What a difference a day makes. That's about how long it will take you to totally refurbish your clothes closet. A weekend, perhaps, if you have to shop for an organizing system. So why do you keep putting it off? I spoke with Toronto-based professional organizer Estelle Gee of Orderly Lives, who shares her five-step game plan.
The five-step game plan
1 Assess your needs
List the categories of items that will go in your closet. “Some people have very little storage space, so they might put other things in the clothes closet,” says Estelle, like sports equipment, an iron and ironing board, extra linens and photo albums.
“Be ruthless,” says Estelle. “Women wear only about 20 per cent of their wardrobes. We tend to wear clothes that are comfortable, make us look good, and fit.” Yet many of us keep clothing that doesn't fit, we don't look good in, isn't fashionable, holds old memories and so on. If purging sounds tough, hire a pro for a supportive, objective opinion, or ask a friend to help.
3 Deal with roadblocks
Your closet should reflect who you are now – both your self-image and your lifestyle. The purging stage can bring up regrets about yesterday (Why did I buy that?) and hopes for tomorrow (Maybe it will fit again). When dealing with those items that bring up emotional stuff, Estelle suggests you ask yourself these questions:
• Do I feel comfortable/good in this?
• Does this fit?
• Does this make me look good?
• Is this still stylish or does this accurately represent my personal style?
• Is this easy to maintain?
• Does this suit/reflect my lifestyle (for instance, if you've had a career change or become a mom)?
If you answer no to any of the above about a piece of clothing, let it go.
4 Design the space
The infrastructure of your closet should accommodate your clothes and other items so that they're visible and accessible, as well as flexible enough to change as your wardrobe changes. The design of the space should take into account any physical limitations, such as back or knee problems, that will affect the height at which your clothes should be stored (in order to avoid reaching up or bending down).
Begin by sorting your clothes into shirts/ blouses, pants, skirts, sweaters, jackets, long dresses and so on. Estimate both the amount and type of storage you need – shelving, drawers/cubbyholes for foldables, rods for hanging items, and assorted accessories like tie hooks and shoe racks. You can also sort your clothes by colour, season (store off-season items elsewhere), use (work, casual, formal) and person (for shared closets).
Then, it's time for you to go shopping. Closet-organizing retailers often offer design services, as well as a variety of organizing systems for different budgets, and many nifty organizing accessories. Estelle works with Toronto's Space Age Shelving. For DIYers, Estelle says, “Don't overlook stores such as IKEA, Home Depot, Zellers and Canadian Tire – there are lots of organizing tools out there.” Some of her favourites include wooden or good-quality plastic tubular hangers (all in the same colour); a valet rod or hook, so you can put an outfit together the night before; IKEA's hanging nylon shoe organizer (it can also be used to store baby clothes, accessories and kids' toys); a slide-out tie and belt organizer; and clear bins and boxes (if you're using opaque ones, paste a picture of the contents on the outside of each box).
5 Keep up the good work
“Do a major purge once a year if the structure is working, your closet is meeting your needs and you're not a compulsive shopper,” says Estelle. “If you're more ambitious, do it twice a year when you're doing the switchover of the seasons. Do a little every day – take five minutes to hang up clothes and throw the laundry in a hamper (preferably in the closet) – then it doesn't seem like such an onerous task.”