4 Steps to an Organized Closet

This week Project Simplify became more like Project Complicate, from where I’m standing. It’s close to impossible to get anything done when you’ve got a baby with a severe cold and cough on your hands. Sleep was scant this week for everybody. Plus Alex wants to be held during the day, and I couldn’t blame her.

So here we are a few days late, but I persevered and got the closet done. Luckily, I worked hard to declutter and organize my closet when I was pregnant, so I didn’t have much to get rid of. I’m still in a limbo state, as I’m nursing and a tad chub-ified, so a lot of what I own doesn’t fit yet.

Without further ado:

4 Steps to an Organized Closet

After you’ve envisioned your perfect closet, and after you’ve decluttered the clothes you don’t want, follow these steps to organize your closet:

  1. Try on all the rest of your clothes — no cheating. I really mean all of them.
  2. Choose clothes to donate or toss. Set aside anything that doesn’t fit well, that isn’t the right color on you, or that’s seen better days. Even if you’ve already decluttered, trying on all your remaining clothes will alert you to the need for some further closet editing. Reread this post for tips on how to let go of your mediocre clothes: Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First.
  3. Hang, fold, and put away the clothes you know you’re keeping. Order them the way you choose your outfits, whether that’s by color, item or season. In my after photos, you might notice that I have fall / winter clothes on the right, spring / summer clothes on the left.  Then I organize by type: tops, dresses, jackets, etc.
  4. Tackle your shoes, jewelry, and other accessories.

I got quite a few things out of this exercise, especially by adhering to the “try everything on” rule:

  • Organizing my closet at the start of the spring & summer season alerted me to all the cute outfits I already have, which will curb unnecessary shopping. I’m actually super excited to wear my warm weather clothing, when before I simply assumed I was too fat for everything. That brings me to my next point…
  • There were a number of items that surprised me in that they fit and flattered me. I had figured that because I am slightly porky that “nothing fits” but I was very wrong about that.
  • There were other items that I assumed did fit, but actually looked tight and ill-fitting. So the rule to try everything on was a useful task. It was also an emotional roller coaster ride. In the spirit of the rule, I gleefully pulled a size 0 dress over my head, only to have my heart leap at the resulting vision of getting stuck in the dress with my arms over my head. The panic caused me to reverse operation and yank the dress off in a hurry. Good times.
  • I found that only taking a few items out of the closet at a time was a great way to work. That way when the baby needed me, I could abandon ship and not stress that I was leaving a massive mess behind.

And now for the before and after photos! Click on each image for an enlarged view.

The left hand side is before:                                                      The right hand side is after:

(That’s my husband’s jersey on my side of the closet.)


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Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

Remember how I was going to organize my closet because we have a painter coming? [And also a baby is coming in 6 weeks, and it's about darn time I started nesting!] Well, we got bumped ahead on the painter’s schedule, and so this week I had to jump to it and get on the job in earnest.

I had been on the fence about organizing my closet little by little, or by yanking everything out at once. In my delicate condition, it was easier for me to do it both ways:

  • The first step for me is to shop the rack and cull items I want to get rid of, without yanking everything out. That’s what this post is about.
  • The next step (for the next post) is to pull out what’s left so I can organize it by season and by item.

Use a Time Limit on the Declutter Job
I took a timer and set it for 15 minutes so that I could complete the declutter part of the job in increments. It only took me two 15-minute sessions on different days to edit my closet, which was totally doable, even though I’m tired, slow and easily distracted these days.

Using a timer will help you move a little faster, and it will prevent the job from becoming huge and highly unpleasant. You will be surprised at how many items you’ll be able to survey and dump or keep in 15 minutes. And if you’re having fun after the 15 minutes is up, then keep going.

Getting Started: Closet Editing Basics
If you weed everything out of the closet that no longer belongs there, then there are simply fewer items to contend with when we hit the organizing phase.

Have a box, bag or laundry basket on hand you can toss items into. When your vessel is full, put the clothes in your car so that you get them out of the house and one step closer to the donation box.

Your first step to organizing your closet is to declutter.
The more rigorous you are with your closet editing, the easier it will be to get dressed in the mornings. Having fewer choices in our closet is an underrated blessing. Owning just a few outfits that are flattering and comfortable will beat a whole closet full of grimace-inducing options every day of the week.

Pull out the items that:
a) don’t fit or are uncomfortable.

b) are out of style, stained, worn out, ratty, or need repairs.

c) you fondle yet cringe instead of wearing, no matter what the reason. If that’s the dress you wore when Jimmy dumped you, I don’t care how fabulous it makes you look. If seeing it makes you feel bad, then get it out of the house.

d) don’t represent the person you want to showcase to the world.

Don’t Keep Stuff That Makes You Feel Bad
A note about letter ‘c’ – if a piece of stuff makes you feel bad in any way, then it doesn’t deserve room in your home.

Sometimes we have negative associations with an item. Maybe we wore it to a funeral, it’s what we had on when we got mugged or received a piece of very bad news, or we were wearing it when we got into a nasty fight with a loved one. If you see that item and it triggers a bad memory, then please get it out of your house.

Or maybe it’s not that obvious. A piece or pieces could represent a not-so-great time in your life for any reason. You may not have a particular memory associated with a garment, but you might look at it and feel a wave of guilt, loneliness or sadness.

Perhaps an item was a gift, and you feel guilty that you don’t appreciate and wear it. Remember that it’s only stuff, and that you appreciate the sentiment that the gift represents. I’m sure the giver didn’t mean to torture you with it, so stop torturing yourself, and let it go!

Life is too short to keep material belongings that don’t make us feel good. What will make you feel good is freeing up those items to go to a good home where they will be loved, used and appreciated.

Only Keep Things That Make You Feel Good
On that note, let’s talk about letter ‘d’. If you feel less-than-great and you don’t feel as if you’re putting your best foot forward in that garment, then ditch it. It doesn’t matter what the occasion – there are t-shirts you might wear to the grocery store or the gym; some t-shirts make you feel cute and fabulous, and some make you run down the soup aisle in hopes you don’t see anyone you know. If you don’t want to be seen it, then why the heck do you wear it?

The funny thing is that sometimes the outfits that make us look the best are the ones that we wear the least. Maybe we’re saving them for a special occasion or we think wearing a certain flashy piece calls attention to ourselves. Give yourself that gift. If you look great in it, wear it!

Hiding or saving a special outfit robs you of enjoyment. Are you afraid people will notice you wear it too much? They won’t. It’s okay to have a small, but fabulous wardrobe. Why bother keeping acres of clothes when just a handful of well-made pieces that make you feel beautiful will do.  So wear those fabulous pieces out now and get a lot of use out of them.

Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of keeping a museum-like “sitting room” so that only company can use it. Take the proverbial plastic off your sofa, and use the nice items while you’re alive to enjoy them.

This isn’t your last chance to look good – there will be other outfits that make you feel great after you wear this one to death. So stop saving it, and wear it. And get rid of all those second-rate items that you’re wearing instead of the ones you should be wearing.

Ditch the Mediocre
This is probably the hardest category to weed out, because it could go either way. There’s no breeze blowing your meter towards keep or dump. So how do you know when a mediocre item needs to go? When you know you need to make room, you know you have too many clothes, and you look at a piece that makes you shrug when you see it and go, “Eh.”

When you’ve got too much stuff, then your reaction to an item doesn’t need to be a dramatic “love” or “hate” when choosing to keep it or dump it. Something is mediocre if you feel vaguely shlubby or just okay when you wear that item, but you keep it around because you can’t find anything particularly wrong with it.

Get rid of anything that makes your boobs look saggy or your butt look big or that doesn’t flatter your thighs or your middle. Maybe the color is better suited for The Grinch or the bedazzling makes you feel like a Florida grandma at the dog races. (Apologies to dog-race attending Florida grandmas.) If you don’t feel good in it, for the love, toss it or give it away.

Don’t be mean to yourself, and don’t over think it. If you don’t feel great in it, or you do feel at all unappetizing when you wear it, then kiss it good bye. If you’re not sure, get rid of it. Someone else will appreciate having it once you donate it.

Onwards and Upwards
Once you get rid of the mediocre stuff, the stuff that makes you feel bad, and the stuff that doesn’t make you feel great, then you give yourself the time, space and the room to wear and appreciate those items that you really do love. Stop saving the good stuff for a rainy day and start wearing it!

Next we’ll talk about organizing what’s left in our closets, and I will have some groovy “after” photos to show off: Four Steps to an Organized Closet: Before and After Photos

The First Step to Organizing Your Closet Involves Only Your Mind

wire hangersIf you’re like me, you would rather watch infomercials with a pot of mac and cheese in your lap than organize your closet. If you think you’re not like me, don’t judge. I bet you’ve engaged in a guilty pleasure at the same time your closet wasn’t exactly looking like a boutique showcase, like the time you lip synched a Britney Spears song in the mirror. I saw you do it. That said, it’s time for me to get up off the couch and organize my closet.

We’re planning to get the master bedroom painted because it’s currently what I call an immobilizing and oppressive (what the husband calls “good for sleeping”) REDUM maroon that extends into our closet and our bathroom. Plus our future baby’s room is painted clown-car orange, which at least we both agree needs to go in favor of a more soothing shade. We can’t fail, since any color would be more soothing. I’m sure there are studies out there that say what awful things colors like this do to a fragile mental state, and so I’m hoping this paint job will save me from a scathing case of postpartum depression.

We’re going to have to pull everything out so the painter can access the walls, and I’m not keen on wasting an opportunity like this one. No sirree, I’m not going to put every stitch of crap back in the closets again, and that’s the reason I’m doing a post now about closet organization.

Add to my situation the fact that I’m almost 6-months pregnant, so I’m looking at a whole helluva lotta clothing that I can’t wear now and will probably not want to wear by the time my inflatables return to their upright and locked position. Some of my wardrobe is kind of beat up. Some of it makes sense in New York City and now that I don’t live there anymore, it makes me look like I forgot to take my medication. All of this means I need to weed out my clothes.

So do it with me. Organize your closet so that I have some company. Go a step further and take before and after photos and send them to me. Let me know if you don’t want your photos used on the site and I will keep them private. But personally I plan on showing my befores and afters for you to enjoy. Nothing more satisfying than freak-to-neat before and after shots. Are you with me?

An important note before we get down to business: most of the time when we want to organize something, whether it’s a whole room or just a drawer, we have to be cognizant of the fact that we probably have too much stuff and we’re tempted to just rearrange our stuff to make it look pretty. What we really want to do, most of the time, is actually declutter before we organize. That way we’re shuffling less crap around and it’s easier to keep it neat.

Decluttering and organization guru Peter Walsh says the first thing to do when embarking on a decluttering mission is to visualize what you want your life to look like, room by room of your home. I am visualizing having a personal assistant and stylist who will organize my closet for me so that I can look like a rock star every day with no effort. I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means. He’s probably asking me to visualize which clothes will help me look less douchey so that I’ll let go of some crap.

I think even before visualizing what we want, it helps to figure out what we currently have that’s not working. A popular conundrum is to have a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. I know that’s my problem. If you’re looking inside your closet each morning and pulling from the same five frayed outfits even though it’s overflowing with clothes, it’s time to toss what you won’t wear, and go “shopping” in your closet for stuff maybe you should start wearing.

Let’s take Walsh’s advice and visualize for a second. What can our closets do for us? They can set the stage for our whole day by making our wardrobe accessible in a sane and easy, maybe even fabulous, manner. What style of clothes do you enjoy wearing? What styles make us feel bad about ourselves? Skinny jeans anyone? Perhaps you want it to be easy to get dressed in the morning and look like a professional, sassy, take-charge, creative adult who owns more than two pairs of pants.

So after we’ve decided what dreams we want our closets to fulfill, the next step to organizing our closets is to decide how we will tackle the project. Do we pull everything out at once and complete the task in one day? Or do we take out a clothing category per day — meaning, today we could take all the tops and shirts out of our closet and try them on one by one and start sorting. Once that category is complete, we move onto the next clothing type a different day, such as pants, followed by accessories another day, followed by shoes, etc. So to review, our options are to do a complete dump of the closet onto the bed and bedroom floor and paw through the chaos, or do we take baby steps and stretch the task out to multiple days.

The plusses of pulling it all out at once are:
1.    We rip off the band-aid and get it over with and
2.    If we have a top that only makes sense with a particular bottom and a certain pair of shoes, then we know from the get-go whether all three of those things fit, are comfortable and look good together. And if one of the items no longer works and renders the other two obsolete, then we can toss out the whole lot.

On the other hand, who wants to spend a whole Saturday cleaning out our closet? That sounds exhausting and boring. The reason it’s a mess to begin with is probably because we haven’t had the time or wherewithal to schedule such a herculean task all at once. Maybe day-by-day makes closet reorganization more palatable and easy. Or maybe it drags it out and robs us of instant gratification.

So that’s all we’re going to do for today: We’re going to visualize what we want out of our closet. And you’re going to decide whether you want to do it all at once, or in digestible chunks, little by little.  I’m still on the fence, but I’ll let you know what I decide in our next installment of closet organization.

Next, Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

Finally, Four Steps to an Organized Closet: Before and After Photos