives you a solid neutral background to view your clothing against. Give the closet a good vacuuming and dusting, too.
6. Find storage containers that are sturdy and sized appropriately. Use containers you already own or shop for new ones at stores like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, or The Container Store. Sweaters, t-shirts, and sweatshirts line up nicely on shelves with the help of vertical shelf dividers or when placed in clear plastic boxes or hanging canvas shelves. Accessories such as purses, scarves, and belts can be placed in clear boxes or attractive wicker baskets on open shelves. Place hooks on the back of the closet door to hang bathrobes or belts or to lay out your next day’s wardrobe. For shoes, consider clear plastic shoe boxes, which keep shoes dust-free and easily viewed. Or use over-the-door shoe bags or a neat shoe rack on the floor.
7. Return clothing to the closet. Organize your clothing to work with your lifestyle. Section garments by type, then by color, so you can always easily see what you have. Hang pants, jackets, button-front shirts, dresses, and skirts. T-shirts, pajamas, sweaters, yoga wear and underthings should be folded and put in dresser drawers, on shelves, or in bins. Don’t put matching tops and bottoms together, since this stops you from seeing other ways to combine them. Arrange clothes so those you wear most often are nearest the front of the closet.
A few additional quick tips will help you keep your closet in tip-top shape all year round:
• Allow only pressed, clean, ready-to-wear clothes in your closet. If an item needs to be mended, cleaned, or ironed, it should not be in your closet. Keep your ironing or mending pile in a convenient spot so that you can tackle it while catching up on your favorite shows or chatting on the phone.
• It’s helpful to standardize your hangers. It doesn’t matter what type you prefer, just make them consistent and always hang clothes in the same direction. This will help reduce visual clutter and allow you to review your clothes at a glance. Wooden, padded, plastic tube, or velvet “huggable” hangers, rather than cheap wire ones, will keep your clothing in top-notch shape and avoid tangles. Get rid of extra hangers, which just take up space. See if your dry cleaner can recycle your unneeded wire hangers.
• From here on out, keep a give-away box in your closet to make donating easier.
Building closet maintenance into your weekly routine will reduce time and stress in your daily quest for determining what to wear. It will also allow you to make the most of your wardrobe and feel great about getting maximum use out of clothes you already own. This project may seem daunting, but its rewards are many! If you’re stuck, consider enlisting a trusted friend or professional organizer to help you with the process, especially the clutter-clearing steps. If you just need a little motivation and guidance as you DIY, considering joining the JOY (Just Organize Yourself) Challenge.
Since 2000, Sara Pedersen has offered hands-on organizing assistance for countless Twin Cities residents. She helps them organize, simplify, and discover time to do the things they love. She is the author of Born to Organize and Learn to Organize, both available on Amazon.
She lives in Shoreview, Minnesota, with her husband, two children, and tabby cat, Mulligan. When she’s not working with clients, she enjoys finding new and creative ways to organize and decorate her home! She also loves to dig in the garden, take evening walks, eat chocolate, and explore the North Shore of Minnesota.
Visit her website for helpful organizing tips, donation resources, and access to her free set of Organized Acts of Kindness Cards.