Getting organized is overwhelming to those of us who are not naturally inclined to keep only what we need and get rid of excess. Naturally organized people throughout the U.S. make good money helping others get and stay organized. But really, it's not that hard unless you try to do it all at once or set up and try to use some complicated system. Remember, no matter what you read, or what neat organizing gadgets you find at the store, simple is always better.
Speaking of simple, how are your closets? Did I see you cringe? Don't worry, it's not as hard as you think. Our closets, with those nifty doors, get overstuffed in a hurry, particularly with clothing, shoes and accessories. Are you overrun with things you haven't worn since college, or since your teenager was born? Or will never fit into again? Be realistic. I haven't been a size five since high school. And you won't find a size five anything in my closet.
If you've read the previous two articles in this series, you probably are familiar with my basic system. If so, you won't be disappointed. However, this one is also a little different. I guess you'd say there's more prep work. Still, you can probably do this start to finish in two hours. Even if you aren't familiar with my basic system, don't worry. I've laid it all out step-by-step.
Before launching into step one, however, you first need to gather a few supplies. You will need a marker and three boxes and label them Keep, Store, and Give. Also, grab a notebook and pen; you'll need them.
Open up that closet, because here we go:
Using your pen and paper, sit down and plan your ideal wardrobe. Go for styles that flatter your shape and colors that mix and match. Strive for a few pieces that combine well, rather than numerous separates that only work with one other piece. Spend as much time as you need, noting each piece and the color you want. For example, you might list ideal work clothes, casual clothes and special occasion clothes. Under the work heading you might list a red silk blouse, a black blazer and black slacks as one outfit. Of course, any color blouse would work, so you can list five different color tops and have five different outfits with seven articles of clothing. Of course, you won't want to wear the same pants all week, but you could probably get away with three or four pair combined with different tops each wearing. Once you've completed this task, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Completely empty your closet contents and that of your dresser drawers onto your bed. By doing so, you are more likely to finish so you can sleep later. Throw away all wire hangers and broken hangers. Wipe the insides of your drawers clean and wipe down shelves and curtain rods. You can rub the curtain rod with a bit of wax (an old candle works well) or bar soap to make the hangers slide easily.
Set a timer for no more than fifteen minutes and, in that time, sort everything on your bed into one of the boxes you labeled at the beginning. When sorting items into the keep box, refer back to your ideal wardrobe. If you listed a little black dress on it, and you have one that fits, it will be a keeper. Make sure you mark it off your ideal list. Should you buy another at a later date, you can then store or give the one you currently have. In the store box should go any clothing, shoes or accessories you are ambivalent about. Perhaps you love that prairie skirt, but know it makes you look frumpy. Store it. If you don't go back and retrieve it, you are ready to get rid of it. Only throw away clothing that is so ripped or stained that you can't even see cutting it into rags.
Once you have sorted everything, seal the store box closed and write the date for one year in the future on the outside in big numbers. Place this box out of sight in some place you can access, but only if you absolutely must. The more inconvenient the better. If you don't open the box within a year, bring the box, unopened, to your local goodwill or other charity. This not only clears clutter in your closets, it helps the needy and is a great way to recycle.
Haul the contents of your Give box to Goodwill or other local charity. Now. Or at least put it in your trunk with the Give box of books.
Put away your kept clothing in your clean closet and dresser. Hang all the clothing by type or color or some way that will make it easy for you to grab an outfit and go. Not only will you have less laundry now, but you will waste less time agonizing over what to wear.
Sit down with your plan for your ideal wardrobe and make a new list of the items you did not already have. This is your shopping list. Whether you shop at garage sales, thrift stores or the local mall, you will know what piece you need and in what color.
Your closet should be much more manageable from now on. One good rule to keep it that way is that once you have that ideal wardrobe, every time you get something new, get rid of something old. This maintains the balance of items. If you get a new pair of black high-heeled boots, you need to give away the old pair with the scuffs or throw away the pair with the broken heel.
This same method can be used on every closet in your home. Simply determine what function that closet is to have and apply this method accordingly. A warning is needed here. Don't, and I repeat, don't try to declutter and organize every closet in your home (unless you have only one) in one day. Take your time. Clutter may seem to happen overnight, but it doesn't. It doesn't go away over night either. Tackle one or two closets a day and look in them for encouragement when you have had to brave the depths of a still packed, messy closet.
Next time I ask how your closets are, you should be able to smile and say, "Organized."