It can’t just be me that struggles with this, is it? And to clarify, I’m not talking about organising by way of Marie Kondo-type clearing and streamlining your wardrobe; I’m referring to what you do with what’s left after that! How do you remember what you have and what goes with what and where to put them all? Did I miss the secondary school class on that? Is it supposed to be passed on in your DNA? It seems a bit silly and I wasn’t sure whether to write a post about it, but I genuinely had to look this up on the internet for ideas when I realised my current set-up wasn’t working for me… so here’s what I came up with, in case anyone else needs the same tips:
A little background…
I have to confess that for someone that makes clothes, I don’t know much about “wardrobes”. Growing up in the Middle East meant a very, very tiny collection of expensive imported western-style clothes (mostly Benetton and BHS) and the likelihood that a sizeable proportion of the other girls in your tiny school would have the same item. So we waited until we got back to the UK for a holiday and stocked up as we could.
As a typically impoverished student in my early 20s and then a fairly low-salaried worker through the rest of my 20s and into my 30s, I couldn’t really afford tons of clothes then either and, besides, I honestly preferred spending the money on travelling anyway.
Now in my 40s, it’s true to say that I probably have more clothes than I’ve ever had at any one time in my life. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not crazy crazy, but I have enough that I forget about some of them on a regular basis (that is doubtless due to the inevitable encroachment of old age on my memory as well).
The Process – Sorting
My process to date has been to sort my clothes according to type: dresses, coats, activewear, casual tops, shirts, etc. and to store them in the appropriate space – cupboard for hanging, drawers for folding, on the bedroom floor as default (got to be honest). I’ve never really given it much more thought than that – at least until I started sewing. Now it frustrates me slightly that I can’t match things properly and I forget what I have. I tried downloading the “Your Closet” app, where you take photos of your clothes and can then not only keep track of them, but also put together outfits and wardrobes virtually. It’s a cool concept, but it didn’t really work for me. I got VERY bored taking the pictures in the first place (I didn’t get very far) and then I never opened the thing. I think I’m just more hands-on in this instance.
The first thing I did was (you know what’s coming) take out ALL my clothes and spread them around the spare bedroom floor, much to my husband’s dismay. He’s well aware of my housework deficiencies and feared we’d never see the floor again. But actually, this is something that’s been needing done for a while, and the coronavirus lockdown actually gives me the perfect opportunity to do so. We have guests on a fairly regular basis normally, so I never have enough time to really spread out and assess.
The Process – Research
At this point, I worked out about 526 different ways to categorise my clothes, but none of them really seemed more appealing than the other, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I hit the internet and read any articles I could find. There actually weren’t that many, but I found a range of ideas, and they mostly said much the same thing, just with slightly different categories. Some really gave me a “doh – why didn’t I think of that?” moment:
I divided my clothes into piles:
I separated them into types of garments (dresses, skirts etc.) still, but also into “occasion” and “everyday”. This makes so much sense and has already saved me a lot of time choosing an outfit. I’m pretty sure it will save me time when we can go out again and I need to choose something to wear from that, too.
Next, I separated them into “cold weather” and “warm weather”. Some sites suggested “out of season” or “winter” and “summer”, but here in Washington, we get all four seasons and the most important thing is to be able to layer. It never gets very hot or very cold for prolonged periods, so I really only separated out very heavy jumpers, winter coats and snow-wear. If you live in more extreme climates, this may be more of a division for you.
Another thing I did was make a little piles that were either “too small” (but I still want to wear them), “charity/refuse” and a final little pile for “mending”. I did a cull on my clothes last year, so these piles were really pretty small, but I tried to be fairly ruthless nevertheless.
The Process – Storing
The mending got taken through to my sewing room, where it will doubtless sit in another pile for all eternity. The charity/refuse got sorted into bags for donation when we can do so again after lockdown is lifted. For the “too small” and out of season clothes – in this case heavy sweater, thick coats, etc. – I purchased some vacuum pack bags in which to store them, and did so, labelling each one with its category.
Upon reflection, I would say my main annoyance with the previous set-up is that I couldn’t see my clothes properly in one main area. I needed all my garments in easy reach, and preferably visible, so that I can could up with outfits quickly and clearly.
“Everyday clothes” is obviously my most-used and most-important category, so I focused on this first. I bought one of those hanging foldable shelving units and took my shoe unit out of the cupboard, putting it elsewhere in the bedroom. Then I hung up every shirt and dress that came into that category, and hung them in colour order. Next, I folded all my trousers and skirts and put them in the bottom spaces of the hanging unit. Above those, there was space for tees and vest tops. Honestly – pretty much all of my day-to-day closet!
The other categories fell into place pretty quickly after that. I put all my going out clothes in another wardrobe. These two huge wardrobes came with our house, so I used them, but I think I could probably squeeze it all into one, if need be.
The only wearable categories left on the floor now were: activewear, nightwear and top layers (light cardigans, sweaters) for spring/summer. I gave these a drawer each and folded them so I could see every item at a glance. As you can see, there’s plenty of space left.
And honestly – that’s about it! I put the vacuum-packed bags on the floor of the wardrobe and I’ve been using this system since. I hadn’t purposefully set out to rearrange in time for Me-Made May, but when I realised it was almost that time again, I was really happy I had. One of the many things I love about Me-Made May is trying out new outfit combos and my re-ordering has made it much more fun. If you got this far, then I guess you’re not one of those people that had this all under their belt by the age of 12 and I hope it’s of some interest. If you have any other cool tips or ideas, do let me know in the comments!