Every fall and spring without fail, I grab a ton of seasonal closet overflow and throw it all in a suitcase without much thought. Stringy sandals and Birkenstocks get tangled up with bikini straps, floral skirts, and cutoff denim shorts. In early summer, bulky snow boots and puffy parkas are squished together and zipped shut. It’s a time-efficient method, sure, but far from a practical one. The contents usually end up on the floor before a big trip, and some items lose their shape after being stashed away for months.
After watching Get Organized With The Home Edit on Netflix last month, I knew that something had to change. Surely there was a better way to organize my cramped NYC closets without having to store away half my wardrobe. One tip that stuck with me the most: the idea of backstock. Typically reserved for pantries, this constitutes the excess or double-up items that can live elsewhere in the house (or on seldom-touched higher shelves) until they’re ready to be used. What if my closet could have backstock, too, for seasonal items I’m not wearing at the moment? I turned to pro organizer Ese Crossett, founder of Tidylosophy, to help. Here’s what I learned.
Sort Every Item
“Start by making piles on the bed or rug and categorizing them,” says Crossett. Once I created these clusters—one for summer skirts, one for winter knits, and another for loungewear (the most important these days)—it was a lot easier to see how much closet space to dedicate for each and how accessible they needed to be, depending on the season.
Be Ruthless About What You Keep
Purging is an important step to organizing. Marie Kondo advises to only keep what brings you joy. While that’s a good starting point, I wanted to go a step further. After discarding any torn or damaged clothes on Crossett’s recommendation, I moved on to her next suggestion of creating a donate pile for anything I hadn’t worn during the season. This had one major caveat: This summer was very different from others, which left many pairs of heeled sandals and dresses untouched. So I took a slightly different approach.
Working with the areas I had identified for each category of clothes, I filled my closet up (organized by color but also by favorites) until it was full. This made room for 10 pairs of jeans, seven chunky sweaters (and about double that for thin ones), and 26 pairs of shoes (plus the small selection I allow myself to keep by the front door). Everything else went into a “maybe” pile.
Bundle Off-Season Items
I also made room in underused, hard-to-reach areas: pulling out winter bedding and throws on higher shelves to store skirts, shorts, and T-shirts, and creating a new dedicated workout area to store things like wrist weights and resistance bands.
In the end, very few items in my maybe pile were things I still considered keeping, but Crossett has a solution for excess clothing too that doesn’t involve luggage: fabric storage bags. “You can find spacious ones in a variety of sizes on Amazon,” she says. “I like the ones that have transparent front windows so I always know what’s inside.” I used a variety of stackable and hanging ones for summer dresses and skirts and another for eveningwear, which I tucked in the back of my closet rod, keeping my winter wardrobe front and center.
I’m not one to pull out a label-maker very often, but Crossett urged me to clearly identify each section so I wouldn’t be tempted to create chaos in my newfound order. As for the extra pairs of shoes I didn’t want to part with just yet, she recommended labeled under-bed storage. The shallowness of the containers means I can keep each pair neatly ordered and not piled on top of one another. In the end I had a sizable amount of items I was happy to part with, so I dropped them off at a nearby Salvation Army.
In less than an hour, I had created a storage method that was twice as efficient and easy to maintain. Everything I can clearly see when opening my wardrobe door now is seasonal (and useful; I also made a new dedicated loungewear section because, 2020). Dressier things, meanwhile, are patiently waiting in the back to be brought front and center when we can finally celebrate again.
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