Advice From a Pro Organizer: Fall Closet Cleaning

published Sep 13, 2012
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People always think of the new year as the perfect time to clean out closets, but professional organizer and declutterer Nicole Anzia of Washington DC-based Neatnik prefers to do it after Labor Day. “I always think of fall as a new beginning. Summer is over, kids are back at school and everyone else resumes a “normal” schedule in September. Plus, the weather is about to turn crisp, so what better time to clean out your closets?” Here are Nicole’s tips for cleaning out your closet as we move into Autumn:

Take Inventory

First, take everything out of your closet so you can clean the floor and baseboards. Meanwhile, pull out all your storage containers and piles of winter and fall stuff from last year and spread them out on a bed or put aside. Place empty storage containers to the side (these will be used for storing your summer things!). Then, start sorting clothing into piles:

  • to keep
  • to store for next summer
  • to donate
  • to toss

Know When To Say Goodbye

Swimsuits, beach cover-ups, shorts, linen skirts and pants and sandals can all be stored in bins. But summer is hard on clothes. Chlorine, sand, sunscreen and sweat wear out clothes quickly. Do not store things that are clearly worn out, only the things that are in good shape. If you’ve worn holes in your flip-flops during the past three months, toss them and start fresh next summer.

“I have had many clients who keep a few items of clothing purely for sentimental reasons. They don’t plan to wear the piece ever again, but somehow the item provides an ounce of comfort to them. If you absolutely MUST keep that dress you wore to your friend’s 30th birthday party or the sweater you were wearing on Election Day 2008, don’t keep it in your closet with all the clothes you wear regularly.”

If there are items that you considered wearing this past summer, but never actually put on, chances are, you’re not going to wear them next summer either. Clear them out.

For women, hats and purses can be an easy thing to accumulate during the summer months. They make great impulse buys and are often only worn once. If you find yourself with 6 different straw hats and 8 different woven purses, winnow them down to 2 or 3.

Find a Home For Summer Storage

Your bins of summer clothes can be stored on a top shelf in your closet if you have space. Even though you think you’ll remember what’s in that bin, label it anyway. Then you’ll be all set when the temperature starts heating up next spring. If you don’t have extra room in your closet, consider an under-the-bed bin.

Take an Autumn Wardrobe Inventory

Now you’ll have space for neatly folded sweaters and pants, as well as hanging space for long-sleeved shirts, winter dresses, skirts, and suits. Take an inventory of your fall and winter wardrobe and make sure that everything will fit, is not too worn out, and that you have things that you will actually enjoy wearing. If you didn’t wear it last fall, you probably won’t wear it now.

It’s not too early to find your winter boots, coat and all of your other cold weather accessories. “I know it is still 70 degrees outside, but before you know it, we’ll all be celebrating Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Make sure you have a matching pair of gloves and that you didn’t lose your favorite hat from last winter. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to find the things you need during that first cold snap,” says Nicole.

Tackle the Hall Closet

The same steps can be applied to the hall or entryway closet. If you’ve been storing sun hats, sandals and sunscreen in you hall closet since June, it’s time to make way for hats, mittens and bulky coats. If the hanging rod in your hall closet is high enough to give you ample space beneath your coats, consider putting a small portable drawer unit on the floor to hold gloves, mittens and hats. If there’s not space on your floor, consider an over-the-door shoe storage bag to hold those items. If your hall closet is tiny, consider putting a small dresser in your entryway to corral all your winter accessories.

Keep Imelda Marcos Out Of Your Hall Closet!

To keep your entryway closet under control this fall and winter, limit the number of pairs of shoes that each person can keep there. Even though most people have somewhere between 15-20 pairs of shoes, they probably wear 2 pairs 85% of the time. Overflow shoes should be kept in the bedroom closet. Likewise, the hallway closet is not the place for 16 pairs of mittens and every hat you’ve owned since 1993. Choose the two pairs of gloves and one hat that each person wears most often and store the others. Shoe cabinets like this one are a great way to store shoes when space is at a minimum.

Oops, Kids Tend to Grow Over the Summer!

If you have small children, get out all the gear from last year and make sure it still fits your kids. Things that are too small can be passed along to friends and family members, but you have to catch them before they go out and buy all new winter gear. Or, you can donate the items to one of the many non-profits in your area that will certainly be requesting those donations for families in need.

“Once you’ve taken these few easy steps, you’ll have a better sense of what you need to be ready for fall and winter. But with a closet filled with sundresses and seersuckers, you may find it harder to prepare for the cold weather that lies ahead.”

For more of Nicole’s organizing tips, visit Neatnik. Nicole also has a great organizing column in the Washington Post worth checking out!

– Re-edited from a post originally published 9.13.2012 – CM