How often do you recommend doing a closet rotation?
I do mine twice a year -- once for spring and summer, and once for fall and winter. How often you do it is up to you, but establishing a routine is key. While you’re packing everything up, set a date for your next rotation -- schedule an all-day event in your phone or Google calendar, or stick a note somewhere you look every day, like your underwear drawer. Even if you change the date later, at least it’ll be on your radar!
In the interim, establish systems to keep things under control. A donation bin in your closet or a “needs replacing” list on your phone will ensure that you’re not overlooking things you need -- or overrun by things you don’t. When the big day comes, take your time and really dig into it. Remember, you don’t have to do it all in one day!
Walk us through your tried-and-true method.
First, pull everything out of your closets and drawers. I recommend actually emptying them for a gut-clean. Dust shelves; wipe out drawers; sweep in closet corners. This is also a great time to give your closet a fresh coat of paint and upgrade your hangers. You obviously don’t need to do this twice a year, but it has to happen sometime -- and it’ll definitely make you feel more organized!
Next, inspect every item for rips or stains. Sort your clothes into piles for cleaning, repairs, donation, and consignment. Wash everything -- dry-clean sweaters and silks, even if you’ve only worn them once. A good rule of thumb is to not pack anything you wouldn’t want to unpack. You want to give your future self a gift, not a hideous mess to clean up!
How should these items be stored?
Neatly fold everything in watertight plastic bins. You may want to use acid-free paper for crease-prone fabrics, fragile beading, or embroidery, but most things just can go straight in there. Include an insect repellent and sachet packet -- mothballs stink, but I’m a fan of Moth-Away herbal repellent. Remove dry-cleaned items from the plastic, which can actually melt into clothes stashed near heaters or in stuffy attics.
If you have an extra closet -- say, in a guest room -- you can just move things back and forth on their hangers, or get a rolling rack and cover your clothes with garment bags. I wouldn’t recommend cardboard boxes as a long-term storage option, though. Bugs can get in, and there’s no real protection from moisture.
Where else can those who are short on space stash their stuff?
Under the bed is great -- use risers to create more space if you need it. Wide, flat bins can even go under the couch. An upper closet shelf is perfect for things you may need to access during the off-season. You can even incorporate storage into your decor -- a decorative box on a shelf or table could hold swimsuits in the winter and gloves in the summer. I’ve even seen sweaters vacuum-packed and wedged into the space between the wall and the TV cabinet!
If you’re going to stick things all over, make a master list of what lives where so you can find it again when you need it. Keep your lifestyle in mind when packing up too. If you take a yearly ski trip in May or spend New Year’s in the Bahamas, create a “capsule wardrobe” with seasonal clothes and equipment. You can store it right next to your suitcase so it's easy to find when you're packing.
What are the challenges of organizing a space that isn't your own?
You can’t just tell someone to get organized. Systems that seem obvious to an orderly person aren’t that way for someone who doesn’t have that natural instinct -- it would be like my husband saying, “Come on, just change the oil in your car!” with no instruction. Most of my clients are smart, busy people who have lots of stuff and don’t know where to start, or face distractions that make it tough to finish once they do.
My challenge is to figure out how their brain works. How their home flows. How they use their papers, clothes, kitchens, and toys. It’s not about getting rid of everything -- it’s about investigating how people live their lives and feel about their things. Only then can I create a personalized system that will equip them to make those decisions themselves after I leave. People who don’t know what they need will buy things they don’t. What they really need is a process.
In the mood to get organized? Watch Martha reveal the secrets to properly storing and organizing a closet's worth of shoes, belts, pants, and more.
Liz is a Certified Professional Organizer and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). She based in Nashville, Tennessee. For more about Liz or to schedule a consultation, visit her website, A Fresh Space.