There's no better time than the beginning of a new year to organize (and optimize) your closet. Not only does a clean slate feel particularly desirable, your social calendar is often calmer at the beginning of January, what with chilly temperatures and the absence of holiday parties. While the task can feel daunting, it's worth the effort as you'll reap the rewards for months. Not only will getting dressed be faster (read: no digging through disorganized drawers), you'll be less inclined to impulsively purchase items you already own multiple variations of, or worse, don't work with existing pieces in your closet.
Beyond the practical, having a clearly organized space is great for your overall wellbeing. As Julia Pinsky, founder of closet organization service Pinsky Project points out, "Having a refined, decluttered space reduces stress, saves you time, and increases efficiency." While we don't all have the space or budget to bring in specialists and build custom storage, there are plenty of easy-to-apply tricks that make a huge difference. Stylist Rachel Zoe, a client of Pinksy, swears by a few simple steps, as well as some gut-check questions she's learned throughout her career of building other people's wardrobes.
Donate What You Don't Wear
"If you haven't worn it in the past year, get rid of it," says Zoe. Pinsky also advises to be ruthless and "remove those 'just in case' items because its not worth the stress the clutter creates." Items that fall into this category include styles that are no longer current, no longer fit you properly, or never seem quite right when the opportunity to wear them comes up. Set up a clothes swap with friends, sell them to an online consignment store like The Real Real, Vestiaire Collective, Rebag or localized stores like Buffalo Exchange for a profit you can put towards future purchases, or donate them to a local shelter or Goodwill. Never simply put pieces in the trash, as clothing is one of the biggest landfill contributors. (America generates 14 million tons of textile waste each year, 85 percent of which end up in landfills, with most pieces taking over 30 years to decompose.) Some stores will exchange pieces for credit, like Madewell, which will take used denim from any brand and turn it into housing insulation for communities in need in exchange for $20 towards a new pair.
Prioritize Your Uniform
Be honest with yourself when it comes to your daily uniform. Are you most comfortable in jeans and a blazer, or do you always reach for a dress? "A good way to find out what you're really wearing regularly is to document your outfits for a month, then revisit the pictures," says Zoe. Once you've ascertained your tried-and-true formulas, put them in prime position in your closet. "You're reaching for them most often, so have them front and center," says Zoe. The same goes for shoes and bags.
Organize By Category Then Color
The exact method of organization depends on your space. If you have ample hanging space, hang everything including jeans and even long boots. If you're tighter on space, consider renting a storage unit for off-season pieces, or invest in containers for under-bed storage. Once you've weeded out the items taking up unnecessary space and figured out the items you want closest to hand, Zoe recommends arranging the rest by category then color so you can really see what you've got. Keep knits folded and stack shoes toe to heel. "I personally don't find labelled boxes to be functional, so organizing shoes with one foot facing in and one out, saves space while keeping them visible," says Zoe.
Rather than jumping on every incoming trend, be thoughtful and calculated about what you add to your closet. Refresh overused and tired staples, like white blouses and black ankle boots, instead of buying armfuls of fast fashion pieces you'll only wear once or twice. As Pinksy says, "The best way to enjoy your favorite things is to only own your favorite things."