Alexis Nielsen Interiors

Spring Organizing: Part I

Relax! You aren’t required to take any action just yet. We will probably get clobbered with at least another month or so of winter, postponing any real spring cleaning activity.  If you are reading this and you live in Hawaii or on some other tropical island, good for you! But stop reading.  This post doesn’t apply to you, you lucky duck.  For the rest of us: depending on whether you are a procrastinator or someone who salivates at the thought of a good project, you’re either booing or cheering right now. But seriously: now is a good time to make a plan to get organized.

Why bother with changing out clothes and such with the seasons? You probably have to move winter clothes to the basement or another closet in order to make room for the new spring stuff anyway. Even those of you blessed with walk in closets will need to do some work moving the winter stuff from front to back. You already have to do some work; why not do it in a way that is more productive? Getting organized is important because it allows you to free up a lot of energy spent ignoring messes and looking for things, so that you can enjoy your home more.

Did you know that by changing your closets from winter to spring that you’re also practicing good feng shui? You’re enhancing new, fresh energy by clearing out the old. Old in this case doesn’t necessarily mean clothes that need to be tossed, although getting rid of clothes you no longer need or use is part of the process. It means rotating your possessions so that you get the best use out of them and nothing gets stale. You’re promoting good chi.

The organizing doesn’t just stop with clothes. You should also rotate your bags, shoes, accessories, jewelry, scarves, tights, and lingerie. Then move on to your coat closet and do the same with your boots, hats, scarves, jackets, wraps. Finally, go through your drawers and pull out fall/winter workout gear, sleepwear and anything you’d wear in winter and not in spring.

So how does the process work? You want to prepare your winter/fall wardrobe for storage and your spring/summer wardrobe for use. So first you go through your winter items and then you bring in your spring items. We’ll start with winter first.

Step one: Go to your closet and take a good look at your current storage. Think about how you use your closet on a daily basis. What do you need more of? Hanging storage? Shoe storage? Places for accessories? Once you have spent some time thinking about how you can best use your closet, take measurements – width x height x depth – and do some storage shopping. Find out how much it costs to have a closet system installed professionally versus installing some new storage yourself. Here are some resources that I have used:

Within Your Reach

The Container Store


Next, think about lighting. All closets should have ample lighting, lest you risk wearing the “black shoes with blue tights” ensemble in public. If you need to hardwire a light, of course consult an electrician. If you can’t afford an electrician but you have an outlet, check out Ikea for some plug in ideas.

If you decide to purchase a new closet storage system, now’s the time to set up the installation date. Then proceed to step two below. Try to have step two done BEFORE the new closet is installed, though. That way you save a lot of time emptying your closet for installation, putting everything back, then taking it all out again.

Step two: Pick a weekend when you have absolutely nothing to do. Seriously. Two days. Then gather the following tools: cleaning supplies, a pad and pen, and lots of bags. The bags can be garbage bags, paper grocery bags, reusable bags, whatever you have on hand. Mark each bag with the following label: Dry CleaningTailoringConsignment  – Charity – Shoe and Bag Repair. Line them up along a wall in your bedroom. Then make a space for two piles somewhere. One will be your winter storage pile and the other will be a “not sure” pile. The storage pile will be clothes you are keeping for next winter. The “not sure” pile is going to be your holding zone for all things you aren’t sure you want to keep until you’re finished with all other aspects of the process. Then we’ll come back to it and at that point you will decide what to do with the items in this pile.

Step three: Take everything out of your closet. Everything. Clothes, shoes, belts, bags, anything that moves, including bags and boxes of stuff that has accumulated on the floor.  Act as if you were moving out.  Lay everything down on your bed, dresser, chair, etc. Try to keep everything organized by type: skirts, tops, dresses, pants, shoes, bags of stuff. Create organized piles. If you start throwing everything into a huge pile in the middle of the room there’s a good chance that you will run from the room screaming once the pile hits the ceiling. So try to keep it as organized as possible.

Step four: Wipe down your closet. Really give it a great clean. Use wood polish if you have hardwood floors or shelves, or an appropriate cleaner if you have plastic or metal shelving. Vacuum the floor. Clean up any dust bunnies. Leave the closet doors open. Air it out as much as you can.

Step five: Start with one pile – your skirts. Immediately pull the skirts that:

  • You don’t like because of style or color or fabric. Take these skirts and put in the bag that you have marked consignment.
  • Are too small. Put them in the consignment bag.
  • Are too worn/old/frayed. Put them in the bag marked charity. Note: don’t pull out a good skirt that just needs some simple tailoring. We’ll get to those next. This pile is for the skirts that need to be retired. You know which ones they are…
  • You have never worn for whatever reason. Put them in the consignment bag.

Now go back to your skirts. The only ones left should be the ones you like to wear, the ones you think you like to wear, and the ones that you like but are too big. First pull the skirts that do fit – try them on to be sure –  and that you like and

  • Check them for holes, broken zippers, bad hems, stains, odor, etc. If they have any of these, put them in the dry cleaning or tailoring bag, whichever is appropriate. Note: I have a dry cleaner and I have a tailor. I love my dry cleaner but I don’t take any tailoring to her except for the most basic things like button sewing. If you don’t have a tailor, do yourself a huge service and find a great one. He or she will help you save money in the long run by making sure the clothes in which you’ve already invested fit well and last for a long time.
  • If they don’t need any of the above put them in the storage pile.

Next, pull the skirts that you like but that are too big and put them in the tailoring bag.

Finally, pull the skirts that you think you like. Try them on. Be honest and ask yourself if you will wear them next season. If you don’t think so, put them in the consignment bag. If you are not sure, put them in the not sure pile. We’ll come back to them later.

Step six: repeat the above steps with each remaining pile of clothes: dresses, tops, pants, etc. It might take you all afternoon. No worries! You are accomplishing a lot here!

Step seven: By now you should be done sorting all your winter clothes and you should have two piles – storage and not sure -on your bed and a bunch of bags lined up on your floor. Now let’s tackle those accessories and other items that you may have had in your closet, starting with shoes. You are going to follow the same process with the shoes:

  • Pull out the shoes you never wear because they are uncomfortable, the heels are too high, the color isn’t right, or the style isn’t right. You will never wear them, no matter how much you paid for them. They are taking up precious space in your closet.  Take them and put them in a consignment bag.
  • Take the shoes that are too small or too big and put them in the consignment bag.
  • Take the shoes that are worn and old and put them in a charity bag. Note: If the soles are worn but the rest of the shoe is still in good shape and you like them are wear them often, then put them in a bag marked shoe repair.

Next, take all the shoes that you love and wear often. Check them for wear and tear. If they need new soles or to be cleaned up, put them in the shoe repair bag.  Note: try not to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. That will help extend the life of the shoe.

Finally, take those shoes that you like but you aren’t sure you have anything to wear with them and put them in the not sure pile.

Step eight: follow the same steps for your belts, scarves, and bags. If your bags or belts require repair, take them with your shoes to repair. Note: if you have vintage or handmade bags or shoes, make sure you use a repairman who knows how to repair these items by hand. If you’re not sure, do some research before selecting someone.

Step nine: Time to deal with those boxes of stuff and miscellaneous items that you pulled from your closet. Don’t panic! The process is simple:  take them through the same steps as your clothes and accessories. Once that’s done, ask yourself if the items that are left really need to live in your closet. Can you find a better place to store them?

Step ten: Congratulations! Now everything in your closet should be in a bag, the storage pile or the not sure pile. It took a lot of effort to get here and you should be feeling very accomplished! This next step is to take care of the bags and sort your piles:

  • Gather up all the charity bags and donate them at a local charity clothing store
  • Make some money back from those items you bought but don’t wear. Find a consignment shop in your area that you like and that will take your items. You could also try craigs list or ebay or another online auction site. If you don’t want to try to sell your items then donate them to friends or host a swap party!
  • Drop off your dry cleaning, tailoring and repair bags. This is an important step. Put the bags in your car and either drop them off immediately or make a date to drop them off that week and honor that date. Don’t let the bags sit there for days on end. When they are picked up, they should be either placed back in your closet or stored with your winter
  • Everything that you put in your storage pile should now either be hung or folded and stored for next year. If you don’t already have one, purchase an cloth storage unit like this one from The Container Store and store your off season items in a basement, another closet, or unused bedroom. Fold items like sweaters in clear plastic bins and store those bins under beds, in another closet or a basement.
  • Lastly, we have come to your not sure pile. Take a look at it again. You are probably able to move a few things quickly to the consignment pile now. If you still can’t, that’s fine. Ask yourself a few questions: would you wear this today? Does it match anything else in your closet? Do you think you’d wear it next year? If you can confidently say yes to any of these questions, then move it to your storage pile.

To be continued…spring organizing part 2!

No Comments

  • Anne White on Mar 16, 2011 Reply

    Wow. This was advice I greatly needed on this cold day and what a way to welcome a new season. Your steps are very clear. I plan on following your advice to the detail. In fact, just reading the entry made my life seem more energetic, refreshed and invigorated. Thanks for posting this just when I needed a boost.

    • Alexis on Mar 16, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Anne! Call me if/when you get started and I can help!

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