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How to Clean a Closet (Part 2)

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In the last post, I talked at length about the very first and most integral step to a successful closet clean-out: purging. If you're following along with a closet project at home, hopefully you are looking at a space filled only with things you use and love - and now you're ready to shift it all around in a way that makes sense. 

I am a firm believer that it is not enough for your closet to be neat and orderly - the order of the closet must also play an active role in a) helping you find what you need when you need it and b) maintaining its own order for as long as possible. Summarily: easy in, easy out. 


Analyze Your Space

In order to determine what goes where, you first need to take a good, hard look at your "where." Not all of us are blessed with a walk-in closet, and even walk-ins can have their quirky corners, shelves, and recesses to deal with. Take note of your closet's entry, how it's most comfortable to stand/face when perusing your clothes, which nooks and crannies force you to shift and pull and tippy-toe and dislodge everything before you get what you want. Whatever's left over is your closet's sweet spot: that magical space where everything is easy to see, reach, remove, and replace.

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Banish to the Far Reaches

The least convenient spots in your closet will be those that you cannot see clearly when assessing your hoard normally. Fill those nooks and crannies with things you to which you will not need frequent access. The specific items will differ from person to person based on things like lifestyle and climate, but some ideas for the out of sight/out of reach areas include:

  • Off season clothes (to be switched out at season's end)
  • Special occasion items (cocktail dresses, camping gear)
  • Luggage (unless you travel for business)
  • Memory boxes
  • Costumes
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Keep It On Hand

Now that you have your rarely-used items (literally) out of the way, you can turn your attention to the types of items that you don't necessarily need to handle each and every day, but that you do need to keep "on hand." Again, the specific items will definitely vary from person to person - some people insist on switching handbags daily, for example, while others are content to do so only when the mood strikes - and still others wonder why a body would need more than one handbag at all. That said, some ideas for the "out of reach" but NOT "out of sight" parts of your closet are: 

  • Handbags/Briefcases
  • Shoes
  • Hats
  • Gym bags/Library totes

Logistical or preferential constraints may also necessitate using the "out of reach" spots for things like sock/lingerie drawers, jewelry cabinets, sweater shelves, et cetera. This is no problem and is, in fact, a common reality for many of us (myself included).  In this case, just make sure that the items that need most consideration for your daily outfits are the easiest to see and reach - in a chest of drawers stored under hanging clothes, for example, folded sweaters would go in an upper drawer, while socks would go in a lower drawer. 


Who's Got the Time?

By process of elimination (and by keen use of photo diagrams!), you have no doubt deduced that your most-used items will be stored "front and center" (or whatever that means for your closet's floor plan). But wait - don't just plunk the whole chunk of clothes in there and run away!

Well, actually, if your lifestyle is fairly unvaried in terms of dress code, then plunk away. Simply divide your items by type (pants, skirts, tops), and be done with it. But if your mode of dress differs significantly from weekday to weekend, work to play, office to church, or date nights to play dates, then hear me out. 

Most of my clients' frustration with dressing comes from the stress of having to invent new combinations on the fly, when they may not have the time or inclination to do so. What we are doing here is what I call "putting the work in on the front end" - we're looking at how you spend your time and dividing your closet accordingly. This is known as capsule dressing, a concept I first encountered at, a site run by Seattle stylist Angie Cox (who incidentally inspired me and showed me it was possible to do what I love most in all the world).

Some people will enjoy more division within their wardrobes than others, so do what feels right for you. Some people go so far as to divide every item into a ready-made outfit that will never be mixed and matched. Other people are content to call things "dressy" and "casual" and leave it at that. Here are a few ideas to get you pondering: 

  • Mom Clothes - Work Clothes - Date Clothes
  • Office - Gym - Gardening
  • Corporate - Business Casual - Date Night - Lounging at Home
  • General Purpose (divided into basic categories as described above) - Church Attire - Night Out

Remember that these categories are not mutually exclusive, nor are they set in stone. You can always pull out a crisp white blouse from your Business capsule to wear with a mini skirt on Date Night. Whenever you have time and feel creative, the option to overlap will always be there - but more importantly, when you are zombie-ing your way through the morning with a kid on each leg and ten minutes to fly out the door, you will know exactly where to look for the pieces you need. 


Yeah, but what about when you told me to purge my only pair of jeans?

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the fact that closet purging may have left you missing some serious pieces to this puzzle. Now we know what you have to work with, what you don't have to work with, and what you need to work toward....

... next time. ;)