You know you do, right?  That is, unless you’ve achieved a minimalist lifestyle.  But if you had, what would you be doing here reading this blog about getting your house clean and in some semblance of order?  Got you, didn’t I?  It’s ok.  Lots of us are in the same situation, so let’s work on this one together.

You know the routine, right?  The laundry is all done and folded, and you have to put it away.  You’ve spent the last week swearing to yourself that when laundry day came, you would put away all of your clothes.  ALL of them, even the ones that need to be hung up.  Even the ones you need to iron first.  Now laundry day is here, and you’re looking at the pile of clothes to be put away and the already full dresser or closet they’re supposed to fit into, and realizing that the reason you didn’t put everything away last time is because there is no “away” to put them into.  There is no room.

Sort and Simplify

So here’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to sort through all of our clothes.  We’ll keep only what we love that fits well and doesn’t need repairs.  We’ll donate what can be used, just not by us, or repaired easily, just not by us.  Anything that we can’t give to Goodwill (or whatever clothing drop-off you have in your area), anything that is too stained or worn for anyone to want, we’re going to throw away.  In the trash.  For real.

There is not going to be a pile of “maybe someday clothes” any longer.  We all have these piles, don’t we?  The ones that you look at and say, “Maybe someday I’ll lose a few pounds and fit back into my favorite jeans from college.”  Or “maybe someday I’ll go somewhere fancy enough to wear that dress.”  Or my personal favorite, “I loved the way that looked when I wore it on my vacation/cruise/Sandal’s resort week, maybe someday I’ll go back and then I’ll want to wear it again.”

Let me clear something up.  Maybe is not a good enough reason, and someday rarely comes.  And face facts, if you did lose a few pounds or go somewhere fancy or back to your favorite vacation spot, you’d want to buy something new to wear, not wear something you’ve had in your closet gathering dust for years, even if whatever it is still is in style.

This whole project is going to take the better part of a day, so block out the time this weekend and get ready.

Step One:  What exactly do you have?

Take everything out of your closet, dresser, suitcases, off-season boxes, bedroom chair or wherever else your clothes have gathered or hidden.  As you take everything out, sort it onto your bed in piles.  Here is an example of what some of the piles could be, but yours might vary.

Short sleeve Tees and other casual shirts
Long sleeve tees and other casual shirts
Short sleeve or sleeveless shirts you can wear to work
Longer sleeve shirts you can wear to work
Tank tops
Sweaters (pullover)
Sweatshirts/hoodies (pullover and zippered)
Jeans
Work pants
Lounge pants (yoga, sweat, pajama, etc.)
Casual pants that aren’t jeans (cords and khaki’s, etc.)
Socks
Panties/Briefs/Underwear
Bras/undershirts
Lingerie
Pajamas/nightshirts
Robes
Dresses – work
Dresses – casual
Skirts – work
Skirts – casual
Coats (one pile, or a pile for cold weather and one for warm weather)

And anything else I’ve forgotten.

Now, we’re going to go through every pile.  This won’t take as long as you think, but it does take a while.  It’s not that hard, so don’t look at all of the clothes you own spread out on your bed and start to panic.  I promise we’ll get everything cleaned up before bedtime.  You won’t have to sleep on the couch.

Step 2:  What do you have that’s worth keeping?

Start with an easy pile. Socks are super-simple, so that’s a good place to begin.  Go through all of your socks.  Any with holes go in the trash (you can use them as dusters if you want, but don’t let them just become clutter in a different place).  Any socks that slither down into your shoes when you wear them go in the trash.  Any socks that you would never wear, but your Aunt Mabel got them for you because she thought toe socks were cute, especially in rainbow colors, go in the trash.  No one wears toe socks.  They’re hella uncomfortable.  Don’t kid yourself.  Once you have paired your socks down to only clean, good condition socks that are comfortable to wear and don’t embarrass you, you are done with that pile for now.  Move on.

Do the same for underwear/underclothes.  Torn?  Gone.  Too big/small? Out.  Try on your bras ladies.  Look in the mirror.  Is that what you want your girls to look like?  If it’s not, the bra goes out.  Anything that is not in good shape, with elastic that holds and underwires that don’t poke you, and that isn’t pitted out under the arms, you can keep.  The same goes for lingerie, with the added advice that if you bought something to wear for your significant other but it’s not something you would ever wear for yourself, out it goes.  Confidence is sexy.  Feeling like an oversized carrot in a g-string, is not.  Once you’re done with these piles, move on.

For the rest of your clothes, you’ll do pretty much the same thing with each pile, and it’s all similar to what you’ve done with the first piles, so have at it.  Here are the rules to remember:

Do not keep anything that is…

  • ripped
  • stained
  • the wrong size (too big or too small)
  • uncomfortable
  • the wrong color
  • a multiple of something (you don’t need 5 black, long-sleeve shirts; you need one)

You probably have some things that you wear regularly, and you don’t have to try them on, but the things you haven’t worn in a while?  Try them on.  You may find what looks like a perfectly nice jacket that you’d forgotten you had, and can’t remember why you weren’t wearing it.  Try it on and you’ll find out that the inside seams are itchy or it bunches up under your arms.  Obviously that’s just an example, but you see what I mean.  Some things look fine, but you will still never wear them because they don’t feel good on.

Step 3:  Now your floor is a mess!

Once you have gone through every pile, you probably will find that your piles on your bed have grown much smaller, and the piles on your floor have taken over the room.  That’s ok.  Before we start putting everything away, we’re going to bag up all of the stuff on the floor that you’re not keeping.  Stuff them in bags depending on where they’re going (trash, charity, your little sister, whatever), and do it now.  If you leave them around for a few days, they will slowly start shimmying their way back into your closet and dresser.  I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve seen it happen myself.  Bag it all up and bring it out to your car if you can.  If you can’t do that, just put the bags somewhere out of the way so nobody trips, but not so out of the way that you forget to get rid of them.

Step 4:  Where do you put off-season clothes?

Ok.  You have sorted everything out, sorted through everything, and gotten rid of the things that had to go.  All you have left is the mess on your bed.  An orderly mess with everything in nice piles, but a mess.  Divide the clothes up into warm weather and cold weather.  Put away whichever season’s clothes that it’s not.  I use old suitcases to store my off-season clothes, but you can use a plastic bin, a vacuum-seal bag or whatever you want.  Just put them away and put them wherever your off-season clothes get stored.

If you don’t already have a place, I recommend buying a couple of the long, rectangular garment boxes and storing the clothes in them under your bed.  That way they’re easy to reach, but not in the way.  If you have space in your closet, an unused high shelf or lots of floor space for example, put them in plastic bins in there.  Whatever works best for you.  You should not store them in a basement or chances are when you get them out they will smell musty.  Attics are ok as long as you keep your clothes protected from dust and whatever else might get up there.

Step 5:  Putting it all away

Now you’re down to your current, in-season, in style, comfortable clothes that you like and feel good wearing.  Put the piles away in whatever way makes sense to you.  In my case, I have socks, underwear and things of that type in my top drawer (including swimsuits since they only get used occasionally); shirts of various types in my middle drawer; pants/shorts and pajamas/night clothes in the bottom drawer.  I have most of my work clothes and all of my dresses hanging up in my closet. This part you have to figure out for yourself because there are a million was to organize clothes and a million styles of closets and dressers out there.  The goal is just to put away everything neatly, in a way that makes sense to you.

Here’s the final thing: Either you have fit all of your clothes away with easy, in which case you’re done, or you still have too many clothes to fit.  If that is the case, take a hard look at what you’re keeping.  Think of where and when you could wear some of the things, and ask yourself if that will ever happen.  If you can’t even come up with a time or place, you have kept something you shouldn’t have.  Out it goes.

Step 6:  Keeping it organized

Keeping your organized, uncluttered closet and dresser is not as hard as you might think either.  First, put your laundry away as soon as it is done.  We’ll deal with laundry in more detail in another post, but for now just know that all steps should happen in the same day.  This means you’re not done with a load until it is put away neatly where it belongs.

The “one thing in-one thing out” plan is a good way to keep things paired down.  If you are shopping and find something you like, think before you buy.  Where will you wear it?  Do you have things that will coordinate?  Is it comfortable?  All yes answers?  Great!  What will you be replacing?  Ah ha!  Got you again!  You can’t bring something in until you take something out.  So if you’re buying something new, you need to get rid of something old.  Stick to this rule and you won’t end up with more than you can find room for.

One final tip I’ve always liked for keeping your closet from becoming a home for unworn clothes is the hanger trick.  Turn all of the hangers in your closet so they face out (hook them over the bar from the back instead of the front like you normally would).  Every time you wear something, hang it back up the regular way once you put it away.  At the end of each season when you are switching out your clothes, take anything that is on a hangar that hasn’t been turned around and get rid of it.  If you haven’t worn it all season, you’re not going to wear it next year after storing it.

So how did it go?  Let me know in the comments.  Share pictures on my Facebook page too!