Posts Categorized: organize

Reader Request: Closet Organization for the Large and Varied Wardrobe

Christine asked this question in a comment:

I am curious how you, Sal, and other style bloggers, who by definition tend to have a lot of pieces, keep everything accessible and in order. So much closet organizing advice seems tilted toward a minimalist perspective.

I’d never really thought about it, but she’s right: Even many of my own posts on closet organization describe tactics that I can aspire to, but rarely apply to my own large and varied wardrobe. Naturally, I can’t speak for all style bloggers – some of whom also own a lot of clothing, but many of whom aim for minimalism – but I’m happy to share my own tactics.

Store off-season clothing

Seasonal wardrobe separation has its pros and cons, but since I live in a climate that boasts a nearly six-month winter and requires many a bulky sweater and heavy skirt, I find this practice to be essential. My layering pieces stay in their drawers year-round, but blazers, dresses, tops, skirts, and pants get rotated in and out depending on the weather. We are lucky enough to have lots of basement storage, so I keep my off-season items on a covered rack or in sealed storage bags with mothballs.

Make use of all available space

The image above is not of my own shoes, but I use that same heel-toe shelving technique to maximize my space. I use a similar technique with sweaters in my hanging sweater rack, folding them all but stacking them one with the collar facing the opening, one with the collar facing the back of the rack, and so on. I store some of my boots on top of my armoire. Every bit of space that has been reserved for my wardrobe is in use and nothing is wasted.

Employ a variety of storage techniques

My actual closet is tiny, but it has a bar, a hanging sweater rack, stacked shelves on the floor, and built-in shelves up top. My hats are hung from a string over my desk. My scarves are stored by color in two hanging scarf organizers. My dad made me a gorgeous jewelry rack for my necklaces. My PJs, layering tees, and jeans are in dresser drawers. I have boots on shelves and shoes in racks. If I tried to fold and drawer everything or hang everything up, I’d be sunk. If someone has thought it up, I am likely using it to keep my wardrobe in order.

Pick a categorization technique

I hang my tops by sleeve length and then by prints/solids. I keep all of my cardigans in the same spot and all of my pullovers in the same spot. My button-fronts are a ridiculous hodgepodge and so are my blazers, but just about everything else is categorized and stored accordingly. I know where to find all of my stuff at any given time. I also know where all of my tank tops are, so if I need a tank top of some sort but don’t know which color or style yet, I can go to that part of that drawer and view all of my options. My own practices won’t work for every owner of a large and varied wardrobe, but finding storage and categorization techniques that work for your own items – by color, weight, season, pattern, etc. – will help you feel more organized.

Fluff

When I hang clothing and replace it in my closet, it tends to get a little bunched-up - especially since my closet is fairly full. At a certain point, I will have washed, hung, and replaced just about everything in there, and all that bunching will add up. So every few months I take everything out and put it back in a few pieces at a time. Fluff out sleeves and smooth garment bodies flat. The simple act of undoing the natural re-hanging-related bunching frees up LOADS of closet space.

Know what you own

I suppose this isn’t an organizational technique as much as a wardrobe management one, but it merits mention. I love having a large and varied wardrobe because it allows me to dress in an expressive and eclectic way, but I’m aware of the risks. A large wardrobe means you may forget that you already have a gray skirt and buy another, or become so overwhelmed by your options that you only wear 10% of what you own. I purge my closet every season and I take inventory of it regularly. Knowing what I own helps me make use of my clothes. I play favorites like anyone, but I also know which items are veering off into closet orphan territory. This knowledge helps me decide what is really earning its keep and what should be donated or consigned when those purges come around, but also challenges me to build outfits around languishing items.

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Who else out there has a large and varied wardrobe? How do you keep it in order? Would any of my techniques work for you? Others to suggest?

Image courtesy Cupcakes and Cashmere

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Closet Organization Pros and Cons

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No two closets are organized in the same way. Even closets that have identical fancy organizing systems installed are going to be used by different people with different needs and different ideas of what should go where and why. And as someone who has tried many different ways of keeping my own wardrobe in order, I’ve realized that just about every tip for making your closet more functional has pros and cons. Don’t believe me? FINE! I’ll prove it.

Keeping everything visible

PROS
- Forces you to see the depth of your wardrobe
- Allows for spontaneous inspiration (colors, patterns you otherwise wouldn’t have thought to combine)
- Can help prevent accidental acquisition of doubles, triples, etc.
- In the case of decorative options (using your hats as wall decoration, etc.), can warm up your rooms and add personality

CONS
- Exposed items may fade or gather dust
- Requires an enormous amount of space
- Can be overwhelming if you attempt to process the breadth of your choices on a daily basis

Storing off-season items

PROS
- Frees up closet space
- Protects items from damage (as in wool that gets stored in moth-proof containers)
- Forces a seasonal re-evaluation of what is worth storing and what should get donated

CONS
- Can enable accidental acquisition of doubles, triples, etc. (Items are often still in storage when the SHOPS begin showing us coming-season items.)
- Requires extra space/storage
- Allows you to stash items that should probably be donated

Sorting by color

PROS
- Makes it easy to find items if you have a color scheme in mind.
- Is visually pleasing. Really. Just ask your local Goodwill.
- Helps you easily identify wardrobe holes. If you keep reaching for a gray cardigan that isn’t there, you can bet that buying one will be a good use of your cash.

CONS
- May prevent seeing unusual color combinations
- Allows you to gravitate toward your favorite or dominant colors, and skip over the rest
- Can make all items in a color range blur together

Sorting by frequency of use

PROS
- Keeps your most useful and best items front and center
- Helps in quick outfit assembly, since your guaranteed winners are close at hand
- Can aid in culling, as items that drift to the back and never get pulled out eventually seem like natural additions to the donation pile

CONS
- Creates closet orphans by hiding more challenging items from view
- May cause beloved items to wear out faster since they’re getting top billing at all times
- Discourages mixing well-loved items with hard-to-style ones

And so on. Just goes to prove that what feels perfect for one closet will be irritating or impractical for another.

How do you organize your wardrobe? Do you store off-season stuff? Try to keep everything visible? Are there any methods you use and love, but also see some disadvantages to utilizing?

Image via Apartment Therapy.

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The Value of a Mid-season Closet Purge

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Many people – myself included – do quarterly closet evaluations and purges. And because changing weather prompts us to reconsider our wardrobes, these activities typically take place as the seasons are beginning to change. Which is fine. Looking at your winter or spring items with fresh eyes after a year of not-wearing them can give you great perspective, and you can often tell at a glance if you’ve outgrown or out-evolved certain pieces.

But there is also a lot to be said for doing your purges mid-season. Including:

You can evaluate in real-time

Some folks can look at a cardigan that’s gone unworn since last season and tell IMMEDIATELY if it’s going to get worn again. But some folks need to experiment for a while and then make a decision. Doing a mid-season purge is helpful because you’ve been living in the season for a while and know what’s getting worn and what’s getting passed-over. If you’re passing over an item that got passed over an awful lot last season, too, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to move on.

You can tease out explanations

Purging at the beginning of the season forces you to make some educated guesses and trust your gut. Sometimes you can look at a pair of pants or a dress and hear this extremely decisive voice in your head saying, “No WAY.” And you listen and you donate and you move on. Without pausing to sit down with that extremely decisive voice and say, “Well, yeah, but why?”

When you purge in the middle of a season instead, those explanations become self-evident. You’re not wearing that pair of pants because they’re too short for heels and too long for flats. You’re not wearing that dress because you have absolutely nothing that works as an outer layer. You know these things because you’ve been dressing within the confines of the season for some time now and have fresh memories. Helpful, no?

You can be ruthless

The beginning of each season holds a little bit of romance. You’re excited for new weather, new clothes to wear, a new you! And this sometimes translates into wardrobe romance and going soft on items that should be ejected without mercy. Mid-season? The romance is gone and replaced by a desire to wear clothes that fit, work, and feel great. Purging now means cutting more chaff.

Whadoyathink? Would you consider shifting to a mid-season purge? What about sticking to the seasonal cycle and adding an evaluative pass once you’re in the thick of it? Could this work for you?

Image courtesy enchantée.

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