How to Declutter & Organize Your Closet

Our personal possessions such us clothing and shoes say a lot about who we are. But it's inevitable: we end up accumulating too much stuff and sometimes it can be very difficult to get rid of it. And especially this year, given the stress and uncertainty, even simple tasks like cleaning and decluttering our closets can seem overwhelming. But these tasks are actually critical in making us feel happy, energized, and optimistic which we all need more of in 2020. So we've spoken with the experts and rounded up the top tips for decluttering and organizing your closet for the long run.

1) How to decide what to keep and what to toss?

Lucy Milligan Wahl, owner of LMW Edits, a boutique professional organizing company based in San Francisco, says:

I actually don't subscribe to the rule that you should toss something that you haven't worn in a year. When I work on closet organizing projects, I encourage my clients to toss anything that doesn't make them feel great when they put it on. Sometimes we've gotten stuck in a rut of wearing stuff we don't really love, and we don't think to incorporate some of our favorite pieces into our regular wardrobe. If you get rid of anything that makes you feel less than amazing, you'll be left with a closet full of pieces that inspire you to express yourself through your clothes, whether you're working from home or distancing socially!

2020 has presented some new challenges with making these decisions, as Emma Healey, small home expert and founder at Little House, Lovely Home, notes:

Decluttering now requires us to make decisions with future availability in mind. Will the item be available if I need to replace it? Will my budget even allow it? Perhaps I should hang on to this item for one more season, just in case.

These are all questions people are asking themselves as the world around us changes completely. 

My solution has been adopting a wait and see approach by using underbed rolling storage (these Sterilite bins are great). It goes against all conventional decluttering advice to store items you are no longer using, but right now it feels entirely appropriate to wait until we know more about how the future will look. 

Christine Wilcox, founder of Letting Go, Living More, suggests the following tips for beginning this process:

Having just come out of the summer season, you'll know which clothes you wore during summer, and which clothes you avoided (even in these strange time). If you have a closet bursting with clothes you don't wear, you are depriving someone else of the chance to love the item, and you're increasing the stress in your life trying to rummage through an increasingly packed closet. Get rid of any summer clothing that you went through the whole summer season without wearing. It's useful to use three boxes when going through your closet; one for clothes to sell or donate, one for clothes to throw away, and one for clothes to store (stuff you love but can't bear to get rid of yet). Putting items in the 'store' box is the first step to getting rid of them, it actually starts the mental shift and you may find by the end of the declutter process you are ready to let some of those items go too.

Eileen Roth, organizing expert, founder of Everything in its Place  and author of Organizing for Dummies shares some excellent questions to ask yourself when making these decisions:

  1. Is it washed out or worn out?
  2. Does it need repair and you don’t want to fix it or pay to fix it?
  3. Are you tired of wearing the items?  
  4. Is the size wrong?
  5. You haven’t worn or used it in more than 2 years – i.e. you don’t like it – let it go.

If you have enough of one type of item, you may be able to pare down.  There are only 7 days to a week.  1 or 2 spares and you’re set.

2) Are there any special organizational supplies or tools that can be particular useful?

Jeneva Aaron, owner of The Housewire, which focuses on home organization shares her number one tool:

Vacuum-sealed bags are a gift to humanity. If you’re not already using them for storage, you should start. In the winter, I vacuum seal all of my bathing suits and beach towels and stick them under my bed. They take up a quarter of the space they would otherwise!

Emi Louie is a Professional Organizer with Master level certification in Marie Kondo's KonMari Method, and also a Blisshaus Stylist, and shares her favorite organization supplies and tools:

Below are some of my go-to products for beautifying a closet. I prefer to choose eco-friendly options when possible.
Matching Hangers : Swapping out hangers for ones that match is a simple upgrade that creates a stunning visual impact. It doesn't matter what kind of hanger you choose, just make sure they're all the same! Bonus--hang your clothing by category, and then by color to make it look like your favorite boutique.
  • Slim wooden hangers - Wood elevates a closet, protects clothing and is eco-friendly, but can take up a lot of space. These slim styles are a perfect in-between.
  • Protective skirt hangers - These have rubber tips that are gentle on delicate clothing.
Shoe Racks: If you don't have built-in shoe storage in your closet, use stackable shoe racks beneath hanging clothes to take advantage of that vertical space with a streamlined display. 
  • Seville Classics Stackable Shoe Rack - This is a solid product that can be stacked to take advantage of the vertical height in a closet.
  • Yamazaki Frame Adjustable Shoe Rack - If you have a narrow space, this minimalist shoe rack is one of the most narrow styles available and can also be stacked.


3) Where can I donate or sell the things I don't want anymore?

Marty Basher, home organization expert with Modular Closets has some great tips:

Online marketplaces. These are great ways to sell items in a way that requires no human interaction. It’s a great way to get rid of a lot of things quickly. All you need is a smartphone that can take good pictures of the items you want to sell. You simply add in your payment receipt info, and let potential buyers know that you can either ship or they can pick up the item(s) on their own. The shipping option is only best if you have shipping supplies yourself, however. Then all you have to do is package, print out a label, and pop it into a post office box. No waiting in line or exchanging money. For pickup, you can leave an item outside your door for the buyer to pick up. 

Some options you can use for this are: Facebook marketplace, Etsy (for handmade items), Poshmark (for clothing and accessories), LetGo, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, ThredUp (for clothes), Nextdoor, OfferUp, Decluttr, Gameflip (for video games and consoles), and Gazelle (for tech).
The Nextdoor  app is a great way to sell items in your local community or let neighbors know you have items available for free curbside.
If you want to get creative, you can host your own virtual garage or yard sale via Facebook. You can create your own Facebook group and build a community of virtual garage sale buyers and sellers using your own network. Or you can look for existing garage or yard sale groups and ask to join.

Annie Draddy, owner of professional organizing company, Henry & Higby also says:
The answer to the question of where to donate items is very much dependent on where you live and what places are around you but we understand that the Salvation Army and Goodwill  are open for donations again. However, please check with your local spots before trying to make a drop-off.
As for selling items, the RealReal is a great spot for designer items and better known brands since they handle the selling for you once your items are selected. And, for a more DIY approach, PoshMark  is great because they handle shipping labels and even Facebook Marketplace for people who want to coordinate with people more locally. 

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