When it comes to storing clothes, people often make the same mistakes. Most of us simply have too many items and not enough room, says Melissa Corriveau of Life with Less Mess in Rising Sun, Maryland. We use mismatched hangers that gobble up space and accent the clutter. Then there’s the unstable stack of pants or sweaters perched precariously on a shelf.
“The clothing avalanche,” agrees Elise Hay of Organized Sanctuaries in Seattle. “You know what I’m talking about. You take out one sweater, and the whole pile comes tumbling down. Drowning in stuff can be suffocating.”
Before you pull out your spring apparel, take time to de-clutter your closet by following these five steps.
Corriveau starts by looking for walls in her clients’ closets. “Are there large portions not being used? Can shelves, a hook, or a mirror be installed?” she asks. Open space may include the back of the door, Hay adds.
Corriveau also checks out the mess. If clothes are on the floor, the homeowner may need a hamper. A mound of shoes requires a shoe rack or shelf. “Each mess needs a solution,” she says.
Fans of The Home Edit show on Netflix know that purging is the priority. Like uber organizer Marie Kondo, many pros advise taking everything out of the closet. If that’s too overwhelming, handle 20 items at a time, recommends Toula Adu of Bizzy Bee Organizing in Columbia, Maryland.
Have three trash bags or boxes: one for items you’ll keep, one for the clothing you’ll donate and the third for the things you’ll toss. “It can be hard to let go, but you are making space for the things you actually love,” Adu notes.
Unless it’s a seasonal item, such as a bathing suit, donate clothing or accessories you haven’t worn in six months to a year, Hay suggests. Also, purge apparel that no longer fits or is frayed.
Sort remaining clothing into categories, such as shoes or pants. “If one section is substantial, break it into subcategories,” Adu says. For instance, if you have a lot of dresses, divide them into casual and formalwear.
“When you determine the number of categories and the amount of each, you can select the storage solution,” says Ashley Murphy, who with Marissa Hagmeyer founded Neat Method, a home organizing company with more than 75 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
“Allot space for short and long items, and if the clothes are close to the ground, don’t put anything below them,” Adu says. Meanwhile, tiered rods can accommodate shirts and kids’ clothes.
"Use sticky notes to plan where each category is going. Move them around until you’re satisfied."
MEASURE AND DESIGN
If your closet needs additional shelves, shoe racks, hooks, or rods, now is the time to purchase them, according to Corriveau. Measure carefully. Bins shouldn’t jut out from a shelf, and full closet systems need careful consideration to ensure they fit.
Retailers like The Container Store offer free design services both virtually and in the store. A closet system expert or professional organizer can also assist.
Your personality can influence your storage choice. Some people like clear bins so they can see what’s in them. Others prefer baskets or opaque storage. “Limit the options to a few styles for a uniform look, and use labels, so you know what’s in the drawer or container,” Murphy says.
For immediate impact, swap out plastic and wire hangers for slim models. “This will give you 20% more space and give your closet a beautiful, cohesive look,” says Hagmeyer of Neat Method.
Keep your budget in mind. “Organization doesn’t have to be expensive,” Corriveau says. “A simple rod and shelves are affordable and can make a big impact in a closet.” Be realistic. An ornate system won’t benefit you if you don’t have time to stick with it.
Speaking of maintenance, develop the habit of putting items back in their “home.” Hay recommends keeping a donation bin in the closet of quick purges. When the basket is full, head to the thrift shops every few months, Adu spends 30 minutes rearranging items that crept out of place.
“Organizing is like working out,” Murphy says. You have to keep at it to maintain what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.