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Allure – March, 2003

Your Problem: Closet Chaos

Most of the messes I’ve seen in my 13 years of organizing others for a living have been caused by the same problem: People in a hurry don’t put things away properly. And as the piles grow, so does the time it takes to untangle them. Organizing your closet today will get you out the door faster tomorrow. Here’s how.

SOLUTION #1: LET ONLY THE FITTEST SURVIVE

I’ve found that people normally wear just 20 percent of what’s in their closet. Hold up each item one by one, and ask: Do I actually wear it? Do I really love it? Does it love me? If you answer no to even one of those questions, out it goes. If every time you try on that “favorite” top, you take it off and put on something else, then it doesn’t work.

SOLUTION #2: ASK FOR HELP

Enlist a friend to keep you motivated – and focused. If you come across a box of old letters underneath the sweaters you’re sorting, a friend can stop you from sprawling out on the giveaway pile and reading them. And be sure to pick someone who’ll be ruthlessly honest when you need a second opinion.

SOLUTION #3: GROUPING IS GOOD

Once you know what you’re keeping, break the pile into categories that you can hang together. Shirts should hang together, as should pants, short skirts, long skirts, blazers, and so on. This accomplishes the dual purpose of making it easier to find what you need and freeing up space by hanging short items next to each other, leaving room for a shoe rack below.

SOLUTION #4: USE ALL THE SPACE YOU’VE GOT

Efficiency is everything. If there’s one shelf at the top of your closet, why not put in two more if there’s space? A second hanging pole, if the closet is deep enough, can double capacity. There are tons of space-saving products on the market – use them. I like clear organizers, because you don’t have to open the container to see the contents.

SOLUTION #5: MATCH POINT

Most of us have a motley assortment of hangers – plastic, wire cheapies from the dry cleaners, sturdy wooden numbers. But lined up together, their different sizes actually encourage mess because clothes sit differently on each. If you can afford it, buying matching hangers makes all the difference in the world. The uniformity makes your closet look more organized instantly.

SOLUTION #6: SMELL THE PART

If you have shoes and clothes in the same closet, either keep the door open as much as possible or tuck in some sachets or ribbons sprayed with your favorite perfume. After all your efforts, do you really want your clothes smelling like guy shoes?

Rothschild is founder and CEO of Cross It Off Your List, a New York organizing service.