We’ve all been there. If your clothes spend more time than they should on the floordrobe, here are my tried and trusted tricks to taming your closet. Whether your preference is for a functional wardrobe that requires little thought in a busy life, or whether you see clothes as a form of self expression, both tasks are made easier by an organised closet.
1. Get Seasonal
Unless you are blessed with a massive dressing room or a very edited wardrobe, most of us don’t have room to house our full collection in our day to day storage. So I opt for seasonal migration twice a year.
If your climate is anything like ours here in the UK, then you probably have transitional clothes that can be worn most of the year: favourite jeans, some light tops and jackets, skirts that can run through winter with opaques underneath. These stay in my closet all year round.
The rest of my clothing falls into two sections: woolies, boots and leggings for the winter months, and gauzy summer items plus beachwear. It’s these two groups of items that don’t need to co-exist in your wardrobe. I switch them at the beginning of summer and the end of autumn. The vagaries of the British weather can make that a moveable feast, but I’ve just committed to the summer switch out here.
All the pretty autumn colours packed away and waiting for fall
2. Organise Your Hanging Space
I’m fortunate to have a dressing room, although in reality it is more like a cupboard with aspirations. In here, I keep two hanging rails, meaning I can group like items together, and see more easily what I have. In the interests of total honesty, I could never be described as a minimalist, and I have a lot of clothes. But categorising on the rails means that I can find specific items. My system runs like this:
First rail: Work
- Maxi dresses
- Jackets & knitwear
- Trousers on trouser hangers
- Skirts on clip hangers
- Hanging shelves: knitwear, long tops that don’t crease
- Non-work trousers, jeans, leggings on trouser hangers
- T shirts and tops that crease, hanging in length order and organised by colour
- Non-work dresses
3. Choose Your Weapons
Managing your hanging items is way easier if you bite the bullet and buy the right hangers. You need clip hangers for skirts, bar hangers for multiple pairs of trousers and some thin velvety hangers for the majority of your clothes. If you are hanging anything weighty, then you’ll need a sturdy hanger that won’t mark the shoulders.
4. Resist, Resist
Look upon your wardrobe as a delicatessen for moths. Put them off their food by liberally scattering your space with things they hate, like cedar wood. Keep precious garments in hanging bags.
5. drawer Space
I have a lot of time for Marie Kondo’s approach to vertical organisation in drawers. There’s little point in creating neat stacks of stuff if you disrupt them every time you are looking for something. I use a hybrid fold and roll technique to get the most out of my drawer space. There’s an order to what goes in there too – from the top drawer down:
- camis, sleeveless tops, and anything needing a cami underneath
- short sleeved tops
- long sleeved tops
- tunic length tops
When you fold or roll any item for the drawer, think about how you would recognise it to select it. So if you have five identical black long sleeved t shirts, then there’s no real need to distinguish them. But if one has a ruched pattern down the front, and another a net insert at the neck, roll and fold so you can see those features in the drawer. It saves a lot of time.
6. Undercover mission
I go for a simple approach here, using a four drawer wicker unit. The drawers run top to toe: light bras at the top, then dark bras, then knickers, then socks. There may be a single pair of tights in with the socks, but if, unlike me, you don’t regard them as instruments of torture, you may need a separate space. Open shelves with baskets take swimwear, nightwear, and exercise gear.
We’ve all got those clothes. You know the ones I mean: needing repairs, needing the dry cleaner, needing adjustment or alteration. Bite the bullet. Now’s the time to wash those garments that need protracted drying flat on a rack, or some rather tiresome hemming work. Either do it, or accept you’re never going to do it and get rid. There should be no piles of stuff lurking in your wardrobe waiting for the magic clothing fairy to come and sort them out for you. She’s busy elsewhere.
8. Nostalgia and Hopes
On a similar note, it’s a wardrobe, not a museum. If your size and shape have changed, be realistic about what to keep. And if like me, your age has created fashion history all of its own, do keep your memories, but keep them in an edited way.
I’ve pared my nostalgia items down to my nan’s Chinese silk dress, a 50s summer dress she made from a Woman’s Own kit, and a sharp 1980s embroidered jacket my mum passed over to me. Hiding somewhere too is a picture knit of the New York skyline (made from a Cosmopolitan knitting pattern – my, how things have changed) that’s a wonderful memory of my mum. That’s a 53 year edit.
9. Leave Room To Grow
Unless shopping leaves you in a state of unease so profound that you enter a shop rather like a swimmer plunging into the sea on New Year’s morning, you’ll need some space to expand. So make sure you have it.
And, of course, now things are organised, you can see what you are missing. In my case, clearly a few more striped t shirts.
10. Stick to it
Set some time aside to wrangle stray clothing if not weekly, then at least fortnightly. If you leave it longer, I can tell you from bitter experience that it becomes a thankless task, and one that you will put off at every conceivable opportunity. Even cleaning the toilet will become preferable.
In order to achieve that, try and make a small space where you can corral things that are not dirty enough to wash, but can be worn again. I’m thinking of that top you wore in the scant three hours between work and bed. The knack is to harvest that pile regularly. And get a decent sized laundry bin, where you can let experience tell you how many loads it contains to motivate you to empty it more often.