“Basic” may have developed a negative connotation in recent years, but there’s no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our “Back to Basics” column, we’re here to guide you through life’s most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.
There’s nothing like squeezing your life into a 600-square foot apartment — especially when it’s winter and you’re forced to make room for puffy coats and chunky boots. Even if you have the luxury of more space or multiple closets, the pieces you need to navigate cold weather can still create chaos in any room you inhabit. Add on the extra hours you’re spending at home this month, and the messes you once overlooked become hard to ignore.
“It’s always important to feel good about you, and yourself, and where you are, and what you’re doing. And your closet is so important to your life — you go in it every single day,” says Marsha Sims, founder of the professional organizing company Sort-It-Out. “If your closet is messy, it means you’re running through your day and you’re not taking care of all the little things.”
Whether you’re a devoted follower of Marie Kondo or someone who’s learned to tune out the piles of clothes on a chair, you can always find new ways to declutter. Read on for tips from expert organizers on how to navigate your winter wardrobe cleaning.
Make a Plan
While plotting the future can feel daunting and nearly impossible in our current state, there’s comfort in planning, even when it comes to the simple things, like where you want your jeans to live. Sims advises thinking about your perfect closet and planning your organization attack before tackling whatever mess of clothes lies ahead of you. Once you know where you want everything to go, start removing things that don’t fit your vision.
The peak of the tidiness mountain — especially while spring cleaning — is the closet clean-out. But you don’t need a change of seasons to start purging.
Lisa Jacobs, founder of the New York-based home organization company Imagine It Done, recommends using packing for a trip as an opportunity to go through your wardrobe and identify any unwanted items. Sims suggests taking the time to touch everything in your closet and ask yourself: “If you don’t love it, why do you have it? Why is it taking up space? If it doesn’t make you look gorgeous anymore or it’s not comfortable, why is it in your closet?”
If you’re on the fence about a garment, Sims says to put it away for three months and see if you miss it. This temporary separation period should resolve your ambivalence.
Maximize Your Space
Carefully review every drawer, shelf and wall space before deciding where you want things to go. Using the same hangers and utilizing overlooked areas — like the back of a door — will help you make the most of your space. (Jacobs cautions against putting bulky items, such as sweatshirts and sweatpants, in shallow and narrow drawers.)
Organize by Style, Then Color
Sort your sweaters and coats by style, and then by color — i.e leather jackets, puffer coats, parkas and crewnecks, cardigans and turtlenecks. Make sure all the hangers are uniform and sturdy enough for the heavier coats.
According to Universal Standard‘s Head of Design Ramon Martin, you should use your lifestyle as an organization guide. “I live in New York, so the weather always has the most influence on what I wear — because of this, I organize my sweaters and coats by weight from lightest to heaviest,” he says. “This is a hack that can work for all clothing beyond your bulkier items. For those with wardrobes that vary from weekday to weekend, I suggest sorting by use, keeping workwear together and casual sweaters separate.”
Fold Your Sweaters
For those with a bit of a winter knit obsession, Jacobs advocates for folding your wooly and cashmere friends to help them keep their shape and prevent them from stretching out. Important tip: Make sure that you’re stacking sweaters that are the same width.
Displaying your folded knits in a color-coordinated manner on easy-to-access shelves is both aesthetically pleasing and convenient for those chilly days when you have to grab an extra layer last minute.
Martin says to store your sweaters in dedicated drawers with visible details —think necklines and buttons — exposed. “The less space you have, the more you inevitably try to overstuff your drawers. Resist the temptation to pack them too tight: It’s not good for your garments, and you will end up with a mess of sweaters that all need to be refolded,” he says. “If you can’t fit any more sweaters in your drawer, fold them over pant hangers and store them neatly in the closet, away from items with hanging hardware.”
Hang Your Jeans
If you have a walk-in closet or ample racks, you should relish the luxury of hanging your jeans. Increased accessibility is the number one reason for hanging pants instead of folding them, but shelves are a great alternative if you have limited closet space. You can also pick a few of your favorite jeans to hang in your closet and keep the lesser-worn or special occasion pairs tucked away in a dresser. Jacobs’ pro tip is to use kid-size hangers for jeans to streamline the overall look.
For those using drawers, vertical file folding (with the pocket side crease up) is the best storage method. Sort jeans by style and then by color for easy selection.
If in Use, Keep Boots on Lower Shelves
Boots take up a lot of space, so if a pair is gathering dust and not getting any street time, they should probably find a new home. Keep the ones you wear more often on a lower shelf and use boot stuffers to ensure they stay upright. Place any showstopping pairs on higher shelves, as decoration and as a friendly reminder that you’ll get to walk into more exciting, people-filled situations in the future.
We all have that one corner or chair that becomes our go-to deposit site for the outfits that don’t come to fruition or the freshly-washed blouses that have yet to get hung up. Sims has a few solutions for these all-too-relatable habits.
Pick out what you want to wear tomorrow, tonight; if you pull something off of a hanger to try it on, put it back on the hanger. When it comes to putting away clean clothes, lay out the things that need to be hung up with all the shoulders together and count them, so you know how many hangers you have to get and so you can walk them back to the closet together.