Earlier this month I wrote about my latest closet clearout, so today I thought I’d show you how I organise everything that made the final cut. Which was a LOT, just so you know: again, this is NOT a capsule wardrobe. I repeat: NOT A CAPSULE WARDROBE. Ahem.
Before I get on to the actual closet organization bit, though, a couple of points:
o1. This post was mostly inspired by a question I received over at my other blog, ShoeperWoman, this week. I installed a new ‘Questions’ plugin over there recently, so people can make suggestions for things they want to see on the site, so feel free to use it, if there’s anything you particularly want to know (it doesn’t have to be about clothes, it can be anything at all!): there’s a category specifically for ‘Forever Amber questions’, so I’ll know where you came from, and can make sure I answer on the right blog!
02. My closet is smaller and narrower than it looks: it’s pretty much impossible to take photos inside it, because there’s just not enough room to fit everything in the frame. Because of that, I’ve had to use the super-wide setting on my GoPro to get these shots, and that’s why the walls look curved in most of them: I promise I don’t actually have curvy walls, although, to be honest, it would be pretty cool if I did, wouldn’t it? (Oh, and this is also why these photos are such low-quality: normally when I take outfit photos in here, I have to squeeze both of my studio lights in AND use a flash & diffuser, to make it bright enough to shoot: when I’m taking photos of the room itself, though, I couldn’t get all that stuff in without it being in the photos, so only one light made it in, and it just wasn’t enough for decent photos. I’ll stop apologising now, though, because everyone hates that, don’t they?)
Anyway! Here are my closet organization tips!
Everything in plain sight
I should probably start here by saying I’m extremely fortunate in that my “closet” is actually a spare bedroom, which means I have plenty of space for all of my clothes and accessories. When we moved into our house, we decided that, rather than allow the smallest bedroom to turn into the junkroom it would otherwise have become, we may as well make use of the space by putting in some custom-built shelves (which Terry made himself, to fit the space), plus clothing rails, shelves and drawers, all of which came from Ikea. (It’s all from the Ikea Stolmen system, for anyone who’s interested: it was discontinued in the UK last year, but I think you can still get it in other parts of the world).
(I’m just going to pause here quickly while you all judge me for having so many clothes and shoes I needed an entire room.)
(Ready to move on? OK, good…)
When we were planning the layout of this closet, my main idea was to have as many of my clothes in plain sight as I possibly could. In our previous house, I’d had so little storage that I’d had to constantly rotate between winter and summer clothes, so at least 50% of my clothes would be in storage in the attic at any given time. I know that kind of system works for a lot of people, but while it definitely has its advantages, it just didn’t work all that well for me.
Why not? Well, not only did the twice-yearly switchovers take up way more of my time than I really wanted to spend on organizing clothes, the fact that I live in the UK means that we just don’t really GET seasons, to be perfectly honest. I mean, I really wish we did, but nope: it’s pretty much cold and wet all year round here, and although you’d think that would mean I could at least pack away all my summer stuff without worrying about having to drag it all out again, you’d be wrong. It’s never warm here in the winter (or in the summer, actually), but winter is when we like to take beach holidays, so there were still times when I’d pack away the sundresses and shorts, only to have to drag them all out again a few weeks later. And yes, I’m well aware that this is possibly the most “first world” of all imaginable problems, so dry your eyes, folks: I obviously coped just fine, but when we moved I wanted to organize my closet so I had easy access to everything. That was also the logic behind my next tip, which is this:
Hang rather than fold
Almost my entire closet is based around hanging rails, rather than shelves or drawers. I do HAVE drawers (I feel like there’s a lingerie-based joke just begging to be made here, but I’ll leave that to you…) : there are two in this room, and another couple of units in my bedroom, which I use for lingerie, nightwear, workout gear, and accessories. Everything else, however, gets hung up, and I do mean everything else: even things like jeans, tank tops and t-shirts. The decision to have rails rather than shelves was partly down to the fact that a large part of my wardrobe consists of skirts and dresses, which really have to be hung up. There are, however, two other reasons for it:
It minimizes the need for ironing.
Now, I know ironing your clothes is seen as horribly old-fashioned these days, and most people seem to take a great deal of pride in not owning an iron, but I’m the kind of person whose clothes crease as soon as I look at them, and I hate that, so I have to iron them. I might hate wearing creased clothes, mind you, but I ALSO hate ironing, and I find that hanging my clothes rather than folding them keeps them crease-free for longer, so I’m all for that.
It makes me more likely to wear everything I have
For me, folding my clothes, and then stacking them on shelves, or in drawers, is a great way to make sure I wear the same things every damn day, because I basically never reach the bottom of the pile: I just keep on wearing whatever’s on top, washing it, replacing it, then starting again. By hanging as much as possible, I can see everything at a glance, and I’m more likely to actually wear ALL of the clothes I buy, rather than constantly forgetting what’s buried at the back of the drawer.
Once I’d made the decision to hang as much of my clothing as possible, the next question was WHERE to hang it i.e how to arrange everything. There are lots of different ways to organise the clothes within your closet, but for me, the method that’s worked best is to arrange everything by:
a) type – so all the dresses together, all the skirts together, all the tops together, and so on and forth
b) by colour
I’ll be honest: I chose this method of organisation purely because, well, that’s the way that looks best. I have far too much clothing for those rails to ever look “neat”, exactly (I dream of one day having clothes rails that look like they belong in a boutique rather than a crammed closet, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen!), but because I have enough space to be able to see everything, regardless of how I arrange it, I decided to group everything by type/colour, as a way to at least try to impose some sort of order on the clothing chaos. I know some people prefer to organise their clothes by season (so, all the winter stuff together, all the spring stuff together, etc etc), by activity (work clothes together, eveningwear together, etc) or even to group specific outfits together, ready to put on, but in my case all of the different lengths and colours would make the rails look messier than they do anyway, so this method works for me. What works for you obviously might be different, so you might need to experiment a bit at first – I switched things round a few times before I found something I was reasonably happy with, and I’m sure I’ll change it again before too long!
My shoes, meanwhile, are also mostly colour-coded, but I will admit to putting the prettiest ones front and centre, just because they’re the first things I see when I come into the room! I also have the ones I wear least-often on the very top shelves: I have a little wooden step (also from Ikea) which allows me to reach them, and the clothes on the highest rails, easily enough, but it obviously makes sense to have the things you wear most often in a place that’s easy to reach.
When we first moved house, I bought tons of beautiful, wooden hangers which I thought would help me create that “clothing boutique/Khloe Kardashian’s closet” look I was after. Uh-oh. The wooden hangers did look nice, but they took up so much space on the rails that I ended up replacing them with lightweight flocked hangers. They don’t look as good, but I can fit twice as much on the rails now (Not that I would use this as an excuse to buy twice as much clothing, obviously: OF COURSE NOT. I could if I wanted to, though.), and I don’t have to worry about the dress rails collapsing under the sheer weight of the hangers, so c’est la vie. Oh, and my other tip here is to make sure all of your hangers are the same type, and the same brand: sounds silly, but if you buy them all from the same place, not only will they all look the same, they’ll all hang at the same height, too, which makes them look neater. Sometimes it’s the little things that help, you know?
Although my preference is to keep everything in plain sight, so it’s easier to find and harder to forget about, I don’t have quite THAT much space, so I keep my ballet flats and ankle boots on shelves a few inches above the floor:
… and under those, there’s just enough space from some large cardboard boxes, which hold various scarves, gloves and other accessories:
The boxes are all just shipping boxes that various clothes and shoes arrived in: it’s not an ideal system, but I guess it helps prove the point I made above – because I can’t actually see this stuff, I quite often forget I have it!
Keeping things clean
One of the questions I ask most often is how I keep my shoes clean given that they’re out on display all the time. It’s actually easier than you would think: because they’re each in their own “cube”, they don’t seem to attract much dust, and I guess the fact that the room isn’t in constant use helps, too. Obviously anything that’s sitting on a shelf will have to be dusted every so often, but it’s not a huge deal: people are always telling me I should keep the shoes in their boxes, but honestly, I like being able to look at them. In our last house, I used to have clear boxes to hold some of my shoes, but I wasn’t very keen on them: they took up much more space than the shoes themselves would have, and the precarious stacking system meant I was always taking shoes out and then not bothering to replace them, so I prefer my current storage, even with the dusting.
I’ve had my shoes on shelves of some kind for years now (Here are the ones I had in our last house), and my shoes don’t seem to have faded, or otherwise suffered because of it, and neither have my handbags, even although I’m a bad bag-lady, and don’t keep them in their dust bags. With that said, I had to open the blinds to get enough light to take these photos (and it still wasn’t enough – gah!), but I normally keep them tilted at an angle, so none of the shoes/clothes are in direct sunlight. I DO keep most of my handbags stuffed with paper, so they keep their shape (They normally arrive like this, which is handy): it’s a bit of a pain, to be honest, because I have to take out the paper whenever I want to use them, but it’ll hopefully allow them to keep their shape for longer, and maybe go at least some way towards making up for my crimes against dustbags. Or maybe not.
Of course, I should probably have said at the start of this post that my closet is still very much a work-in-progress: one day I’ll consider it “finished” – and maybe one day I’ll manage to get some decent photos of it, too. Just not today, obviously…