Linda Johnston, a 60-year-old with grown children who lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon, loves collecting beautiful things and loathes parting with anything. She describes her aesthetic as “cluttered” – and wouldn’t have it any other way. One thing she could do without, however, is the mountain of shoes spilling out of her bedroom closet. Lynda has collected more than 200 pairs, and most are stowed in their original boxes on the floor and shelf of her bedroom closet and in the closet of a spare room. “Sometimes when I’m going somewhere special,” she says, “I have to look the night before to find the shoes I want.” Finding the right pair is like playing a game of Concentration: She must remember which shoes are in which box in which closet. Lynda aims to weed out shoes she no longer wears at least a couple of times a year but usually doesn’t get far. She works part-time managing the accounts of a family contracting business and says, “I have to push myself to tidy up in my spare time. I’d rather unwind.”
Imposing order on a shoe collection is impossible until you know which ones you really need. Pull out a few pairs at a time, try on each pair, and ask yourself; Do they fit comfortably? Do I like them? Do I have clothes that match? If the shoes are shabby, can they be repaired? If you answer no to any of these questions, put the shoes in the donation box. You’ll probably never miss them.
Sort what’s left into three groups – fall and winter, spring and summer, and special occasions. Keep the in-season shoes readily accessible – on a rack in the bottom of your closet, in a hanging canvas shoe bag, or on an over-the-door or wall-mounted rack. Store out-of-season and special-occasion shoes in clear plastic boxes or cubbies at the top of a closet or in a spare room. When the seasons change, move the shoes at the bottom of the closet up top and the ones on top, down.
When buying shoe racks or boxes, buy more then you need. That way new purchases will end up tidily stowed rather than heaped on the closet floor.
If you want to keep your shoe collection permanently pared down, buy with versatility in mind. If you want just one pair of evening shoes, buy metallic ones, which are more versatile than black. Mid-heel pumps, delicate soled flats, and knee-high rather than ankle, boots can work with pants and skirts.