Expert Advice: How To Organize Your Closet In 5 Easy Steps
“I have nothing to wear!” I scream out in frustration. Never mind the pile of clothes up to my knees on the floor. Ignore the overstuffed closet behind me. I swear I have nothing to wear. I know I'm not the only one that this happens to on a weekly basis… right? Hello? Where are my people at?!
During these painful times, I bonk myself in the forehead for not organizing my closet. I used to do this for a living, so why do I never sort my shirts, sweaters and more? While I go through this hot mess at my feet, let me give you some tips to de-clutter your own closets.
To start, cleaning and organizing a closet can seem like such a daunting task. Fair warning: It’s going to take a couple hours — yes, hours — so I’d recommend doing this on the weekend or using a sick day. I know that doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, but trust me when I say that it’ll make a world of difference when you’re done. Let's get organizing!
Step 1: Create Keep / Maybe / Donate Piles
This is going to be the most time-consuming step, but it’s the most important. Starting the process of choosing which clothes to keep will be a lot easier when you set up a sorting process. I recommend laying down either three separate blankets or putting out three laundry baskets if you have them. The names imply exactly what the three different piles will be used for: the keep pile, the maybe pile and the donate pile.
Now, go through your closet and put anything you've worn recently or regularly into your keep pile. Try not to include items that are not currently in-season. Obviously, that favorite halter top of yours isn't going to be worn in the middle of December. We'll be putting those away soon!
The donate pile sounds the most dangerous, I know. Just remember that the clothes you're putting in here are going to be helping someone out who is less fortunate. Those jeans that are just too long that you keep meaning to get hemmed, all those shirts in the back of the closet that just don't look good anymore, and especially that sweater that's super cute but really itchy. Throw those all in there. A few of your “goal” outfits will make it into this pile eventually, too. We'll talk a little more about those later. You know what you haven't worn in forever, and any item you aren't sure about you should toss into the maybe pile, which we’ll talk about next.
For the maybe pile, these are going to be clothes that you would’ve just purchased or clothes you don't generally wear all the time, but you think you can work into your wardrobe. This stack might get really big really fast, but don't worry — we’ll be going through this pile more than once. The maybe pile also tends to start accumulating everything that might have sentimental value. For example, the first date dress you've only worn once, all of your “goal” outfits, and even those workout clothes that you bought and swore you're using next week should make their way into this pile.
Here comes the part that might make this a little tedious and long: sifting through your maybe pile once more. To actually go through this collection properly, you’ll need to try on everything. If you don't want to try it on, you don't need to keep it, so toss it in the donate pile. Really take a look at everything you're trying on. Is this something you can maybe wear with one outfit, or can you mix it into your wardrobe regularly? Do you feel comfortable wearing it, or are you constantly tugging and pulling? The most important one to ask is, does it fit? Any noes go into the donate pile. The yeses, and be brutally honest with yourself, move into the keep pile.
Once you've gone through your maybe pile in its entirety, you’re ready to move to the next step!
Step 2: Rethink Your Shopping Habits
You came across these outfits during the sorting phase. They look so amazing on a hanger, hence the reason why you purchased them on a whim. I myself have fallen into the trap of buying a cute top that doesn't fit, but I promised myself it will one day. These are the items you came across in your maybe pile that you probably threw into your keep pile. Whether you're male or female, we all have that tiny voice that goes off while shopping. “This is cute, I'll get it, and it can be my goal for working out! This will give me so much motivation”. Well, now I'm going to give you some harsh truth: YOU DO NOT NEED 18 TOPS THAT YOU MIGHT FIT INTO ONE DAY! Sorry, I'll allow you a moment to take that in.
OK, welcome back. I do apologize, but someone needed to tell you. Most diet plans will actually encourage you to have one or two items that you can work towards fitting into when you reach your goal. We just keep adding to it. Take a hard look through all those outfits and pick one or two you really like and keep those. Goal outfits are OK to own, but having too many will take up much-needed closet space and can actually hurt your workout plan. To the donate pile they go.
Pushing through that emotional moment, let's go through your shiny new things now! We all have those items we bought and shoved into the closet, the tags hanging there and taunting us. I'm going to introduce you to what we organizers like to call “The Two Week Rule.” This goes to really everything in your house, but for right now we’re going to apply it to your closet. Move all new clothes up to the front of your closet. You now have two weeks, and I mean only TWO WEEKS, to wear them. If you can't put it into your wardrobe, you don't need it. Try and find their receipts to return and get your money back. Anything without a receipt goes into the donate pile. This may hurt you to your core putting all those new items into the donate pile, but you'll notice next time you go shopping you'll be a little more frugal with what you buy.
Step 3: Out of Season, Out of Closet
This one should go without saying, but move the items that aren't weather-appropriate out of the closet. We are right before the chilly times, so short shorts, swimsuits, halter tops, tank tops or anything else that can't layer should all make their way into storage. Space saver bags can be found really inexpensively, or you can always grab a gallon tote at Target, Wal-Mart or IKEA for a couple bucks. Sandals and flip-flops should also move out of the closet. We're going to need that space for cute boots! When the season changes from cold to warm, you'll want to go through everything again for the keep/maybe/donate piles. Don't fall back into disorganization.
Step 4: Put It All Together
This next step is personally my favorite. If you’re not obsessive compulsive like I am, you don't have to put to use all of the ideas below. Pick a couple of these organizing tips that will fit into your closet needs. Cool? Cool.
One of the greatest tricks I used in all the closets I redid was hanging racks. Just because the bag is marketing its use for shoes doesn't mean that's all they're good for. Pesky sweaters that won't stay on hangers, these were made for them. If you can fold up anything and not get unsightly creases, do it. This will save some rack space for those chiffon tops, dresses and pants you need to hang up. Leggings can also make their way into the little cubicles along with layering tank tops.
Hangers. I know, I know. It can be such a nuisance going shopping for hangers, but they really do make a world of difference. I’d recommend getting all the same colors/styles of hooks, but if you aren't able to, go for a handful of felt hangers. They will keep your shirts from sliding off and stretching, plus give you some extra room since most are slim in design.
Stylized sections by type and color really help bring the closet look forward. I have mine set to where all my tanks are together, then short sleeves, then mid/quarter and finally long sleeves. Last but not least are sweaters and jackets. My OCD takes over here where I color code each section. This isn't entirely necessary. If you don't want to go that super organized, I’d suggest just doing by style. It'll make putting together an outfit a whole lot easier when your brain isn't functioning in the morning.
I, unfortunately, don't have any extra hall closets, but if you have any, use them. Heavy coats and jackets can take up so much space in your main closet. Keeping them out of the way in an entryway storage space will give you some more room, and you can grab them quickly when out the door you go.
Shoes. A girl's real best friend. Boots are the perfect piece to your fall/winter wardrobe. Unfortunately, they are space stealers! If you already threw out their boxes in your excitement, don't fret. Clear drawers and cubby totes are easy things to find for fitting your shoes. If you don't want to box them up, there are so many options for boot organizers/shelves and racks that can fit into your closet space.
Accessories. Don’t just leave them in a pile. From jewelry to cute handbags and scarfs, these need to be organized too! Whether you want to go for the simple “3M Command Hooks” or some nails, or scour Pinterest for some DIY spectacular projects, this will give you a hassle-free and tangle-free accessory section to your closet.
Step 5: Don't Forget the Fun!
Yes, this is considered a chore, but it doesn't have to feel like one. Throw on some music or Netflix reruns on, grab some wine and get to it. You'll feel accomplished and so much less stressed next time you enter your wardrobe.
Be sure to keep these tricks handy — it'll be springtime before you know it. A nightmare can turn into your dream closet real quick when you get organized. I personally have found so many great outfit pieces that I’ve completely forgotten about shoved in the back of my closet. You truly never know what you might find when you get to organizing.