by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Some people love doing laundry; they find folding freshly-washed clothes a soothing activity. Others pile their dried clothing on a chair and root around for something to wear from this pile as opposed to putting away their clothes.
Beyond hiring someone to do your laundry and put it away, one of the first things to do if you aren’t happy with your current laundry routine is to figure out where things aren’t working for you.
You forget the clothing in the washing machine, so you have to wash the load a second time before drying it … Set a timer to remind you; don’t just rely on the washing machine buzzer to prompt you toward the next step. If you leave the house while clothes are washing, set a reminder on your phone to go off when you plan to get home. Or, leave a big note someplace obvious.
You have so many loads of laundry waiting to be washed, you don’t know when you’ll be able to do it all … Either hire one-time help or plan to do it yourself. If you have a dozen loads to wash, fitting in one might not seem like much help, but it means you won’t be adding that load to your to-do list. Keep at it because you’re making new dirty clothes every day. Remember, you can do something else while the clothes are washing and drying.
Also, and this may sound counterintuitive – own less clothing so you do laundry more often. Having a lot of clothing means that you have a lot of clean clothing to wear so the dirty stuff can pile up to intimidating proportions. Then, you have to put away all that clean clothing and you may not have space to put it all (because you’ve gotten used to having big piles of dirty laundry, you have more clothing than will fit in your closet and drawers).
You can’t motivate yourself to put away your clothing … First, what’s your expectation? If you think that you have to fold clothing, but you hate folding clothing, then hang everything that you can and toss the rest in a drawer. Professional organizers who like fold clothing will tell people to fold their clothing. Those organizers who find hanging clothing easier, will recommend that. So, whatever advice you hear, go with what works for you.
Do you have space near your dryer where you can put up a clothing rack and hang things as they come out of the dryer? That way, you move clothing, on their hangers, right into your closet. Then, you remove the empty hangers from the closet and put them in your laundry room.
No space to hang clothes as they come out of the dryer? (Me either.) Unfortunately, you just have to choose to hang and put away your clothing. Set a timer, try to finish within the space of two or three songs, make it a game.
You wish everyone in your house would put away their clothing … Announce that things are changing. If you’ve always put away everyone’s clothing, don’t assume that they’ll know how to do it based on your example. You may need to teach skills such as putting clothing on a hanger and how to keep similar items together so it will be easier to make clothing selections.
Will things be messier than how you did them? Likely. You can offer help a few times so to demonstrate how to do the task. And then, step back. Is your 12-year-old mortified that they have to wear a wrinkled shirt to school? That’s a logical consequence of not hanging up clothing and leaving it in a pile.
You wish you had a laundry routine, but you don’t know where to start … Figure out how many loads of laundry you do each week, including things like towels and sheets. Weeks may differ but try to estimate the average loads you do.
Next, consider if you have time to do two loads of laundry in a day or if you’d prefer to do one load. Divide your loads of laundry by days to figure out how often you need to do laundry, so the work doesn’t back up.
Then, decide if you’ll do laundry in the morning or the evening (or wash in the morning and dry in the evening). If you live in an apartment, you may end up choosing the time that works around other people’s schedules.
Make the decision to stick with this routine. Give yourself a little treat for doing the laundry – you watch a half-hour sitcom while folding clothes, you get to sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine for ten minutes, you talk on the phone while putting away laundry. The goal of the treat is to make the chore a bit more pleasant.
How have you streamlined your laundry routine? Share your tip in the comment section below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
At the end of this article, you’ll find links to items on Amazon. I have them here to help clarify the types of items I’m describing. However, if you do buy any of these items, please note that as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Remember, before you start organizing your closet and drawers, you want to sort through what you have and eliminate the things you don’t, won’t, or can’t wear. Avoid buying organizing tools or systems before seeing what clothing you are keeping. In fact, I’d even suggest living with your newly decluttered closet for at least a few weeks so you have a better sense of what’s working for you and what could work a bit better.
Simplifying what's in your closet and how you store those items saves time and stress getting dressed each morning, saves you money when you don't purchase items you already own, and even saves you time putting away items after you've done the laundry.
To Fold or To Hang Your Clothing?
Years ago, I was looking into renting an apartment attached to the side of the house (an in-law apartment). There was the kitchen, bedroom, and living room. In the living room were two doors. I thought it would be a bit awkward to have my closet in the living room, but I would deal with the minor inconvenience. Since there was someone living in the apartment when I walked through, I didn’t bother to open the closet doors.
Well, was I surprised when I moved in and went to hang some clothing only to realize that these weren’t really closets. Instead these were doors that once led into the main house, only they’d been blocked off. The space behind the doors, the “closet” was scarcely a foot deep. The only rod to hang items was in an open area set opposite the front door.
That was when I learned to fold nearly everything so I could store it in the dressers I owned.
So, the way I see it, folding or hanging clothing is a situational and personal choice.
What space do you have? If you have limited closet space, then it will make more sense to fold clothing into drawers or cubbies. If you don’t have space for a dresser, then hang items. Have a closet and a dresser? Store items in a way that you will consistently store them. (So, it you hate folding tee shirts, hang them.)
If you do decide to fold clothing, I highly recommend that you look at a few videos on YouTube to see the best way to fold different items. Folding clothing the proper way takes up less space. Store folded clothing vertically so you can see everything at a glance as opposed to stacking folded items horizontally in drawers.
If you store folded items in cubbies or other open shelves, where you have to stack the items, don’t stack the items too high just because you have the space. Think about displays in stores where a customer pulls an item from the bottom of the pile and the entire display starts to look horrible fairly fast. You don’t want your closet or drawers to look rummaged through just because you were trying to get dressed.
Sort by Item or Color
Your goal in organizing your clothing is to make it easier to get dressed. If you create a system that doesn’t work, you’ll know because you won’t put anything away. It might be annoying to rearrange things, but after decluttering your closet, it won’t take that long.
Keep similar items together so you can compare your options. Keep button-down shirts together, jeans together, etc. If you have, say, casual skirts, work skirts, and dressy skirts, you can keep all your skirts together and group them into subcategories.
If your casual wardrobe is very different from your work wardrobe, you might want to store these distinct wardrobes in separate areas of your closet and then group items by piece within their area. The same goes for dressy items that get worn a few times a year – you can group those pieces together instead of mixing the components in with similar items.
Again, what makes sense for you?
Do you need to group clothing by colors? There is a trend that seems to have started with Marie Kondo, a professional organizer from Japan, to hang clothing from dark to light, left to right. The visual appeal of clothing hung this way is quite attractive. However, I’d rather have items like short-sleeved tops or cardigans grouped together so I can decide which one I want to wear as opposed to looking for items by color.
You’ll often see the suggestions to buy matching hangers. I’d suggest that you look through what you have and try to use one type of hanger. Why? It’s not just aesthetics. I think using similar hangers slide more easily along the clothes rod. Also, if you store an item on a thin hanger between items on thicker hangers, you might overlook what’s on the thinner hanger.
Velvet hangers are good for slippery items but can make it difficult for kids or older individuals to hang clothing. If you have clothing that slides off its hangers, look for hangers with notches at the shoulder, which I think are easier to use than velvet hangers.
You might also want to use space saver hangers that allow you to store items in tiers or multiple layers. In some cases, you need to open these organizing tools so you can hang the items, and then you collapse the hanger. This might be difficult to use it you don’t have the space to properly expand the item so you can fit clothes onto the hangers. I have mixed thoughts about these types of hangers. They seem like a great way to fit more items into a closet, but if you don’t have the space to get the items on or off these hangers, they won’t work for you.
If You Use Your Closet for Home Storage
If you live someplace with limited storage, then you might have to use your closet to store sheets and towels, paper files, sentimental items, and so on. Most articles on closet organization will tell you to keep items not related to clothing out of your clothes closet. However, that can't always be helped. If this is the case (it is with me), try to designate one area of the closet for clothing and shoes and another area for home storage as opposed to interspersing items.
With the exception of coats and jackets that you want to grab on your way out the door and bins of seasonal clothes that get packed away, try to avoid storing your clothing in multiple locations throughout your home. Don’t look at your child’s or spouse’s closet as the perfect space for your overflow wardrobe. Keep what you own together so you know what you have. This can save you from buying duplicates of items that you already own.
Clothing storage should be based on what will work for you. The best system is the one that you can maintain.
Check out my Pinterest board on Simplifying Your Wardrobe for ideas on creating a capsule wardrobe and organizing, your closet.
Decluttering Clothing that You've Never Worn
How to Declutter Clothing While Being Gentle on Yourself
As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
Marie Kondo’s books and Netflix show has a lot of people convinced that the only way they can declutter their clothing is to gather every stitch of their clothing and sort through it all at once. This isn’t a new technique. Pretty much ever article or video you’ll find on decluttering your closet suggests that you need to go through the process at one time. And, yes, it’s easier to see what you have and compare items when you bring everything together.
However, depending on how much clothing you own, it’s a downright intimidating prospect to face every stitch of clothing sitting in a big pile in the middle of your room. I’ll discuss how to sort through your wardrobe in a day as well as how to sort through your clothing category-by-category over multiple days.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.
Before You Start
Don’t buy any organizing tools or closet systems before you declutter. You don’t know what you’ll have after sorting through what you really wear. You want to keep the clothing that you enjoy wearing as opposed to keeping items just because they fit in your closet.
When to Sort Off-Season Clothing
If you pack away off-season clothing, you don’t have to don’t have to sort through those items now, unless you want. Use the change of season as your opportunity to sort through these items.
Before you pack away these items, consider if you wore everything and if the items are still in good condition. Then, when you pull out the items to integrate into your closet and drawers for the appropriate season, check through the items again to confirm that you are looking forward to wearing the items in the upcoming months.
Option 1: Sort Your Clothing All at Once
If you have a day (or at lease a good chunk of a day) to devote to your closet and drawers, fill your water bottle, grab some snacks, put on some upbeat music, and turn on all the lights in the room and open the drapes to let in the sun. Then, take a deep breath and dive in. Every half hour or so, take a drink of water, go to the bathroom, walk out of the room for five minutes. Have something to eat every couple of hours.
What’s up with all the breaks and snacks? You’ll be making a lot of decisions and there are some theories that suggest lowered glucose (blood sugar) levels can make it harder to make decisions … and making numerous decisions lowers your willpower (fueled by glucose). Think about it. Even if you touch two items a minute, in an hour you’ve handled and made decisions on 120 items!
Chances are, just pulling everything out of your closet and drawers … and checking to make sure you didn’t have stuff stored in another closet or room, made you feel a bit overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff you own. Unless you regularly declutter your closet, you’ll have a lot of stuff.
Sorting your entire wardrobe in a day allows you to make comparisons, notice duplicates, and see what your style is. A weird perk is identifying all the places in your home where you store clothing. Except for off-season clothing, you want everything in a single place. If you keep clothing in numerous rooms, maybe using a part of your spouse’s or kid’s closet, then you’ve been trying to hide from yourself how much clothing you really own.
Option 2: Sort through Your Clothing Category-by-Category
If you dread the idea of pulling out every stitch of clothing and spending the day sorting it all, you can also work category-by-category. This may take a little more time, but the advantage is that you can squeeze in 10-to-20-minutes every evening for a week or two and be done with the process without feeling quite as overwhelmed.
Also, if you have health issues that affect your energy level, this way is kinder to you.
The key to sorting and decluttering your clothing in this way is you still want to remove items from your closet or drawers. No rearranging items hanging in your closet. So, on tank top day, gather all your tank tops on your bed and sort through what you have. Work your way through tee shirts, blouses, cardigans, jackets, skirts, dresses, pants, jeans, shorts, undergarments, socks, footwear, group-by-group.
Don’t worry if you overlook an item and don’t discover it until you’re working on another category of items. Check the condition of the item and put it in your donation bag or store it with its group.
Piles of clothing are heavy, so don't toss your donations in the largest bags that you can buy. If you want to sell some items or give a few pieces to people you know, don't put those garments back in your closet.
Attach a note to the items, specifying what you want to do with them and by when. Give yourself that deadline so you don't hold onto the items for another six months!
However, if you aren’t actively losing weight, consider if you really need multiple sizes of items that don’t fit. A little tight or a little loose may work on different days. Keeping items two or more sizes tighter or looser only makes it more difficult to get dressed, not to mention demoralizing when you pull on something that doesn’t fit.
Ultimately you want a wardrobe filled with clothing that you enjoy wearing and that suits your activities.
Organizing Your Closet
Remember, you need to sort through all the items in your closet before trying to organize them … which is the topic for the next article.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
Although you’ve seen the suggestion that you should remove any clothing from your closet that still has the price tag attached, that tip annoys you. You spent money on those items. You thought you’d wear them. At the time you bought the item, you were excited that you grabbed the item at a fantastic clearance price, but now you’d rather not think that you spent money on something that you’ve never worn.
You know you won’t wear the garments and you should clear them out of your closet; but, part of you still resists. The clothing items aren’t really the issue; instead, it’s your thoughts that need the decluttering.
The Item Is Uncomfortable
You wore the item once (or for part of a day). Maybe the fabric was itchy or for some reason the item rides up when you move. You might find yourself focusing on an embellishment or detail that gets in your way every time you move your head. You weren’t bothered by these details during the sixty seconds you wore the item in the dressing room, but once you got the item home you realized you were distracted by that annoying detail.
Acknowledge that the item will never become more comfortable. If you have time (and the receipt) to return the item, you can decide to take that option. If it’s a high-end item, you could try to sell it online or at a local consignment shop. Or, donate it so someone else can enjoy it. You won’t get more value by holding onto the item.
The Tags Are on the Item
If you bought the item to wear in an upcoming season, take off the tags and make the item yours. Keep these new items with the others for that season so you don’t forget clothing that you’ve left in a shopping bag.
What if you bought the item more than a year ago and you realize you aren’t going to wear it? Sell it online or bring it to a consignment shop if you have the time to try and recoup some of what you spent. Otherwise, donate the item.
Acknowledge that it was shopping for the item (not wearing it) that served a purpose – such as showing you what colors you don’t like or what styles you don’t feel comfortable wearing. I know, it’s frustrating to think of the money you spent on something you’ve never worn, so consider what you learned from the experience.
If you find that you regularly buy stuff that is marked to clearance prices, then the thrill of finding the deal was what you paid for. You could think of it like spending money on a movie ticket or to attend an event. You were buying an experience.
If you don’t like the sound of that, you can choose to avoid shopping for fun, when bored, or to have something to do. However, if you still enjoy the experience of shopping (and you can afford to do so), consider “adopting” a local charity so you are focusing your purchases on the needs of the men or women who need business attire or teen girls who can’t afford to buy a prom dress.
The Items Are Unrealistic for Your Current Lifestyle
Do you buy clothing that is a size or two too small, so it will be an incentive to lose weight? Do you buy dressy party clothes because you think you’d be happier if you went to more clubs or events that call for sequins? But, do you really spend your weekends gardening and reading books? Do you buy tailored classics because they seem so practical while you’d rather wear peasant tops and flowing print skirts?
Again, use your past purchases as lessons as to what you truly find comfortable to wear. An outfit shoved into your closet probably won’t be an incentive to change your life. If you find that you do make the same types of purchases for the life you aspire to (as opposed to how you currently live), consider if you really want to make these changes.
It’s natural to fear change. You can consider if you are comfortable with your life (but outside pressure makes you feel that you should want to change); or, if you need to steel yourself and take a step toward being the person who would wear this dream clothing.
Take the First Step to Decluttering Your Closet
Without pulling everything out of your closet, look for items that you won’t or can’t wear and take them out of the closet. Remember, you aren’t wearing these items and so you aren’t losing anything by eliminating them. (If the item has sentimental value, move it to a memory box as opposed to keeping it with the clothing you wear all the time.)
If there are items that you want to sell online or bring to a consignment shop, give yourself a deadline for when you’ll do this – and note that date in your planner or on your calendar. Fill bags with your donations, pop them into your car and take them to your local donation center … or, go online to schedule a pick up at your home.
Simplifying your wardrobe saves you time getting dressed in the morning, streamlines your laundry routine, and makes it easier to see what you like wearing (so you can save yourself future errant purchases). Next week, I’ll focus on decluttering your closet when you don’t have the time or energy to pull everything out all at once. For now, visit the Pinterest board I’ve set up on Simplifying Your Wardrobe.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.