Ever wonder why it’s so hard to keep an organized closet? Why no matter how many times you purge and stack and fold, it still ends up a hot mess? Even if the rest of your house is fairly tidy? The answer might surprise you.
Closets often represent our emotional state (much like our pantries and freezers).
We might be able to present a good face to the world in all our other areas, but in those secret places, we tend to let it all hang out.
So how can you organize your closet in a lasting way?
The answer is to break down the emotional strings holding you to your outdated, ill-fitting, disorganized pile of clothes, so you can move forward in a more logical fashion.
This is my 7-step process to decluttering and organizing my closet using logic instead of emotion to blaze the trail forward.
Before you begin, pull every item of clothing out of your closet and drawers. Even the shoes, socks and scarves. Then do a quick wipe down of any shelves, baseboards, and drawers. Create a clean space to work with.
When you’ve done the prep work, pick up each item from your closet and run through these questions:
Step 1: Have you worn it this season?
YES – Keep it. Unless…
You secretly despise it. You may have some complicated emotions going on, so look a little deeper if you’ve been wearing something you don’t like. If you have a neon green sweater that you only wear because your mother-in-law gave it to you last Christmas, you don’t have to keep it.
Same goes for the frumpy tank top collection from your baby-nursing days. Are you still wearing those because you love them or because you don’t think you deserve any better? Maybe you think you shouldn’t spend money on yourself because the kids are the ones that matter? What kind of lesson are you teaching them?
If you are wearing something you really don’t like, give yourself permission to rehome or retire it this week.
NO – If you haven’t worn it, keep reading.
Step 2: Is it damaged?
YES – Commit to repairing it this week or toss it. You know that missing button you’ve been meaning to replace for the last two years? Get it done now, or get rid of that shirt. How much do you really love an item of clothing that you can’t be bothered to fix?
When you take months or years to fix your clothing, do you know what happens? Your closet gets stuffed with beloved clothes that can’t be worn, and they go out of style before you have a chance to wear them again. It’s like hanging on to a damaged friendship that no one wants to take the time to fix. It drags you down and clutters your life unnecessarily.
Toss any clothes you know you won’t take the time to fix this week. They’re not worth the mental clutter. And maybe let that friendship go or commit to finding a way to heal it.
NO – If you haven’t worn it and it’s not damaged, keep reading.
Step 3: Does it fit well?
YES – Then why didn’t you wear it this season? There are some common reasons that people, especially women, hang on to clothes instead of wearing them, even when they fit well and are not damaged.
“I’m waiting for it come back in style.”
Um no. There’s a name for people housing shelves and shelves of overalls, tube tops, and shoulder pads. Hoarders.
You don’t want to be a hoarder, do you? And trust me, even if those legwarmers do come back in style someday, they’ll be slightly different. You’ll be worried all the time that everyone will know that you’re trying to pass off your “vintage” legwarmers, and you won’t wear them anyway because you’ll go out and buy the new version.
Do yourself a favor and get rid of them now.
“I might need it when I go back to work.”
This is a valid way of thinking. However, if you don’t plan to return to work in the next 12 months, then don’t keep your scrubs, suits, or teacher clothes. Styles will change and you’ll want to put your best foot forward when you return to the workforce instead of dusting the power suit you haven’t worn in 5 years.
NO – If it doesn’t fit well, toss it. Don’t hang on to things that don’t fit because you want to lose weight, feel younger, remember your glory days in college, etc. Embrace the life you have now and buy new clothes for your new life when it changes.
Trust me, you won’t really want to wear that old skinny pair of jeans when you do get back to your pre-baby days anyway because you’ll be feeling a whole new groove. And most of us wear the clothes we do because of how they make us feel. Not just because they fit.
Step 4: Do you love how you feel wearing it?
YES – This doesn’t have to mean that it’s fancy or expensive. It can be your favorite lounge-around-the-house-cause-I-got-nowhere-to-be sweatpants. BUT…if you love how you feel in an item of clothing, but didn’t wear it this season, then I gotta ask…why not?
“I forgot I had it.”
This is a sure-fire sign of an over-shopper. If you love this piece, it fits well, and it’s not damaged, you can keep it. No use throwing out a favorite because you forgot about it. But you probably should vow to stop buying new clothes until you regularly wear the ones you have. Also, keep your clothes organized by regularly purging so you don’t overlook a favorite piece again.
“I was pregnant.”
This is a totally legitimate reason to keep clothes that you haven’t worn in a while. However, I’d advice you to only keep it for 1 year. If you don’t lose the baby weight in that time frame, go ahead an get rid of it. You can always buy new clothes when you reshape your body.
Or do what I’ve done and embrace your new mom-bod (and size), and just buy clothes that fit you now and make you feel amazing.
“Nobody else seems to like it.”
Say what?! Don’t ever let someone else’s style, comments (or lack thereof) keep you from wearing the clothes you love. Enough said.
NO – It’s not damaged, it fits, but you just don’t love it? Go ahead and toss it. Is that proving difficult? Keep reading.
Step 5: Does it hold sentimental value?
YES – As I said in the beginning, our clothing habits often relate closely to our emotions. Some items just hold deep sentimental value for us, even if we never intend to wear them.
My advice? Keep up to 5 sentimental items (your wedding dress, your dad’s favorite shirt, etc.), but realize that things are not memories.
If you get rid of it, you may improve someone else’s life, and you can always keep the memory associated with it.
Consider taking a picture of it to keep the memory alive, or even turn it into something useful or decorative like a quilt or piece of art.
NO – You are out of excuses, my friend. At this point, you have no legitimate reason to hang on to your collection of pantyhose, college t-shirts, or ratty sweatpants. Okay, okay, I’ll give you one set of “painting/yard work/cleaning day” clothes. But the rest? Toss them! Sell them! Donate them! Just don’t keep them in your closet.
Step 6: Organize it with a System.
These are my top tips for organizing the (hopefully much smaller) pile of clothes in your closet.
- Keep only seasonal clothes in your closet. Store the rest under the bed, on high shelves, in decorative extra large totes, or in a spare closet.
- Sort by color, shape, and function (sweaters together, jeans together, etc.).
- Consider folding all your cotton shirts and tank tops into small rectangles (the KonMarie Method) and storing them in a dresser to free up hanging space.
- Get matching hangers and take any wire hangers back to the dry cleaners where they belong.
- Install a closet system of some kind to make the most of your space. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be effective.
- Try a jewelry drawer to organize earrings, watches, bracelets, etc.
- Use a pullout tie rack for long necklaces and/or scarves.
- Use command hooks on the back walls, endcaps, and doors to house purses, bathrobes, hats, etc.
If you’ve completed all these steps you should be well on your way towards having a super organized closet and a better grasp on your emotional ties to your clothing.
Keep things going in the right direction every time you think about your wardrobe.
When you’re shopping, remind yourself to only buy items you truly love, instead of what’s on sale, what your best friend was wearing, or what some trendy fashionista is currently recommending.
And never be afraid to let go of the things you don’t love. You are not obligated to wear anything that makes you feel unattractive, unworthy, or un-you!