The Official 'Fashionista' Guide to Reorganizing Your Closet

Your new wardrobe-tidying handbook, curated by our editors.
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Maura Brannigan
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Your new wardrobe-tidying handbook, curated by our editors.

We're four days into 2016, which means that many of us have a freshly compiled list of goals we'd like to achieve by year's end: learn calligraphy, drink less, join CrossFit, go somewhere foreign, expand our savings accounts — you know, the usual. Unfortunately, the results usually suck. As is the case for those of us who've pledged to achieve something drastic or aggressive, we generally don't maintain our resolutions past mid-February. If you really want to check a box off your lengthy to-do list, start small. Aim for what's reasonable.

For us at Fashionista, this often involves some sort a closet overhaul. We're not talking about anything crazy, here — just making sure we have room for what we wear and are able to get rid of what we don't. We like to think we know a thing or two about tidying our spaces to the most effective degree possible, so this year, we're spreading our (presumably expert-level) knowledge. Read on for Fashionista's editor-sourced guide to reorganizing your closet. Do you have any tips of your own to pass on? Sound off in the comments below.

1. Make it a fun challenge.

First things first: If you're going to rush through the process just to get it done, chances are you're not going to keep it orderly for longer than a few weeks. As is the case with most "resolutions," slow and steady is the real winner here. Accept that, and carve out a substantial chunk of a day to getting it done. To assuage the inevitable boredom, Chantal watches TV while cleaning, even though it can slow down the process. (She recommends catching up on "Jane the Virgin" or the newest season of "Transparent.") Lauren turns on Pandora.

2. Sort through every single item, piece by piece.

Depending on the contents of your closet, this could take a while — but it's worth it. Japanese cleaning consultant and New York Times best-selling author of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" Marie Kondo recommends dumping everything on the floor, then taking each item by hand and asking: "Does this spark joy?" If it does, she says, keep it. If not, dispose of it. (More on this later.) It sounds hokey, but her rationale is reasonable. "Are you happy wearing clothes that don't give you pleasure?" Uh, probably not. Her solution? "Keep only those things that speak to your heart." What a lovely premise.

If you're not much of a Kondo junkie, there are other personal guidelines to set: Alyssa will often dispose of pieces she hasn't worn in a year; Chantal, a season. In Lauren's case, she'll do the same, but will consider taking certain pieces to a tailor if they can be repurposed or there's a fit issue.

Nearly every editor was in agreement on one strategy: Be stricter than you think. "If a piece just barely survived the last edit, and I still didn't wear it, it's out," said Lauren. "I won't even try it on." Alyssa recommends donating what's too small, wisely suggesting to never count on the fact that you're going to lose weight. All this even extends to sentimental items, too. "I'll never forget packing up my college apartment with my friend Maddie," said Chantal. "I stopped to reminisce about random things we were getting rid of and she was like, 'Don't think about it. Don't look at it. Put it in the bag.'"

3. Make a plan for the clothes you no longer want.

If you can donate and/or sell back your clothing, you should. Whatever your haul, there's a store or organization that will be overjoyed to receive your once-loved clothing. In many cases, you can make money back on your more spotless items at consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange, Beacon's Closet2nd Time Around and The RealReal. For an outright donation, there's the Salvation Army, Goodwill and the American Red Cross. If you're unsure about where to take your clothes, your city likely has a database of local nonprofits that fit your needs. (For New York City's, click here.)

Be timely, though: "A rookie mistake is separating things for donation and then never taking them," said Chantal. "Do it the same day! And if you want to sell something at [a consignment store], plan to go early during their selling windows to avoid long lines."

4. Fold and arrange your remaining pieces the right way.

Before she begins the aforementioned sorting process, Alyssa both re-folds and re-hangs what she loves and wears often. Designate a discernible home for each piece, and find the storage method that best works for your lifestyle and tastes. If you're a proponent of the ROYGBIV method, uphold that in your closet, as well as in your dresser or armoire. If you'd prefer to separate your pieces by category, do that. (And if you'd like to organize by category and in rainbow order, be our guest.)

Per Kondo's KonMari technique, cleaners should hang what's heaviest on the left side of the closet and lightest on the right. By category, this results in coats being on the far left, followed by dresses, jackets, pants, skirts and blouses.

Finally, punch up drawers with sheet liners and scented sachets. Keep your closet aesthetically pleasing with uniform hangers, all facing the same way. It makes a difference.

5. You're done! Now keep it that way.

There's nothing prettier than a bright, sparkling closet — so now, your task is to maintain this level of tidiness. Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project," swears by what she calls the One-Minute Rule (and after reading her book, I do, too): You must do any task that can be finished in 60 seconds. Hanging up a coat. Folding a T-shirt. Throwing a pile of gym clothes into the laundry basket. I can attest, it's a life-changer. As Rubin wrote, "keeping all those small, nagging tasks under control makes me feel more serene, less overwhelmed."

Don't just do one big cleaning dump at the beginning of the year, either. "I clean out my closet three times a year: right after the New Year, at the beginning of spring and at the beginning of fall," said Lauren. "I do this on a weekend during the day, when I can see the clothes in natural light." Take care of what you do have, and you'll have less to do during these tri-annual sessions. For Lauren, this means hand-washing and de-pilling her sweaters regularly, and visiting a cobbler twice a year. See? With just a little dedication and upkeep, it's easy to keep your closet looking like a dream.