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Maeve’s Method Guide to Closet Organization, Part 1

For most of us, the thought of tackling a closet to clear out old or outdated clothes fills us with dread. But no worries, with these simple hints you can cruise through your closet project in a weekend, ready to kick off the following week in style. Enjoy this two-part guide on closet organization. And let us know how it goes!

Make Friends With Your Closet

The first thing we need to do before tackling a clothing closet is to accept that life shifts, and so do our bodies and our clothes. This part is mental, because taking on this challenge means being prepared to take an inventory on our life now, not the life of our past – or even our future – but what we need today, tomorrow and the next day to get dressed and up and out of the home each day.

We also need to acknowledge that an overstuffed closet can’t function properly and creates unnecessary aggravation. Are your clothes smushed together? Is there breathing room between the bottom of your clothes and the floor? If you love the way a department store clothing rack looks, but your ‘clothing rack’ feels more like a garage sale, it’s time to accept that you need to let your closet do what it was designed to do, which is to store and showcase your active clothes, or the items that you use and wear day-to-day.

Stand in front of your open closet and ask yourself, is my closet overworked? If you are using your closet to store everything you’ve ever owned, then it’s time to accept that you aren’t letting your closet do its job. Treat your closet like the friend that it is, your best pal that welcomes you each morning and holds onto the things that you love.

Create 'Categories According To You'

The best way to figure out what’s important to wear in the now is to sort all your clothes into ‘categories according to you’. When I help clients to set up their closets, I teach them how to organize according to their lives. To do this, remove clothes from your closet hanger by hanger, or shelf by shelf. As you do, ask yourself, How do I use this? When do I wear this? As you go, pay attention to the themes that come up, and begin to sort items on a nearby bed or a clean floor into piles according to your lifestyle.

Common categories for clothes are things like ‘work clothes’ and ‘play clothes’, ‘cozy clothes’ and ‘weekend clothes’, ‘before-baby clothes’ and ‘after-baby clothes’, ‘dress up clothes’ and ‘sports clothes’ Sorting this way will help you to see the themes of your life, and once you do you can then decide what’s a priority. It’s easy to ignore clothes when we don’t know what’s in there, but as soon as you know what you are dealing with, you can take action.  

As you work, also keep an eye out for themes such as clothes that no longer fit, clothes that are ripped or stained beyond repair, and even clothes that you aspire to, but just never get around to putting on. Make your categories as specific as you can, and use stickies as you work to keep track of what you’ve mentally labeled. Keep in mind, categories are for everything, so use them to sort your shoes and accessories too!

Create an 'I Don't Know' Pile

As you work, you may sort clothes that you can’t easily categorize. That’s ok, don’t let this stop you in your tracks. If you can’t easily categorize a piece of clothing, shoes or an accessory, make an ‘I don’t know’ category and keep on with your sorting.

I find that making decisions on items that are tough to decide upon in the moment becomes a whole lot easier after you’ve been working for a bit, and have built up your confidence in the process. A good rule of thumb is, if the item is distracting you from your work tag it ‘I don’t know’ and move on. You can review all these items later, after the heavy lifting is done.

Prepare to Donate

Letting go of things is a natural by-product of the organization process. So as you work, keep an eye out for clothing that you can pass along to someone else, and start a ‘donate’ or ‘give away’ pile. Great ideas are dress or pant suits you may not wear again; these can go to a charity like Dress for Success that helps women return to the workforce. Or fancy ‘special occasion’ suits or dresses, even wedding gowns, there are charities that specialize in taking good condition dress clothes, so search for them in your city or neighborhood. And of course everyday clothes can go to national charities, like The Salvation Army. It feels great to donate! 

If you have designer or vintage clothes, you might even consider consigning, so set these clothes aside in their own pile so you that you can look for a store in your area that might bring you in a little money. Or, try one of these popular online consignment service like Tradesy or Shop Goodwill.

Now breathe! With the heavy work done take a quick break. Next week we’ll learn how to put back what you’ve decided to keep to create your perfect closet.

Click for Part II: Putting Things Back – Creating Your Perfect Closet

Photo Credits: Pexels: Mary Whitney, Kaboompics, Death to Stock

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at [email protected] or @MaeveRichmond.

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