"Basic" may have developed a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our "Back to Basics" column, we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.
There's nothing like scrambling to get ready for a night out and realizing you can't find the top you planned on wearing or digging through a pile of clothes huddling on the floor of your closet before work to make you realize you need to get a better handle on closet organization. Whether you're a natural slob or a perfectionist who has yet to realize their own ideals, roughly the same rules apply to whip your space into shape. Read on for the three essential steps that will take your closet from disaster area to delightful.
It can be annoying advice, especially if you're the kind of person who has a hard time throwing things out for sentimental reasons. But there's just no way around it: the first step to having an organized closet (and life) is to make sure you're not holding onto a bunch of stuff you don't use or need.
Not sure where to start? There are an infinite number of techniques out there for purging. Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" book is perhaps the most popular in recent years, and it operates on the principle that you should keep only items that "spark joy." Regina Leeds' "One Year to an Organized Life" is another well-loved volume on the subject, which operates on the principle that organizing isn't something that happens in one moment, but instead flows from a lifestyle that has to be built up over time.
These experts can offer helpful advice, but you don't necessarily have to buy a book or listen to a special podcast to know how to purge. When it comes to decluttering, common sense goes a long way: if you haven't worn something in the past year, get rid of it. Even if you don't hate it, there's no reason to keep unused items. If you're holding onto ratty old T-shirts or beyond-repair shoes for sentimental reasons but know you'll never wear them again, consider taking some pictures and then letting them go. Digital documentation can help you hold onto the memories while freeing up physical space.
Once you have a pile of freshly purged wardrobe items, set aside a day to sell or donate them — there are a lot of great causes that would be happy to repurpose your old castoffs.
Invest in Good Storage
Now that you've got a smaller pile of apparel and footwear to work with, invest in the closet "infrastructure" you need to keep things tidy. You'll need to personalize your solutions based on your own space, of course, but here are some good tips to keep in mind:
Buy appropriate hangers
Ones with notches are good, so you don't get stuck with spaghetti-strap dresses slipping onto the closet floor one side at a time. Having a few hangers made for specific types of clothing — like ones that have multiple bars for hanging pants and jeans from — can also make things easier.
Use vertical space
Install hooks on the inside of your closet door or on the wall to hang belts, scarves and bags from or hang a shoe-organizer over the back of the door to clear up floor space.
Put dividers in your drawers
Whether you buy fancy ones from somewhere like the Container Store or just make your own out of cardboard boxes, drawer dividers can go a long way toward keeping your underwear, socks and other sundry drawer-dwelling items under control.
Use clear containers or drawers to store less-used items
Placing clear plastic drawers or boxes either on the top shelf or floor of your closet can keep things accessible and easy to see but out of the way.
Display your favorite pieces
Love your shoe collection or have one designer grail that you want to look at all the time? Free up closet space by treating these prized possessions as decor, whether that means setting up a display of your heels on a bookshelf or hanging that vintage Issey Miyake dress on a nail by your bed.
The hardest thing about keeping a tidy closet isn't usually the time invested in setting up an orderly system — it's maintaining that level of cleanliness. Now that you have fewer items to keep track of and the proper items to help you store things well, it should be easier to keep your space looking good. But all the Kondo books and clear plastic boxes in the world won't change the fact that your closet, like nature, tends toward entropy if there's no active force combating it.
That active force is you. So how do you keep motivated to maintain your newfound tidiness? The trick is to do a little bit every day. If you ripped a million things off hangers getting dressed in the morning and didn't have time to hang them back up before rushing off to work or brunch, that's fine. But when you come home, spend five or 10 minutes putting everything back in its place. It's a small action that goes a long way toward keeping things from getting too crazy.