While most people choose the spring for their annual life de-cluttering cleaning spree, as a teacher I have always chosen the summer. With a lot of extra time on my hands, and the temperature north of 100 degrees making it impossible to go outside, it’s the perfect time for me to tackle the junk drawers, kitchen cabinets and, of course, the closets.
My closet itself is average; it’s a decent size, with some built in cabinet space, and has nice light. It’s certainly no Carrie Bradshaw affair, but it will do. I typically rotate some of the items in my closet twice a year — I have unsightly vacuum-sealed space saver bags to keep my sweaters and beachwear safe in the off-season — but I do one major overhaul in the summer. This is when I sort, organize and evaluate the pieces in my wardrobe to determine what stays, what goes, what’s on the fence and what pieces I want to build upon when I do my back-to-school shopping. It’s an all-day process, one that leaves me with a satisfying feeling of order and control. I feel so much better about my closet after I’ve spent this time, not only because it looks infinitely better, but also because I’ve rediscovered items that have been buried in the back and I’ve rid the closet rods of items past their prime. Here’s a few of my best tips to help you get organized:
Should it stay or should it go?
My first step in organizing my closet is to go through each piece to identify the ones I’m ready to say goodbye to. This includes anything that’s looking tired or faded and items that no longer fit. This process can take some time, as it requires actually trying on the clothes. I make a pile of those items I’m getting rid of for later in the process (see below), and then turn to the items I’m not yet sure what to do with. My rule of thumb with these pieces is to put them near the front of my closet in an area of high visibility. If I haven’t worn them in six months (or if I do and it just doesn’t go very well), I bid them adieu.
I understand how easy it is to become attached to certain items in your closet, whether it’s something that holds fond memories or that you hope to fit into again one day. But trust me when I say it’s better for everyone — especially if you share a closet — if you eliminate those pieces you don’t wear because they are only taking up space. Plus, it gives you a reason to go shopping to replace them with newer and better pieces!
I have a very particular organizational layout for my closet: Clothes are first separated by type (blazers, sweaters, pants, skirts, etc.), then by function (work vs. play, with crossover items in the middle). Within each category, I put like colors together, from dark to light. This system works for me, but it may not for you. Pick a system that works for your wardrobe and stick with it. You’ll love knowing exactly how many black sweaters you have (and if you’re like me, that number is entirely too high) and just where to find them. And the best part is that taking a quick spin through a well-organized closet before you go shopping can prevent you from buying items like ones you already own.
Put your best foot forward
I handle shoes a little differently, since they tend to have a longer shelf-life than many of the items in my closet. I keep my best pairs in their boxes to extend their lifespan. The others go either in a hanging shoe rack or a drawer reserved for little-worn shoes, like the Tevas I only wear once every three years when I engage in water sports. I evaluate each pair of shoes for style and wear. Although I love shoes, I don’t buy them as often as I do other items; I tend to work shoes to death. I usually won’t give up a pair of shoes unless I have another to serve the same function. For instance, when it’s time for me to finally put to bed the pair of black ballet flats I’ve worn on four continents in the past two years, I need to know I have a suitable replacement. So unless a pair of shoes is in really bad shape, I typically set the ones near death aside and add those styles to my shopping list.
*Important note about extending the life of your shoes: If you’ve paid big bucks for a pair of shoes (or even scored a pair of high-end shoes at a discount price), don’t be so quick to toss them out. A quality pair of shoes will stay in style for years — or will make its way back into fashion after a few seasons off. If yours are looking a little ragged, take them to your local cobbler. For a fraction of what it would cost to replace them, the cobbler can polish, resole, dye or mend just about anything.
Paying it forward
You have two main options when it comes time to eliminating the unwanted items from your closet: donating or reselling them. Each has their own benefits. I give away most of my clothes, either to Goodwill or to students, friends or family. For professional clothing, I prefer to donate to an organization like Arizona Women’s Education and Employment or WHEAT’s Clothes Silo, which provide clothing at no cost to women seeking employment. You may choose to give your clothes to your church or another local nonprofit organization. It’s a good idea to get a receipt, as you can write off the donation on your taxes.
I’ll admit I’m far too lazy to attempt to resell my clothes, but if you are motivated, there are certainly plenty of consignment/resell shops in the Phoenix area to which you can sell your old clothes and gain credit for new clothes. Old standbys such as Buffalo Exchange and My Sister’s Closet will accept clothing that is still in good condition; visit their sites for guidelines on what to sell and what you’ll get in return. Poor Little Rich Girl in Phoenix is newer to the scene and offers another venue to resell higher-end items in good condition. Klury.com is a Phoenix-based online resell shop that allows you to quickly get a quote for your high-end designer items and send them off at no cost. You’ll be paid for your items within 48 hours — how’s that for service? And co-founder Mandy Russell is the cutest thing ever. Finally, if you’re really into DIY, you can go the eBay route. While it may prove to be the most profitable for some items, it’s also the most risky and time-consuming.
So there you have it — my guide to getting your closet fit for the summer. You’ll find items you forgot you even owned, put together new outfit ideas and eliminate that off-the-shoulder sweater you thought channeled a cool retro Flashdance vibe but really just makes you look like a bit of a floozy. When it’s time to go shopping for the fall, you’ll have an informed idea of what items you REALLY need for your closet, which is sure to save you loads of time and money. Happy summer cleaning!