The Closet Edit, No. One: Cleaning Up

Sep 11, 2018

A few weeks ago, I shared my tips for cleaning up a messy closet on Instagram stories.  And now, for your referencing and reading pleasure, I present them in written form.  Here’s my best advice for how to get your closet back in shape.

Rule #1: Do not confuse cleaning up, with cleaning out.

A closet clean out is when you remove all the clothes that need to go to Goodwill, or gifted to friends, or sold at consignment.  As Alton Brown would say, “But that’s another show.”

This episode is all about cleaning up, where you straighten, re-organize and de-clutter your space.  At the end, you should be able to see everything and find anything.

Rule #2: Stock up on closet storage essentials.

Before you start, you need to make sure you have the things you need.  Namely, you need hangers.  I like these flocked hangers, or if you want to get fancy with it, these wood ones.  If you wear skirts, you’ll also need some skirt hangers and clips.

Petite?  Your clothes can be stretched out by misses-size hangers, so get hangers designed to fit your clothes.  To save money, kid-size hangers will often work.

Another great storage trick, store your clutch purses in a plastic envelope sorter.  This way they stand up neatly.  It’s a great space saver.

Lastly, grab a few baskets to hold scarves and a hook set to hold belts.  They’ll keep your items tidy and visible.

Rule #3: Like items go with like items. 

To whatever extent possible, keep skirts with skirts, dresses with dresses, pants with pants, etc..  When I see a closet where pieces of different types are mixed together, I genuinely wonder how anyone finds anything.  Sorting pieces by type is the base layer of the orderly closet pyramid.

Rule #4: Sort the pieces in your closet from light to dark.

Again, sorting the clothes into like colors is about finding things.  I start with whites and ivories.  Then, I move through the color wheel until I hit navy, starting each new stripe with the palest iteration of that color.  Then, striped pieces.  Then, grey.  And lastly, black.

When colors are stored side-by-side, putting outfits together becomes much easier.  If you need a white blouse, you don’t have to sort through all of your shirts to find it.

Rule #5: Sort by sleeve length, strappy to long-sleeve.

Now that you have your color bands together, sort them by sleeve length.  Strappy tops, sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops.  This system looks great, and makes it easy to find things in a rush.

Rule #6: Store your shoes like a boss.

Back when I was organizing closets, I used to run into the same issue, women who piled their shoes on the floor of their closet or shoved them in those awful over the door hangers.  This is a one-way ticket to ruining your shoes.  And if you’re spending good money on them, you should take care of them.

I’m lucky enough to have shoe shelves in my current closet, but back when I lived in D.C., such things were not possible.  To store your shoes in a small space try a canvas hanging shoe-cubby system or floor racks.  Both prevent damage, prevent your whole closet from smelling like shoes, and keep things tidy.

This was part one of a three part series on closet organization.  On Thursday, we’ll talk about how many pieces you should have in your wardrobe (jackets, dresses, etc.).  And next week, we’ll cover how to purge your closet of all the unwanted pieces you’ve just let linger so you can get right with your wardrobe.

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  1. Katie says:

    Thanks for sharing! Really looking forward to the other posts on this topic. I’m moving soon, so I need all the help I can get to pare down.

  2. Laura says:

    I finally talked myself into ordering nice hanging shelves with mesh drawers for sweaters and tee shirts, matching hangers, and enough shoe storage for my growing sneaker collection — so excited!

  3. MOnica T says:

    Oh my, the letter sorter for clutches is an AMAZING idea. So basic but I never would have thought about it. I have a shelf between my top rack and bottom rack and on my side it is currently a mess of purses, clutches and etceteras. I’m due for a closet clean up and pulling out that mass of stuff is where I’m starting now.

  4. Anna C says:

    I flip rules #4 & 5. I sort by sleeve length first, then by color. Since I wear a lot of sleeveless tops under sweaters/cardigans, I need to know where all my sleeveless shirts are before I can choose my color. It also makes it easier to push that group to the back of the closet during the winter.

    Otherwise, I love your suggestions (and need to use some of them)!

  5. Meg says:

    Can you share tips on boot storage please? Being a DC professional, I’m soon switching out my summer shoes for fall and winter, and boots are tough to store.

  6. Kelly says:

    Super excited for this series! I’ve been cleaning up and cleaning out my craft supplies and bathroom this week. Should probably go back and clean out my bathroom, but at least it’s cleaned up!

  7. Michelle says:

    Yes! Please convince me I need don’t need as many dresses as I have. I only wear dresses and skirts and have my basics covered but can’t help but grab one or two of the trendier/pattern dresses every season.

  8. Kate says:

    I am so glad you turned this into a post! I was frantically trying to write down your tips when you did your instagram stories about this a few weeks back, so its great to have a permanent location to come back to for reference. Also, love your recent workplace posts!

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