How to Organize Your Closet

1. Assemble your tools. You’ll need three large boxes (“off-season”, “undecided”, and “give-away”), a few smaller boxes to actually store the off-season clothing in (depending on your storage facilities), some garment bags for dress clothes, a large trash can, cleaner, a rag, and a featherduster, vacuum or mop, and a large bottle of water.

If you already know that you don’t have enough hangers, or you need a new shoe organizer, make a store run to purchase what you’ll need. You may also want to invest in paint, shelf paper, a block of cedar or cedar spray, or other items to make your closet a nicer place to store your clothes!

2. Remove everything from your closet. Yes, every last thing — including from the shelves and floor. As you do so, start making some large piles — perhaps one for “winter” and one for “summer” clothing. If you come across something you know for sure you’ll never wear again, put it immediately into the toss or give-away boxes.

3. Give the interior a thorough cleaning. Start from the ceiling with that featherduster and get every cobweb down. If the light is not bright enough, replace the bulb with one that is. Dust the walls, sponge off the shelves, clean the rod, and finish up by cleaning the floor. If your closet is especially dingy, you might even want to line the shelves or even paint!

4. Now it’s decision time — what to do with all of that junk that’s been hanging around forever. If you’re like me, you’ve got everything from size 4 to size 12 in your closet. What you NEED in there is what you can wear now. The rest should either be donated to charity or stored. Be ruthless!

Pick up an item of clothing. Have you worn it within the last year? Does it still fit? Is it in good condition? Is it comfortable? Does it look good on you? Do you love it? Do you have occasion to wear it?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, you should probably either donate it or get rid of it.

The exceptions may be if the item has sentimental value (your wedding dress), if it’s something you wear infrequently (a suit for a non-businessman), or your lucky fishin’ shirt that you’ll never part with and will be buried in because you’re so attached to it. These items should definitely be kept, just not in your closet with your regular clothes! There are two options for them. The first is carefully stored in garment bags in a secondary closet — perhaps in the spare bedroom. The second might be at a dry cleaners. Many offer free, insured, long-term storage for their customers.

As you’re sorting, you’re going to put the item in one of five places: the “off-season” box, if it’s not something that should be worn right now; the “charity” box, if you intend to donate it; the trash can, if it’s obviously not fixable, a clothes hanger and hung up, if you intend to keep it, or the “undecided” box, if you either aren’t sure about it, or if it needs fixing. (You can decide later if you want to invest the effort into fixing it, or you want to just dump it).

Use the same screening process for non-clothing items, such as shoes and hats. Put those away into whatever storage you’ve developed for them. If you have too many, follow step 4 — resist the urge to “find more room”!

Save yourself some time as you go, while you’re hanging up items in your closet, and hang like items with like items: sweaters together, short-sleeve shirts together, dresses together. That will help greatly when you do the next step.

4. Once you’ve looked at every single item, you may realize that you still have too many clothes. When I went through this process a few months ago, I discovered that I had ten excellent pairs of jeans — all of which fit me! I still needed to pare down. I picked the six I loved the best (since I wear jeans just about every day), and donated the rest to charity.

Go through each category of clothing and count how many of each item you have. If there’s an abundance of something, decide to bless a charity with that abundance. On the other hand, if you realize that you’ve worn holes in the elbows of most of your shirts and have consequently put all but three in the “toss box”, grab a pen and paper and jot down that you need to make a trip to the store to buy a few in the near future. (DO NOT rescue the holey ones from the box. Resist! You must resist!)

5. Do not neglect this step: Quickly go through that “undecided” box and make decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. Quickly! If there’s anything that’s going to make you cry, keep it. Otherwise, just let it go. (They are just clothes. Things. Let them go.) Sort the off-season clothes into whatever storage facility you have for them, and get them packed away. Take out the trash. Put the big box for charity in the car, and take it to your local church thrift store or Goodwill. Make sure to get a tax receipt. On the way home, stop and get a pizza. Enjoy!

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