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In the past few weeks several people have asked me for organizational advice. My super-organized mother instilled it in my upbringing, making it almost second nature to me. But one of my friends complained that she hadn’t been trained as I had, and needed to know how I did it, step by step. Over the next few weeks (or possibly longer), I will lay out how I organize various areas in my house to be effective and efficient.
This week we will tackle clothing. Clothing can be a major clutter spot, particularly if you don’t have an effective laundry schedule, or if you don’t know what you have. Organizing clothing is not just about cleaning out drawers: it’s about getting rid of things that need to be tossed, or that don’t work for you.
Step 1: Know What You Have
Start with your clothing drawers. Pull everything out. Next move to the closet, and do the same there. You will probably need a large area to perform this task. Ladies, you will want to include accessories, like belts, scarves and handbags. Gentlemen, don’t forget your belts and neckties.
Step 2: Sort It All Out
Put all your clothing together in logical groups. For example: all socks and hosiery together; all t-shirts together; all accessories together. For clothing that is on hangers, sort it by use: fancy-dress, business wear, casual, etc.
Step 3: Purge
You will need to go through every piece of clothing, and you might have to try on things as well. You will be forming three piles here: keep, give away and toss. Ask yourself the following questions about every piece of clothing:
- Is it decent? If it is stained, torn or shrunk, throw it in the toss pile. Get rid of ragged undergarments and socks with holes.
- Does it fit me? If no, put it in the giveaway pile (unless it is rags, then toss it). Don’t hang on to clothing in the hope that you will get into it again. If it doesn’t fit now, release it. You will want to buy new clothing when you get to the new size, anyway.
- Is it in style now? If you have a piece of clothing that is hopelessly outdated (like parachute pants from the 80’s), put it in either the give away or toss piles.
- Do I wear it? If you don’t wear it, why are you keeping it? If the color is wrong, or you don’t wear this type of clothing anymore, put it in the giveaway pile. For example, if you have business suits, but you work in a place that doesn’t require you to wear them, keep one, and give the rest away.
- Do I have more than I need? If you find yourself with four black skirts or five blue polo shirts, ask yourself if you really need that many. Pare down your underwear and socks as well. If you do your laundry weekly, you should not need more than 7 sets.
Once you are done with this purge, go through your give away pile. If anything in this pile has anything wrong with it, put it in the toss pile. Thrift stores spend a lot of money getting rid of clothing that is unusable. Do them a favor and purge it yourself.
Step 4: Put It Back and Organize
Start with the closet. Put back everything, hanging it properly, grouping by function and season. In my closet, starting the back, I have my “fancy” and concert-black clothing, which I wear infrequently. Next is my business clothing for the next season (we essentially have two seasons here in Virginia: hot/warm and not). Next is the current season’s clothing, grouped by type.
Move on to your drawers. Put clothing away in logical places, reserving the upper drawers for things you use every day. If you need to buy drawer dividers, do so, or use old shoe boxes to keep your clothing neat.
A few words about alternate storage: sweaters can be stored in boxes, or in a hanging sweater holder (hangers will leave shoulder “bumps” in the knit). If you need extra space, store out-of-season clothing in unused suitcases, or in storage boxes.
When You Buy One, Remove One
This is the key to keeping clothing from building up. Since most of us are (hopefully) not outgrowing clothing, we need to keep it in line. So when you buy something new, get rid of something.
By following these steps, you should be able to organize your clothing. The best part: once organized, you can keep it that way with very little effort. Put things away when you are done, regularly purge, and don’t add more without taking something out. This will keep the clothing in great shape.
Photo by Samuraijohnny