Today is the day!
Now that we’re armed with the right mindset, it’s time to plunge ahead into our organizing journey. (Note: If you haven’t read my previous post, then begin by checking out The First Secret to Organizing Success.)
Isn’t this exciting?!
Come on, don’t roll your eyes. We are on the cusp of some positive life changes. After this project, you will be one step closer to your goals, and that is very exciting!
Hopefully, you are excited too. I want to build on that momentum by starting with what I consider to be the most challenging space in the home.
Ahem…drum roll please…
Welcome to the first installment of The Bedroom Closet Series!
All too often, this space becomes a dumping ground for things with no real home. During a bedroom cleanup, we tend to throw stuff into the closet to be “dealt with later.” To make matters worse, the items that do belong in the closet lose their rightful spots to the intruding clutter.
The mess just builds upon itself. Clothes fall off hangers and disappear into the Pit of Forgotten Garments. Why bother to pick them up when the floor is already a disaster? And the shelves…long, long ago, shirts were folded and stacked, but now they are stuffed, wadded, and wrinkled. High heels litter the carpet like patent leather land mines. Purses. Scarves. Hats. It all seems to multiply every time the door closes.
It’s time to tackle the mess.
Today, I’m going to give you a peek into my own closet and share the systems that work for me.
But let me begin with a disclaimer: Organizing is a very personal thing. Think of it like a diet. What works for one person may not work for another.
If a certain approach takes undue effort to maintain, then reassess and figure out why it’s so difficult. Perhaps it requires a simple fix, such as swapping things around on a shelf; other situations may call for an entire system overhaul.
It might take some trial and error, but be willing to explore what works best for your family. (Speaking of family, stay tuned for a later post about how to get everyone on board with your new systems.)
Another thing to remember: Don’t go for an all-or-nothing approach. A lettuce and celery diet is never going to work, despite even the best of intentions. In fact, the starvation might lead to bingeing. Rather, success only comes when unhealthy habits are truly changed, which takes time, persistence, and baby steps.
If you aren’t a naturally tidy person, don’t set yourself up for failure by instating a color-coded, alphabetized, and labeled system. You’ll end up driving yourself crazy and burning out before you even start. Start simple and build on that.
For this reason, I offer several “levels.” One level isn’t necessarily better than another. They are simply tools to customize the right system for you. An organizing buffet, if you will.
A few final notes before we begin:
- You’ll often read tips from organizers who insist you begin with a blank slate: Empty the closet and attack the clutter all at once. But I feel that’s just asking for trouble. There’s no way I could complete a closet cleanout in one solid chunk of time. I would inevitably have to stop mid-project to cook dinner, break up a fight, or pry crayons out of my toddler’s mouth…leaving my entire wardrobe scattered vulnerably across the bedroom. That’s why I suggest approaching this particular project in stages.
- It’s important to keep a brisk, steady pace. Since the nature of this game requires you to lay a hand on every item in the space, organization has the potential to be a major time-suck. Make your decisions quickly and definitively. Don’t get distracted by anything shiny. Don’t start flipping through magazines or photo albums you’ve unearthed. It might even help to set a timer. Give yourself one hour to get the job done. After the alarm goes off, anything left gets donated. (Okay, maybe a little extreme, but it would be a good motivator!)
- When sorting our belongings, we tend to start by rationalizing why we should keep an item. I challenge you to work backwards—begin with reasons to get rid of something. If you can’t think of a valid reason to donate/toss it, only then consider why you might want to hang onto it.
- Less clothing equals less to sort, wash, fold, iron, and hang. Less clothing equals more time and space!
- Make sure your mind and heart are prepared. Say a quick prayer before beginning. Ask God to remind you that it’s just stuff. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” -Matthew 6:25-27, NIV
The Bedroom Closet: Stage One
- A few garbage bags
- Your favorite podcast or music
- A timer (if needed)
Let’s begin with the hanging clothes. (We’ll get to the folded clothes in part two of The Bedroom Closet Series.)
Here’s what I hang up:
-Any shirt that’s not a tee shirt, heavy sweater, or pajama top
Your list may look a little different, but start with anything in your closet that’s on a hanger. (Also, I keep all seasons of clothing in my closet. I don’t pack away winter clothes during the summer months or vice versa. If you do separate your seasonal clothes, be sure to go through this process with those items in storage as well.)
Designate garbage bags for thrift shop/charity donations, items to give to friends, and trash.
Go through each item and start with this question: Do I even like this piece?
I know this might seem like an obvious question, but you’d be surprised at the amount of items in your closet that will receive a resounding no.
If there’s any hesitation (i.e. I don’t really like it, but it’s the only shirt that matches my purple, polka dot pants…), toss it into one of your garbage bags. Free up the space for something that you love.
If the item passes muster, see if it holds up to a second question: Have I worn this in the past year?
You might love those red-stitched Abercrombie jeans from your youth, but wouldn’t be caught dead in them now. Or maybe that formal gown still makes your heart flutter, but the fanciest event in your life these days is dressing for a trip to Kroger instead of Walmart (I speak from experience). Get rid of the lingerers…those items that you hang onto because, well, you might wear them before you die.
If you didn’t wear it last season, it’s time to let it go. (If it’s something that you still love, think of someone else who might appreciate it just as much. Sometimes it’s easier to give up something if you know it’s going to a good home.)
Next, ask yourself: Do I need this?
Let me clarify. Of course you don’t need that twirly skirt or unpractical lace dress, but if you wear and truly love it, then by all means, keep it.
I’m talking about the items that are multiples. I mean, how many white tank tops does one person need? Or black leggings? Or gray shirts? Make room for some diversity in there!
And lastly, this should go without saying: Any item that is damaged beyond repair needs to be tossed. That bleach stain isn’t going fade with time, no matter how much you love that top. It’s time to move on.
Once you’re finished sorting, you should have freed up tons of space on your clothing rod. (If not, then go through your wardrobe a second time. Be ruthless. Take no prisoners.) If the real issue is a tiny closet rather than an abundance of clothing, consider packing away off-season clothes or folding up certain articles of clothing to store in a low-profile container under your bed. Invest in some bed risers to create more room underneath.
Once you’ve cleared out space in your closet, you can stop here and be proud that you have shed some burdens from your life! Admire how your clothes can breathe and aren’t smashed against each other like New York subway commuters. Relish the satisfaction as you haul those garbage bags out of your house. Isn’t simplicity a beautiful thing?
But…if you’re on a roll and want to go even further, please step into my organizing buffet:
- Turn every hanger backwards. When you wear an item, hang it back up normally. It’s a great way to see what you actually use. After that particular season, take stock of the clothes that are still hanging backwards. Get rid of them!
- Invest in some thin, velvet hangers. The velvet is non-slip, so no more clothes on the floor. Plus, these bad boys are skinnier than plastic hangers, so they free up a lot of space. These hangers are like a little black dress for your closet–they make any space look like a million bucks! And when your closet looks great, doesn’t that motivate you to keep it that way? I buy mine at Costco: 35 hangers for $9.99.
- Sort your clothes by season and/or type. I don’t pack away off-season clothes, but I do separate them. My top clothing rod is for winter, the bottom for summer. Within each season, I sort by type of clothing. For example, I use these categories in my winter section: dress pants, cardigans, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, button-ups, vests, and workout tops (pull-overs, hoodies, moisture-wicking jackets).
- Okay, here’s where I get really crazy. Don’t judge me. As you probably noticed in the above photos, I sort by color within each category (going in order of ROYGBIV). I know it sounds extreme, but I have found it helps when choosing outfits. It also allows me to balance my wardrobe since I can see at a glance what I own. I have a tendency to buy black shirts, which I didn’t realize until I started grouping them all together.
So there you have it! Mission One accomplished! That wasn’t too painful, right? Up next, we attack the folded clothing. You might be surprised at how I sort my closet shelves and drawers…
Check out more from The Bedroom Closet Series: I Like to Fold It, Fold It